Monday, December 21, 2015

Most arguments against mass surveillance don't respond fully substantively to claims that you shouldn't worry if you "have nothing to hide".  Defense of personal freedom isn't enough.  What's needed is an argument in defense of the need for citizens in a democratic state to be able to be all kinds of wrong, all kinds of confused, creepy, conflicted, desirous, weepy or hate-filled, so that they may be able to learn to understand and outgrow their childishness. The choice is between a community of adults with a minority of the inveterately childish and criminal or a community of children ruled by moralists and crime lords.

The last episode of Rumpole, written as they all were by John Mortimer [The original was deleted. This is from the last scene, quoted below]

"So, my lords, ladies and gentlemen, charge your glasses.
I give you a toast to Fred Timson, and...
the criminals of England!"

And if the moralists don't become crime lords themselves, their heirs will.

And it's not just a question of citizens' need to make their own mistakes but of the need for boundaries to change. Life is dynamic; simple authority is not. There will always be an underground populated by those more committed to principles than the majority, by humanists and anti-humanists,  by Martin Luther King and the Marquis de Sade.

Kant and de Maistre

Rumpole's toast has been a reference for years, but I'd never gotten around to looking for the source. My language was approximate; I didn't know until yesterday which episode it was or that it was the last one.

In it's entirety, reformatted here with minor corrections, courtesy of Nathaniel Hartney, of Hartney & Company. [dead and not archived]
My lords, ladies and gentleman, we are here also to honour Mr. Fred Timson, leader of the Timson clan, that vast family of South London villains, petty thieves and receivers of stolen property. But, no violence in your record Fred right?
That’s right Mr. Rumpole. 
Mr. Timson conducts his life according to strict monetarist principles. 
So I do Mr Rumpole.
He does not believe in the closed shop. He believes that shops should be open at all hours of the night, preferably with a jemmy.   
Too right Mr Rumpole! 
But, without Fred Timson and his like, how many of us would be out of work? How many brother judges? How many of Her Majesty’s counsel learned in  law? How many Coppers? How many humble Old Bailey Hacks? Indeed, we may all be bundled out under the embankment in cardboard boxes…So my lords, ladies and gentleman, charge your glasses, Henry, fill'em up! I give you a toast to Fred Timson, and... the criminals of England!

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