On the way into work this morning, I drove behind a car with a couple of bumper-stickers. The first was entirely text-based and said:
"You keep your bullshit in Westminster
....and we'll keep ours in the countryside"
I assumed this was something produced by the Countryside Alliance and was intended to be a statement about how the urban metropolitan elite based in parliament was passing legislation on the countryside, most notably by banning hunting with hounds - issues that the knew nothing about and had no business meddling with. Do you see what they did there? they've made a humorous comparison between the "bullshit" spoken by the members of Parliament in Westminster with the actual bullshit produced out of the back end of a male cow. Now, the last time I looked, the whole point of a parliamentary democracy was that every constituency, including those in rural areas, returned a candidate to Westminster with a mandate to represent them. I was not aware that the countryside, or any other part of the nation, was somehow beyond the reach of our law making body. Perhaps that's all the proof you need that I'm irredeemably urban.
There was another sticker too. This one was more subtle. On the left hand side, it featured a picture of a woman on horseback wearing a bright red coat - the garb of someone about to go and kill a fox with dogs. The text underneath said "Now you hate her". On the right hand side there was a picture of someone - presumably the same person - dressed as a nurse. The caption underneath read "Now you don't".
Ah, so what you're saying is that the same people who go out and kill foxes might also hold down highly respected jobs in society. Excuse me for being dim, but what the fuck does that prove? Harold Shipman was a well-respected family doctor, and he's still estimated to have killed 250 people (and no foxes). The fact that he had a respectable job doesn't somehow mitigate the fact that he was a serial killer, does it?
The sticker went on to say that 59% of the population was in favour of fox-hunting. Really? Even if that's true and not some hopelessly optimistic made up statistic, what exactly does that prove? Parliament - the people who we elected to represent us - voted to ban it, and so it is against the law to do it. That doesn't necessarily mean that the law is just or correct, but it is still the law. Protest by all means, as that too is your democratic right, but frankly if you want to persuade me that it's a good idea, then you're going to have to come up with some better arguments. Me, I think it's cruel and unnecessary, and I happen to believe that the ban is no more an infringement of your civil liberties than the law that stops me giving you a slap for being such a blood-thirsty idiot. Actually, I'm genuinely curious about when we decided that our civil liberties were frozen in stone and thus have a sense of when they are being infringed. We don't have a written constitution like the USA, so there's not really any one document that we can refer to as our basic rights as citizens of this country. So how do we actually know when our civil liberties are being infringed? Perhaps some peasants had bumper stickers on their handcarts protesting about Magna Carta? Maybe some of the nobility rode around on Parliament Green waving placards protesting about the parliamentary deposition of Richard II?*
Fox hunting has been banned in most of the UK since 2005, so this is old news really, but what was it Oscar Wilde said? Fox hunting is "the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable."
Still true, apparently.
* I actually wrote a dissertation on the depositions of Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI as part of my Masters degree. In the main, this told the story of the rise of Parliament (as increasingly this was the body used by the usurpers to legitimise their own reigns, thus inadvertently increasing parliament's power as they reigned only through Parliamentary consent). The dissertation also touched upon how there was an intangible, but still very real sense of "kingship" - something that every king was measured against. There is a fair amount of evidence that even the lowliest citizen in Medieval England had a feeling for whether or not they were being governed justly, and usurpations were only tolerated when there was a sense that the king being deposed had failed to live up to this unwritten ideal. I also learnt some fascinating things about how the bodies of deposed kings were usually buried on the quiet and away from London, but that the sons of the usurpers, as the first act of their reigns almost always disinterred the bodies and gave them a proper burial in Westminster Abbey... and they did this because the ceremonial funeral of the old king before the coronation of the new king was a key part of the symbolic transfer of this mystical "kingship" from the old king to the new king.... a tacit acceptance that in spite of Parliamentary assent, the usurpers were never quite legitimate in the eyes of the general population. Written constitutions? Who needs them when you've got a history like that, eh?