In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place. - Mahatma Gandhi
Last week I published “A Necessary Evil”, in which I pointed out that, though neither circumstances nor numbers can wholly turn an evil action good, they can make it better than the alternative. Killing someone in self-defense isn’t good, but it is an evil that is excused by circumstance; likewise the collective theft we dignify with the euphemism “taxation” to disguise the fact that it is both involuntary and accomplished via the threat of violence. In an ideal world, good people would always have the choice to do naught but good, and any evil actions they committed would be the result of moral weakness or loss of emotional control. But in the real world, good people sometimes have to consciously decide to commit evil acts in order to prevent or combat a greater evil; a whore, for example, might have to lie in order to prevent her discovery, abduction, brutalization and confinement by government thugs who might then impoverish her and consign her children to the hell of state custody.
The slope is a slippery one, and the excuse of “necessity” is often used by tyrants and lesser criminals to rationalize the most monstrous of crimes, such as the wholesale trampling of civil rights modern regimes have enacted under the aegis of “security” and “protecting the children” and the all-important “keeping people from enjoying themselves in ways that don’t benefit the rulers.” The faculty which determines whether an evil act is truly necessary or just a cloak for selfish motivations is that which we call “conscience”, and those whose moral compasses are either missing or underdeveloped are the world’s greatest enablers of evil because they subordinate their own personal consciences to the pronouncements of external authorities. In other words, they excuse or even participate in behavior they know to be wrong because an “authority” pronounces that behavior to be “right” in order to further his own purposes.
Of course, the opposite can happen as well; some people accepted as authorities by others have dependable moral compasses, and such people can accomplish tremendous good by helping other good people to recognize evil but popularly-accepted or officially-sanctioned behaviors for what they are. I don’t just mean great philosophers or spiritual leaders, either; every parent, teacher, writer, celebrity or other person with an audience, however small, has the moral responsibility to ensure that any moral pronouncements he makes truly come from his conscience rather than from a misguided need to advance an agenda at the expense of others’ freedom, happiness and physical needs. Bloggers obviously fall under this stricture as well, so I always think long and hard about complex moral issues before taking a stand on them one way or another, for fear of inadvertently influencing people to embrace a wrong merely because it might advance a cause in which I personally believe. Well, there’s an issue I’ve been mulling over for a year and a half now, and I’ve finally decided it’s time to share my judgment on it. In my column for November 5th, 2010 I wrote:
Interrogators have long understood something which both terrorists and pacifists alike fail to understand, which is that human nature tends to respond only to BOTH the promise of reward and the threat of punishment used in tandem. Terrorism fails because it offers only violence, and pacifism fails because it offers only the reward of keeping the non-violent protesters happy, but the classic “good cop, bad cop” scenario works because it offers both. Not even children consistently respond to the promise of the carrot without the threat of the stick; why then should we expect adults to, most especially the self-important adults who set themselves up over their fellows? The civil rights movement worked because Martin Luther King and other peaceful protesters offered an attractive alternative to the race violence which had escalated since soon after the Second World War, but without the looming specter of race war their peaceful protests might never have accomplished anything. In more recent times the peaceful activism of mainstream “gay rights” groups offered an attractive alternative to the disruptive antics of groups like ACT-UP and the quiet violence of “outing”. Perhaps one of the reasons that the prostitutes’ rights movement has languished in futility for four decades is that there is no threatening alternative; maybe the “good girl” activists like those of SWOP, Desiree Alliance and myself need a few “bad girl” groups who run around outing politicians, disrupting fundamentalist religious services and neofeminist meetings, hacking prohibitionist websites and spying on police to publicly expose “stings” so the government will have some compelling reason to consider the reasonable alternative of decriminalization.
As of now, I’m officially removing the “perhaps”. The lies of prohibitionists, the oppressive laws, the police brutalization, and the official propaganda have to end; the sick need to control what individuals choose to do with their own bodies, energies and property is such a great evil that, in my deeply-considered opinion, the use of lesser evils in combating it is justified. Not lies, mind you; lying to advance the cause of sex worker rights will in the end only harm us. I was thinking more in terms of fighting lies with truth, namely truth about our oppressors. Though I’ve always believed it was wrong to “out” clients under any circumstances, I have had a change of heart: the situation has become so grave that I will now hail any outing of the sexual practices of prohibitionists, even by the sex workers who would otherwise have the ethical duty to keep their clients’ secrets. This doesn’t mean I will approve of whores’ exposing clients who have made no public stand on the subject one way or another; what I’m encouraging is the outing of politicians, judges, actors, journalists, preachers and other public figures who have publicly harmed or encouraged oppression of sex workers by their laws, rulings, writings, speeches, interviews and the like. It’s time the public knew the truth about the men who publicly condemn us or work to make our lives miserable while secretly forming a large segment of our clientele.
Unfortunately, I can’t start the ball rolling myself; when I retired only six years ago prostitution wasn’t nearly as big an issue as it has become, and I’m unaware of any anti-prostitution actions committed by any of my regulars. I will, however, do this: if any working girl wants to expose such a figure, I’ll be happy to give her space in this column in which to do so. The crusade against people engaging in mutually-beneficial consensual private behavior has to stop, and I’m willing to accept the karmic burden of encouraging and enabling harm against the crusaders in order to hasten the day when it does.
One Year Ago Today
“May Updates (Part One)” reports instances of bad cops and bad customers raping whores, a proposal to decriminalize prostitution and drugs in Detroit, and the effects of drug decriminalization in Portugal.