Saturday, July 21, 2012

Crime? and Punishment

I get myself in trouble now and again for refusing to wear shoes.  I am less hardcore about it these days then I was back in my first summer doing my barefoot project but I still love the feeling of being barefoot and I think it is an important statement to make.  That is, our laws and rules should enforce safety, not cultural norms and modesty.  In the UK there is a well known man who believes much more strongly in this philosophy than I do.  He is known as the naked rambler and has served many years in jail for his 'crime' of wandering about nude.  Even being in jail wasn't enough to pay for his transgressions so the naked rambler spent much of his time there in solitary confinement.

How can this be seen as appropriate?  When we count up the number of people hurt by his actions we arrive at zero.  When we count up the economic cost of his actions we arrive at zero.  However, when we count up the cost to society to try, convict, and incarcerate him we are looking at half a million dollars or more.  Add to that the cost of misery and suffering this man has had to endure and the necessity of this action becomes indefensible at best.  He has paid a greater cost than someone who violently assaulted another person and left them crippled!

The state needs to step in and keep people from stealing from each other, attacking each other, and taking extremely reckless actions that might put other people in danger.  It has no business trying to protect people from being offended and that is *all* that being naked will do.  I am offended by an endless variety of things, which the frequent reader here will no doubt be familiar, but the government has no obligation to step in and incarcerate people who utter racist or homophobic slurs, say grace before public dinners, or vote for Stephen Harper.

Legalizing nudity in the UK and here would have no noticeable effect.  In Toronto some years back there was a great furor over changing the laws to allow women to go topless - it was argued by some that there would be a wave of topless women running around everywhere corrupting the youth.  Unfortunately for me women ignored the change in the law and I have yet to see a single woman taking advantage of it.  Getting rid of laws that regulate nudity would do exactly the same thing:  A few people would run around naked, a few people would see a naked person and be deeply offended, and the police would never be involved.

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