Of straitjackets

Let me admit to a long dislike of straitjackets. Now, I’ve not yet been put in one, but my mama told me that even as a wee thing, I objected to being confined in a crib. But she did it anyway, because I liked to wander, and sometimes she had to make lunch. The memory is vague, and perhaps imaginary, but I recall my resentment. Babies have rights!

Those moderns (can’t include me!) have the amusing notion that people, more generally, have rights. It is an extraordinarily obtuse worldview. Lions have rights, and the means to enforce them. They go where they will, and eat anything that catches their fancy. Well, almost anything. Against a cackle of hyenas they have no rights at all. It is the way not only of the jungle, but of the world. Humans have rights because we invented spears, slingshots, crossbows, and machine guns. Unlike lions, we are the sort of bureaucrats who decide on rules for when and where to use them. And straitjackets, too, and cribs we invented, so we could make lunch. That’s how it works.

But sometimes bureaucracy goes too far. In addition to rules that seem necessary and consistent, we like decorative frills. Let us take murder, for example. I’m against it, myself, and would be inclined to enforce the general rule against it. Mustn’t kill people to solve your problems, as they say on the pro-life fringe. But you’re allowed to kill your offspring, until they are hatched, and perhaps a little beyond that; and you may kill yourself quite gratuitously; and soon you will be allowed, nay encouraged, to despatch your unwanted oldies, the sick, and sourpusses. (We still have to ask their permission.)

On the other hand, you will get extra time if you kill people because you hate them. But there is an unwritten schedule of qualifiers. Do you hate homosexuals, gentle reader? Very bad. Muslims? Ditto. What about chartered accountants? Hmm. Neo-nazis? I think that’s allowed.

Notice the straitjackets coming out here, in a double sense. We have created fluctuating categories, which at any moment pretend to be absolute, “zero tolerance” standards. What about Muslims who hate homosexuals? Or male homosexuals who hate women? (It happens.) Or the man who claims, in his defence, that while he likes homosexuals as a rule, he had it particularly in for that one? Could that get his sentence reduced?

We call it “identity politics” currently: a rainbow-coloured selection of straitjackets; a kind of fashion craze. This is the second sense. All blacks must be Democrats. All white middle-Americans must be Republicans. Those who deviate must expect to be lynched in our social media. This is because they have got out of their straitjackets, and were supposed to stay in. Naturally, my favourite people tend to be Houdinis.

To get downright Catholic about this, a man is a man is a man. This goes for women, too. He has an immortal soul, and that is not a “right” but a fact of supernature. This could be good or bad news, depending how he lives. He has no rights at all, unless he can enforce them. The profane courts of law come in at this point, and in a Christian society, they are meant to take their customers one by one. Justice is blind. She has the scales and the blindfold. But of course we are “evolving” something post-Christian in which the blindfold comes off, and the fingers go wantonly on the scales. Guilt and innocence involve the question of identities.

Everyone says he is against this — their spontaneous opposition is one of those vestigial, Christian things — but in practice we become terribly subjective. Your politics tells you whom we should hang.

For sure, I am in favour of hanging people, but I would like the process of selection to be as objective as possible. There is an etiquette to be observed, in the choice of a victim. First, he must commit a capital crime.