Tuesday, 22 April 2014

In Temperament and History, We Are A Christian Nation. Cameron's Still Annoying Though.

We are a Christian nation. Many years before Scotland or England existed (and thus many more years before the United Kingdom as is appeared), Christian Kings ruled on these isles. And even before them we were briefly under the influence of the Roman empire, whose Christian beliefs were late to appear but quickly spread. Visited by soon-to-be saints, and an important part of Christian medieval Europe (and Christian medieval empires), we really can't pretend our little islands aren't steeped in Christianity.

Our villages and towns are adorned with elaborate churches, crucifix gravestones and pubs named after saints, Bishops and monks. Important local and national history is often set against important moments involving religion: Thomas à Becket, the Reformation, the Armada, the Glorious Revolution, the Jacobites and even Catholic emancipation come together to form the tapestry of our national narrative.

When one visits a new town or city as a tourist you will almost always find yourself in the ruins of a monastery, in a cathedral or being regalled by tales of some saint or pilgrimage that visited the spot you are standing on.

Just as Buddhism and Spiritism are intrinsic to Thailand's way of life, and Hinduism influences so much in India, our very cultural outlook and morality is based on Christianity (though we rarely even aspire to live up to things I see as great virtures, such as turning the other cheek). And, above all else, our head of state is also head of an established Christian church which, unlike any country other than Iran, has seats in our legislature put aside for its clergy.

So when David Cameron barks on about us being a Christian nation he isn't completely wrong. To pretend otherwise is delusional.

But let us not pretend that this is the only narrative. We have, for many years, had a proud history of non-conformism within the Christian faith which has lead to an openness towards other faiths and non-belief that marks us out as one of the most tolerant countries on Earth. Our people are diverse and faith is a complicated, and currently waning, theme in modern Britain. To describe ourselves as a Christian nation without a whole list of caveats is to greatly misrepresent our country and insult a large number of citizens.

And that is where David Cameron just goes too far. He doesn't just want us to acknowledge the fact that yes Christianity has been a foundation on which this United Kingdom has been built, he also insists we ponder the benefits to us it has brought. And Christianity has brought us benefits (I'd much rather live here, in a western nation, than pretty much any other I could name). But to ponder its benefits without considering its problems is a fundamentally flawed and misty-eyed approach.

Christianity brought us divisive tribal politics (and wars) whose affects we still feel to this day (especially in places like Northern Ireland and Glasgow). It brought us morality laws that greatly reduced individual liberty and free thought. It allowed, and allows, unelected agents of a minority religious organisation to influence our laws. It has caused deaths through war, murder and execution in such numbers that every citizen of this nation should be ashamed.

So yes we are a Christian nation. This gives us a fascinating history, some pretty buildings, a few decent cultural traits but also a whole heap of trouble that probably outweighs the benefits. So let's try and move forward and do things better so that we live in a country with greater religious freedom, less murder and happier people.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

It Is Time To Move To Somewhere Isolated (I Vote Yukon)

I'm a non-violent person. I abhor violence in all its forms. I think guns are scary (and I grew up around them so I'm not just some liberal sort with no real-life experience). But I've started to sympathise with the sort of loony survivalist that frequent the mountains of Idaho with a stockpile of arms and a deep suspicion of anyone telling them how to live their lives.

I'm worried, literally worried, that people, who are supposed to be vastly more intelligent than I am, think there's a connection between Zac Efron going shirtless at the MTV awards and Cyril Smith's supposed (I'm being careful here as I'm not really paying attention to the never ending abusegate stuff) rape of children.

Further to this, in a similarly slap-dash, throw any sense to the wind manner,  Queerty yesterday had an article stating that because Bryan Singer and other prominent gay men held drug-fuelled parties with men naked in the pool he must be guilty of rape. Oh and he's a paedophile because it was a 17 year old too (not sure they get the concept of paedophilia). The easy damning of someone because they like sex parties and that any age difference in a sexual partnership is just WRONG is the sort of thing I'm getting used to from the LGBT media. 

There is repugnant inability to hold two thoughts in one's head at the same time. Let me show you how it is done:

"Sex is fun. Rape is wrong." 

"Shirtless men are hot. Rapists are evil." 

"All things have consequences. Finding someone attractive does not always lead to rape." 

Look at that. The world's a complicated place and nothing exists in a vacuum. But breezily dismissing sexual expression, human attraction and freedom as "inane" and then linking these things to some of the most heinous crimes imaginable is just too stupid for words. 

And then we have the dark possibility that the "let's out-do the Tory party for puritanism and sexual prudery" party will form the next Government. Bring me a gun, a log cabin and acres of forest between my sexuality and these "liberal" intellectual busy-bodies.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mea Culpa: I Was Wrong On #EqualMarriage

I'm not a "radical queer". Oh I had pretensions in my youth but, ultimately, I'm too lazy to be a radical queer. And, let's face it, I've been in a monogamous relationship with the man I love for 10 years, living in domestic bliss with a dog, a bearded dragon and plans for a wedding. I'm about as radical as the man who chooses to repaint his house in a slightly different colour of beige.

I didn't choose to make marriage equality "my thing". I didn't go looking for an issue to get a bee in my bonnet over. Marriage equality sort of just fell into my lap. Unwanted but insistent. There I was, a happy 21 year old working weekdays and trolling down Old Compton Street on the weekends, and suddenly people started getting all excited about civil partnerships. I couldn't understand it. That's not equality you dimwits, my less than tactful inner monologue said, that's just crumbs to keep you quiet. I couldn't comprehend the fact no one else, other than folks like Peter Tatchell, could see what was happening. All my gay mates were beside themselves with glee and the media was lapping it all up, and I was sitting grumpily in a corner wondering if everyone had lost their mind. I was naive.

I was naive to one think that LGBT politicians would stand up for what was right rather than do deals behind the scenes. I was also naive to believe that most LGBT people had the ability to see things more clearly than most other people. I stupidly had this odd notion LGBT had more common sense than Joe Public. Which probably in itself proves we don't.

At the same time I fell deeply in love. My connections with the gay scene dwindled as my other half and I disappeared into our own little romance. Safely out of touch with the general lack of excitement of LGBT people for it, I started to argue for marriage equality.

There was a genuine injustice to be corrected. Civil partnerships were not equality, though they served a purpose, and I was not going to just allow that to be forgotten. I came up against a brick wall when it came to LGBT politicians and organisations who seemed to think I was completely mad. Marriage? Why ever would we need that? Labour, in particular, seemed unable to grasp the concept that their beloved civil partnerships may not have been perfect. And that just spurred me on. I'd always, in my younger days, been open to radical queer theory, but when I encountered arguments from that perspective against marriage equality (that it would serve to neuter our sexual expression, for conformity on to us etc.) I dismissed them as just more lefty incomprehension of the injustice I saw.

I admit I never really wanted marriage equality. I had bigger dreams. But the rejection I got from all I brought up the subject with (a lot of people!) turned my belief in equal marriage from a principle into an obsession. And soon I found others who actually did share my views and eventually they reached the right people and here we are 9 years later with same-sex marriage.

And now the chance to rest and see if what we have created is good. And I do not think it is. Partly that is because it isn't equal marriage. Same-sex marriage is yet another messy compromise and, in the same way as happened with civil partnerships, most people refuse to acknowledge that fact. We failed here in England and Wales to get marriage equality.

Mostly though, now I feel the fight has reached a stalemate (I doubt the changes we need to fix same-sex marriage will come about any time soon), I look upon what has been created and shake my head with shame.

This was meant to be a liberation. Same-sex couples could marry and enjoy the same benefits as opposite-sex ones. We could choose our futures and live our lives as we wished, whether that was through a marriage or by fucking our brains out with a different guy every night. Suddenly we'd have the right not to have to conform to any one culture. Conservative gays and radical gays and all those in between finally had the right to be themselves. How stupid was I hey?

Instead a new conformity seems to be forming around a conservative homosexuality (trans folks need not apply), I realise this was happening before 2014 but I was too single-mindedly obsessing over equal marriage to notice. Through chats with others about my opposition to many of Stonewall's latest prudish initiatives and my issues with how gay couples have gone from pariahs to Disney-fied paragons of virtue on TV I realise same-sex marriage has helped shore up the more conservative outlook of some LGBT people. It plays into the hands of those who wish to demean sexually active teenagers, who wish to prudishly oppose even partial nudity and who wish to close bathhouses and "clean up" the gay scene. Now I know those people weren't in this fight from the beginning. I know many of these folks didn't even think about marriage equality until the bandwagon was practically over the finish line. They were the very people, in some cases literally, who dismissed my questions and arguments about marriage equality pre-2010.  But... now I've supported giving them a weapon with which to craft a new narrative of clean-cut, prudish homosexuality. I've supported giving them a new rod with which they can beat those who don't conform. I should have seen what they'd do with even this slight amount of freedom. And I didn't.

And I was wrong not to see this. Foolish. Naive. I'm angry now to know that, in years to come, pain will be caused to those who don't conform because of something I supported. Angry that now emboldened elements will up their fight to desexualise, normalise and "sanitise" others.

This isn't what I hoped for. This isn't the freedom I signed up to. And I just don't know how it can be made right.

I still think fighting for equal marriage was right in principle. But the consequences... I should've seen them coming.