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Discussion on: Planning Tech Events with Religious and Cultural Calendar Sensitivity

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anortef profile image
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Adrián Norte

This perspective I have experienced is most prevalent amongst Europeans, where I have been told numerous times, that culture and religion are "only personal choices," and as such are not deserving of consideration during event planning. Even if we agree that religious and/or cultural affiliation is a choice, so what? Is personal autonomy not a value? Should people not be welcomed or considered as full members of a community because they choose to affiliate with a religious and/or cultural tradition?

As a European, I totally agree with the point of it being a personal choice and you have to take into account the things you are going to lose when deciding which religion to follow.

We have a very very very long, bloody and cruel history with religion in here to the point that most of us feel uncomfortable with bringing religion to the front or we feel attacked when other people religions try to do something.

In my country, Roman Catholics are very outspoken against LGTBI and left winged people and some even speak openly about executing anyone who doesn't think like them. Why I should respect those people?

If you cannot do something because is the Shabbat, I respect your right to not do it, I will ensure that you have that right, but I will not accommodate anything for your religious belief. Those limitations are something that comes when you choose to follow Judaism and I will not accommodate anything or go out of my way for your fairy tale.

Do you have an accessibility problem? I will go out of my way to ensure you can enter the building.
Do you have a religion problem? go speak with your god/gods but don't bring your god/gods problems to me.

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bengreenberg profile image
Ben Greenberg Author

Thank you for exemplifying the perspective I wrote about perfectly.

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anortef profile image
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Adrián Norte

But you do not argue about why we should accommodate your religious needs. In fact, in Europe, is usually considered quite rude to ask people to accommodate your religious belief.

As I said, we have a quite long history of religious oppression, cruelty and murder thanks to religion. Why someone must accommodate for the literal choice some other person has made?

Being gay is not a choice. Having a mobility problem is not a choice. Having a hearing or vision problem is not a choice and therefore is right to ask for others to adapt to it but what right do you have to ask the same just because you chose to believe what some people wrote thousands of years ago?

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bengreenberg profile image
Ben Greenberg Author

Hi Adrián,

Since you insist, I will gladly respond.

First of all, please recognize that reciting to me the litany of Europe's transgressions towards its minorities is unnecessary. My family has been irreversibly scarred for generations because of centuries of European oppression, anti-Semitism and attempted genocide. I know all too well the history of Europe every time I think of the untold family that I will never meet because Europeans murdered and butchered them.

While knowing that it is an oversimplification, what I am about to articulate is a useful oversimplification nonetheless: The historical European response to "the other" in its midst has been rejection. The current European zeitgeist to respond to "the other" in its midst is pretend it does not exist. I contend that there is another ground between murder and rejection on one hand and refusal to acknowledge and honor difference on the other hand.

What is that different space? Well, it begins by thinking more closely about the way you articulate yourself. When you construct an argument that begins with asking "Why someone must accommodate..." or "is right to ask for others to adapt..." you are no longer discussing inclusion and diversity work. You are constructing a hierarchical relationship, with you as the majority-culture European on top, and everyone else as someone to consider whether you will adapt or accommodate or not. Do you not see how that is just a perpetuation of the same European problem for centuries?

I do not ask for your accommodation. I ask to be considered as a full member of the community.

Do you know what that means? It means not having to tolerate you telling me if my practices come from "god/gods," as you stated, or how much of a choice my life truly is.

Let me share something important with you: I do not care what you think of my life and the culture I am part of. I do not care if you think that I think it comes from a theological construct or a sociological one or a socio-ethnic cultural one. I do not care what you think vies-a-vie the balance between determination and autonomy is in the makeup of the decisions of my life.

What then do I care about? I care that I am respected as a human being that is treated with dignity and integrity. If seeking the advice of the constituent diversity of people around a tech event as to what dates to be mindful of when planning is too much of an "adaptation" for you, than I really don't know what to say, except that is most certainly not inclusivity.

All the best,

Ben

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anortef profile image
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Adrián Norte

First of all, please recognize that reciting to me the litany of Europe's transgressions towards its minorities is unnecessary. My family has been irreversibly scarred for generations because of centuries of European oppression, anti-Semitism and attempted genocide. I know all too well the history of Europe every time I think of the untold family that I will never meet because Europeans murdered and butchered them.

This is cheap. Do we start talking about Palestine? Christians have tortured and killed some of my family members in a war not even a century ago that was proclaimed almost a crusade against the "red menace" not all European history is what the Nazis did, in fact, we have little problems with Jews nowadays.

Every time someone starts talking about taking into account religion I cannot help but remember how, no more than 40 years ago, the church held almost absolute power in my country and how in the name of god they snatched babies from their mothers to give them to "good Christian families" and the other horrors that comes with religion.

While knowing that it is an oversimplification, what I am about to articulate is a useful oversimplification nonetheless: The historical European response to "the other" in its midst has been rejection. The current European zeitgeist to respond to "the other" in its midst is pretend it does not exist. I contend that there is another ground between murder and rejection on one hand and refusal to acknowledge and honor difference on the other hand.

Europe since the second world war has been advancing like no other place in the world to help and protect minorities. I sincerely doubt there is any other place in the world with more religious freedom or personal liberty.

What is that different space? Well, it begins by thinking more closely about the way you articulate yourself. When you construct an argument that begins with asking "Why someone must accommodate..." or "is right to ask for others to adapt..." you are no longer discussing inclusion and diversity work. You are constructing a hierarchical relationship, with you as the majority-culture European on top, and everyone else as someone to consider whether you will adapt or accommodate or not. Do you not see how that is just a perpetuation of the same European problem for centuries?
I do not ask for your accommodation. I ask to be considered as a full member of the community.

When we, at least in my country, speak that way it usually represents society. And again, I do not know if you have ever been to Europe but we live alongside people from all backgrounds and countries as one society, at least in my country and city. I have worked with and for people from all kind of backgrounds and genres.

There is a saying for situations like this:

Religion is like a penis. It's fine to have one and it's fine to be proud of it, but please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around... and PLEASE don't try to shove it down my child's throat.

And I feel that with your post you try to wave it around.

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bengreenberg profile image
Ben Greenberg Author

I will no longer engage with you and continue to be condescended and insulted by you. Calling the experience of my family "cheap" is incredibly hurtful and insulting. Resorting to using vulgar language to make your point only betrays your own ability to actually make it. It seems clear to me that you have not actually engaged with many people in minority communities in Europe today, if you think things are so rosy.

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anortef profile image
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Adrián Norte

I called cheap to use the Holocaust as a win argument card.

When have I been disrespectful? To this point the only one that has called a whole continent bigot with a superiority complex is you.

And I have engaged with minorities a lot because in here we do not send them behind a wall while our military shots the ones that try to go over that wall.

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bengreenberg profile image
Ben Greenberg Author

If you are unable to interact with a Jewish person without gratuitously bringing up the Middle East, well, you might have an anti-Semitism problem.

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anortef profile image
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Adrián Norte

I brought that up because of your attacks on my people and culture.

And I don't have any problem with Jews or any other Semitic people, in fact, I have some friends that are Jewish and I would like to visit some of the Synagogues that my city has because I have never been in one. I have a problem with people that, without proof, attacks my people and makes generalisations while getting offended when others point problems their people have.

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bengreenberg profile image
Ben Greenberg Author

This is a helpful comment, Adrian, thank you. So if I understand you correctly, you made some of your comments because you were feeling offended, hurt and/or insulted by how I depicted a pervasive European perspective on religious diversity nowadays and you wished to express that hurt?

What I wrote about what I experienced to be a dominant European perspective, you opened your first comment by expressing your full agreement with it:

"As a European, I totally agree with the point of it being a personal choice and you have to take into account the things you are going to lose when deciding which religion to follow"

It seems to me then that you are in agreement with that depiction, but you do not like how I characterize it? You see it as a positive, and I see it as a negative. Do you think our personal life experiences combined with our familial and collective experiences shape the ways we perceive this perspective?

When I was working in interfaith work, I was invited to partake in a joint Jewish, Muslim and Christian dialogue in Aix-en-Provence. I will never forget the young Muslim Parisian woman who broke down crying describing how she feels like an outcast in French society because of the policy of Laïcité. Two years ago I visited a Syrian refugee camp outside of Berlin and heard similar sentiments of estrangement, alienation and rejection.

I, personally, have been yelled and cursed at on the streets in Brussels and Athens within the past few months.

For people who see their religious, cultural or ethnic heritage as intrinsic to who they are can you see how telling them to treat it like their most private body part, as in to hide it and only take it out in the most private of settings, can be seen as the very opposite of diversity and inclusivity?

More broadly, perhaps we can both agree that each person wears different shoes and sees the world through different eyes and experiences society in different bodies. Our own personal experiences can shape how we see the same pervasive perspective in such different ways. I would argue that it is on the onus of the majority culture in a society to work harder to see through the eyes, and the embodied experiences of its minorities. On that last point, I hope we can both agree.

Have a good night.