If you have been reading my waffle for any length of time, you know that while I write about a variety of topics, they can be pretty much be identified. You could actually list them. One way of looking at this is keen areas of interest. Or you could just say I repeat myself. Whatever.
Anyway, one of the keen areas of interest that I have is the question of taste. I am fascinated not so much on what people like, but on the topic of taste itself. This may sound like a rather woolly and shallow thing to be interested in, but you'll see why it isn't.
It came to my attention early on, you see, that my tastes, in so many areas, are not mainstream. They are, shall we say, minority. Or even fringe. In addition, my reasons for this are caused by sincerity, which, sadly, is a rare thing. I'm not saying ner ner ner ner look at me, look how sincere I am. I'm saying that I got lucky. I was born with a good brain, and I was raised to be a free thinker. These two massive advantages, which not everyone has, allowed me the luxury of confidence in my choices.
You see, I am now in my 6th decade, and many of my friends who are around my age, are just coming to a place where they can fearlessly admit (because that is the word) to their tastes and choices. And I think that's sad. I think we should all be able to do that right from the get go.
I was considered a rebel, a maverick, and occasionally a freak my entire life because I had the courage/audacity to state my preferences. Maybe you've read my blog about growing up in England not drinking tea. The fact that I was able to not be a tea-drinker was bloody amazing, I had a good mother. But the effect that had is even more interesting. I won't dwell on that, you can read about it separately, it's on this blog somewhere.
The fact is, within the boundaries of what is legal, what I can afford, and what will do no harm, I do as I please. I do not kowtow to social convention, peer pressure, or any other conscious influence. I question everything and I act accordingly. I decide, carefully but quickly, and rarely change my mind. There are those who think it's great to change your mind. I think it's bollocks. If you decided well in the first place, it should rarely be necessary. In other words, I only change my mind if it's wrong. And I try to avoid that.
So, when it comes to questions of taste or preference, I guard mine rather fiercely, BUT (and this is very, very important), I try very hard not to make it appear that I am insisting others share my tastes or preferences. That is to say, I do not push them. I do not demand them of others. If I am passionate about something, and you find that pushy, that's not my problem. That's your lack of confidence in your own tastes and preferences.
Because I am equally passionate about the right everyone has to his own tastes and preferences. Even if I don't share yours, I will just as fiercely guard your right to them, as to my own. You see, that is what freedom is all all about. At the most basic level.
It's all very well people of a political bent insisting that democracy is the basis of all freedom. But I ask you, what's the point of having free elections and legitimate government, if you can't listen to the music you like?
One of the things we are very politically correct about in our society, even if it's often fake, is the idea that a person should not be persecuted for something they have no control over. This is why we are taught not to ridicule people based on their appearance. This covers a wide area including body shape, skin colour, disabilities etc. Our modern concept is one of isms. Quite rightly we object to racism, ageism, sexism. But long before all of this sensibility, good, wise people simply said "Don't be unkind, it's not his fault".
There was an interesting discussion on one of the feminist pages this morning as to whether sexual preference for lighter skin was racist. The consensus was that it wasn't, even among those with darker skin. There were some who suggested it was "conditioning", however, and all in all it was a very complex and fascinating area.
I remember a similar discussion many years ago, in which I got myself into deep doo doo, when I stated openly and honestly that I find light skin a turn off. One of the reasons I chose my husband, certainly not the first or most important, but definitely a consideration, was that while he is Caucasian, he isn't "white". Like myself he is of a naturally fairly swarthy complexion, and with a tan is generally assumed to be mixed race. My favourite skin colour is that typically found around the Mediterranean.
I have nothing against people white truly white skin, but I find it unattractive. It was fashionable at points in history, and there is still the whole "pale and interesting" appeal to some. Not to me.
If it were racist to find someone unappealing on the basis of skin colour, then my feeling about pale skin is racist. I find that idea silly, but it is the opinion of some.
What, I ask myself, can I do about that? Well, it certainly isn't possible to change my feelings. This much I know. I can no more change my tastes in skin colour than I could change my gender preference. Aha.
When we get onto that hot potato, we arrive at something else, don't we.
Much of the discussions over attitudes towards homosexuality (including, but not limited to the marriage question) is about choice. Opinions are sharply divided over whether a person chooses to be gay or not. The idea of choosing to be a targeted minority seems absurd, on the face of it, but if we compare this "choice" to other choices, the idea becomes sillier, and also irrelevant.
For myself, as I have just said, I feel that my tastes are not choices. I feel that my preference for swarthy men is just something natural to me. Neither the preference for men nor the preference for swarthy is of any greater import, they are just two aspects of an overall ideal.
If I ask you what your favourite colour is, generally, you probably have an answer. Not everyone does, but most do. If I then asked you to change that, could you? The idea is silly.
Was your decision to prefer, say, blue, a type of conditioning? Was it free choice? Or was it just one of those things? Blue is the commonest most popular colour, statistically, but that doesn't make it the best colour. There are many others to choose from.
Have you ever had anyone tell you to change your favourite colour? I doubt it. It's not seen as relevant.
When it comes down to it, is taste a question of choice, a question of conditioning, or just "one of those things"? I invite you to think about it long and hard, because it would be quite difficult to suggest that the answer varies acccording to the thing being chosen. In fact, if the issue were sexual preference, the chances of it being free choice would be less, due to hormones, a biological driving force.
So that's why this matters, why it's not woolly and shallow. Why the question of taste in general is not only about shoes, or Pepsi vs Coke, or whether you like to watch Doctor Who or not. Those are all matters of preference that nobody cares about (except those standing to make a profit out of it), because nobody gets hurt if your taste differs.
Until it matters. Who's to say that your tastes in something that right now are utterly frivolous and meaningless, won't ever become a matter of life or death. Ask the women of Iran how that goes.
No, the very basis of freedom is choice, and that's choice in EVERYTHING. Choosing one corrupt politician over another is not freedom. Democracy is a great and wonderful thing, but it's so full of holes and faults that if it were a car, you'd scrap it and get a new one. Freedom is on a far more personal and individual level than that, and no amount of legislation can ever give you freedom if:
a) You don't allow it for yourself, and
b) Somebody else persecutes your for your choices.
You may have to fight for both of those.