Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Thought Picnic: The notion of men as they are rather than as they ought to be

You read me right
I guess after reading a few of my blogs, there will be no doubt in the mind of the reader that I have libertarian and liberal views about many things concerning our humanity.
Yet, I am hardly tolerant of abuses of religion, the law, in the family, of customs, traditions or somewhat long-held belief systems that either curtail or proscribe the opportunities for freedom, liberation and expression.
Vigilant nosey parkers
In 1894, at the tail-end of Queen Victoria’s long reign when supposedly Victorian values had become quite entrenched and were being exported to its colonial outposts, there was an upheaval taking place in England.
The licence for the Empire Theatre of the Varieties had come up for renewal, this was vehemently challenged under the leadership of Laura Ormiston Chant of the National Vigilance Committee with the charge that the theatre exhibited indecency on stage and tolerated prostitution in its tiers.
Whilst the new licence placed wide restrictions on the activities of the theatre, there was a wider debate in society as to whether entertainment and enjoyment should be so strictly regulated at the behest of a morality and purity brigade. Laura Ormiston Chant did not particularly have an auspicious backstory besides having run away from a home with parents that were strict disciplinarians and who run a girls’ institution.
The fallout
Meanwhile, the first anti-homosexuality laws were passed in 1885 in the Labouchere Amendment making gross indecency a criminal offence in the United Kingdom and many of those empire era laws that have now been expunged from our law books are being reaffirmed by many of the colonies that have since been independent from the British Empire since the 1960s under that guise that such is not according to our customs, traditions or beliefs.
One notable consequence of these Victoria purity drives was what ensnared Oscar Wilde when he file a libel action, lost it, which resulted in a new trial, a conviction and disgrace in 1895.
Men as they are
However, within the furore of the debate about morality laws, a young Winston Churchill wrote to the Westminster Gazette in 1894 and stated the following:
State intervention in the form of statute will never eradicate evil.
It may make it more dangerous for the evildoer.
But such a policy, while not decreasing immorality, only increases its ill effects.
The state should protect [its citizens] from harm,
and must govern men as they are and not as they ought to be.
This is where the issue of morality laws places all sorts of unacceptable constraints on the freedom of expression and articulation allowing for undue and unwarranted prosecution of people for harmless activities that have been rescheduled as crimes.
Live and let live
We have too many instances of the force and imposition of various unyielding and ultra-conservative belief systems with extreme tendencies given the weight of the law to force people to be a certain way rather than be themselves and by that be better participants in their communities and societies to the good and better of all.
There is no doubt in my mind that when we not only govern but begin to see, to accept and to celebrate “men as they are and not as they ought to be” having already put in place the systems to ensure none of the vulnerable amongst us comes to harm by reason of our liberties, being fully protected in their rights and privileges and full members of the society they are in, the world will no doubt be a better place.


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