We have reached a milestone. When counting from an arbitrary time in the past, using an arbitrary date system built on an arbitrary numeral system, we reached a day whose date, when compared to that of an average day, possesses a more pleasing roundness. That is to say there’s nothing inherently magical or mystical or important about the date of January 1, 2010 but, as always, people are excited about it. And, as always, this excitement has brewed an inevitable shared feeling of introspection, retrospection, and, perhaps above all, prospection.
If one thing is clear at the end of this first decade of the third millenium, it’s that we still have a bit of progress to make as a species. We have no hover cars or personal jet packs. We do not wear suits of shiny metal. We do not eat our food in pill form. In fact many of us have barely any food at all.
So I thought I’d write down a few of the areas in which I hope that we might improve over the next ten years. This is not an enumeration of all the world’s ills, as I don’t believe any sane person could expect all problems to be solved in a mere 3652 days (and even if they could, we’re two days down already). Nor is it a list of predictions, mostly because I don’t want people pointing out how wrong I was. It’s just hope: pure and (like its writer) simple.
This is a subject that simply baffles me. Some people are straight, and some people are gay. Some straight people get married. Some gay people would also like to get married. Most straight people are allowed to. Most gay people are not. I don’t get it. It’s not just that I’m strongly in favour of gay rights—I just can’t understand why anyone, let alone a majority, could be opposed.
Yet progress is being made. Some jurisdictions have full rights for gay couples. Some have improved in recent years but don’t yet offer equal rights to straight couples. The UK has civil partnerships, but not gay marriage. Ireland will soon be in the same boat. Some states in the US are introducing full or partial gay rights, while others are revoking them.
The picture for the future is positive. As far as I can tell from what data I’ve seen, support for gay rights is heavily skewed towards younger people. The strategy then, if nothing else, is to simply wait for all the old people to die. No doubt we can do better, but that is a baseline.
My hope is that by 2020 most western democracies will have something at least as good as the UK’s civil partnership idea, if not full equal rights for gay people.
Treatment of Religious Ideas
Though I’ve done nothing but opposed it since it was first mooted, I can’t help but feel a little ashamed that Ireland’s anti-blasphemy law came into effect yesterday. It’s a huge step backwards for a country that I may well want to live in again in the future, so I have a vested interest in its being rectified.
Blasphemy is a victimless crime. To oppose or attack an idea should not be a crime, regardless of the perceived merit of either the idea itself or of the opposition. This should surely be an ethical axiom of a free society. A law against blasphemy has no place in a modern republic.
But this law is just one facet of a larger problem: the general protection of religion from criticism and the shielding of religions from the same sort of inspection that any other philosophy, or lifestyle, or organisation would expect.
The Irish constitution—the definition of the state and the document with which no law can be in disagreement—protects not only the rights of people to worship a god (a protection I wholeheartedly agree with) but the right of God to be worshipped. I’m not sure that that’s really an idea that’s compatible with the proper running of a pluralist 21st Century democracy.
My hopes for 2020 are that Ireland will have shed some or all of its constitutional references to God; that no western democracy will have any laws prohibiting or restricting the free dissemination of religious criticism; that religious organisations will be subject to the same scrutiny as secular ones when assessed for charitable status; and that western society will not only accept but expect the same honest criticism of religious ideas as it does of political or other ideological ideas.
I hope that in 2020 we still have a climate that human beings can live in.
What do you hope for in 2020?