You may have seen this image doing the rounds of the web.
When I saw it my first reaction was to grin, assume the stats weren’t made up (a bold assumption, I know) and chalk up another important weapon in the equality armoury.
But when I stopped and thought about it for a moment my conclusion was very different. I’m all in favour of gay rights, gay marriage, universal suffrage (except for BNP voters but then I suppose I’m just prejudiced), equal pay for women, everything you’d associate with a public-school-educated Zionist ex-banker, really. And for that very reason, I think this is a dangerous argument.
Some time back, a year or so ago, I was listening to a programme on the radio, a discussion on rising divorce rates, when a woman with a calm, sensible voice came and started arguing calmly and sensibly in favour of polygamy (and polyandry too, equality fans, don’t worry). A respected academic, she had travelled the world observing the way different societies structure themselves. She had studied the history of human sexual relations. She had, she said, found that the majority of cultures through history had no particular inclination towards monogamy, and she had decided that monogamy was therefore unnatural.
Up to this point, I had no particular argument against anything she was saying. It was what came next that had me shaking my head in disbelief. Because having decided that monogamy was unnatural, she then concluded that it was bad. There was no intervening step, no point where she explained precisely why “unnatural” could be seen as synonymous with “bad”. It was just assumed, as was the fact that everyone would agree with it. And they did. She took on all-comers in the debate that ensued and every last one of them took issue with her preliminary conclusion, that monogamy was unnatural. Not one guest or caller pointed out that she’d missed out a crucial logical step, for the obvious reason that this step doesn’t actually exist, and that “unnatural” doesn’t equal “bad” any more than “natural” equals “good”.
The academic with her desire for multiple husbands seemed to equate “natural” (and “good”) with the activities of what we romantically still think of as primitive, unspoiled cultures.
The picture above (and the it’s-not-natural twaddle it seeks to address) seems to equate “natural” (and “good”) with the activities of the animal kingdom sans humankind.
You can look at it either way. They’re both wrong.
Democracy, obviously, isn’t natural. And neither are cancer treatments or palliative care for terminal patients in pain. Television isn’t natural, and neither is the internet, and sure, they might not be an unalloyed good, but on balance I’m glad we’ve got them. The Guardian certainly isn’t natural, and the Daily Mail isn’t either, but that’s OK because reading wasn’t natural in the first place. Gay rights probably aren’t natural, but then, equality in all its guises isn’t natural, and neither is protection of society’s weakest by its strongest. There’s nothing natural about farming, either, even honest, decent, 100 per cent organic farming.
A list of things that are natural, at least according to the analyses above, would include the glitter of sunlight refracted through a thousand thousand droplets cascading down the Iguassu Falls. And cannibalism. Natural childbirth. And an infant mortality rate that would shock Stafford NHS Trust. Rain-dances. Gang rape and murder. I could go on. Some “natural” things are great. Some are so hideous that the entire history of evolution and civilisation has been an attempt to escape from them.
Incidentally, there’s nothing natural about the Bible (any Bible) or religion. Even religious people should realise that. Religion, soul, spirit, whatever you want to call it, it’s supposed to lift us above the plane of the beasts. Above the natural.
So when someone tells you (whoever you are) that what you do “ain’t natural”, in addition to the usual options of laughing or complaining, you could try pointing out that they’re not natural either. And then hit them with the big one. Say it loud and say it proud. Tell them that of course you’re not natural. You’re a twenty-first century human being. And bloody grateful for it.
If you liked this, please comment and share, and don’t forget to take a look at some extracts from my soon-to-be-published novel Without Due Care here.