Sunday, April 13, 2008

Philosophical Correctness

I like to think I'm pretty tolerant and libertarian when it comes to social issues. (This has got nothing to do with political libertarianism. I live in a country with universal government healthcare, and I like it!)

This is a libertarianism that states that it's none of the President or Attorney General's business what my neighbor is doing behind closed doors, whether he's making a religious offering to the ancient god Gab'Shokoth, teaching his kids to hate Methodists, or having sex with his brother, assuming they're consenting adults.

Let's say the conservative religious couple down the street want to teach their kid that God created the world 6,000 years ago and modern science is a bunch of lies. Well, I don't approve of that, but ultimately it's none of my business.

Let's say these neighbors of mine want to teach their kids that Jews and Muslims are to be distrusted, gays are evil and people of other races ought to be kept separate. That's much, much worse, and I have every right to be offended, but I can't condone the State butting its head in and telling them to knock it off. You let the State go after racists and anti-Semites today, and you never know who it'll deem ideologically unfit next week.

Now let's say my neighbors down the street are physically beating the stuffing out of their kid every evening. Let's say they're sexually abusing the kid. Now most people would agree that they need to be separated from the poor child before they can inflict further harm.

OK, now does the State have any right to interfere in this, which involves two competent, consenting adults?
An Australian father and daughter who conceived an apparently healthy child are being monitored by police and social services after going public about their incestuous relationship.

John Deaves, 61, and his daughter Jenny, 39, say they want to be treated as an ordinary couple despite being biologically related, but their case has sparked outrage.

Court documents have revealed that a child they had earlier died from a congenital heart defect a few days after birth.

The couple, who have pleaded guilty to incest and been banned by a judge from having sexual contact, appeared on a television news programme in Australia to tell their story. They were shown with their nine-month-old daughter, Celeste, who they said was fit and well.
My reaction to the story of this loving couple was a slightly disbelieving "okaaaaaaaaaaaaay". Even so, I'm a bit uncomfortable with a judge banning two adults from having sexual relations with each other.

I suppose you could say that this kind of incest ought to be illegal because any kids who are born as a result would be at a very high risk of genetic defects. (This is where the history geek in me points out that Cleopatra was the result of several generations of sibling marriages.) There are all sorts of things mothers can do while pregnant, from drinking to smoking to eating certain foods, and I'd feel distinctly uncomfortable if the State decided to legally ban pregnant women from doing these things. I can't see a reason to ban close relatives from having a sexual relationship.

Then there's the recent government action against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Just to make my feelings clear: from what I've heard about this church, it sounds extremely creepy. But the U.S. Government is not my superego, and creepiness is not against the law.

But marrying off kids against their will is.

And yet, there's a bit of social libertarianism in my head that protests that no, the government has no right to come in and break up this little subculture that isn't hurting anyone in the wider world.

I think the government action is the correct thing to do. I think this subculture, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is actively harmful to many of its own members. I just need to convince all sectors of my brain that the government raid is the philosophically correct thing to do.

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