Update: MDA has clarified with the organisers that there was never any intention to threaten the event or the hobbyists attending it. Nevertheless, my point still stands: if one person or group can be the target of discrimination, so can any other person or group. All it takes is one individual with an agenda or an axe to grind, and anyone, anyone at all can arbitrarily come under attack. That’s what people are afraid of now. And that’s what we need to be careful of, any time we feel tempted to decide that someone else is somehow morally inferior to us.
We’re feeling threatened.
This weekend, a large hobbyist event takes place at the Marina Barrage. The organisers have received two advisories: one from the police, warning against revealing outfits, and one from MDA, suggesting that the hobbyists not wear their costumes on public transport. Yes, it’s a cosplay event. And to be absolutely frank, the advisories were more like gentle requests, and the arguments about revealing costumes and wearing your stuff on public transport have been going round the cosplay community for a while.
This time, though, there’s been an uproar. People became very upset about the advisories. They’re alarmed, angry and feeling threatened. In particular, they feel threatened by the religious right. Last year a churchgoer called the police on a cosplayer because she didn’t like the girl’s costume, and the same church has several times instructed security guards to chase cosplayers away from public venues. I was one of the hobbyists thus chased away on one occasion.
Why the reaction? Just look back a few weeks, when the National Library Board, in response to a complaint from one individual with an agenda, withdrew three books about alternative family structures and scheduled them for pulping. A public trust was broken then, and it was further broken when comics depicting non-mainstream romantic relationships were banned or permitted based on whether they included violence against people in those relationships. And you know what? It isn’t just people in non-mainstream relationships who feel threatened now.
Coming so soon after the religious right attacked books in the name of crushing homosexuality, cosplayers – whose hobby is vilified in some quarters for ‘promoting immorality’ – are worried. Are we the next target? The right-wingers were held off by the minister. Are they coming for a softer target? Are they coming for us?
And this is where the broken trust shows. The library wouldn’t protect minority families. Cosplayers are afraid that the police or MDA won’t protect us. If the right-wingers come to the event and attack someone whose costume they don’t like, people feel they can’t trust the authorities to protect them. Some people are actively making contingency plans for dealing with incidents caused by moral vigilantes.
For that matter, what guarantee does ANY minority – by race or religion or sexual orientation or hobby- have that the authorities will protect them? Look how easy it is to arbitrarily cause trouble for someone. When anyone with an agenda can assemble a collection of names – real or fake – on a petition and get the authorities to act against a group they don’t like, no one is safe.
And yes, I myself feel threatened on a personal level. Will someone with a narrow interpretation of their religion one day influence a client to fire me because of my hobby?
This is the real slippery slope. Not the presumed sexual immorality that some people are so obsessed with, but the erosion of everyone’s safety, everyone’s peace of mind, everyone’s rights. When discrimination against one minority is actively supported, everyone is endangered. No matter how upright a life you might lead, no matter how well you conduct yourself, there is no guarantee you will not be the next target.