Wednesday, July 3, 2013

On liberality and fishnet tights

Tim Curry as Dr Frank-N-Furter
I've a column in the Sydney Morning Herald's 'Life and Style' today, 'Free for all'.

I'm talking about the virtue of liberality, and its value in a strong, democratic society. A sample:
Liberality does not require Thatcherite indifference or alienation. This virtue is often wedded to a strong social conscience and sympathy. It is because I can think and feel my way into another's life that I recognise the benign nature of their dress or sexual preference.
And it is because I value the community that I recognise the importance of comprehension instead of ignorance, mutual recognition instead of paranoid suspicion. This is liberality, not as a handy ideological tool for robbing (then blaming) the poor, but as a social glue: society is stronger when its constituents are not pettily antagonistic.
This is not a new ideal. "We do not get into a state with our next-door-neighbour if he enjoys himself in his own way," said Athenian politician Pericles, over two thousand years ago. "We are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law." For all the genuine differences between Pericles' Greece and modern Australia, this was a recognisably liberal outlook.
 This mindset does not require jingoism, which replaces valuable conflict with consoling unity ('love it or leave it'). Liberality simply requires a combination of intellectual independence and emotional generosity: to identify and avoid unfair prejudices, to feel for others and not just oneself.

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