I’d like to thank Uxbridge police for kindly providing an illustration to my yesterday’s article on gender tyranny.
They pounced on John Sherwood, 71, a Christian pastor preaching in the street, clapped handcuffs on him and dragged him off to the station where he was held overnight, bruised and shaken.
Mr Sherwood’s crime was quoting the same passage from Genesis 1:27 that I had the gall of mentioning in my piece: “Male and female He created them.” True to his remit, the pastor used that verse to question the validity of any marriage other than one between a man and a woman.
Some good citizen felt compelled to inform the police who promptly turned up, which left one wishing they displayed the same alacrity when answering burglary calls. After a brief and rather one-sided struggle, Mr Sherwood was arrested under the Public Order Act for making “allegedly homophobic comments”. This, according to the Act, constituted “abusive or insulting words” perceived as “harmful” by someone, anyone else.
Yesterday I drew a parallel between the Soviet Union, circa 1970, and today’s Britain. Disproving Euclid and vindicating Lobachevsky, these parallel lines are converging – and by the looks of it even faster than I suggested.
The pastor was doing his job by obeying Christ’s order “…go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” Doing the same at a street corner of Moscow, circa 1970, would have produced the same outcome: summary arrest.
In both cases, the crime was identical: going against a newly sacralised secular orthodoxy, communist there, woke here. But the similarities go even deeper than that, dealing as they do with imposing tyranny through open-ended laws.
Just laws are defined by many features, but tightly and narrowly defined culpability is perhaps the most important one. Such laws protect individuals against the state, but totalitarian and quasi-totalitarian states pursue an opposite objective: they need loose, open-ended laws they can use to put their foot down on any dissident.
The pattern was set by arguably the most evil politician in history, Lenin, and I am aware of Stalin’s and Hitler’s heroic efforts to challenge Vlad I for that distinction. However, unlike them, Lenin, a lawyer by training, could bring his professional expertise to bear on jurisprudence.
In 1922, the great leader was contemplating the first draft of the new penal code, one of whose articles stipulated the death penalty for “anyone promoting the restoration of capitalism”. Lenin looked at the text and saw it was good. Yet something was missing, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on what exactly it was.
Then that eureka moment arrived in a flash. Lenin took out his trusted blue pencil and added the words “or capable of promoting” after the inordinately restrictive “promoting”. Now the law was perfect: it gave the Bolsheviks legal means to shoot anyone they disliked (or everyone, if they so wished).
Our own dear Public Order Act doesn’t yet provide for a bullet in the nape of the neck as a punitive measure. Yet it soars just as high to the summit of legal perversion.
Using the Act, the police can arrest, if not yet execute, every subject of Her Majesty. For who among us has never uttered a single word that someone could construe as insulting and therefore damaging? I for one can be arrested for just about every piece I’ve ever written, and as to my oral statements… well, lock me up and swallow the key.
The good pastor issued a statement that shows how profoundly ignorant he is of Britain’s new concept of legality: “I wasn’t making any homophobic comments, I was just defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. I was only saying what the Bible says – I wasn’t wanting to hurt anyone or cause offence.”
What he was or wasn’t wanting is a matter of utter indifference. What matters is how his words were perceived by someone in his audience. If just one listener felt his psyche was irreparably damaged, Mr Sherwood violated Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Off with his head (so far only figuratively speaking).
That’s how tyranny advances in formerly civilised societies, not by giant strides, but by small steps. It takes longer that way, but ultimately the same distance will be travelled.
At some point, the people will realise to their horror that they can no longer see the starting point in their rear-view mirror, and there is no going back. But then it’ll be too late.
Each small step may look unobjectionable in itself, or at least not too objectionable. But, as that other evil tyrant, Mao, explained, that’s how every thousand-mile journey starts, with a small step.
P.S. Speaking of small things, whenever I read an article, I like to check the author’s cultural perspective for it says a lot about the starting point of his ratiocination.
Thus, in his article today, David Aaronovitch makes five cultural references: Country Life magazine; Frederic Forsyth’s book The Day of the Jackal; the TV series A Very English Scandal; another one, The Crown; Francis Wheen’s book Strange Days Indeed. Is it any wonder then that Aaronovitch writes either arrant nonsense or facile truisms on every subject he touches?