In a paper published in November in the medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, leading experts in pediatrics, immunology and infectious diseases posed a question that is currently haunting parents everywhere.
“Should children be vaccinated against COVID-19?”
It’s a tough question and, as the experts bleakly conclude, there is no easy answer. There is still “no consensus on whether all healthy children under 12 years of age should be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Parents, few of whom will be equipped to calculate the risk-benefit ratio in question, now face a dilemma, and polls have shown that up to 60 percent of parents are reluctant to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds.
Over the past few months, health authorities in country after country have been opening up their COVID-19 vaccination programs to children as young as five years old.
The majority of parents will be among the estimated 62 percent of the world’s population who have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, having trusted the scientific consensus that the drugs are both safe and effective.
But when it comes to deciding whether or not to have their child jabbed, many parents will be veering instinctively towards vaccine hesitancy – and, say the experts, they might be right to entertain doubts.
The authors of the new study conclude that the case for vaccinating healthy children “is more difficult than for adults as the balance of risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination in children is more complex, as the relative harms from vaccination and disease are less well established in this age group.”
Their advice? Well, of course, there is no simple “yes” or “no” answer.
The first question for parents to address is, “Why?” COVID-19 has been seen to be much milder in children than in adults, and even when it is severe, deaths are much rarer.
That, of course, would be no consolation to a family that loses a child, so why not have the vaccination anyway, just in case?
Another good question. After all, the more people, adults and children, who are vaccinated, the more the spread of COVID-19 is hampered.
Like adults, children also transmit the coronavirus if they’re infected, even if they have no symptoms.
In October, the US Food and Drug Administration said that vaccine safety and effectiveness had been studied in a group of almost 3,100 children, and the drugs had been found to be 90.7 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.
There are other benefits to vaccinating children, such as minimizing disruption to education.
So what about the downsides of vaccination – the threat of possible side effects?
The emerging reality is that these are extremely rare in children. A child might suffer pain at the injection site or could feel tired for a while. Headaches, achy muscles or joints, and even fever and chills, are also possible, but are almost always short-lived.
The worst possible side effect, of course, is death. As one meme on Facebook put it, “We are being told to line up our children to get something that might kill them, to protect them from something that can’t kill them.”
But this is demonstrably false scaremongering. A review of COVID-19 deaths in England, published in November 2021, found that 25 infected patients under the age of 18 had died from having the virus. At the same time, of three million children having been given the vaccination, not one had died as a result of the jab.
In December, UK medicines watchdog the MHRA approved use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in 5- to 11-year-olds, following a review of safety data that took account of the fact that at that point over 5.5 million dosages of the vaccine had been given to 5- to 11-year-olds in the US alone, with no adverse consequences.
For some, there is a moral dimension to hesitancy. Is it right, they are asking, for adults to protect themselves by subjecting children to vaccination?
The answer is “yes”. Vaccinating children protects the whole community, not just the adults. Plus, the more comprehensive a vaccination program, the less likely it is that other variants will emerge – variants that might pose threats to specific groups, including young children.
Others fear that giving their children a “new” drug, without any data on its long-term safety, might be a risk, but this is to misunderstand the nature of the vaccines.
The mRNA technology that lies behind vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech jab – on offer for young children in the UAE and Saudi Arabia – is not new, and neither is it introducing potentially hazardous substances into the body.
Some vaccines work by introducing a weakened or inactivated virus into our bodies to trigger an immune response. On the other hand, vaccines based on mRNA merely teach our bodies to recognize the proteins produced by viruses or bacteria and trigger an immune response.
Ultimately, though, the decision about whether to vaccinate children must lie with their parents – and here’s where I must declare an interest.
I am the fully-jabbed father of a 7-year-old daughter and, after much soul-searching – and a great deal of research – my wife and I have decided that she should have the vaccine.
We have reached this decision on two grounds. The first is that she is more at risk – albeit only a tiny risk – from COVID-19 than she is from the vaccination.
The second is that her inoculation will represent a tiny but significant step towards humankind’s ultimate victory over a virus that, to date, has claimed almost six million lives.
Ultimately, of course, it is your choice. Just be sure your decision is informed by facts, and not by unfounded fears.
By Jonathan Gornall is a British journalist, formerly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and is now based in the UK.
This article was produced by Syndication Bureau to publish on Telegraf.
The Diminishing Performance of Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency
Telegraf – Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) has been under scrutiny recently, with concerns raised about the organization’s declining performance. The agency, which has facilities equivalent to a ministerial level and access to significant funding, has been accused of distancing itself from civil society organizations and the media.
This is a stark contrast to the practices of previous BNN heads, such as Ahwil Lutan, Anang Iskandar, and Budi Waseso, who actively involved the media and other civil society organizations to ensure the agency’s work was felt by the public.
Now, however, the continuity and sustainability of the agency’s programs are being questioned. The BNN’s reluctance to collaborate with organizations and the media is hindering its work, leaving many to wonder why the agency’s performance has become lacklustre despite having access to significant resources.
Budi Jojo, the founder of the Desa Cegah Narkoba initiative and publisher of a village newspaper aimed at educating communities about the dangers of drugs, has reminded the BNN that the success of their work depends on the involvement of communities. He suggests that the BNN should collaborate with various organizations to help prevent drug addiction in the country.
READ ALSO: BNN at Ministerial Level. Already Know?
The head of the Ridma Foundation, Ketum Ridma, has criticized the BNN’s current performance, stating that the agency has distanced itself from the media and civil society organizations. He notes that when the BNN lacked the resources it has now, previous heads ensured the media were involved in their work, which resulted in the public feeling the impact of the agency’s work.
The BNN is a non-ministerial government agency responsible for the prevention, eradication, and control of drug abuse and drug trafficking, excluding tobacco and alcohol.
To optimize the BNN’s performance, the government deemed it necessary to provide the agency with equal financial resources and facilities. In line with this, President Joko Widodo signed Presidential Regulation No. 47/2019 on July 4, 2019, amending Presidential Regulation No. 23/2010 on the BNN.
The regulation changed several provisions in Presidential Regulation No. 23/2010, including elevating the position of the BNN head to a senior leadership position. Despite having access to more resources and funding, the BNN’s performance has decreased, and its distance from civil society organizations and the media has contributed to its decline. It is time for the BNN to take a more proactive approach and collaborate with the public to combat the country’s drug problem.
Western ‘Naturalism’ Disrespects Nonhuman Animals And The Entire Natural World
One species has transformed into a material backdrop for its tribulations the 10 million other species that constitute its extended family, its giving environment, and its daily cohabitants. More specifically, it is one small population of this species that has done so, the bearer of a merely historical and local culture. Making all other living beings invisible is a provincial and late phenomenon—not the product of mankind as a whole. Imagine a people approaching a land populated by a myriad of other related peoples, and declaring that they don’t really exist, and that they are the stage and not the actors (ah yes, it’s not a fiction that requires a lot of imagination, as it also comprises vast swaths of our history). How did we accomplish this miracle of blindness toward the other creatures of the living world? We could hazard here—to exacerbate the strangeness of our heritage—a rapid history of the relations between our civilization and other species, a history which leads to the modern condition: Once nonhuman living beings were debased ontologically (that is to say, considered as endowed with a second-order existence, of lesser value and lesser consistency, and thus transformed into ‘things’), human beings came to believe that they alone truly existed in the universe.
It simply took Judeo-Christianity to expel God from ‘Nature’ (this is the hypothesis of the Egyptologist Jan Assmann), to make Nature profane, then the scientific and industrial revolutions to transform the nature that remained (the scholastic phusis) into a matter devoid of intelligence or of invisible influences, available to extractivism, for human beings to find themselves as solitary travelers in the cosmos, surrounded by dumb, evil matter. The last act involved killing off the last affiliation: Alone in the face of matter, human beings nevertheless remained in vertical contact with God, who sanctified it as his Creation (natural theology). The death of God entails a terrible and perfect loneliness, which we might call the anthropo-narcissistic prison.
This false lucidity about our cosmic solitude put the final seal on the serene exclusion of all nonhuman beings from the field of the ontologically relevant. It explains the ‘prison house’ of the philosophy and literature cultivated in the great European and Anglo-American capitals. My choice of this expression is not arbitrary: Not only are these fields now a prison house or ‘closed room’ in the sense of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit”—but also the prison house is the world itself, the universe, which is populated only by us and the pathological relationships with our fellow humans entailed by the disappearance of our plural, affective, and active affiliations with other living beings, nonhuman animals and environments.
This ubiquitous theme in 20th-century literature and philosophy, which foregrounds the cosmic solitude of human beings, a solitude elevated to grandeur by existentialism, is intriguingly violent. Under cover of the heroism of the absurd (as Albert Camus defined it), under cover of having the courage to face the truth, this violence is a form of blindness that refuses to learn how to see the forms of existence of others, negating their status as cohabitants, postulating that, in fact, they have no communication skills, no ‘native senses,’ no creative point of view, no aptitudes for finding a modus vivendi, no political promptings. And this is the great cunning, and therefore the hidden violence of Western naturalism, which in fact aims to justify exploiting all of nature as a raw material lying to hand for our project of civilization—it means treating others as matter ruled by biological laws, refusing to see their geopolitical promptings, their vital alliances, and all the ways in which we share with living beings a great diplomatic community in which we can learn anew how to live.
The human subject alone in an absurd universe, surrounded by pure matter lying to hand as a stock of resources, or a sanctuary for humans to recharge their batteries spiritually, is a phantasmal invention of modernity. From this point of view, those great thinkers of emancipation, Sartre and Camus, who have probably infused their ideas deeply into the French tradition, are the objective allies of extractivism and the ecological crisis. It is intriguing to reinterpret these discourses of emancipation as vectors of great violence. Yet it was they who transformed into a basic belief of late humanism the myth that we alone are free subjects in a world of inert and absurd objects, doomed to giving meaning through our consciousness to a living world devoid of it.
This myth took away from that world something it had always possessed. The shamanists and animists described by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and Philippe Descola know very well what this lost state had involved, namely complex social relations of reciprocity, exchange, and predation which are not peace-loving or pacific, and do not follow Isaiah’s prophecy, but are political in a still enigmatic sense, and call for forms of pacification and conciliation, of mutualist and considerate cohabitation. After all, there are meanings everywhere in the living world: They do not need to be projected, but to be found, with the means at our disposal—translation and interpretation. It’s all about diplomacy. We need interpreters, intermediaries, and in-betweens to do the job of starting to speak again with living beings, to overcome what we might call Claude Lévi-Strauss’s curse: the impossibility of communicating with the other species we share the Earth with. “For despite the ink spilled by the Judeo-Christian tradition to conceal it, no situation seems more tragic, more offensive to heart and mind, than that of a humanity coexisting and sharing the joys of a planet with other living species yet being unable to communicate with them,” Lévi-Strauss said in conversation with Didier Eribon.
But this impossibility is a fiction of the moderns—it helps to justify reducing living beings to commodities in order to sustain world economic exchanges. Communication is possible, it has always taken place; it is surrounded by mystery, by inexhaustible enigmas, by untranslatable aspects too, but ultimately by creative misunderstandings. It doesn’t have the fluidity of a café conversation, but it is nonetheless rich in meaning.
As an enigma among other enigmas, the human way of being alive only makes sense if it is woven into the countless other ways of being alive that the animals, plants, bacteria, and ecosystems all around us demand.
The ever-intact enigma of being a human is richer and more poignant when we share it with other life forms in our great family, when we pay attention to them, and when we do justice to their otherness. This interplay of kinship and otherness with other living beings, the common causes they foster in the politics of life, is part of what makes the ‘mystery of living,’ of being a human being, so inexhaustible.
Independent Media Institute_______________________
Baptiste Morizot is a writer and lecturer in philosophy at Aix-Marseille University in France who studies the relationship between humans and other living beings. His many books include Ways of Being Alive and Rekindling Life: A Common Front, both published in English by Polity Books.
Flipping the Script on Turkey’s Cancel Culture
Despite its negative connotation, “cancel culture” – ostracizing someone for their harmful views – has had a big impact on addressing inequalities in the West, particularly discrimination of women. But in Turkey, it is women themselves who are getting canceled.
In late July, actress Birce Akalay took to social media to lament Turkey’s current economic crisis, expressing disappointment in the declining value of labor and the plummeting value of the lira. “I’m fed up,” she wrote. “Our workers, our people have become miserable.”
Akalay, of course, was right. The lira has been steadily depreciating, and inflation has reached 79 percent, the highest among OECD countries. And yet, because Akalay is a woman, her views were almost immediately discounted as heresy.
Turkiye newspaper columnist Cem Kucuk twice threatened Akalay over her criticism. The first time, Kucuk made her an open target by saying that “those who have spoken like this in the last 20 years have either gone to jail or fled or their careers are over.” In a follow-up piece, Kucuk even compared Akalay to the ex-president of the TUSKON business organization, Rizanur Meral, who was accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim preacher implicated by Ankara of masterminding the 2016 attempted coup.
Sadly, Kucuk is not the only powerful man to scorn outspoken Turkish women. Following the June 2013 anti-government protests in Istanbul, when 14-year-old Berkin Elvan was killed by a gas canister fired by police, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Elvan a terrorist and encouraged thousands to boo his mother.
Since then, condemning women for taking a stand against injustice has become a government-sanctioned epidemic – with many victims.
In August 2020, a suicide note left by an 18-year-old woman from Batman, in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, claimed that she had been kidnapped and raped by a Turkish sergeant, Musa Orhan. Orhan was eventually charged and found guilty of rape, but a judge refused to issue an arrest warrant.
Like thousands of concerned citizens, actress Ezgi Mola expressed outrage on Twitter, writing: “Shame on you for releasing an inglorious rapist.” But when Orhan sued Mola for libel, accusing her of “insulting” him, he won, and Mola was fined nearly 7,000 lira ($390) for her post.
Another egregious example surfaced in October 2021, after Ece Ronay, a 22-year-old Kurdish musician, publicly accused comedian Mehmet Ali Erbil of sexual harassment. On social media, Ronay published some of the messages Erbil had sent her – including a proposition for sex. Yet rather than come to her defense, the public victimized Ronay all over again.
Erbil defended his actions by claiming Ronay had marketed her body via TikTok, and therefore, shouldn’t be coy about sex acts. Not only did he get his followers to shame Ronay using a raunchy hashtag, he also sued her for defamation. That lawsuit is still pending.
While femicide and harassment have been long-standing problems in Turkey, they have become worse during the Justice and Development Party’s two-decades-long reign. Violence against women has risen by 70 percent in the last 15 years, and 246 women have been killed by their partners in 2022. According to a March 2022 report from Turkish polling agency Metropoll, domestic violence is the biggest problem that women in Turkey face.
Turkey did have a flicker of a #MeToo moment after the brutal rape and murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan, in 2015. But it never caught on, and contrary to women’s movements abroad, Turkey’s push against sexual abuse and harassment has arguably backtracked. Erdogan’s decision last year to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention – a decree that aimed to prevent and combat violence against women – only reaffirms the statement of Canan Gullu, the president of the Federation of Women Associations of Turkey, that “government is an explicit ally in hatred against women.”
Journalists, entertainment moguls, and politicians are fueling this violent, hate-filled rhetoric, while the Turkish judiciary system keeps rewarding men who treat women like property. People who have the ear of the public should not target women with their vileness, as doing so will only perpetuate the injustice.
In countries like Turkey, where media censorship is high and transparency is low, social media is the frontline of political debate, the most democratic platform for silenced opinions. But with a new social media law in the pipeline, where “intention” will dictate whether speech is deemed illegal, it is women who have the most to lose. The only solution is to flip the tables and cancel the men who continue to live in the past.
Alexandra de Cramer is a journalist based in Istanbul. She reported on the Arab Spring from Beirut as a Middle East correspondent for Milliyet newspaper. Her work ranges from current affairs to culture, and has been featured in Monocle, Courier Magazine, Maison Francaise, and Istanbul Art News.
Mendel’s Genetic Revolution and the Legacy of Scientific Racism
Scientific advances are not always linear; they zigzag in unexpected ways. This is particularly true of genetics, which has a dark history of being coopted into eugenics and race science.
In July, the world celebrated 200 years since the birth of Gregor Mendel, who is widely accepted as the “father of modern genetics” for his discovery of the laws of inheritance. His experiments with peas, published in 1866 under the title “Experiments in Plant Hybridization,” identified dominant and recessive traits and how recessive traits would reappear in future generations and in what proportion. His work would largely remain unacknowledged and ignored until three other biologists replicated his work in 1900.
While Mendel’s work is central to modern genetics, and his use of experimental methods and observation is a model for science, it also set off the dark side with which genetics has been inextricably linked: eugenics and racism. But eugenics was much more than race “science.” It was also used to argue the superiority of the elite and dominant races, and in countries like India, it was used as a “scientific” justification for the caste system as well.
People who believe that eugenics was a temporary aberration in science and that it died with Nazi Germany would be shocked to find out that even the major institutions and journals that included the word eugenics as part of their names have continued to operate by just changing their titles. The Annals of Eugenics became the Annals of Human Genetics; the Eugenics Review changed its name to the Journal of Biosocial Science; Eugenics Quarterly changed to Biodemography and Social Biology; and the Eugenics Society was renamed the Galton Institute. Several departments in major universities, which were earlier called the department of eugenics, either became the department of human genetics or the department of social biology.
All of them have apparently shed their eugenics past, but the reoccurrence of the race and IQ debate, sociobiology, the white replacement theory and the rise of white nationalism are all markers that theories of eugenics are very much alive. In India, the race theory takes the form of the belief that Aryans are “superior” and fair skin is seen as a marker of Aryan ancestry.
While Adolf Hitler’s gas chambers and Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews and Roma communities have made it difficult to talk about the racial superiority of certain races, scientific racism persists within science. It is a part of the justification that the elite seek, justifying their superior position based on their genes, and not on the fact that they inherited or stole this wealth. It is a way to airbrush the history of the loot, slavery and genocide that accompanied the colonization of the world by a handful of countries in Western Europe.
Why is it that when we talk about genetics and history, the only story that is repeated is that about biologist Trofim Lysenko and how the Soviet Communist Party placed ideology above science? Why is it that the mention of eugenics in popular literature is only with respect to Nazi Germany and not about how Germany’s eugenic laws were inspired directly by the U.S.? Or how eugenics in Germany and the U.S. were deeply intertwined? Or how Mendel’s legacy of genetics become a tool in the hands of racist states, which included the U.S. and Great Britain? Why is it that genetics is used repeatedly to support theories of superiority of the white race?
Mendel showed that there were traits that were inherited, and therefore we had genes that carried certain markers that could be measured, such as the color of the flower and the height of the plant. Biology then had no idea of how many genes we had, which traits could be inherited, how genetically mixed the human population is, etc. Mendel himself had no idea about genes as carriers of inheritance, and this knowledge became known much later.
From genetics to society, the application of these principles was a huge leap that was not supported by any empirical scientific evidence. All attempts to show the superiority of certain races started with a priori assuming that certain races were superior and then trying to find what evidence to choose from that would help support this thesis. Much of the IQ debate and sociobiology came from this approach to science. In his review of The Bell Curve, Bob Herbert wrote that the authors, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, had written a piece of “racial pornography,” “…to drape the cloak of respectability over the obscene and long-discredited views of the world’s most rabid racists.”
A little bit of the history of science is important here. Eugenics was very much mainstream in the early 20th century and had the support of major parties and political figures in the UK and the U.S. Not surprisingly, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a noted supporter of race science, although eugenics had some supporters among progressives as well.
The founder of eugenics in Great Britain was Francis Galton, who was a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton pioneered statistical methods like regression and normal distribution, as did his close collaborators and successors in the Eugenics Society, Karl Pearson and R.A. Fisher. On the connection of race and science, Aubrey Clayton, in an essay in Nautilus, writes, “What we now understand as statistics comes largely from the work of Galton, Pearson, and Fisher, whose names appear in bread-and-butter terms like ‘Pearson correlation coefficient’ and ‘Fisher information.’ In particular, the beleaguered concept of ‘statistical significance,’ for decades the measure of whether empirical research is publication-worthy, can be traced directly to the trio.”
It was Galton who, based supposedly on scientific evidence, argued for the superiority of the British over Africans and other natives, and that superior races should replace inferior races by way of selective breeding. Pearson gave his justification for genocide: “History shows me one way, and one way only, in which a high state of civilization has been produced, namely the struggle of race with race, and the survival of the physically and mentally fitter race.”
The eugenics program had two sides: one was that the state should try to encourage selective breeding to improve the stock of the population. The other was for the state should take active steps to “weed out” undesirable populations. The sterilization of “undesirables” was as much a part of the eugenics societies as encouraging people toward selective breeding.
In the U.S., eugenics was centered on Cold Spring Harbor’s Eugenics Record Office. While Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and its research publications still hold an important place in contemporary life sciences, its original significance came from the Eugenics Record Office, which operated as the intellectual center of eugenics and race science. It was supported by philanthropic money from the Rockefeller family, the Carnegie Institution and many others. Charles Davenport, a Harvard biologist, and his associate Harry Laughlin became the key figures in passing a set of state laws in the U.S. that led to forced sterilization of the “unfit” population. They also actively contributed to the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas for races. The Nordic races had priority, while East Europeans (Slavic races), East Asians, Arabs, Africans and Jews were virtually barred from entering the country.
Sterilization laws in the U.S. at the time were controlled by the states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the doyen of liberal jurisprudence in the U.S., gave his infamous judgment in Virginia on justifying compulsory sterilization, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” he ruled in Buck v. Bell. Carrie Buck and her daughter were not imbeciles; they paid for their “sins” of being poor and perceived as threats to society (a society that failed them in turn). Again, Eugenics Research Office and Laughlin played an important role in providing “scientific evidence” for the sterilization of the “unfit.”
While Nazi Germany’s race laws are widely condemned as being the basis for Hitler’s gas chambers, Hitler himself stated that his inspiration for Germany’s race laws was the U.S. laws on sterilization and immigration. The close links between the U.S. eugenicists and Nazi Germany are widely known and recorded. Edwin Black’s book War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race described how “Adolf Hitler’s race hatred was underpinned by the work of American eugenicists,” according to an article in the Guardian in 2004. The University of Heidelberg, meanwhile, gave Laughlin an honorary degree for his work in the “science of racial cleansing.”
With the fall of Nazi Germany, eugenics became discredited. This resulted in institutions, departments and journals that had any affiliation to eugenics by name being renamed, but they continued to do the same work. Human genetics and social biology became the new names for eugenics. The Bell Curve was published in the 1990s justifying racism, and a recent bestseller by Nicholas Wade, a former science correspondent of the New York Times, also trot out theories that have long been scientifically discarded. Fifty years back, Richard Lewontin had shown that only about 6 to 7 percent of human genetic variation exists between so-called racial groups. At that time, genetics was still at a nascent stage. Later, data has only strengthened Lewontin’s research.
Why is it that while criticizing the Soviet Union’s scientific research and the sins of Lysenko 80 years back, we forget about race science and its use of genetics?
The answer is simple: Attacking the scientific principles and theories developed by the Soviet Union as an example of ideology trumping science is easy. It makes Lysenko the norm for Soviet science of ideology trumping pure science. But why is eugenics, with its destructive past and its continuing presence in Europe and the U.S., not recognized as an ideology—one that has persisted for more than 100 years and that continues to thrive under the modern garb of an IQ debate or sociobiology?
The reason is that it allows racism a place within science: changing the name from eugenics to sociobiology makes it appear as a respectable science. The power of ideology is not in the ideas but in the structure of our society, where the rich and the powerful need justification for their position. That is why race science as an ideology is a natural corollary of capitalism and groups like the G7, the club of the rich countries who want to create a “rule-based international order.” Race science as sociobiology is a more genteel justification than eugenics for the rule of capital at home and ex-colonial and settler-colonial states abroad. The fight for science in genetics has to be fought both within and outside science as the two are closely connected.
Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.
Essential Things Prohibited in Marriage According to Java Tradition and Culture and in Bible’s Point of View
Indonesia is a vast archipelago consisting of more than 17,000 islands, has more than 1340 ethnic groups and tribes, according to the 2010 BPS census.
The Javanese are the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, accounting for 41% of the total population and the most populous population. Java is divided into 5 provinces and one district with a community character that has strong cultural ties is Surakarta or well-known said as Solo.
It is located in Central Java Province and the other city is Yogjakarta in the Special Region of Yogyakarta. It is said that for centuries, culture and beliefs that have been passed down from time immemorial need to be preserved and appreciated, especially in a life event that is predicted to involve bad luck and good fortune. In the marriage culture, there is a sign that there are still many who believe and consider it when they decide on their life’s partner when come to marriage life.
People understand that there are consequences of prohibition in the culture, especially Javanese culture. The author describes things as follows concerning the prohibition of marriage according to Javanese culture.
First: do not hold any celebration especially Wedding Party in “Suro” month (Muharram)
Whoever he is, if he is Javanese and is going to hold a celebration, especially a wedding party, then one thing that must be considered is that every Javanese, whoever and adheres to any religion, this community group must avoid any celebration in the month of Suro or well-known also as Muharram. The month, which is considered sacred for most Javanese people, is believed to bring bad luck or bad things to those who do not heed the prohibitions that have been existing in Javanese society for generations.
It is said that it was Nyai Roro Kidul, the ruler of the Java Sea holds the celebrations in the month of Suro, and therefore ordinary people are forbidden or unable to hold parties/celebrations, or they would get a disaster for ignoring the prohibition.
Second: do not get married if “weton” calculation is not matched
One way to determine a mate is based on a weton compatibility calculation. In Javanese culture, the calculation of “weton” or date and day is very important, let someone a miscalculation, it can damage the marriage life, for example if it does not match the weton of one of the future couple. On the other hand, if the couple is matched according to the calculation of the weton, the two will be in harmony and will live a good life together. If according to Weton, the couple is not compatible and force themselves to get married, it is believed that disaster and disharmony will come in their marriage life. Concerning this weton, the author will continue his description in the next chapter based on calculations and predictions of marriage. 1 dan 1; 1 dan 1 dan 1, 1 dan 3.
Third: never marry on position of birth 1st with 1st , 1st with 1st and 1st and 1st, and 1st with 3rd
There are things that are forbidden if the first child will marry the first child (siji lan siji). If they insisted on getting married, then it would lead to bad luck for the future couple. It is believed that they will face disaster or calamity. Usually, for families who believe in their beliefs and follow Javanese culture, that option should be considered. Logically, the burden of the first child will be heavy if the parents are too old or die, then the first child will be responsible for his brothers and sisters including the whole family.
It is also prohibited when 1st gets married with 1st and 1st (siji jejer telu), it refers to couple of 1st child with 1st child and one of their parents are 1st child too. If the calculating is like that, it is better to avoid or not proceed the marriage, it will cause you bad luck and disaster also will threat their relationship.
Another prohibition is when 1st child gets married with 3rd child (siji lan telu), it means if couple is 1st child and 3rd child, and they still insist to get married, only few of this society who believes that their marriage would get a lot of trouble. Maybe Javanese believe that character between 1st and 3rd child is different, therefore will cause lots of problem.
Fourth: do not break the marriage rules because of wrong house’s position
There are interesting things to note about the position of the couple’s home. If this is not taken care of, there will be lack and no happiness in their marriage even their parents will pass away soon.
Marriage cannot be held if house of the couple is face or opposite each other. If they are insist to held a marriage, then one of them have to give in with house renovation and heading the house so it will not face each other. Or one of the couple, have to “thrown out of the family” and take by other family closed to their house but not face each other.
Marriage is not allowed if the house is adjacent to the in-laws’ house. In the prohibition of Javanese customs this must be taken into consideration. If this is unconsidered, the consequences for parents will pass away in short time.
Marriage cannot be held if the prospective spouse’s house is only five steps away.
This prohibition is quite interesting. This means that, it refers to the house around, which incidentally is a close neighbor. Wouldn’t it be closer to understand better the situation or character of a potential partner??? However for those who adhere to Javanese customs, this is prohibited. If they break up, it can give such result like an unhappy marriage, not getting along and there are only shortcomings.
Fifth: prohibit rule that related with day and date of birth
In addition to not being allowed to carry out marriages in the month of Suro (Muharram), there are also based on calculations to determine the hour, day, month; but some are calculated based on the date of birth. Determining the date of marriage for the Javanese, is very important. If you choose the wrong date for the wedding, bad luck will follow you. But if you choose the right wedding date and always get the fortune. In addition to certain days, dates and months, those who follow Javanese custom, it is believed that if the wedding is held on the groom’s birth date, the marriage shall bring the fortune to the couple and keep the disaster away from their marriage’s life.
Sixth: prohibit rule that related with gift
At the time of the wedding, the invited guests usually give the gifts to the bride and groom as an expression of prayer and congratulations. For the present time, it is more in terms of benefit and practically therefore, it is not merely about the form of the gift itself. According to Javanese myth, the first gift that should be opened is the one that will be used first in starting or treading family life. If this is done then the family will get good luck.
Bible and Christianity point of view concerning Javanese culture
Basically, in Bible it was written that every day is a good day (Genesis 1:3, 31 & Galatians 4:9-11). There is no bad day, everything happens is in God hand. Eternal relationship and journey of marriage life become a good events, not because of weton calculation, day, birth position and what would be the celebration, but more to God’s word also put Bible as a guidance in marriage. Put Bible above culture, as form to honor our Almighty God to rule our life (Matthew 15:1-20). More than that, the fundamentals of marriage life are pray, loving, trusting, patient and struggle (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Galatians 5:22-23). Kindly our Lord the Almighty, be the center of happiness and prosperity.
Editor: Nia S. Amira
Kamala vs. Mitt: Two Different Viewpoints of Family Planning Prefigure Different Futures for Planetary Health
Forget their policies for a moment, and consider how two politicians’ lives foreshadow our ecological future.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris does not have any biological children and grew up middle-class. Meanwhile, Utah Senator Mitt Romney, a Mormon with five kids, was born into wealth and has substantially increased it for his family.
Their lives prefigure very different futures for the country and its children.
If those in the U.S. who are privileged enough to be able to follow Romney’s example of having unearned family privileges and a large family choose to do so, then the entire country will eventually arrive at an ecologically degraded and unsustainable future, as well as a crowded political system, where the day-to-day reality of life is defined by massive inequity driven by family wealth. The increase in population, which is “rising unevenly,” is one of the contributing factors leading to an “unprecedented” decline in nature that is “accelerating” species extinction rates, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The continued and unchecked growth of the human population might exacerbate this situation further.
Meanwhile, if we follow Harris’ example, and especially if she uses her earned wealth to further social justice in her current position, we arrive at a more sustainable future and an optimal world population, where every vote counts, and privilege is earned rather than inherited.
Which of these two futures do parents want for their children?
Parents have a right to protect their children’s future by not following the example and choices of people like Mitt Romney, whose life is like a microcosm of what it means to exploit the environment and capitalize on one’s birth position.
In March, the Senate passed legislation, urged on by Romney, that while appearing to lift children out of poverty, is probably better characterized as an attempt to nudge people to have more kids. The legislation does nothing to truly eliminate child poverty by moving toward recognizing every child’s right to a fair start in life and does not help to promote smaller and more sustainable families amid the climate crisis or provide solutions for preventing future population-driven pandemics. The legislation also does nothing to address fundamental problems that will continue to grow with the push for more babies. It does nothing to prevent child abuse and the horrific acts of torture some children continue to face at the hands of their caregivers. It does nothing to restore the natural world that previous generations enjoyed and that is likely to be stolen from future generations if nothing is done to remedy the situation.
What can people in the U.S. do to fight for their rights to a natural and democratic future when even a more progressive Congress ignores them? While many have lauded President Joe Biden’s plans as a modern-day New Deal, there is also a need to envision a more physical and intergenerational revision of the social contract where the people of this country can prioritize children’s right to an ecologically and socially fair start in life simply because future children represent the constant restarting of the agreement. The rights of the children, in this sense, override all competing rights, including the rights of the uber-wealthy—like those paying millions to be space tourists—to hoard resources that could instead be used for improving family planning.
This change can come from the grassroots, not just by telling political leaders what’s important to them, but also by engaging in their communities to spread information about the connection between ensuring a better future for children in terms of climate, democracy, and other opportunities. Given what’s at stake, it would be immoral not to recreate the social contract to make it fair from the start and move the country as a whole a bit more toward making choices that are represented by Harris rather than Romney.
Regardless of the action that people take and the example that they choose to follow, between Harris and Romney, they now have starkly different examples of the kinds of lives children can lead, and what they represent for the future of humanity at large.
By Carter Dillard is the policy adviser for the Fair Start Movement. He served as an Honors Program attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and served with a national security law agency before developing a comprehensive account of reforming family planning for the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal.
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