Monday, 8 March 2010
(The Equalities Tsar, Baroness Harmony, summons her docile legal flunky, Willie, to her office. She plans to extend 'access to justice' far and wide and wants to run a few thoughts by him.)
Harmony: As you know, Willie, I am of the opinion that everything that can have rights should have rights. Right?
Willie: Yes, mistress.
Harmony: And if big government is about anything, it is about offering protection not just to the larger groups like women and gays. We want legal protection for the smaller groups, even the tiniest ones.
Willie: But, it must be groups, not individuals, right?
Harmony: Absolutely. Never individuals - they're out. Society has no reason nor obligation to protect those who are without some kind of social classification. This is about protecting groups of people, classes... collectives. And of course they must be people who together, who united can demonstrate their understanding and appreciation of our policies at election time.
Willie. Unite and rule, as they say. (She looks mystified, so he clarifies) As in, they unite and we rule.
Harmony: I see, yes Willie, very good... Anyway moving on. Religious groups. We're fine there, are we not?
Willie: More or less. It'll be illegal to discriminate against religious groups, but religious groups can discriminate against women and gays, as you know.
Harmony: Yes, not great of course. But, as we know, Rome wasn't built in a day. So don't you worry, one day there'll be a Lesbian Pope, you"ll see.
Willie: I can't wait, I really can't.
Harmony: Me neither.. Now who's next?
Willie: Vegans and teetotallers?
Harmony: Yes, vegans... So I assume we're saying it'll be illegal to discriminate against a vegan who applies for a job in a steakhouse... or against a teetotaller who applies for one in a wine bar.
Willie: Assuming they would want to apply.
Harmony: You never know. This is not about probabilities. It's about leaving no legal stone unturned, it's about sending out a message... Anyway, who else? ...
Willie: Pacifists, humanists, environmentalists...
Willie: European Court is probably taking care of that. Motorists will always be in the wrong - even when they're in the right.
Harmony: Good. Think we'll add cyclists to our group anyway... What about agnosticists, altruists?
Willie: Still seeking clarification on those 'ists'. I think that people with philosophical views such as pacificism and humanism will get protection from discrimination. But the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has suggested that scientific or political beliefs such as Marxism and fascism should not be covered.
Harmony: Good, so no protection for Darwinist evolutionary beliefs, or that other horrid phallo-centric concept - rationalism. Yuk!
Willie: Rationalism... who needs it, eh?
Harmony: Now the Swiss are considering protection for dogs and cats. Worth considering? I'm devoted to my purring beauties - my gorgeous Persian Blues. If anyone so much as considered calling them 'moggies', I'd want to throw them in jail.
Willie: Waiting to see how the Swiss referendum goes. But it's certainly on the agenda. Maybe other animals too - horses, donkeys and other beasts of burden. Anything that can be maltreated. Obviously the money to prosecute wrong-doers would need to come from somewhere. But then it also would for other groups.
Harmony: All we can do is give people the laws. Whether they use them or not is up to them...
Willie: You can lead a horse to water etcetera...
Harmony: Indeed... Right, that list covers a wide spectrum. But our political adversaries will not be protected, which is the most important thing.
Willie: Yes... no protection for conservative groups of any sort, even conservationists, NIMBIES etc... or, as you said earlier, rationalists. None for phallo-centric objectivists and scientists... but subjectivists and relativists will be okay - they're very personal views, you see. Oh, and of course, most important... solipsists will be covered.
Harmony: Marvellous. We really are going to build our new Jerusalem, our new 'solipsist collective'!
Willie: We are indeed, mistress.
Harmony: So, one last thing, Willie. Assuming that we might be a 'minority' after the next election - a minority government, that is. Could we also protect ourselves against discrimination?
Willie: I suppose it's possible. The apparatus would be there - Surveillance, national databases, identity cards - all things designed to ensure people have the right sort of rights, not the wrong sort of rights
Harmony: And let's face it, people like myself have convictions, principles, policies that need protecting. We can't have them being ridiculed and trampled under foot. It would be good if we could legislate against attempts to subvert, or even just criticise the government and its policies. Just think... the next time Fathers for Justice trespassed on my land, we could have them on two new counts - one, upsetting the Persian Blues and two, expressing opinions designed to cause offence to a cabinet minister.
Willie: It might be possible to extend the law in that direction.
Harmony: Could you do some probing, Willie?
Willie: Right away, mistress. Right away.
Harmony: Thank you so much, Willie. That'll be all for now.