Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Social sciences

By Martín Bonfil Olivera
Published in
Milenio Diario, September 1, 2009

Sometimes, readers give me a hard time because of my occasional mistakes or confusions, or when my comments -normally about politics- don't match their own ideas. Sometimes they accuse me of "speaking about topics in which I'm not an expert". We should remember that a science writer its not a specialist, but a generalist: he or she communicates science faithfully, but not with the same level of precision or detail an expert is accustomed to.

Still, I just don't seem to learn. Today I will talk about social sciences (in which I'm not an expert, either, but that are also sciences). My thesis is simple: if political actors knew them better, they wouldn't say so many stupid things, they wouldn't make fools of themselves so often, and they wouldn't hurt the rights of citizens so frequently.

Case 1: Felipe Calderón, the man who sits at Mexico's President's Office, states in the National Program for Human Rights, that "he will eradicate prostitution" in our Country (the United Nations, program advisor, protests and recommends to attack the problem in an integral manner).

Anthropology and Sociology teach us that prostitution serves an important social function.

Economy shows that its a service for which citizens are willing to pay: its monetary weight shows its relevance.

And Ethics indicates that prostitutes are not criminals, but workers with human rights. What we should do is improve their situation and give them work alternatives.

Case 2: Mexico's archdiocese, through its spokesperson, the arrogant Hugo Valdemar, demands the "correction" of the National Free Textbooks to make clear that priests and independence heroes Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos did not die excommunicated; they made peace with their church upon confession before death.

If there are mistakes, they should be corrected. But History has a rigor: Hidalgo and Morelos were judged by the inquisition and tortured. The tips of their fingers were scraped with a knife ("we take away your authority to consecrate and bless, which you received with the unction in your hands and fingers", the ceremony stated) and their tonsure was removed; they were degraded and humiliated. It is not strange that they gave up and confessed. Both of them were later executed by a firing squad; Hidalgo's head was exhibited in the Alhóndiga de Granaditas (the public granary) in the city of Guanajuato for nine years.

It is simply dishonest that the institution that criminalized them now wants, 200 years later, to manipulate history just to capitalize on their prestige. It would be wrong to consent this… but in view of the many disastrous errors that are being detected in the new Public Free Textbooks, we can certainly doubt of the capacity of the decision maker in our Education Ministry.

I may be wrong, but I fear that lack of culture -scientific or not- can be our country's doom.

(translated by Adrián Robles Benavides)

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