Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cross Purposes

Can a place of work or a school have a dress code?

Ought a place of work or school to have a dress code?
Dunno. Depends on how extreme the code is and how good a reason for it there is. Asking people to wear hard hats on building sites, fair enough. Asking people to wear clowns hats in the office, not so much. Okay to ask men to wear a tie. Not okay to ban them from wearing trousers. Unless company in question was Jock McHamish's Kilt Emporium. Or the Perfectly Normal Transvestite Shop. Or, come to that, the Raunchy Nude Butler company. It's complicated.

Are you saying that dress codes aren't unreasonable in themselves, but a particular dress code might be unreasonable for some people under some circumstance?
It's complicated.

Is this a human rights issue?
We have to come up with a vocabulary and framework for talking about these things, and human rights seems to be the one we've decided. If they'd asked me, we'd have reserved "human rights" for the big stuff like torture and war crimes, but they didn't. When t.c Tony Blair talked about access to the internet being a human right, I started to think that "human rights" had become one of those phrases that used to have a meaning but now just indicate mild approval from the speaker, like "stakeholder", "zero tolerance", and "British".

Might this ever be a human rights issue?
If a prison or school or branch of Tescos had a policy of enforced nudity, then that would be a breach of someone's human rights, as well as an interesting premise for a porno movie. We should be careful of making assumptions about how different people from different backgrounds feel about modesty. If your culture tells you to wear a turban, what does it feel like to be caught with no turban? Is it more like "How incredibly embarrassing! I've come to work without putting a tie on"? Or is it more like "OMG my knickers have fallen down in public and everyone can see my arse!"? It's only a couple of generations since a woman walking down the high street without a hat would have caused a genuine scandal, after all.

If a place of work or a school has a dress code, should there be exceptions to it for people with strong religious convictions?
It depends on the importance of the original dress code and the importance of the religious conviction. I don't think that I should be exempted from wearing protective clothing at work because I happen to have decided that I feel like wearing my "Smile, Jesus loves you" tee shirt today. If a company has made a rule about wearing badges, then I am not sure that it makes any difference if the badge in question is a skull and cross bones or an icthus. 

What are these strange "badges" of which you speak?
I believe that they are what foreigners would call "buttons". You may have become confused about the differences between "trousers" and "pants" several pages ago.

Is the law prohibiting Christians from displaying signs of their faith a breach of their human rights?
I don't know. But it seems pretty intolerant and mean spirited to me.

Is there, in fact, a law prohibiting Christians from displaying signs of their faith?
No. Of course not. Don't be silly. Just walk down your street and count how many cars have Christian fishes on them, and, for that matter, how many cars have those nasty little Darwin fishes on them.

Do some companies have a dress code which forbids the wearing of jewellery at work?
Apparently so.

Are people who want to wear crosses, stars of david or rosaries at work automatically exempted from the "no jewellery" rule?
Apparently not.

Have you ever seen anyone wearing a rosary at work?
No. Of course not. Don't be silly. 

Should there be an exception?
It depends on the importance of the rule and the importance of the jewellery. If you are working on a production line and jewellery is dangerous, then there should probably not be an exception. If you are putting books on shelves in a library and it's a very small and discrete cross, then there probably should be. If wearing a small cross is a compulsory element of your sect, then almost definitely. 

Wouldn't that mean that Motorhead fans and members of the Liberal Democrats would suddenly decide that wearing small badges was a compulsory part of their faith?
Almost certainly. If you say that "literary merit" is a defence against a charge of indecency or obscenity then every publisher in the country is going to claim that his top shelf magazine is a work of serious literature.

Are there, in fact, any Christian sects for whom wearing a cross at all times is compulsory?
No. Of course not. Don't be silly. 

So how did "the human rights court is deciding if companies should be legally obliged to waive their dress codes for Christians who want to wear jewellery to work" become "the human rights court is deciding if Christians should be banned from wearing crosses in public"? 
See under "Eric Pickles", above. 

Why does he think its such a big deal?
It isn't quite clear. He doesn't think that people should be allowed to wear crosses because everybody should have the same freedom as everybody else and subject to that as much freedom as possible; he thinks that people should wear crosses because Faith is a good thing and we want more of it. It doesn't matter too much in what. But he has a purely instrumental view of this Faith stuff.  He doesn't think Faith is a good in itself; he thinks it's a good because "it provides a clear moral compass and a call to action that benefits society as a whole", whatever that means.

So he really cares about "society as a whole" and sees Faith as a means to an end?
That's what I meant by "instrumental", yes. 

So, in fact, he worships "society" rather than God?
Yes Socrates; that is indeed the case.

Is that roughly what you would expect a member of discredited right wing government to do in a country where the dominant folk religion has always been a sort of Christian tinged secular pelegianism?
Oh, Socrates, you are so much cleverer than us!

Would the world be a happier place if I refrained from reading the Daily Telegraph even when someone has left a copy of it on my table?
Very probably.

What's the difference between analogy and allegory?
Analogy is when strawberries being you out in spots. Allegory invented the internet.