Do opponents of the permissive society get safe-spaces too?
Where might we be safe from the sexual revolution's aftermath?
Here’s a radical question. Who’s going to create a safe space for me? I too am very scared about some of the things I see and hear around me. Let’s not talk about the normal everyday things which deeply offend – bad language, rude jokes and bad driving – but some very specific attributes of our society which, because of the cultural revolutionary changes over the last fifty years, are now commonplace.
Sexual references, pornography and celebration of criminality are almost always ever present in magazines, red top newspapers but particularly on television. For example, I sat on my sofa and turned on the TV on an ordinary Tuesday night. On Channel 4, I watched Ackley Bridge, a programme about the modern comprehensive school system set in a fictional town in the North of England, with the modern cultural heritage mix of working class white British and Asian Pakistani. I can only describe the programme as complete and utter dross.
There were frequent references to sex and sexual behaviour. The main characters are lesbian teenagers, who at one point asked another character, “Are you sleeping with him?” referring to another male teenage character. The characters are pictured in school uniform, and so are therefore below the age of consent (they also make references to GCSE exams). The programme also features child grooming, the stealing of drug money by two people wearing burkas so as not to be identified, a teacher who cheats on his wife and another teacher who sleeps around and makes sexual references throughout. All of this before the alleged 9pm watershed.
Next day, I turn on the music channels. The scenes on there can only be described as soft pornography. Plenty of people (both sexes) wearing almost nothing, grinding against each other. This was at 12:15 in the afternoon. Of course, we all like to shake our heads in disbelief and wonder how our children are highly sexualised when we see 8 year olds doing exactly this in playgrounds.
I turned the TV over to another channel to see a young gentlemen frequently pointing his fingers to the camera (imitating a gun) and saying the most offensive lyrics I’ve ever heard relating to sexual behaviour to a woman and drugs. Both of these related to a criminal act, and I heard it, out in the open on TV, on a Wednesday lunchtime. I’m told that this type of “music” is called Grime. I can’t think of a better adjective to describe it. On social media recently, I saw a picture of an aborted baby, with the words, “I’ll do what the f&£k I want to my body,” posted by the person who tweeted it.
I’m deeply scared and worried about these things. I am very offended by it. They frighten me and I want my children to be protected from them. But who will? If safe spaces are about protecting people, then why aren’t we protecting our children from this sort of thing?
Some will say inevitably that soap opera reflects social trends, but in the same breath they ignore the fact that TV has an immense ability to influence society. For example, when was the last episode of Eastenders which featured an aspirational working class family unable to get their children into their local “outstanding” comprehensive?
Who has seen any episodes in which someone’s house is robbed and the police refuse to attend because it’s not a priority, or that the offender already has 45 convictions and is therefore not scared or deterred by the criminal justice system? It doesn’t happen. The reason for this is simple – the cultural left believe that only their opinion matters and to challenge it is a thought crime.
The conservative view is different. It was Edmund Burke who claimed that in democracy, the majority is capable of oppressive cruelty on a minority, meaning that those who think they hold all the power need the checks and balances available to the minority to protect them from tyranny. It is why conservatism is the natural ally of democracy, tolerance and free speech, and socialism and cultural Marxism are the enemy of it.
The recent rise of the “safe space” as a tool by the hard left to close down free speech and debate is part of this natural authoritarianism which it promotes. Or is that assumption far too simplistic? Let’s think about why someone would want to have a safe space in the first place. In a recent poll, Edinburgh University was voted as one of the worst universities in the country for free speech and censorship. The university students union policy (typical of many I have seen) deems that safe spaces are needed to “…demand the prohibition of discriminatory words or actions.” Of course, in keeping with the times, it lists specific groups of people who should be offered specialist protection.
As a proprietor of the Christian belief of “goodwill to all men,” who can disagree with this sentiment? Indeed, I believe that the underlying cause of political correctness is a good one. Expecting people to be nice and fair to each other has been a mainstay of our culture for hundreds of years, and indeed, the idea that we should protect minorities from abuse is a noble and Christian cause, as Burke noted.
The problem with safe spaces and political correctness is that they are not universal and are very subjective. For example, the policy continues, “….we actively encourage the reporting of incidents that constitute the breach of the safe space policy.” In other words, it’s important to challenge those who are there to purposely insult others and their opponents. This is a fair assumption – keeping the debate open and in good spirits is important. However, the policy then takes on a rather sinister outlook.
“The policy exists within a legal framework that includes hate crime (my italics) legislation.” This is where the simple boundary between free speech (conservative) and authoritarianism (socialist/cultural Marxist) exists. The subjectiveness lies within this hidden (but very obvious) message – if we happen to disagree with you or we believe that your message offends one of the protected groups, then we will punish you with a crime. It is here that this logic takes on that authoritarian tone. Rather than confront ideas with reasoned arguments or factual ones, they would rather use the law to diminish the debate and punish the person for the crime of “offence.”
The right to offend is important and is the bedrock of democracy. An attempt to stop offence is tantamount to a thought crime, and should be opposed at every given moment. However, things that, as autonomous individuals, we find offensive, should be challenged. For example, I do not wish for Grime or rap music to be banned. If people want to be rude to women and see them as objects for sexual purposes, then that’s fine. I don’t agree, but I will defend their right to say it. But what I want to know is, who will challenge it?
Many years ago, our society was based on a strict moral code, because of our collective understanding that the Christian religion is our source of guidance and culture, regardless of whether you believe in it or not. People were free to say and speak their mind, free to associate and there were no laws to stop them – unless specific crimes of violence or breaching of the peace were identified. But people knew what was right and what was wrong. Now that this moral code has gone, we have subjective morality and laws with the sole purpose of inflicting leftist political correctness.
The reasons for this are too long to be spoken about here. However, there is a strange paradox in this liberal attitude to thinking and offence. But it is worth considering that many things which we have seen as offensive over the years have actually promoted progressiveness. In 1894, a pamphlet was produced by Oscar Wilde, in which a series of poems and thoughts were written in support of homosexuality, a line of one particular poem converting the words, “I am the love that dare not speak its name.” There was, of course, outrage amongst the conservative elites at the time. But many were rightly disgusted with the treatment of homosexuals, and protests were held in response to his treatment. Without doubt the publication of the pamphlet marks an influential turning point in the fight for homosexual rights. Therefore, without the offending nature of it, where would that fight be?
In more recent time, people who are very prominent in their fight for equal rights for women and homosexuals, Peter Tatchell and Germiane Greer, have found themselves on the “wrong” side of free speech and militant leftism, for the alleged offence of transphobia, with no proof or evidence whatsoever. How can this be? Why has our discourse and democracy fallen so flat, that those who may happen to oppose our way of thinking are seemingly diagnosed with a “phobia,” and labelled as if they have some sort of mental illness? Peter Tatchell (whom I have great respect for) has done amazing things for homosexual rights in this country. I am sure that I would not agree with everything he says, but I wouldn’t dream of labelling him with “heterophobia,” or any other nonsense.
As a conservative, it is important to argue that offence should not be absolute. Offending for offending sake is immoral. It is here that political correctness has an appealing nature, a barrier to protect the vulnerable. But the hard left have distorted this, by using it as a tool with which to dismantle legitimate opinion, particularly those of conservative moral opinions. The way in which those who may have profound reservations about mass migration and its effects on British culture for example, are commonly demonised with racism, before an argument has taken place. People who may not support homosexual marriage are deliberately misrepresented as hating homosexuals, a lie to shut down debate before it’s even begun. But the right to offend is not about abuse.
Christianity teaches us that tolerance of others is right. John Locke argued that only God can judge rivalry, not human beings, and we have a duty to accept our rivals as they should accept us. This is why laws which restrict the freedom of thought are wrong. However, in the midst of this, we accept that good and evil coexist, and therefore we should have an understanding that some things are intolerable, but we must face them, not shut them down because we don’t like them. It is an argument which the left have failed to grasp – a point which highlights conservative tolerance contrasted with authoritarian socialist thinking. An Oxford University professor, Timothy Garton Ash, argues that by our current politically correct standards, many of the greatest influences in history would not have been allowed to speak, because of their controversial opinions, such as the prophet of leftism, Karl Marx. How funny! But this has a serious point. If we are not prepared to hear those who we don’t agree with, there is no chance that progressivism will succeed. Somehow, ideas must be defended.
Currently, offensiveism has been nationalised by the cultural left. The idea is that hurt personal feelings must constitute some sort of personal rage. In its prophetic quest for social justice, the left sees itself as the protective guardian against conservative moral thought and opinion. This in itself has an offensive undertone. For example, do we really think that women should be protected from the arguments against abortion? Or, do Muslim people need special treatment when discussing Islamic terrorist atrocities? Should we be protecting Christians from the arguments of atheism or humanism? No. It’s the idea that any person or group cannot be legitimately subjected to criticism is what I find offensive.
And here is the strange conundrum created by the socialists and the cultural Marxists: their pursuit of egalitarianism and liberalism has in fact created a new bigotry, that of the cultural liberalists, who despise conservatism and the old moral authority. Their commitment to the openness of sexual liberation over the last fifty years is the reason why TV programmes such as Ackley Bridge are able to freely make lurid conversations about underage sex, which is (still) a crime. It’s the reason most music videos, aimed at young children, are adverts for soft core pornography and why the pursuit of selfish individualistic actions, such as drug taking and dealing, are prominent in music and other mediums. I find these things deeply offensive. Why are the left themselves not offended by any of these things? Therefore, I must again ask the question I began with – who’s going to make a safe space for me? I’m still waiting for an answer.