Wednesday, 14 September 2011

AD or CE: multiculturalism in a nutshell

One of these days I will find myself agreeing with a post by Norm which has nothing to do with Israel. Here he considers the trend towards replacing BC and AD with BCE and CE. He starts promisingly:-
'Some Muslims, Jews, atheists or other non-Christians may take offence at the reference to Jesus Christ in BC and AD, but they shouldn't. If that is the year that marks the beginning of the new calendar and also the year of Jesus's birth, then the noting of this should be no more offensive to us non-Christians than it would be for someone to say of an idea of yours that it was Confucian or Hegelian or Rawlsian (if this is what it indeed was).'
But there's a but...
'However, a calendar which is in international use doesn't have to be named in a way signalling the birth of a figure central to one particular religion. It can be named more 'openly' - as the BCE/CE terminology in fact achieves. So why not? What serious objection can there be to a more inclusive designation?'
My objections, whether serious or frivolous I leave the reader to judge:-

1. The fact that the calendar is in international use doesn't mean that everyone has to use the same names. Diversity, anyone? I suspect that BC/AD is objectionable in China or Iran due to precisely those sensitivities which Norm dismisses as unnecessary. Well., that's entirely up to them - provided that we don't feel under pressure to follow suit.

2. If Norm is going to start feeling excluded by the facts of his country's history, isn't it time for him to get acquainted with the Serenity Prayer?

3. BC/AD ties our dates to the life of a person. Few doubt that he existed; nobody can deny that he is a figure of surpassing significance in world history and in the development of British culture specifically. If we shed all that cultural baggage in the name of inclusiveness, what do we get to replace it with? A faceless abstraction redolent of nothing but academic bureaucracy.

Significantly, Norm's quote from the Christopher Booker piece doesn't include the bit about a big publisher pulping a book about Christianity because it used the politically incorrect date notation. I don't feel very included by that.

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