Stephen Gough has been rearrested again after having spent most of the last six years in solitary confinement in prison. This is far longer than many muggers, burglars or even rapists will serve and yet he has harmed nobody. His only crime is to be naked.
In this, he is not alone. We are all naked beneath our clothes. Nobody came into the world complete with underpants. I am naked as I write this. It is, unusually for this summer, warm in my flat and I like the lack of constriction and the feeling of air against my skin. It is not in itself sexual, although it could be in certain situations. But, then again, so could a meal or a trip to the cinema. Context is important in this as in most human activity.
If I were, however, to walk outside into the small garden, in order to feel the warmth of the sun and the cool of the breeze, then I could find myself in court for the garden is overlooked by others. Although my intention would be to enjoy the sensations felt by my body, I would be accused of an offence against public decency, or behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace, or some other circumlocution. Those who saw me could, if they were offended, simply look the other way. That is their freedom. I am no Adonis and would not expect anyone to be so overcome with desire that they find it hard to unglue their gaze. I would not be thrusting my genitals in their face. They would simply remain where they always have been - and in a condition of flaccidity.
It is easy to look away if we don't like what we see. No-one can force us to look, short of taping our eyelids open and holding our heads in a fixed position. Daily, I am assaulted by noise I find unpleasant, traffic, police sirens, car alarms, piped music in shops, the ranting of street preachers - the list can go on forever. I cannot close my ears nor does turning away from the sound have much effect. But there is little regulation of any of this. The owner of the burglar alarm that goes off, for no apparent reason, in the middle of the night, keeping me from sleep is not prosecuted for causing a public nuisance. Nor is the shopkeeper whose music spills out into the public space or the chain store that bellows its advertising by loudspeakers. They breach my peace and I have had to learn to live with them.
Appearing naked where it is possible for others to see you is, however, deemed serious enough for someone's liberty to be denied. Gough is not a flasher; he shows no desire to cause alarm; he does not use his nakedness as a weapon. He is simply asserting his right not to be coerced into wearing clothes.
The question is simply this: why is the human body unfit to be seen by others? Why does the wrath of the state descend on someone who is doing no tangible harm? It is as if civilisation would collapse were it to allow people to reveal themselves as human beings, genitalia and all. And this leads to a further question: if this is true, does such a civilisation deserve to survive?
I have been pondering the title of this blog. When I first started it there was no doubt in my mind that it should be called "The House of Inanna" . However, there are many posts in which I do not mention Her name and some few in which I make no explicit mention of Goddess. At one point I pondered setting up another blog for personal and political posts that were, on the surface, unconnected with thealogical matters. That way, I considered, visitors would be more likely to find what might interest them and not be put off by matters irrelevant. Thus, someone looking for information on Inanna specifically would find it here.
However, I decided to keep the blog as it is. I live in the House of Inanna in that She is always present somewhere within my consciousness - sometimes clear and dominant and at other times in ways more subtle and hidden. Sometimes, indeed, I forget Her presence and become too enwrapped in daily cares and worries to give thought to anything beyond them. Then, when I have posted, the posts reflect this self-absorption and Inanna seems to be invisible.
Why Inanna and not any other goddess? Why that name and not any of the other 9,999? The reason for this is simple. Inanna is the only goddess who has come to me in a dream and spoken directly to me. I am not given to remembering dreams and have little truck with channelling. I do not presume to speak for any other than myself. However, in the dream Inanna spoke seven simple words. "I want you to tell my story" is all She said. Then the dream ended.
At first, I thought that this simply meant that I had to use my story-telling skills and recount the stories written in Sumer. So I went to Amazon and bought the book and that is what I did for some time. Then I found that the more I told the stories, the more discontented with my life I became. I became restless and unsatisfied, There had to be something more that was needed. I had, somehow, to enact them in my life. Which I proceeded to do, often unconsciously and more often very hesitantly and half-heartedly. But, willy-nilly, things happened and my life took an unexpected and often unwelcome and uncomfortable course. I discovered things about myself that I did not like and would, if I could, rather have left unexcavated. I then had to incorporate those unwelcome insights into my life - a process that is still unfolding.
I am a man born into a particular set of circumstances - with unearned privilege I did not seek but accepted nevertheless. I am a product of my class, my gender, and a particular place and time. As a result of other accidents I came to see the fundamental unfairness of life as it is today - where I could thrive while others struggled and died. There is simply no justice to it all- an arbitrary set of circumstances dictated for me opportunity unheard of by the majority of humanity. I was and am, however, no saint. Far from it. I welcomed the relatively ease I had inherited and did little to concretely improve the lot of others. I still do little.
Except research, study and think. Of which I have done a lot all my life. Because I cannot truly see into others' hearts and minds I have used my own as my laboratory - pushing ideas to extremes and seeing what emerges. I have analysed and re-analysed my thoughts and actions often to the point of absurdity. I have seen, to a degree, my own motivations; my own hopes and fears. And because I do not imagine that I am unique in the world assume that these also operate in others; that they are part of the condition of being human.
And the conclusion I have reached is that, for whatever reasons, humanity in general made a collective decision several thousand years ago that has profound consequences today. Probably as a result of the invention of agriculture, divinity, which previously had been envisioned as female, came to be seen as male.This did not happen overnight. There was really no conspiracy behind the development of patriarchy. That is too simplistic a model. Slow and imperceptible were the changes but, incrementally, they became the World Order that we see today. Much has been written about the New World Order of American Right Wing fundamentalism but there is nothing really new about it. It is simply the latest manifestation of an old dream of Dominion - of an elite ruling with the blessing of Divine Right. James 1 of England and VI of Scotland and his son Charles both tried to live by it but failed. Louis XVII of France and, later, Tsar Nicholas II met similar fates to Charles. Stalin, Hitler and Mao all claimed similar dominion assuming the right to decide for millions. Now in country clubs and government buildings, corporation headquarters, embassies and churches, similar dreams are dreamed by men whose faces do not necessarily appear on any television screen. This is not, however, a conspiracy. It is more subtle than that. It is, rather, the meetings of people with like minds and like assumptions who believe that their wealth and power is a sign of the favour of their god. They are not evil as any could define the term. They may truly believe they are right. They are, however, tragically wrong.
Inanna, as the earliest goddess of whom we have written record, is a living echo of the time before. She, and Her stories are a bridge to the earlier, now supplanted, times of our species. Overlaid by a later gloss, older wisdom can be discerned. And this is the wisdom of finding out who and what we are at root. We are human. We are, if such a condition exists, also divine in that humanity. As far as we know, the notion of divinity exists in our species alone. We have externalised the internal and created gods of our own imaginings; giving them the characteristics of humanity for humanity is all we can know for we are human. As such our gods are fallible. Inanna's descent is a recognition of this fallibility. She has to forsake all Her regal and divine trappings and embrace the shadow of Her mortality in order to discover who she really is. She is mourned in the ruins of dead cities - for all human constructs die. She is reborn fully aware and partially in command of her own demons who accompany her back to the upper worlds.
I do not know what happens after death. I mostly feel it is oblivion but sometimes have an inkling -a feeble hope? or fear? - that something lies beyond. St Peter's pearly gates, however, are to me a metaphor for those other, more fleshy, pearly gates that lead us into life. All religion, all stories of goddesses and gods, including Inanna, are simply metaphors. We daily face the Unknown and seek comfort from the Dark. The god of the present Order, however, prescribes nightmare for all but his elect. Those who seek a healthier dream must look elsewhere. I look to Inanna.