Here in Brighton, we think nothing of seeing gay people hand in hand under rainbow umbrellas, ballet dancing over puddles. It’s not a choice. It’s not a decision. It’s not like Teresa May and Corbyn sitting down to try and work something out. It just is.
But not in Brunei, where new Islamic laws make sex between two men an offence punishable by stoning to death. Stoning. To. Death. Lesbians get forty strokes of the cane and ten years imprisonment. As a feminist who wants equality I don’t know where to start with this. They are also introducing punishment for theft by amputation.
One Brunei gay man said, ‘You wake up and realise that your neighbours, your family, or even that nice old lady who sells prawn fritters by the side of the road doesn’t think you’re human or is okay with stoning.’
I’ve always been fascinated by hate. Are we all born with cells of contempt inside us, like a sleeping lion, like cancer? Do those cells mutate for no reason, indiscriminate and impartial, or are some of us just evil?
I have read about hate experiments on humans. The Milgram experiment (obeying an authority figure), where men from a wide range of occupations and varying levels of education, were asked to administer electric shocks to ‘learners' if they got answers wrong.
The shocks gradually increased to a level that would have been fatal, had they been real. The whole thing was fake, but the results were shocking. It showed a very high proportion of men would fully obey every instruction to increase the shocks, albeit reluctantly, while the ‘learner’ begged them to stop. Cried out in pain.
The Stanford prison experiment, a ‘jail’ set up in the basement at Stanford University. The prisoners were one half of a group of volunteers, the other half were assigned the role of guards. What followed was described as ‘a metamorphosis of good into evil.’
Well-adjusted young men became increasingly brutal as guards. They stripped prisoners naked, hooded them, chained them, denied them food. Sodomised them. The experiment, led by Zimbardo, concluded that normal people could be transformed into sadist tyrants or passive slaves. Not because of any inherent personality flaws, but because of the dehumanising environment they’d been put in.
Does this excuse the Nazis? Does this exclude anyone or anything? I know when I’m doing something wrong or bad because my stomach, the ‘second brain’ hurts. Would that pain go away over time if I was continually subjected to situations like the above?
Are we all already monsters, or can any man or woman be made into one. How far away from us, is the worst thing we could ever do?
I try and find the good in all things, but am convinced foxes are evil. Everything about them is horrible. The way they scream like a baby abandoned in a burning building. The way they toy with their prey. Their musky smell, like a hint of teeth, like a bad idea. Like something is about to kick off.
They look like childhood fear to me. There was rapist who caused terror in my village when I was a kid. He was dubbed ‘the fox man’ for the way he’d break into houses and ‘play’ with his victims. It was a hot summer, but all the doors and windows had to stay closed. My dad slept with a gun under the bed. It was all so Stephen King.
At the back of our house was a path that led to a thicket in the woods. One Sunday, my dad took us to shoot targets with our air rifles. I was looking through bracken when I heard my dad shout, in a voice I’d never heard him use before, or have since ‘Get here. Now.’
He’d found a tent, a mattress, food. A den. It was never confirmed that it belonged to the fox man, but the assumption was, probably.
Two men at the opposite sides of humanity. One a monster, the other a warrior. My dad would have strangled the fox man with his bare hands to protect me. No playing with his prey. Fear can make us weak, love makes us brave.
I held an 11ft python last week to prove to my daughters that there was nothing to be scared of. When it squeezed me, I wet myself a bit (a lot) but I smiled and said I was having a lovely time.
Franklin said, ‘He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.’ I’d lie down with my dogs any day. It’s my cat I fear. She’s the one who skinned a mouse alive this week, enjoyed splitting open the soft belly with sharp claw. Presented it to me with pride in her purr.
I made the husband deal with it. He had to kill it with an extension lead.