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Some pursued any of the other dodges, and there were plenty of them, that allowed people to pretend that they weren’t getting sexually aroused and acting on their arousal when, in fact, that’s what they were doing.That’s what happens whenever people decide that an ordinary human emotion is unacceptable and insist that good people don’t experience it.If you’re speaking in public and you want to be sure that everyone in the crowd will beam approval at you, all you have to do is denounce hate.
As it turns out, we have a very good idea what happens in this case, because a first-rate example of the phenomenon finally completed its historical trajectory on the edge of living memory.
No political campaign back in the day, as far as I know, used the slogan PURITY TRUMPS IMMORALITY, but then political sloganeering hadn’t yet decayed into the kind of empty mouthing of buzzwords on display at present. By the way, yes, I know that comparing current attitudes toward hate with Victorian attitudes toward sex will inspire instant pushback from a good many of my readers.
After all, sexual desire is natural and normal and healthy, while hate is evil and harmful and wrong, right?
During its heyday, people in Britain and America loudly proclaimed exactly the same attitudes toward sex that their great-grandchildren now display toward hate.
If you wanted to define anything as utterly beyond the pale, you just had to label it as “immoral”—in the jargon of the time, this meant “sexual”—and the vast majority of people were expected to recoil from it in horror.
In this case as in that one, something that’s supposed to make things better doesn’t seem to be doing the trick—in fact, quite the opposite—and it’s time that we talked about that.