A shopping mall in the UK is banning those who wear hooded tops. Tony Blair supports this effort as part of his “yes-to-civility, no-to-hooligans campaign.
Cultures have a funny way of cultivating their opposite. It is not very surprising then that one of the nations most preoccupied with politesse should produce some of the rudest people on the face of the earth. I refer, of course, to the English soccer fan.
Many people who wear hooded tops are soccer fans for the rest of the week. They swagger, swear, glower, and otherwise seek to intimidate by appearance. They are, we must all agree, a deeply obnoxious presence.
But I have two words for the Bluewater mall and Britains Prime Minister:
Call it the “rule of no rules, but heres how it works in open societies. We may not ban expressive behavior. If clothing or conduct inflicts no material cost, no substantial injury, no loss of interest, we may not ban it. Thats what it is to be an open society.
Now, if you want to get tough with holligans, by all means, be my guest. I may be the only anthropologists on the planet who does not harbor a bleeding heart. I dont care what deeper social causes inspire criminal behavior. When people break the law (the criminal law), they go to jail (gaol).
Most of my colleagues would insist we are treating the symptom, not the disease. Not me. I say crush the little bastards. Put them in the jail for the remainder of their natural lives. With any luck, this will be time enough to see the return of public flogging.
But let us make this punishment for criminal behavior, not expressive behavior. If all our offenders have done is wear a hoodie, leave them be. No harm, no foul. No foul, no gaol.
That little tirade satisfies the libertarian within. But the anthropologist remains puzzled. How is it that Western, First world, societies continue to ban expressive behaviors (hoodies in the UK and the chador in France)?
What part of “open society do we not understand?
BBC coverage of the hoodie ban, here