Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect my actual opinions.

June 21, 2004


The Tories were on the defensive again yesterday over press releases from their war room accusing Liberal leader Paul Martin and NDP leader Jack Layton of supporting child porn because they wish to keep the so-called "public good" defence, which exempts works of art from being considered pornography. The ridiculous and hysterical accusations were withdrawn swiftly afterwards, but too late to prevent a media frenzy.

This latest uproar gets me thinking once again about the fundamental differences between conservatives and liberals, and how the ideologies of the two have shifted over time. My brother once asserted in a conversation on MSN that the difference between left and right is the former's emphasis on equality versus the latter's emphasis on freedom. I contested that definition at the time, but not strongly enough. It seems more and more these days to be conservatives supporting legislation that limits freedom, and more and more liberals defending our basic rights.

Now I think about it, it seems to me that fighting for equality isn't the opposite of fighting for freedom, but is in fact the very same thing. The belief that everyone should be considered equal is equivalent to the belief that everyone should have the freedom to be who they are. Equality and freedom are not mutually exclusive concepts: you can't have one without the other.

But the conservatives these days seem to want to restrict freedom. Removing the "public good" defence from the child porn laws could, conceivably, criminalise Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita, as well as the works (movies, etc.) derived from it, not to mention paintings by Donatello and Titian (amongst, of course, many many others) depicting naked children. And, while they've mostly pushed it under the mattress these days for fear of alienating normal people, it's well known that conservatives disfavor homosexuality to such a degree that they'd criminalise it. They also want to raise the age of consent and make abortion illegal.

This strikes me as rather far from their former position as "defenders of liberty". Indeed it's increasingly liberals who are taking up the slack when it comes to protecting rights and freedoms. The Canadian Liberals under Pierre Trudeau introduced the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the US Democrats are fighting fundamentalist Christians in the administration. Conservatives around the world seem to have turned from liberty to moralising, from individual rights to preaching a lessening of the divide between church and state.

These are just my opinions, but one thing's undeniable: politics is changing, and it's changing rapidly. We live in interesting times.


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