Often as I’m taking the bus home of an evening, I pass a man who looks a bit like a dynamic middle manager standing on Oxford Street near to John Lewis talking about God very loudly through some kind of ‘voice-enhancement-device’. I found him profoundly annoying. From my position he’s just standing up there advertising a way of life that seems to be based around the abandonment of a sense of moral responsibility and condemning people whose lifestyles don’t fit the model of Middle-Eastern propriety two thousand years ago. It seems a bit weird to me. I keep wanting to go up to him and say things like, “I commit the sin of buggery!” Even though I very seldom do and when I do I don’t like it very much. Or maybe, “I do dirty things with men!” Which I do slightly more often and quite enjoy, but doesn’t seem entirely immoral enough. Or maybe buy him a novel or something. So that he has something else to do instead of shout at me all day.
But actually I have a lot of respect for the poor chap. He’s established some things he believes in and he probably gets a fair amount of aggro but still he’s prepared to stand up and do his bit. Occasionally I look around my own soap-box by the side of the road, and check my voice-publishing equipment and wonder what on earth to talk about – even as I know there are a million things I’d like to say. In fact, worse than that, I find myself backing away from confrontation even about some of the things I believe in strongly. I had real trouble writing about Martin Sheen leading the anti-war protest in Los Angeles the other day because I was genuinely proud of him, proud to know that a man whose work I enjoy has the fire and the energy and the commitment to stand up and be counted. But when it came to writing about it, I became immediately timid. I kept qualifying things – we should respect his actions even as we might not necessarily agree with them – he was a great man whether or not you thought his cause was just. So I’m feeling a bit ashamed of myself today, and I’m thinking to myself, “What if I didn’t back down on issues like these?”. I’m even thinking, “I wonder what would happen if I went looking for fights…”