Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Beyond the Vale

I am comfortable with France's ban of the veil, and I am comfortable with bans on prostitution, following much of the same reasoning. When I say the word comfort, I don't mean that it leaves me entirely happy, nor that I see it as mandatory for either the situations of today or the abstract future. I believe that given today's society, both bans are acceptable and neither are reprehensible.

My reasoning is explicitly not meant to apply to a future society that's structured differently or that has different cultural specifics. It is rooted in the facts of here and now, and should be reevaluated if and when its basis is invalidated.

The reasoning for both is that these bans protect people (in practice mostly women) from non-governmental pressure/force/violence/"violence". One of the functions of government is to limit private use of force - many government uses of force are intended to transform what would be a greater private use of force into a lesser-and-predictable public use of force. Any police action puts limits on private behaviour - there is some discomfort in that this involves personal expression (or that it could), but this is lessened in that in actuality, veils in islamic subculture are not often deeply voluntary. The cost of failure to conform to islamic dress, in the particular subcultures that typically involve the full veil, is very high, ranging from actual-but-often-unreported violence to exclusion from the community. There is a formal choice for women on the veil, but there is little actual choice, and the state, I hold, has a legitimate interest in preventing that situation from coming about - by closing the issue, there is some harm to free expression in that those who truly choose the full veil would find their self-expression limited, but it is balanced by making it impossible for subcultures known to force the veil from actually doing so. How is the veil different from other cultural markers? There are other subcultures that have markers that might similarly include or exclude, but we remark that the veil creates a much stronger isolation from society through removing much identifiability, and I believe the exclusion is much stronger in that subculture. Taking a situation that's possibly voluntary but usually abusive off of the table prevents actual abuse.

In the case of prostitution, we likewise can imagine someone who, absent strong necessity, chooses a career of prostitution. Nontheless, we consider sex to be a domain of life that's distinct from others, and consider people forced by family, pimps, or economic necessity into prostitution to be suffering a greater harm than those forced into other forms of wage-slavery. For the same reason we would consider promises or contracts on sex to be invalid on their face, we consider a ban on prostititon to cut off a number of unallowable situations at the cost of some truly voluntary ones.

In this distinction, we recognised a nuanced notion of consent - we recognise that situations can be coercive and that formal freedom, particularly the freedom to contract, is not the only notion of freedom worth consideration. Just as there are existing limitations on free contract that protect the public interest in several domains (see landlord-tenant law), we are willing to consider more reasoning along those lines which may restrict freedom in the case of some people in exchange for prevention of private abuses. In the case of bans on prostititoon and bans of full veils, we consider these reasonable but not required responses to certain social harms that exist today. Were families and subsocieties not to force their daughters to wear full veils and not impose severe costs on them for going unveiled (or less-veiled), we would push towards a lift of veil bans. Were people to have an expectation of a minimum or reasonable standard of living without it, a reliable path towards other means of making a living, and failproof ways of escaping family/pimp pressures towards prostitution, we would push towards a lift on bans of prostitution.

(like most of my writing here, this is probably rambly and could be tightened and improved)

One of the biggest shifts in my political philosophy was reaching the conclusion that it is appropriate for the state to be culturally engaged. My old idea of a neutral state was still describing cultural engagement and based on certain cultural abstractions, and these conclusions were ones that other workable societies rejected - the distinction between objective-and-formal morality and societies actively doing good was never so hard, and by neglecting the wade into the semi-formal waters of actual law, I wasn't doing what I thought I was doing. Pressed into corners in some conversations, I stated that even if the end result of regulation was good, it was wrong because the particular formal principles I worked from forbade it. I have since given up on that formalism - rather than defining right and wrong in terms of property, liberty, and rights, I have chosen the style and basic structure of its competitor - the public good does not compete with right and wrong, instead it *defines* a significant part of it. At the bottom, as it was before, is force, but now right above that is society and the broad but culturally engaged path it carves for the very broadly reasonable people it serves. We derive most of our notions of propriety from what is broadly good for society and how it should serve the good of sentients. We support liberty (which we call autonomy) mostly because people need a good amount of it to be happy/fulfilled/virtuous, and partly because our ability to (and interest in) reshape people is limited. Laws must be anthroplausible, and they should be used with thought. Rule of law and the readability of law are good in moderation, but the difficulty of understanding law helps nudge people to be reasonable rather than abusive, and the notion that the system has some flexibility to deal with novel situations and prevent clever dodging of clear intent likeways stems misdeeds.

Recently I've been getting a small trickle of socialisation, and I'm not sure if it's helping me feel better or more crazy (yay conflicting hide! and socialise! urges) nor do I really feel any further from falling apart.. but it does feel a bit more complex and maybe a bit more alive again.

Tags: philosophy, politics

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