Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Context is everything: thoughts on war memorials, urine and war.

When I was a student, I was in my neighbour's rooms: there was noise outside and as I glanced out of the window there was a couple, having sex on the war memorial outside the room.

Today, as I type a student is under threat of jail for urinating on a war memorial.

Two things have changed in the interim 15 years. The first is that instant photos get everywhere. In 1994 there were no digital cameras to fire images around the world at rapid pace. This lad has been charged with outraging public decency, presumably of the people who saw the photo more than the myriad other drunken students.

The second change is that in 1994 we were in an era of comparative peace. We had 'won' the Cold War and we were not yet in the new world of the War on Terror. War memorials were important- but you may struggle to find people calling them 'sacred'.

My point is this. I agree that this lad did something very wrong. Urinating in the street is one of the increasingly seen and always unacceptable parts of UK booze culture. However, laws are written and should be enacted in part to preserve people from the swings and sways of public opinion. This has caused outrage because we are at war- we are losing large numbers of troops- more than since the 1950's. The context has changed our view of this act, I question whether the legal system should follow.

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