And elsewhere in the Union

I'm usually in agreement with Zapatero, but his latest antics are simply indefencible.

It is one thing for the American él Prezidenté to fail to support the freedom and independence of European newspapers against rabid attacks from fascists, and betrayal from the pseudointellectual parts of the 'establishment.' After all, from the point of view of mister Bush, Copenhagen is a long way away, and he doesn't need to (further) offend people in the Middle East. Besides, one gets the impression that he doesn't much care about the freedom of the press anyway.

I can even almost forgive Tony Blair for not wanting to put the British under fire. Britain is, after all (largely due to mister Blair's own tactical and strategic mistakes), far more exposed to vengance from fascists in Iraq than any other European country. I happen to believe that the freedom of the press is more important, but I do realise that I don't have to bear the responsibility for the lives of the British soldiers in Basra - and I acknowledge that my outlook might be different if I did.

But Zapatero has no defence. He's a social democrat. He sould be adamantly opposed to rabid religious fanaticism, whatever its guise. He's a democratically elected leader. He should support the press in their struggle against ayatollah-wanna-bes however that struggle came about. In short, he should have told the madhat Islamists to take a hike, just like he told the Papacy to get it's ugly snout out of internal Spanish affairs.

He isn't. He doesn't. And he didn't.

As such he strikes a shameful contrast to the Slovaki government. In a laudable decision last week, the Slovaki Prime Minister dissolved the parliament and called a general election, rather than ratify a disgusting treaty witht the Papacy. The treaty would have driven a wedge into the Slovaki educational and health-care systems, allowing Catholic anti-choice activists and evolution deniers to virtually cripple reproductive rights and biology education.

OK, the rejection of the Papacy-pact may not be all principle. It was, after all, hardly popular in the Slovaki population - which, unlike its Polish neighbours, has retained a well-honed sense of civil liberties, and resents the omnipresent attempts by the fascist Papacy to encroach upon their private lives - and it was quite possibly in direct violation of the European Charter of Human Rights. So it's entirely possible that what we're seeing here is two European PMs chickening out in different directions. Still, from the look of things, I like Slovaki cowardice better than Spanish cowardice...

Let me end this on a more optimistic note: Zapatero's cowardly policy of appeasement has not gone unnoticed among Spanish intellectuals, and some of them are framing the question in its proper context: Why should somebody's religious feelings grant him moral high ground in a dispute? After all, as a prominent Spaniard said: "There's always someone who'll be offended, no matter how meekly you speak."

It seems that part of Europe at least, is waking up to the fact that granting a priori moral superiority to religious feelings is simply another way of placing the power to censor and control in the hands of the most rabid and insane fascists that our society contains. Let us hope that this is not too little, too late.


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