This is our truth, tell us yours
I recently had the chance to visit London and as always was struck by the changes over the years. This time wandering around Soho (well, there were latex stockings to buy) I was struck by how much it reminded me of the great cities of Asia I have visited, the crowds, the rickshaws, the way traffic shared the space with pedestrians and the neon shone out on wet streets.
The recent Daily Mail four minute hate against Ralph Miliband raised the idea that there are certain things you have to agree to in order to love Britian. They were of course all so fallacious they are hardly worth countering. The Mail list would make all Christian non conformists, republicans and Charles Dickens and William Blake,among others, traitors. It did raise the important question of what is Britain though
To the Mail Britain is Church (established church of England) Monarchy and capitalism. A narrow view that in the Eighteenth century would have been considered rather trite. The problem is that the Mail not only knows no history beyond two world wars and one world cup but also thinks there has only ever been on acceptable view of Britain,
In laws around sex the schism within the British psyche is perhaps most strongly shown. Dogging is an area where it seems laws and bylaws are passed without any thought as to the why. Regular readers will be aware I am no believer in the idea that people have the right to have sex in public where ever and when ever they please, and I have berated doggers who think their sexual fun outweighs the desire of others not to see a naked arse bouncing up and down from their kitchen window. In sex work the same split between puritanical peral clutching and a belief in privacy are both as British as each other, and have left to a confusing mess of laws that leave sex work legal but almost everything around it illegal.
Time, money and energy is wasted on stopping people who do everything possible to ensure their sexual activities impact on no one. A drive with my Dominant is a typical example. We went out on a grey rainy evening, and ended up in a secluded spot where even the sheep were sheltering from the weather. Miles from the nearest house, overlooked by no one, what harm would have been caused had we met up with others for outdoor sex and exhibitionism? Such activities are deemed dangerous enough to society that gates are put on county roads and we passed the waterboard van as we left, doing the rounds to ensure each gate was secured against those looking for a secluded spot to play. Now you might say dogging is illegal, it isn’t of course, what is illegal is outraging members of the public, and well it should be, but why is it policy to send employees, and sometimes the police to ensure no one is doing anything it has been decided is immoral?
The same attitude pervades the law around street sex workers, who can be given asbos simply for walking down the street. A nasty little law brought in by the Labour Party, who in matters of sex and sexuality tend to remember their religious roots far more than their belief in individual freedoms and workers rights.
It goes back I think to that great schism in the British psyche between Cavalier and Roundhead. A famous quote about the English Civil War is that the Cavaliers were romantic but wrong and the Roundheads rotten but right. It is, of course , far more complex than that. The bloodiest civil war the world had ever seen split the country on religious, political,national and ethical lines. I am no historian, but the “rightness” of the Roundheads is based on ignoring their intolerance, bigotry and to coin a phrase belief in “one twue way”. They needed no defence to ban a thing other than the belief that something was wrong. The destruction of religious artifacts was condemned when it was the Taliban, but our own Taliban did exactly the same half a millennium ago. This tendency to leap to the ban, the prohibition, without any more evidence than it must be wrong because it is disapproved off, still runs through British civil and political life.
We are not of course a country of Roundheads, those romantic and wrong Cavaliers also have a grip on our souls. It is not necessarily a split of left and right either, Thatcher and Brown were Roundheads, LLoyd George and Portillo Cavaliers. The Cavalier attitude is seen in our long-held belief that we should not intrude into private lives, that what goes on in the bedroom, or kitchen, or dungeon is nobodies business. So we end up in a situation where prostitution is legal but soliciting not, where sex in public is legal, unless someone complains, and the policeman sent expressly to catch doggers can be the complainant. The civil war has not been resolved, simply pushed under the table, and covered with that gentile exhortation never to discuss religion or politics.
The Daily Mail homogeneous society did not even exist half a millennium ago, which is perhaps Britians greatest virtue. They cannot even see their own lack of Britishness in demanding a set of stock answers to questions that thousands lost their lives over in the civil war. Britain is many things, many places, many beliefs, andmany of us realized long ago demanding the right to make windows into men’s souls is as unBritish as it gets.