Friday, 6 July 2012

Hands off Ann Widdecombe!

I've just been having a bit of fun at the expense of an American right-wing religious nut who's apparently claiming that "liberals" are trying to "outlaw chastity". I'm sure that the sort of people who'd be inclined to agree with the nut in question would argue that I've unfairly taken his words out of context, for the purposes of cheap mockery, as indeed I have. So, let's take a quick look at the context, because it's quite interesting.

The blog in question is subtitled an "Orthodox Catholic commentary on current events", which gives you some idea of where this guy's coming from. Given the context, it's probable that the rhetorical assertion that 'Refusing to have sex (chastity) must be outlawed because that encourages us to believe in God' isn't to be taken in the literal sense that most people would understand. I think that's what's really riling this guy is the suggestion, from critics of the Catholic Church, and from some liberal Catholics that maybe priests should be allowed to have consensual sex with adults, rather than being compelled to submit to a lifetime of celibacy that they sometimes can't handle, with occasionally tragic results.

So, I'm guessing that, at least in his more lucid moments, he realises that nobody's really plotting to put a law on any statute book outlawing celibacy. What's probably rattling his cage is the suggestion that celibacy for Catholic priests should no longer be compulsory. Which gives an interesting insight into the workings of the authoritarian mind, weird sort of place that it is. Just imagine what a scary place the world would be if you believed, as these guys seem to, that the only alternative to banning something is making it compulsory.

That, apparently, is how the world looks to people who've got no concept that adult human beings might actually be able to make free, informed choices about how to live their lives, without some higher authority telling them what, or what not, to do. There really are people out there who believe that not banning something is exactly the same as making that thing compulsory. Here for example, is a real outraged response to a Guardian article entitled 'Anti-gay adverts pulled from bus campaign by Boris Johnson':
I'm afraid that, before too much longer, they'll make it compulsory to be homosexual in this country. And Muslim, possibly. Christianity and smoking will be abolished in case they offend someone.
There really are people who are that batshit crazy out there. And these people who have the vote.

The people who need to read and understand this probably won't, but I'll say it anyway, because it apparently needs saying. Adults with the capacity to make choices about how they live their lives and what they do with their own bodies should be free to make those choices, subject to those choices not causing harm. I understand that there are people out there who don't like other people having freedom of choice but they need to understand that it really is none of their damn business.

Which brings me to Ann Widdecombe. I've never had much time for her politics, or her social views, and her re-invention of herself as the nation's favourite celebrity eccentric great aunt leaves me completely cold. But I do have a certain amount of sympathy for her when moronic interviewers subject her to the inevitable stupid, prurient and intrusive questioning about her celibacy. She's a grown woman, for heaven's sake and she's got as much right not to have sex as anyone else has to have it with a consenting partner of an appropriate age. If Widders' idea of a great night in involves a chaste mug of cocoa and an improving book and she doesn't want to say anything more on the subject, that's just fine by me and anybody who persists in cross-questioning her on the subject is just being insensitive, voyeuristic and bloody rude. It's a choice - neither banned or compulsory. We don't all have to be the same, we don't all have to like the same things, or do the same things and we've all got the right to a bit of privacy. That's what freedom's all about.

If subjecting people who stray just a little bit from approved societal norms to inquisitorial witch hunts was just the hobby of a few fringe right-wing religious nuts, things wouldn't be quite so bad, but I despair when I see such narrow-minded bigotry on mainstream prime-time TV.

For crying out loud, people, what the hell's wrong with just letting adults get on with their own lives, so long as they're not doing any harm?