The long arm of the law? Let's amputate it

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The Independent Culture
Hypocrisy? Me? Oh, come come come. Tsk tsk. But there it was. "You're a hypocrite, supporting the Legalise Cannabis campaign," she snarled. "You should tell the truth." Fair enough. These days, I rather dislike cannabis, for the same reason that I dislike other drugs and particularly dislike booze. Taken in anything other than the smallest amounts, they are rather like beating your children: acts of horrible violence against something that's on your side and can't fight back. The poor brain is doing its best. It's a consolation, a chum, an entertainment, a sympathetic ear for your inane drivelling self-narrations, a useful tool in times of crisis, the provider of dreams, the conduit of delight, the gate-keeper of security and the monitor of appetite and desire. It is witty, heuristic, faithful and so wonderfully diligent that, even when you sleep, it remains wakeful, telling jokes, making up stories, chewing over the day's events, quickening the dead and bringing people to say hello who you haven't seen for years.

A long time ago I read a poem by, I think, the Emperor Hadrian. A valetudinarian poem; a man preparing for death by saying goodbye to his soul just as you would say a last farewell to a lover. He's frightened that, wherever it is going, it may feel cold and lonely. There'll be no more jokes.

To stupefy this soul, this brain, mind, consciousness - whatever it may be - with drugs seems terribly unkind. But that doesn't mean I would have them banned. The Kinsey Report, published 50 years ago, described a continuum between pure hetero- and pure homosexuality. I am far out on the heterosexual margin, clinging on by my tremendous prehensile member to the very right- hand edge of the chart. All the same, I publicly supported the Stonewall campaign for gay equality under the law. Was that hypocrisy? Am I a bad person? Should I immediately make a good act of contrition and just utterly slap myself to death?

Hmmm ... I don't want some chap waggling himself at me (all scrotum and chest hair and the smell all wrong) and I find stoned people immeasurably boring, and drunks repetitive, or rotted with self-pity ... so I suppose that when I campaign for legalised cannabis and lowering the homosexual age of consent, what I am actually doing is campaigning against the law.

The thing about the law is that we have too much of it. Like a tart's boudoir, what was once a wall has become a mirror, and a strangely distorting one at that. The law once occupied itself with preventing or redressing damage. But it now seems to have become a curiously over- optimistic looking-glass in which we see ourselves as we would like to be. In this looking-glass we never do anything to damage ourselves. We never whack our children or ride our motorbikes without a crash helmet. We are sober, clean and serene at all times. We feed only on the purest, chilled, labelled and germ-free food, which we eat decorously and always by its best-before date. The law ensures that our graveyards are neat and tidy, with no marble excrescences shouting their unseemly, excessive grief. In short, the law has become the embodiment of suburban aspiration.

But, as always, I have a compromise. We are all clever, liberal, warm- hearted and tolerant people here. If, as we must, we have to co-exist with Daily Mail readers, let's replace all those mimsy, nit-picking, how- would-it-be-if-everyone-did-it? (answer: Then we would be fools not to follow suit) laws with just one, of my own devising: the Darling Law.

The Darling Law will solve all our problems. It will place responsibility for individual morality back in the bosom of the family. It will abolish the stupidities of attempting to regulate private behaviour. And, best of all, it will regulate excesses which the current laws are powerless to prevent.

How it works is simple. It will be the duty of every citizen over the age of majority to provide her- or himself with a confidant, probably a spouse or lover, hereinafter referred to as "Darling". It will furthermore be the duty of every citizen as aforesaid to say, at the end of every day, "Darling, guess what I did today?" and then to tell the truth.

As I write, I have a plate of sausages in front of me. They are made by a big sausage manufacturer, a rich sausage manufacturer and a company utterly without honour in the sausage and general foodstuffs world. These sausages bear a rural-sounding name, boast of containing herbs, and are wrapped in white plastic to look like old-style butchers' paper. When grilled, they give off an acrid blue fatty smoke, like burning aircraft upholstery, so that you have to shut the kitchen door and hide in the bathroom until the foul mephitic fumes die away.

Cooked, the sausages have a strange, even varnished surface. Biting into them bursts the tough horny skin and releases a gust of armpit, and then a strange emptiness like cheap buggery, or a nothingness gone to the bad.

Although they comply with every sausage law passed by successive, suburban, sausage-conscious governments, these sausages are a disgrace, and the greedy, sneering executives and food technologists responsible should be stripped, bound and publicly flogged with a leather Viper (pounds 70 from Paradiso Bodyworks in Old Compton Street, if you're interested). But it won't happen.

Imagine, though, that the Darling Law has been enacted. After the first board meeting, all the executives and food technologists would have to go home and say: "Darling, guess what I did today? I approved a scheme to make the filthiest sausages even we have ever made, and pass them off on the British public which, over the years, we have trained to believe that the highest compliment you can pay to a sausage is to be able to get it down and keep it down." What would Darling say then?

Quite. And it's not just sausages. It's everything. Lobby your local MP now. But, please, try and at least appear straight and sober when you do it. !