Wednesday, April 18, 2012


An Idea for a New Religion

I am fond of saying that there's only one dictatorship left in Europe. Belarus. But every week I feel myself growing more and more depressed by some item in the news that is very gradually leading me to the conclusion that Britain may eventually join Belarus in a highly exclusive club of European countries where the smallest verbal criticism of authority will secure you an involuntary stay in prison. We've already seen two harmless fools get 4 years each for blowing off steam by suggesting on Facebook that the riots of last year ought to spread to their home town, a silly suggestion that was rightly ignored by everyone, leaving me to wonder exactly what crime was supposed to have been committed? And now we have an even more absurd case, namely that of John Graham Kerlen.

Mr Kerlen is a blogger who recently called a local politician a "c***" on Twitter. The local politician was one Melvyn Seymour of Bexley Council (in south east London). Mr Kerlen posted a photograph of Melvyn Seymour's house with the caption: "Which c*** lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to #bexleycouncil."  Melvyn Seymour saw this tweet (how? Is he a compulsive ego surfer?) and he complained to the police. And the police, bizarrely, decided to take action according to the provisions of Section 127 of the Telecommunications Act 2003. And so for this shocking crime, this truly appalling transgression, Mr John Graham Kerlen now faces SIX MONTHS IN JAIL!

I really don't know what to say... I'm flabbergasted, stupefied, speechless... But I'll try to say something. The Orwellian nightmare is coming true. It's coming true fast. It's crazy that we live in a society where a thin-skinned politician such Melvyn Seymour (and he must have incredibly low self-esteem to bother with such a trivial issue) will receive the support of the police and courts and state because of a simple online insult by a blogger. Not because of an action but because of words! And technically it wasn't even a proper insult but a question, a question that contained a single swear word!!

Ordinary people insult each other every single day of the year. That's a simple fact of life. They insult each other on the street, from the windows of passing cars, in pubs and shops and especially in queues. In previous centuries (and even in some modern countries) such insults might have led to a duel, a rather hotheaded way of settling the issue; but certainly there would be no question of getting the police, the courts or the government involved. It's none of their business. And besides, the truth of the matter is that words are harmless. If we are offended by an insult it's because we have essentially chosen to be insulted.

If this gone-to-the-dogs Britain of ours is really going to go down the road of making a simple insult a crime deserving jail, then before long every single person in this country will be behind bars! Every single office worker, builder, tradesman, commuter, merchant, academic... We all insult each other from time to time. Do we really want this? And let me tell you something: if this does turn out to be the trend, then I will start complaining to the police every single time anyone insults me. I will complain every single time I feel insulted by a Daily Mail headline attacking immigrants or people on disability benefit, every time I see anything at all that offends me in any way whatsoever. And I recommend that you do the same. If stupid games are going to be played, we, the people, can play them just as well as anyone, just as well as the worryingly egotistical (narcissistic personality disorder?) Melvyn Seymour...

The real truth about insults is that they are taken, not given. The last time I was in Morocco a group of children shouted at me in Berber, a language I don't speak. They might have been insulting me for all I knew! But did I feel offended? Not in the slightest! Why? Because I didn't convert their words into an insult in my own head. And that essentially is how an insult works, that's the mechanism: it's the person who feels insulted, not the person who casts the insult, who completes the insult, who brings it into being, who makes it a proper insult. Without the contribution of the insultee, there is no insult. In fact the insultee is more responsible for creating the insult than the insulter. So if John Graham Kerlen ends up in jail, it's logically safe to say that Melvyn Seymour ought to go to jail too, and for longer!

But our government doesn't care about logic. Nor do the courts or the police. I have devised a solution to this difficulty, to this blatant trampling of our free speech. Let's get together and form a new religion: a religion in which the abstract concept of the 'insult' is sacred! In our new religion (let's call it the Church of the Holy Crap) the insult will have the same status as a prayer in ordinary montheistic religions. And because this is a mad world, the superstition known as 'religion' has a protected status, unlike the natural rights of human beings, so we'll be free to insult anyone and anything with impunity! We'll even be free to call Councillor Melvyn Seymour of Bexley Council a c***!

Hey, am I off to jail for six months? Rule Britannia!

You're a frigid lesbian whore. And sheep-shagger. Rams. Unprejudiced, I asked your mother if you were in. "I think he is. He's out ramming." Somebody said you were (...Welsh). You have to draw the line somewhere. I drew it at that. That's calumny, beyond the Pale. That's Irish, isn't it? You're not Irish as well, are you!
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