‘Oh, and by the best way’, mentioned Owen Jones in his ‘sassy’ mode the opposite day on X, the platform previously generally known as Twitter, ‘it wasn’t truly Hamas who launched the regulation banning homosexuality in Gaza. Guess who it was?’ He then gave an additional pause for further sass. ‘The British Empire.’ (Dramatic chord!) He went on to cite: ‘Similar-sex sexual exercise is prohibited in Gaza below the British Mandate Prison Code Ordinance 1936.’
Jones, who has been a vocal supporter of Palestine throughout the present battle in Gaza, clearly thought he had obtained one over on these critics who’ve tried to remind him of Hamas’s lower than savoury attitudes to homosexual individuals. By no means thoughts that the British Mandate for Palestine resulted in 1948, when Dorothy Squires was Britain’s high hitmaker and Mrs Dale’s Diary was the new new cleaning soap. The plain thought that the Gazans have had 74 years to repeal this anti-gay ordinance doesn’t appear to have occurred to Jones. In truth, they’ve made the ‘offence’ and its punishment extra extreme in recent times. In the meantime, the opposite jurisdictions that additionally had been previously below the mandate had no such problem – Jordan scrapped the regulation in 1951, Israel in 1988 (although it stopped bothering to prosecute homosexuality a lot earlier).
Jones’s inane tweet, nonetheless, is an efficient summation of the angle that the whole lot dangerous on this planet may be traced again to Western imperialism. Presumably, earlier than 1936 and the arrival of Colonel Blimp, the Emirate of Transjordan (an unlucky title to our ears) was a sandy paradise with Brokeback Bedouins tethering their camels, earlier than ripping off every others keffiyehs and snogging away below the desert moonlight.
This weird romanticism of non-Western cultures as prelapsarian paradises is, paradoxically, a really Western factor. In truth, there’s a bulging smorgasbord of ironies right here.
The primary and most blatant is that this view is deeply racist. It treats the non-Western peoples of the world as kids, with no company or id of their very own. They will solely copy us, and as soon as one thing Western goes into their legal guidelines, bish bosh, it’s in for good. Even after decolonisation, it by no means happens to them to vary it. Their putty minds are without end indented by the thumbprint of Western sin.
We’re additionally usually requested to swallow an absurdity of presentism – that earlier than the approaching of the dread British Empire, it had by no means occurred to those populations to do something that’s disapproved of by Westerners on the web within the yr 2023.
One has to surprise how, for instance, the Mongol Empire ever swept down from the icy steppes within the thirteenth century and went about its extraordinarily bloody enterprise of colonisation when it had completely no Western instance to comply with (the Mongols didn’t even know the West existed). Or how massive elements of Spain within the 700s might probably have ended up as Al-Andalus, below the management of the Umayyads, who got here from what’s now Saudi Arabia.
And I’ve information for the individuals who nonetheless consider within the ‘noble savage’. The place and when did gay individuals dwell overtly and freely, earlier than our time within the West? The reply, I’m afraid, isn’t and nowhere. Immediately’s equality for homosexual individuals is unprecedented, as is our view that girls’s political participation is an efficient factor, and that slavery is a nasty factor. That is due to our materials situations and political buildings – the identical materials situations and political buildings that folks like Owen Jones are all the time bleating about or attempting to destroy. It’s really easy to be high-minded when you may afford it.
We see this identical syndrome additionally within the claims that the gender-bending seen in different cultures is someway a justification of ‘trans’ (for instance, the Bakla of the Philippines, the Mahu of Hawaii or the two-spirit individuals of the Native People). That is simply the infantilisation of (usually very subtle) non-Western cultures by foolish Westerners. ‘Oh, they’re so unique and mysterious and sensible, and near nature!’, the woke Westerner imagines.
I’ve the same concept of the whole lot, however mine truly is sensible. It’s that most of the issues that hobble the West and the broader world immediately are the by-products of contemporary Western affluence. These unprecedented materials situations of ours are such that we now have sprouted all method of strange and regularly insane concepts – the self-abnegating hairshirtism of environmentalism or the ‘range and inclusion’ rip-off, for example. Worst of the lot is our Household of Man Kumbaya-ism – ‘Everyone knows that individuals are the identical wherever you go’, as ethnologists McCartney and Marvel reported in 1982 – which blinds us to very deep, and generally very disagreeable, cultural variations with different locations. We will see the shortcomings of our personal society – the truth is, we by no means cease speaking about these – nevertheless it’s someway very dangerous kind to comment on anyone else’s, whose issues and prejudices can solely ever be all our fault.
However in fact, Western Enlightenment concepts didn’t allow slavery, colonialism or the punishment of sexual distinction. They stopped them. Jones and his ilk are posing in opposition to the very establishments and financial system that assist and allow their charmed lives. The default of civilisation isn’t egalitarian Eden, it’s earth-grubbing poverty, backbreaking toil and perpetual warfare performed by any means, with a ‘99.99 per cent for me, and a tiddler for you’ distribution of the spoils.
Identical to me, as a result of we’re each gobby homosexuals, Owen Jones wouldn’t final one week in a pre-modern, non-Western society. This foolish, embarrassing fetish of such societies and their cultures should finish.
Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, greatest recognized for his work on Physician Who.
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