Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Importance of Self-Ownership

First they ignore you;
then they laugh at you;
then they fight you;
then you win.
— M. K. Gandhi.

Of all the rights and freedoms that could ever be discussed in a constitution or anywhere else, it ought to be obvious that the first, most basic, underlying right has to be your right to yourself — to self-ownership — to possess and control your own body, rather than any other entity having that right.

Because otherwise you're just a slave, and all "your" other rights are at the disposal of your owner.

This thought came to mind as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, at the urging of a new member (Scott Wiener, a transplant from Pennsylvania and New Jersey), decided to take away San Franciscans' control of their own bodies from them — for the public good, of course* — and on February 1 started arresting citizens who insisted on still retaining control of their own bodies.

This was billed the "Anti-Nudity Law."

Among those arrested, coincidentally, was Scott Wiener's rival candidate for District 8 Supervisor (who had been a 2008 candidate for Mayor), as he was distributing campaign literature; but Wiener's faction had insisted to federal district Judge Edward Chen, when the rule was being contested, that there was nothing "political" about it. Oh yeah?

The protesters who were arrested got a lot of mockery and insults from the brave, brave Internet lurkers and newspaper commenters for having had the personal courage to take the legal, financial, and physical risks involved in confronting an unjust law to defend a basic human right. Not least, the mockery went, the protesters were too ugly to go nude.

For those who just don't get it; who think the nudists' rights depend on their neighbors' approval, that is, it would be okay if these were beautiful starlets or female models or Playboy bunnies, just not drab ordinary-looking "95% male" nudists....

Does your freedom of speech or religion depend on whether other people agree with you, i.e. think your opinion or faith is pretty?

If they disagree ("Oh that ugly crucifix!"), do you lose your right to speak your own mind or wear your own religious symbol?

That's the "heckler's veto" — but the Supreme Court has never upheld such a veto.

The SF nudists' point is that they own their own bodies — so they, not others, should be the ones to decide what they themselves wear... no matter hecklers' opinions.

You want that freedom for yourself, do you not?

Or would you want an anti-Wiener empowered to order you stripped, made to walk the city nude, and arrested if you put on clothing? One power goes with the other.

If government can order you to be Catholic, it can order you to be Protestant — that was the whole English religious-war experience that led to our "freedom of religion" rule in the first place.

If the government can order you to be clothed, it can order you to be naked — same problem, same reason to have "freedom of skin."

As Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
Another person's nudity (or clothing!) does not pick anyone's pocket nor break anyone's leg. It does no injury. It is "victimless." The legitimate powers of government do not extend here.

But, you (or the city attorneys or Judge Chen) may say, all that still doesn't make nudity a political statement.

Oh, so you don't get the "political" connection to owning your own body?

Maybe you didn't see Obama's re-inauguration Master of Ceremonies stress the history of the Liberty statue on the Capitol Dome being completed overhead, just 150 years earlier, at Lincoln's orders — during the Civil War, while the political question was still very much to be resolved whether black human beings owned their own bodies?

Still, right now, to this very day, there are people dying in this world from atrocities because governments do not regard them as having any rights over their own bodies.

Victims of human trafficking and slavery, e.g. sex-slavery, child-slavery, child-soldiers. Women denied life-saving medicine and surgery (e.g. abortion) at the whim or dogma of men, even when death comes so quick the fetus cannot survive. Girls killed for attending school to learn to read or have careers, rather than be lifelong illiterates forever dependent and subservient to husbands. Rape victims executed for being raped, or forced to marry their rapists without hope of divorce, or to bear their rapists' children no matter the risk of death. Non-Muslims (particularly women) forced to submit to Sharia law provisions like the foregoing. Women, adolescent, pubescent, prepubescent girls, even infants, forced screaming against their will into savage un-anesthetized genital mutilation e.g. amputation of the clitoris. Beatings, whippings, and "honor killings" — for offenses like having purportedly talked with a man or boy. How can I bear to go on?

The Ukrainian topless women's protester group FEMEN goes around the world to draw attention to these horrible shameful problems, painting on their own bodies "My body, my rules" and "Women's rights are human rights" and other short messages — which the news cameras do not ignore, only because the signs are living flesh.

For this they have been kicked in the face, gouged, torn, and beaten bloody by armed and armored police in full view of news cameras before being dragged off, thrown hard against concrete and into vans, and at least in one case (Belorussia) taken into the wilderness, beaten more, then left there to walk back to "civilization."

Yet they keep coming back to protest again, for the same causes, and for gay marriage, and against the Euro-organized prostitution around major sports events (sex slaves and trafficking, remember?), and always for the human rights of others besides themselves....

Now if their "bare" expression were not political and very effectively so, why would it be met with such violence? (The police aren't storming the fashion/passion magazines, whose photos are even more widely seen....)

So sure, have contempt of nudist activists getting arrested for the cause of having rights over one's own body.

Meanwhile what have you ever done for the sake of those people dying of atrocities?

* As one of Scott Wiener's conservative supporters paraphrased Paul Harvey:
"The need to control the lives of others — manifested in the arrogance of the ɘviƨƨɘяgoяq statists who believe that they can engineer the perfect society by removing our freedoms, our liberties, our choices, our responsibilities and nudging us into their desired direction through power grabs and regulatory codes — can only originate from evil."
(See more about this topic at The Unmarked State: Signifying Nothing?)

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