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Originally published to Facebook.

 

I posted several times last night about Croatia’s Eurovision entry (which was ROBBED), and on each post someone different (LGBT and not) made sure to post that in 2005 Jacques Houdek gave an interview in which he made some unpleasant comments about gay people and same sex marriage and was subsequently named “Homophobe of the Year” by an online LGBT website.

I replied each time noting that if being against same sex marriage in 2005 was the most homophobic thing they could identify in Croatia, truly it must be a queer paradise. Gay men are being put in concentration camps in Chechnya and the UK’s got lesbians being beaten up on the streets of Brighton in 2017, and some dude calling gay marriage sick was the most homophobic thing that happened in Croatia in 2005? I have my suspicions around the legitimacy of this “award”.

But I woke up this morning and I still felt pretty troubled by the whole thing for a number of reasons:

1) I’m pretty uncomfortable around having my rights used as a litmus test for who is and is not socially acceptable for liberals. A comment here or there on LGBT issues, however long ago you made it or regardless of the context you made it in, can be enough for a huge swath of respectable society to just dismiss anything else you say or do off the bat, no further questions asked – something people generally just don’t do with regard to, say, support for military intervention in third countries (unless it’s Israel…), even though that is a much more immediate life-or-death issue. I’m not really ok with being someone else’s rule of thumb.

2) The transition of public support for LGBT rights from absurd deviancy to political no-brainer in the West has been so swift, so complete, that many people seem to have forgotten that in 2005, casual homophobia was so widespread and so obvious that ordinary people barely registered they were doing anything hurtful. It was in 2005 that I was homophobically bullied in school and when my mother complained, my pastoral care manager explained that they had said the things they said because they thought I was a lesbian – as if that explained everything and thus warranted no further action. The year before, 11 American states enacted by popular referendum constitution bans on same sex marriage. By 2012, 30 American states had such bans. In 2017, 65% of the US population now supports same sex marriage. In 2013, 400,000 people marched against same sex marriage in France. We are forgetting just how seismic this change has been and what our social context for treating LGBT people used to be like. Our press and literature is littered from that time period with things that many people said that they probably wouldn’t dream of now.

3) At some point, we have to accept that not everyone had good solid politics from birth. You are not Jeremy Corbyn. I am not Jeremy Corbyn. We learn to be better people over time. When I first left home in 2008, I said things about non-binary trans people that I would never say now and indeed would intervene with anyone who did. Times have changed and I have learned. But what if in 2008 I had said those things in a medium that recorded what I had said and made it instantly available to anyone looking me up for the rest of my life? Jacques Houdek published a retraction in 2011 and even he’s still being hounded over the original comments twelve years later, despite having said nothing objectionable since (at least, that anyone in English has noted) and despite participating in Eurovision in a leather double-breast, duetting with himself. At what point are we going to let people move on from the people they were?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that absent a database for each individual with everything they’ve ever said where they can give real-time updates on their current thinking on every conceivable issue, at some point we have to start being a bit more critical about the things we read about people on the internet and sustaining memetic clickbait that dogs people for their mistakes indefinitely.

Maybe we can enjoy someone׳s current work without being obliged to ostracise them for comments they made over a decade prior.

Maybe we can recognise that we weren’t all born into communities that nailed LGBT issues first time around.

Maybe we can actually celebrate diversity.

 

——-

Jacques Houdek’s statement in 2011 after being nominated for Homophobe of the Decade by Zagreb Pride (as mutilated by Google Translate):
“‘LOVE AND MUSIC ARE MY MOVIE’

“I am very sorry that the associations that promote LGBT people have been included in this election, the obvious purpose of which is to discredit me and the other nominees. It is not true that I am a homophobic, which can be confirmed by my friends, colleagues and acquaintances from business circles who are gay orientations. Likewise, any form of hatred does not correspond to my personality, so to call me ‘heyter’ or ‘greatest homophobic on Croatian estrade’, at least in the least incorrect because no such evidence exists for such accusations. Never one of the aforementioned associations ever asked me for an opinion, and if they want to ask, I can freely answer. I love music from love, love is my main driver in life and I really have nothing against love of any kind. Well, next week my new single comes out with a wonderful message, “I’m lucky to have you,” so I’ll be glad that all the people are willing to consecrate their loved ones. Love for All! ‘”

https://www.facebook.com/notes/jacques-houdek/službeno-očitovanje-jacquesa-houdeka-o-izboru-za-homofoba-desetljeća/10150203728332227/

 

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I believe in a clear hierarchy of sentience with us at the top followed by mammals, general vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and then bacteria, and I do my best to keep the suffering I cause for the sake of my own survival as low on that hierarchy as possible, as self-awareness and feelings of pain and terror decrease. What I care about is reducing suffering. Where *you* fall on that hierarchy is not arbitrary if further reducing suffering over time is always your priority.

Should I eat the baboon or should I starve to death? Eat the baboon.

Should I eat the baboon or eat the rat? Eat the rat.

Should I eat the lamb or eat the chicken? Eat the lamb, because lambs have to graze outside before they’re slaughtered and its very unlikely that chicken ever saw daylight.

Should I have the lamb sandwich or the tuna sandwich? Eat the tuna sandwich.

Should I buy the tuna spread or the cheese spread? Buy the cheese spread.

Should I drink cow’s milk or almond milk? Drink the almond milk.

Should I buy the almond milk, which uses up gallons of water to produce, or the milk of my next door neighbour’s pet cow Georgie who I see chilling out in her field and say hello to every day? Drink Georgie’s milk.

Should I buy free range eggs or take the battery hen eggs that I’ve just seen dumped out the back of a supermarket and will otherwise go to waste? Take the battery hen eggs.

Should I make any of these greater ethical choices and feel bad in myself which may in the long-term result in me ultimately abandoning all of my principles about the value of non-human life and just eat factory farmed pork and battery hen eggs because I can’t cope with the guilt so best not to care or think about any of it, or make the lesser ethical choice? Make the lesser ethical choice.

You can argue that any of these choices generate more or less suffering, but if you’re arguing that as a serious precursor to making a purchasing decision, you’ve stepped into the realm of giving a stuff about life other than your own species and creatures that look and behave a bit like your species, and whatever choices you make, they’ll result in less suffering that you would have caused before.

"You want to eat me??"

“You want to eat me??”

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