Friday, December 15

Pseudoliberties

There's a growing trend for people to be what I like to call pseudoliberal, although going by Google it seems that this word has already been in use for a while. These are people who truly believe that they are being liberal and are considered as much by those with genuinely non-liberal views, but in reality are anything but.

An obvious and recent example that might ring with any Muslims reading is believing a woman isn't free if she wears the hijab/nikaab/jilbab. People who hold this view will insist that, in a free and liberal society, a woman wouldn't have to wear such a thing, without realising that in such a world women should be able to choose to wear what they want.

But there are other, more subtle, examples too. Throwing scorn on a playboy divorcee who wants to marry a virgin is pretty illiberal provided all said virgins are just as free to tell him to bugger off. Taking the case from my previous post, a person should be free with impunity to not give up their seat to a pregnant woman or elderly passenger. And generally, forcing someone to be liberal is a contradiction in terms (or perhaps ironic. I'm not quite sure which).

And unfortunately it seems that The Government is being just as lazy when it considers the issues surrounding liberty. We're seeing initiatives that, on the surface, seem to give us equal freedoms but are in fact taking them away (so, for example, we're discouraged to celebrate Christmas, or smoke in public places). Unfortunately, these end up being some kind of rotten carrot to complement a "if you don't like it here, then you're free to leave" stick. With emphasis on that "free", of course.

But then we have to ask, is it possible to be genuinely and totally liberal without causing chaos? After all, there would be many times when the liberty of one person would, by definition, infringe on that of another; even if we just confine this absolute liberty to that which doesn't affect others. Sometimes ideals themselves offend others (as free speech sometimes obviously does), so we end up having to, subjectively, draw the line again. Plus, sometimes it's just inefficient to allow everyone to do their own thing however harmless that might be.

So perhaps ultimate liberality is impossible? But whether it is or not isn't really relevant since with respect to us living in the UK, we don't need or even want that. What we need to figure out at the moment is the best way to be liberal within the current framework that we have - so staunchly protecting our right to free speech while not abusing it, or allowing people to live their lives as they want as long as it doesn't break the law (where I think of law being a social code of conduct rather than the stuff sometimes arbitrarily written down in certain books).