12 February 2015

The culture wars -- looking to the future

The battle for gay equal rights -- or, as I prefer to think of it, the battle to roll back the Abrahamic taboo on homosexuality -- isn't completely won yet in the Western world, but victory is clearly in sight.  A bare dozen years after homosexuality itself was still illegal in 13 states, gay marriage is now legal in 36 states, with seemingly another joining the list every few weeks, and with polls showing solid public support.  It's also legal in the majority of western Europe and Latin America.  The Christian Right still dreams of turning the clock back to the days of ostracism and demonization, but they're delusional.  Republican politicians who pander to them are reduced to fighting for the right of fundie bakers to refuse to bake cakes for gays, while the saner members of the party know a lost cause when they see one and just wish the whole subject would go away.  It's not quite over yet, but the fat lady is definitely revving up for her final number.

That being so, lately I've been thinking a lot about where our energies should be directed in the future.  For one thing, I believe we should choose those battles where the chance of success is greatest; fighting for things society is simply not ready for yet, that seem too radical, means wasted effort -- no matter how just those causes are.  Gay marriage simply could not have been won in 1920, for example, but the right of women to vote could be, and was.  Beyond that, obviously every person should fight for those things that mean the most to him or her.

For myself, here are three causes I've long felt passionate about, and for which I believe the time is now becoming ripe:

Marijuana.  This fight has already begun -- at least three states have passed referenda legalizing marijuana for casual use, not just medical purposes (including my own Oregon, though it hasn't taken effect yet).  The case to be made is obvious, multi-faceted, and irrefutable.  As with alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition has utterly failed to stop routine use by tens of millions of Americans -- it has merely driven the industry underground where criminal gangs dominate it and profit from it.  Legal marijuana could be regulated and taxed just as alcohol is, making it safer for all concerned and providing government with a major new revenue source.  We could stop spending insane amounts of money locking up people who haven't hurt anyone for insane lengths of time.  It's less harmful to the body than alcohol and far less harmful than cigarettes.  And it's nobody's damn business what we do in private in our off-hours for fun.

As far as I know, no major political figure in either party supports this -- but voters get it.  Put legalization initiatives on the ballot in liberal-to-centrist states, and they'll pass.

Prostitution.  There's no obvious groundswell of public support for legalizing prostitution as there is for legalizing marijuana, but as the marijuana movement gathers steam and racks up successes, I think the case will become easy and obvious to make -- because the arguments are the same.  The prohibition of prostitution has utterly failed to eradicate it, merely making it dangerous and sleazy; the degree to which it thrives in every city shows it to be almost as culturally mainstream as marijuana is.  Legal, regulated prostitution would be safer for everyone, and would make it much easier to combat problems like abuse and trafficking.  With the income from sex work legal and taxable, government revenues would get a boost.  And purse-lipped moralistic busybodies have no business interfering with the voluntary, private sexual interactions of consenting adults.

Meanwhile, the enemy's lines of attack often parallel their lines of attack on homosexuality -- parading supposed ex-members of the "sinful" lifestyle who were "saved" by Jesus, "research" that "proves" it destroys societies, etc. -- so we should consider parallel counter-measures.

Prostitution is already legal in many advanced countries; as with the legal-marijuana states, this gives us a set of real-world examples to point to of how the same thing could work here.  And many prostitutes are themselves articulate advocates for their line of work and the case for its legalization.  It was actually reading blogs written by prostitutes and other sex workers that first brought this issue to my attention and convinced me it was worth fighting for.

Animal cruelty in the meat industry.  This, too, is an issue without much broad public interest or support at the moment.  The reason I think the chances of achieving progress are good is that most Americans are already on our side -- they just don't know it yet.  If they were aware of the ghastly cruelty the meat industry routinely inflicts on millions upon millions of helpless captive animals, they would be utterly revolted and, I believe, would demand change.

So it's not a matter of trying to change people's attitudes, merely a matter of making them aware of facts they don't currently have.  The meat industry itself knows this, and has had some success in getting its lackeys in various state legislatures to pass laws to prohibit filming or otherwise revealing the hideous atrocities that go on inside its prison-camp "farms" and death factories.  Fortunately we have dedicated activists working to get the truth out.  Lady Freethinker blog, for example, frequently posts devastating material on the issue, including video documentation.

(Disclaimer:  I personally have never been to a prostitute or used marijuana.  I have given up meat, but -- unless the Congressional Republicans have been even crazier than I've heard -- that's legal.)

So these are issues I intend to become much more activist on, including here on the blog.  If other important progressive and personal-liberation causes seem to be gaining momentum, well, I won't turn down a ride on the bandwagon. And as always, I'll continue to fervently oppose religion -- the true core issue, and a fight that I expect will be won but not anytime soon.

As sometimes happens in the transition from one conflict to another, this will likely mean a change in the configuration of allies and opponents (remember how in the late 1940s the USSR and China were allies of the US, while Germany and Japan were enemies; ten years later the position was reversed).  Much of the Democratic party still opposes recreational marijuana, though one can hope that as the issue grows in popularity, views in those circles will "evolve" as they did on gay marriage.  Some libertarians are actually more supportive, though any collaboration on that issue must not undermine opposition to their toxic economic views.  On prostitution and meat-industry cruelty, neither major party favors progressive policies (and on the former issue, much of the activist left is firmly in the enemy camp); the grassroots who "get it" will have to lead and hope that the leaders eventually follow.

Per aspera ad astra!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about abortion rights? Isn't that at least as important?

12 February, 2015 07:09  
Anonymous Bacopa said...

While I think it's pretty safe to say that marriage equality will be the law of the land by late June, I think it's far too soon to say the gay rights battles are won. Gov. Brownback recently revoked protections for LGBT state employees in Kansas. Many states are introducing religious conscious laws that specifically protect discrimination against the LGBT community. And the teabaggers are thinking of new discriminatory laws every day.

12 February, 2015 11:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: That's certainly important, especially since it's increasingly under threat these days. But in this post I'm focusing on areas where we can win new progress, not just defend progress already made.

Bacopa: Reactionaries trying to drag things backwards will probably never entirely stop. But those kinds of attacks are becoming vote-losers in most of the country, and I think most of those specific laws would be unlikely to survive court challenges.

12 February, 2015 12:40  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Like any movement to advance human and animal rights, we'll go forward a few steps, and then the reactionaries will do all they can to push us backward. We are seeing this with gay rights. It looks like marriage equality will be the law of the land, but Stone Age governors like Brownback will still do what they can to thwart any advancement. In the end, they'll lose on all of these issues.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

12 February, 2015 15:30  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

BTW, to be clear, I don't believe the "universe" is moral or immoral. It is indifferent. The "arc of mankind" is more like it. We determine what is moral and immoral. And mankind is definitely progressive.

12 February, 2015 15:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Exactly. It's people who make the world a better or worse place. I intend to do what I can on the side of making it better; others will pull in the opposite direction, but they'll lose.

12 February, 2015 18:01  

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