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Laina Farhat-Holzman: Closed societies conceal abuse of power

Posted: 12/13/2008 01:36:56 AM PST

We have had a splendid election and see how governmental power works in this country. There are many power centers, much citizen participation, and a snoopy press to investigate abuse of power — essential in preserving democracy.

However, there are groups around the world that believe in variations of “the philosopher king” or even more frightening: “the great and good leader” Fuhrer. Any time you feel like complaining about our system of government, take a look at how absolute power works — and how secrecy protects it.

• The Catholic Pedophile Priest problem: Secrecy in an organization as large, respected and ancient as the Catholic Church hid for decades a problem that needed publicity. Celibacy played a role in attracting young men into a priesthood — respected by parishioners — where some found their power over children both sexual and irresistible. The issue was finally forced into the public, and the Church has apologized and paid for its bad oversight and has apparently cleaned up the problem.

• Renegade Mormons: The secretive fundamentalist Mormon cults that keep to themselves, defy the laws against polygamy, and have benefited from the benign neglect of state authorities Utah, Arizona, Montana. “Elders” abuse not only grown women, but young girls and some boys as well. The courage of a handful of former victims opened up this scandal and some of the cult leaders are in prison.

• Messianic Cults: Jim Jones, founder of Jonestown in Guyana, began as a much-admired social activist who appeared to believe in a color-blind community. When authorities looked harder at his activities, he took his congregation to a “paradise” in the tropics. There they found equality all right: equal sexual abuse men, women, children and equality to work as slaves. Publicity and a fact-finding visit of a California congressman opened up the horrors and Jones ended his life as a mass murderer cyanide drinks or bullets for all.

Another crackpot cult was that of David Koresh in Texas, which went down in flames when finally taken on by the authorities. For years, nobody knew what horrors were going on there. He was a sexual bully who inflicted equal opportunity rape on all ages and both sexes. How he convinced them that he was a messiah is still a mystery or a tribute to their credulity.

• Orthodox Jewish Utopian Communities: A New York assemblyman exposed rampant child molestation among members of the insular world of Orthodox Jews in a radio broadcast last summer. Since then, dozens of people came forward with stories about being molested as children. In such closed communities a very small percentage of American Jews, sex abuse cases have been handled quietly in Orthodox rabbinical courts. They did not want publicity or the authorities to be involved. Well, now they are.

• A serious Muslim Family Problem: Cults such as al-Qaida and their ilk always have sexual problems. Societies that isolate women from men breed sexual obsession. Muslim boys have often been victims of sexual abuse by grown men — amplified in military situations where recruits are victims of their officers. But abuse is most horrible against girls, many of whom are married off at puberty. Wife and child beating have only begun to go public in such emancipated societies as modern Europe, where village Muslims have migrated from Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and North Africa. Politically correct officials have finally recognized that they have a problem.

Another serious Muslim problem not just militant cults is willingness to demonstrate and riot over the Danish cartoons, but not over the thugs who attacked Mumbai in the name of Islam. Where is the “religion of peace?”

• Animal Liberation Front: This particularly terrorist cult destroyed two vehicles they thought belonged to a medical researcher at UCLA. They had the wrong cars. They have also threatened medical researchers’ homes. Secrecy protects them.

Happily, we live in a society that is almost embarrassingly open. Nobody should have total control over others because power can abuse and absolute power is a blueprint for horror.

Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author. Contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/opinion/ci_11225128

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