Archive for February 17th, 2020

Chauvinism is a hell of a drug.  Once a person has swallowed the Kool-aid that their own place and time are the best that have ever been, and that all future societies will be based upon current beliefs and notions, and that all past and foreign societies are to be judged against the chauvinist’s culture, deeply stupid ideas are bound to be the result.  One way in which chauvinists paper over the cognitive dissonance which is bound to result from such silly prejudices is to envision everyone who isn’t lucky enough to live in the Magical and Blessed Here and Now™ as being interchangeable, because obviously individuality was only invented in the 1960s and therefore everyone born before Kennedy was assassinated (OK, maybe before the First World War, but definitely no earlier than that) thought and believed and felt exactly the same way as everyone else, except for a few Great People™ whose names are in the history books because everyone else was wrong and they were right.  You think I’m kidding?  Exaggerating, sure, but not kidding.  Take a look at this article:

Historians from Oxford University have been taken aback to discover that Matthew Tomlinson’s diary from 1810 contains…open-minded views about same-sex attraction being a “natural” human tendency.  The diary challenges preconceptions about what “ordinary people” thought about homosexuality…Tomlinson [was] prompted by…a…scandal…in which a well-respected naval surgeon had been found to be engaging in homosexual acts.  A court martial had ordered him to be hanged – but Tomlinson…argued…”It must seem strange indeed that God Almighty should make a being with such a…defect in nature; and at the same time make a decree that if that being whom he had formed, should at any time follow the dictates of that Nature, with which he was formed, he should be punished with death,” he wrote on January 14 1810.  If there was an “inclination and propensity” for someone to be homosexual from an early age, he wrote, “it must then be considered as natural…and if [so]…it seems cruel to punish that defect with death”…An acceptance of homosexuality might have been expressed privately in aristocratic or philosophically radical circles – but this was being discussed by a rural worker.  “It shows opinions of people in the past were not as monolithic as we might think,” says [Oxford researcher Eamonn] O’Keeffe…

You might think those unschooled old-time hicks had “monolithic” opinions, Mr. O’Keeffe, but I certainly don’t.  Human opinions were never and are never monolithic across a society and era, no matter what authoritarians want you to believe.  Individuals have always thought and felt across a wide spectrum of opinion (and yes, that includes “rural workers”); the difference is that in the past, there were fewer places where freedom of speech was protected, so we don’t get to hear about widely-differing opinions because people were afraid of their ideas being declared as “sinful” or “seditious” or “hateful” or “misinformed” and therefore cause for censure or even punishment.  Sound familiar?  This is what both “wings” now want for America and Europe:  control of thought and speech by government and its corporate cronies to enforce “righteous” norms.  Oh, the excuses differ between places & rulers, but the intended outcome is always the same:  Thought control.

The world has improved not because we are “better” or “smarter” or “more educated” than our ancestors; it has improved because slowly, over millennia, humans have become less accepting of “rulers” using threats of violence to control what we can think, say, and do.  Oh, there have been eras of backsliding; we’re in one right now, where every would-be dictator supports censorship of ideas they don’t like and state violence against people who dare to have sex, ingest substances, or cross imaginary lines in the dirt in the “wrong” way and/or without the permission of their Dear Leaders.  In times and places where the individual’s right to be individual is respected, society becomes better and freer for everyone; in those where individuals are only viewed as faceless members of cliques, parties, mobs, or other collectives, society becomes worse and less free for everyone except the rulers.  Sentient beings are not born to be part of a monolith, and the only way to make them so is to violently break them and cram the remains into a huge structure designed and built by the power elite for nobody’s benefit but their own.

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