| by Flemming Funch|
One of my standards for evaluating how free a society would be would be the inverse of the degree to which it suppresses various kinds of "vices" and "indecent" or "immoral" behavior.
Sex and drugs and free communication, primarily. You know, is nudity illegal? Or saying "bad" words. Or smoking or hallucinogenics. Or prostitution. Or odd sexual fetishes.
Personal choices and life styles and modes of expression. The degree to which a society feels it needs to use force to control those is closely related to the degree it is being oppressive.
When a lot of people share a society, it can be quite practical to have laws that regulate the interaction between them and protect their health and liberty. Driving in the same side of the street really makes things much easier. Having somebody to call when your house gets burglarized makes you safer. But for a public authority to try to control your personal habits, for no other reason than that somebody doesn't like them, is a totally different matter.
Victimless crimes, essentially. Which generally aren't really crimes, but manifestations of the existence of slavery and mind control, enforced by physical or economic violence.
A society where you aren't allowed to say "fuck" or show your breasts on TV is kind of sick. It indicates there are some perverts in charge who have a big hangup on sex, thinking they have to control everybody else, because they're afraid of their own thoughts, probably.
The view that sex or nudity is somehow bad or evil or indecent or offensive is at best a little strange. Certainly has nothing to do with what we find in nature. We're all born naked, and remain so under our clothes. We all got here by some people having sex and enjoying it greatly. There can hardly be anything more natural. That it is an evil thing comes out of a twisted religious mindset, which itself is the cause of much evil in the world.
"But we need to protect the children!" many people would say. From what? From the knowledge of how they came about? The idea that sex and children have to be kept far apart, or some kind of disaster happens, is in itself rather weird. From nature's hand, things tend to progress by themselves in a healthy way, if you don't mess with it. Little kids just don't have much interest in sexual subjects. But at some point they reach adolescence, and they certainly do. But then they run into oppressive laws that tell them they have to be children in that regard until they're 18, and that they have no right to choose to be sexual. Depends on the society. The age of consent is higher in the more oppressive societies.
So, what in some places is a healthy expression of sexuality, at a natural stage of one's life, will in other places be considered child pornography and molestation, and something one will lock people up for life for. You know, the topless girls in a Danish tabloid newspaper might just be 15 or 16. Which would be unthinkable in the United States, where there certainly wouldn't be any nudity in a newspaper, and it certainly wouldn't be teenagers.
Now, I've lived in the U.S. for so long that even a couple of years later I still instinctively get the american moral reactions some of the time. Even if I never believed in them. It is more a matter of looking over your shoulders for the police coming to arrest you because you did something unthinkably horribly bad, like serve alcohol to somebody under 21, or take a photo of some naked kids running through the sprinkler in the summer.
Now I'm in France, where even the gas company uses nude people in their commercials on TV. Which is absolutely non-controversial. People here would have a hard time understanding how there possibly could be any kind of issue with that.
And "bad" words? Most French try hard to be very polite, and expect others to be polite, so there are certain things one would tend not to say when one is in that mode. But that has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is illegal to say certain words in a public medium. You can say fuck all you want, or the equivalent, if that's somehow fits the mode of communication you're using. And a lot of the time it doesn't fit. See, it is your choice.
Here they serve wine in the cafeteria in high school. Zero issue with that. If you want water, you take a water carafe; if you want wine, you take a wine carafe. So, are the kids drunk all the time? Stupid question. On the contrary. Everybody has a very relaxed relationship to alcohol, so it isn't a problem. Oppressive and unnecessary regulation only makes things worse.
Smoking. Well, the cigarette packs in all of Europe by law have forceful hypnotic commands on them. Essentially: You're going to die!! Horribly, painfully, slowly! I could say a lot about the pitiful lack of understanding of the human mind that goes into producing such a campaign, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that's another story. Anyways, it is quite likely most of Europe would end up with similar control of smoking as in the U.S.
Am I saying that's bad? I'm saying that lack of choice is bad. And lack of good, balanced information is bad. "Smoking Kills!!" is propaganda. It is probably illegal in many places to provide any more balanced information. Smoking is a drug addiction. There are many drugs with various pros and cons and things to say about them. Coffee, sugar, heroin, nicotine. They're not all the same. But generally nobody is taking them for their harmful effects.
So, drug use. I'd say a society that leaves it up to the individual to choose, but which provides good information and support, is way more healthy than one that just makes it all illegal. The statistics show quite clearly that Holland has way fewer problems with drugs and drug related criminality than places that try to outlaw it. Lower rate of drug use, fewer fatalities, fewer health issues, less crime. Making the use of certain drugs illegal merely fuels a huge multi-billion dollar criminal drug industry, and puts a lot of people under serious health risks, because they don't know what they're getting, and there's no help available for them. And, as always, making a whole bunch of different things all the same in the eye of the law or in education brings all sorts of nasty problems. Heroin is not the same as marihuana. Neither is the same as most hallucinogenics, which typically aren't addictive. Making those illegal is probably mostly a matter of trying to stop people from stumbling into thinking out of the box. And, again, the negative effects are much greater when it is illegal, and you buy some unknown substance from some guy on a street corner, rather than from a pharmacy. Quite likely it is because somebody in power actually desire the population to have the negative effects, rather than any more balanced and healthy experience. Or because they benefit from the big money is the criminal drug industry.
Prostitution. I think women (or men) should be free to choose who they'll have sex with, as long as all parties agree. And if one of them earns money from it, so what. Making money from providing a service is an empowering thing. Prostitution is a valuable service, which relieves all sorts of pressures that otherwise could be let out in harmful ways. Making it illegal will only create a criminal industry around it, with pimps and violence. Making it illegal will ensure all sorts of health issues, and make it hazardous for both prostitutes and their customers. Again, countries that have legalized prostitution, like Holland or Germany, can clearly show the beneficial effects in their statistics. People who're trying to outlaw prostitution will usually do it out of some religious or moral belief, for some reason believing that women should not be free to choose where and when to apply their sexuality.
The question is who comes up with the "shoulds" and why, and the degree to which they succeed in getting government power to enforce their particular view. Somebody's personal choice gets elevated to law, so that everybody will be forced to make the same choice. A society that lets that happen has problems.
Real life is full of nuances. Everything has degrees and pros and cons. Some things are fun, but dangerous. Some things are risky and enjoyable at the same time. A free society needs to allow people to make choices that fit their nature, particularly when it is personal choices that don't harm others. That others might take offense is not a good enough reason to outlaw something. It just isn't good enough that there are groups that think that certain behaviors are bad. They're free to make their own choice, but not to enforce it on everybody else. If they don't feel like being gay or engaging in S&M or taking ecstasy or smoking or drinking or appearing nude in a magazine, no problem. But some people do, and feel like a whole lot of things that might be horrifying to others. That's what choice is about. It is up to you what you choose. It is not up to you to rule that all traces of those things you don't choose get weeded out of society. There needs to be room for all of us here.
So, again, a good test of the freedom of a society is how it deals with all those personal behaviors that might be considered by some to be immoral, bizarre, dangerous, perverted, unhealthy, indecent. And the funny thing is that if such choices are freely allowed, they right away become a lot less unhealthy and dangerous and strange. Because oppression and repression and suppression are the real dangers.