Saturday 27 December 2014

How can the State be your marriage counsellor?

Published 21/08/2014 | 02:30

Bill: Theresa May. Photo credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Bill: Theresa May. Photo credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Joey Essex: A very undesirable alien

I am hardly alone in pointing out that obnoxious behaviour is not something that should be encouraged. I guess I'm a hard-liner on the issue...

It's really a no-brainer. But if you see you see someone being mistreated by their partner on the street, what would you do? Most of us say we would intervene, and that's certainly a level of basic civic responsibility we should all aspire towards.

But (and I say this as someone who once intervened in a domestic and nearly got battered by the pair of them), most of the time, people simply look the other way. Obviously, if you see someone being assaulted, then you have a moral duty to do something about it, even if that 'something' doesn't necessarily include physical intervention. If you see a couple arguing, the chances are you will be grateful your relationship isn't that toxic and you'll look the other way. There but for the grace of God, and all that.

But the news that British Home Secretary Theresa May is proposing a bill which would criminalise "controlling behaviour" in a marriage or relationship is surely the most extreme case of nanny state-ism any of us have seen in a long time.

The proposed laws would make it a crime for "people (who) bully their partners by verbally abusing them, controlling their money or isolating them from friends and family".

But here's the thing - who decides what's acceptable in a relationship and what isn't? There's no doubt that if you had a loved one who was in a relationship that was defined by bullying or hectoring by their partner, then you'd urge them to run for the hills. Or at the very least, move in with you until the dust settles and they can find someone who will treat them with respect..

But there is a world of a difference between friends and family looking out for those closest to them and the State deciding that they don't approve of the dynamic between a couple.

We've come a long way from the days when men were men and women knew their place. But once the powers-that-be start to legislate for emotions, as opposed to physical assault, we've slipped into a legal and moral morass that will only cause chaos and rancour.

We all know people who treat their partners badly, and while this law seems to be geared primarily against jerks who have neither the breeding nor the manners to know how to treat their partner properly, there are plenty of women who excel in the exact form of emotional terrorism that May is targeting.

But why stop at "bullying, controlling or verbally abusive" behaviour? Would the withholding of sex become a matter for the courts? Not making the dinner? Slagging her mates?

After all, what constitutes bullying or controlling behaviour to some people is merely an argument, albeit an unpleasant one, to others. This is where good intentions become terrible, catastrophic laws.

But when authorities conspire to legislate unpleasant behaviour, they become the enemy; they become an interfering, intrusive and unwelcome presence in the privacy of someone's home.

Anyway, is that not what divorce is for?

Loving the alien? Not that one.

The rise to inexplicable prominence of the thing that is called Joey Essex is surely one of the signs that civilisation, as we know it, is doomed. The kind of proudly ignorant, wilfully stupid gobshite who labours under the illusion that being thick is charming rather than depressing, Mr Essex represents all that is wrong with us.

But maybe it's not our fault. No, maybe Joey Essex is an alien. I'd be more than happy to learn that he's actually a different species to the rest of us, and he claims that: "I was born different. Maybe I am an alien. Babies always look at me as they go past. Maybe they know."
Well, that's possible. Although it is equally possible that the babies are simply astounded that a person with less intellect than they have is allowed to wander the streets on his own while they're kept in buggies.

But there's no doubt that it would be the ultimate cosmic joke if we spent all our lives looking for aliens and discovered that, yes, they do walk among us. And yes, they are as thick and pointless as Joey Essex.

I'd rather they were evil, to be honest.

Kate Bush: The girl with the lights in her eyes

One of the great trials and tribulations of going to a gig these days is the proliferation of people holding up their phone, or worse, their tablet, and recording the entire bloody thing.

Maybe I'm just from a generation who was able to actually enjoy a band without having to record them for posterity. It's a bit like those people who go on safari and spend their entire time with their head in a wildlife book as they tick off the animals they have seen, rather than just basking in the majesty and splendour of the African plains.

So kudos to Kate. Ms Bush has issued a typically polite but stern warning to fans who will be attending her much anticipated shows - no iPhones, no iPods and no cameras.

This is obviously a terrible imposition on the kind of person who can't enjoy a show without ensuring they have proof of attendance to put up on their Facebook page, but I must admit I stand corrected on my previous, ageist prejudice.

After all, I doubt Bush will be attracting many tweens.

Ian O'Doherty

Irish Independent

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