‘You could spend the rest of your life in jail’

I’m horrified to read this story in today’s (UK) Independent newspaper.

Stephen Gough, ‘the Naked Rambler’ who has already spent a lot of time in prison for….naked rambling’, could spend the rest of his life in jail. Why?

It appears that the EU, the European parliament and a body whose actions on and in the continent have probably been the most reviled since Nazi Germany (and I dare you to find anything else European that people have despised so much since 1945) have determined that his views on nudity ‘are shared by very few people’.

Is this the basis of law, of good law?naked rambler_001b

If we’re determining law by whether or not something has to be an opinion shared by ‘a lot of people’, where would it leave…a lot of things. Where would it leave the European Parliament itself? Because, if asked, the overwhelming majority of Europeans would say ‘the European parliament is s***, let’s do away with it’. (By the way, the EU passed legislation a few years ago making it illegal to criticise the European Union, so can I just say that the EU is a bunch of drunken whores and wife-beaters whose actions can only lead us to conclude that Hitler made the trains run on time and had a half-decent motorway/freeway/autobahn policy that was adopted by much of the world as ‘a good idea’, one more than the EU have ever managed? And if the grand aim of the EU was to ensure the continent was never to have another war, can I just say they did a great job of that one in the former Yugoslavia. Can I also say that their actions in causing hardship, austerity and near bankruptcy in Spain, Ireland, Cyprus, etc shows what fine economic lunatic policies they frame?

Having said that I’m horrified by the European Court’s deliberation, I am ambivalent towards what Mr Gough does, as it simply reinforces the idea of naked people being cranks and weirdoes. Maybe we are. But on that basis people dressing up in silly clothes to hit a ball around large patches of grass before toddling off to ‘the 19th hole’ are cranks and weirdoes in my view. People who read fantasy trilogies might be construed as being cranks and weirdoes. Almost anyone doing anything might be construed as cranks and weirdoes.

I like the idea of naturism being seen as an alternative lifestyle, which may not be for everyone, but those who don’t wish to indulge in it at least recognise and respect the rights of those of us who do to pursue that lifestyle.

As the article says…

Despite appearances Mr Gough is not a naturist though, nor does the British naturist movement support him. On a naked ramble with the Independent on Sunday in 2012 he told the paper: “They think I’m a bit in-your-face; they think I’m a maverick. They want to keep it all confined, to their own strips of beach. Whereas I’m rocking the boat.”

Yes. We probably do want to keep it all confined, to our own strips of beach. Because we recognise that the world is full of different views, and we respect that naturism isn’t for everyone. We don’t wish to invade textile beaches and waggle our bums at everyone. We respect that not everyone wants to see that. And we hope textiles respect that we want just a few locations where we can practice our chosen lifestyle in peace and without fear of harassment. In this way, everyone is happy with their own strip of sand.naked rambler2_001b

Mr Gough, on the other hand, is imposing his lifestyle on others without any apparent sense of respect for others’ views.

It’s a terrific thing to have walked from Land’s End to John o Groats (i.e the full length of Britain) nude. I admire him for undertaking the walk, clothed or nude. I admire that he feels freer without clothes. I do too. But I find it silly that he chooses to be so in-your-face that he alienates the police, the judiciary, the public (allegedly) and even British Naturism. Yes, we need a society where naturism is an accepted part of the landscape. No, we don’t need Mr Gough creating an atmosphere in which the rest of us are judged negatively. And in that, Mr. Gough is certainly rocking the boat and leaving the rest of us in danger of being capsized into the murky waters of legislation that will limit or bar our lifestyle.

And that’s where my ambivalence towards his ‘campaign’ cuts in. He does naturism as a lifestyle or as a movement no favours.

Despite that, I’m still horrified that the European courts think that views shared by ‘very few people’ can lead them to face jail time…forever! We still need our ‘eccentrics’ in a world which is increasingly formulaic. We, more than ever, need a counter-culture from which new ideas grow. After all, the original naturists would have been ‘eccentrics’ whose actions have led to a movement, a lifestyle, in which millions have or do participated. The original vegetarians would have been seen in the same way (and in some locations, still are), despite evidence of it being a healthier diet as long as the lack of meat is countered by an alternative protein source. The original keep fit fanatics might have been seen as a bit strange when Charles Atlas was selling books on how to get ‘ripped’. Today, thousands are jogging and wanting to get ripped. I guess that in my lifetime cycling to and from work was regarded as the refuge of the poor who couldn’t afford a motor car. Nowadays we look on cyclists as being ahead of the game in terms of commuting and keeping fit.



Edited to add: The Guardian has a poll on whether naked rambling is a human right. At the time of my posting this views were pretty even, 51%-49% in favour.