Sunday, 21 December 2008

Protesting Naked Against the State - Stephen Gough

Would you go to jail for your principles? Or would you rather give in and do what you are told? When you publicly challenge the system, how far are you allowed to go before the empire strikes back?


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When thinking about governments that tolerate no challenge from strong willed individuals, you would automatically think of countries like Burma, which has kept the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in house arrest for 19 years already or Uzbekistan, which put opposition leader Sanjar Umarov under arrest for basically opposing the regime.

When talking about prisoners of conscience, you would think of people like Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years in prison for protesting against apartheid in South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi, who spent 6,5 years in prison for protesting against the British government or Chia Thye Poh of Singapore, who was imprisoned without trial for 23 years.

Can this sort of thing happen in a contemporary free Western democracy?

The Strange Case of the Naked Protester Stephen Gough


No one knows this better than the Naked Rambler, a former Royal Marine Stephen Gough also known as Steve Gough. He walked the entire length of Great Britain (1,407 km) from Land’s End in the south to John o' Groats in northern Scotland in 2003-2004 totally naked except for shoes, socks, and a hat to protect himself from the sun. 

On Thursday 18th December 2008, he was again sentenced to two years in prison for breach of the peace. Gough is protesting against the British people’s attitudes to the human body. 
"This is just one step in the whole process of making people aware about our bodies because we are so paranoid about them." Gough says. 

Stephen Gough was again arrested at Edinburgh airport for removing his clothes during a flight from Southampton to Edinburgh and got a seven-month jail sentence. Characteristically, he again refused to dress up when he was released into Saughton Prison car park in Edinburgh. This time the judge, Isobel Poole was lenient and found that there was no evidence of "actual alarm or disturbance," adding 
"I can understand this conduct could be considered unpleasant to passers-by had there been any but there is a lack of evidence to that effect."

What is the Fear of Nudity? Gymnophobia


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Gymnophobia is the fear of nudity. Serious and respectable people admire ancient Greek culture and pay fees to visit museums filled with naked statues. 


Nudity in art and sculpture is considered a part of higher expression of the aspiration of the human spirit. But, these same people consider seeing nudity in vivo as revolting and outrageous.

Sexual Appeal is Everywhere

The majority of Internet traffic, as revealed by search engine keywords, is geared toward pornography and searching for sex. 

  • Why do people spend time, money, and energy staring at flesh on a screen, when seeing human flesh in a non-erotic or sensual context is considered disgusting? 
  • Why do South Koreans spend $526.76 per year on pornography when the country with one of the highest number of PhD’s in the world spends per capita $360 per year on education?
  • Why is pornography is a $ 27 billion industry in China (double that of the US)?
One fundamental pillar of Western democracy has been the institution of love marriage. The concept of romantic love as a basis of marriage differs totally from the concept of arranged marriage, where parents try to consider the compatibility of partners marrying in addition to furthering the business interests of families. 

When marriages go sour, the most heard complaint is:
 “I don’t love her/him any more” 
or
 “The fire has gone out, there is no sexual attraction any more.
The majority of marketing messages use sexual appeal to promote goods and services. But then those, who provide sexual services, and instant love, the prostitutes and courtesans, the rent boys and escorts, are not valued in society. Obviously, people use them or they’d have been out of business centuries ago. Is Stephen Gough yet another eccentric crackpot or does Stephen Gough have a valid point in claiming that Western societies should reexamine their relationship to the human body?


Gandhi’s method of Satyagraha has inspired leaders like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Barrack Obama, and countless others but Gandhi always exercised savoir fair, the instinctive ability to know how to deal with any situation that arises. In 1931 when Gandhi went to meet George V, the King and Emperor, Mr. Gandhi was not in "morning dress" as the royal invitation had requested but he was wearing his customary loincloth, and a shawl of homespun.

Viscount Templewood's Nine Troubled Years, describes Gandhi's meeting with the King Emperor. Just, as Gandhi was taking leave, His Majesty warned. 
'Remember Mr. Gandhi, I won't have any attacks on my Empire'. 
Gandhi replied. 
'I must not be drawn into a political argument in Your Majesty's palace after receiving Your Majesty's hospitality'.

Source:
  • Alexander, H. (1969), Gandhi Through Western Eyes, New Delhi: Asia Publishing House p.82
  • Nine Troubled Years: Viscount Templewood by Sir Samuel Hoare Publisher: Collins ,1954, London
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