Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Mommouth Court
(image by goodyear-mascaro.org/gallery/MollyPitcher.jpg Public Domain) DMCA
"When the [Holistic Human] treats the mediocre more tenderly than himself, this is not mere politeness of the heart--it is simply his duty." --Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, No. 57 (The Portable Nietzsche, translated by Walter Kaufmann. Words in brackets are a change from "Overman." suggested by Professor Thomas Farrell to this article's author).
I went to see my friend Maggie McNeill speak last Tuesday evening, 24 June, at Chopper's in the affluent Cherry Creek neighborhood here in Denver. Maggie, of whom I have written before (Making Sex a Crime, Rebel With a Cause, Aiding the Evolution, Real Feminism: A Male Perspective), is a retired librarian, exotic dancer, and professional sex provider (prostitute for those of you who are slow on the uptake), who currently blogs at her site, The Honest Courtesan. Maggie was a guest of Denver's founding chapter of "Liberty on the Rocks," an anarcho-capitalist libertarian group. I think I was the first (other than the people responsible for the event) to introduce myself when she arrived, and one of the first to buy a copy of her book, Ladies of the Night. She was charming, gracious, and quite lovely, in every sense of that word, but I expected nothing less. We consider each other friends, although our differing politics (I'm a FDR-William O. Douglas Progressive Democrat, she is a libertarian) occasionally annoy each other.
We had a couple of nice chats both before and after the talk she gave on sex workers to the crowd of approximately three dozen people. Unlike a lot of libertarians that I have met, Maggie actually cares about a subject other than money, one that no longer directly concerns her: decriminalizing prostitution. During our chats I told her that I admired her courage for going out on this speaking/book tour. She told me she didn't know if it was courage, or just pigheaded stubbornness about the subject--decriminalizing all sex work, including prostitution--that made her undertake this "crusade" (my word not hers) against "intolerance, hypocrisy, and the ever-increasing stupidity of government, religion, and the public" towards prostitution. (Once again, my words not hers, but very definitely her sentiment. If I had known I was going to write this article, I would have taken notes.)
I suggested that the older term, "fortitude," was probably a better fit than the simple word courage, because fortitude indicates tenacity based not on unthinking stubbornness, but on considered dedication to a cause, and the effort and risk that one is willing to commit to achieve that cause's goal. There is no doubt in my mind that she has undertaken her "crusade" after careful consideration, and believing her cause was just.
Maggie's presentation to her audience was a little over 40 minutes long, followed by a question-and-answer session. She began her presentation by pointing out to her mostly libertarian audience that the infringement on the rights of professional sex providers and johns could easily spread to infringement on the audience's rights. (Note: I may have been the only non-libertarian there. I did glance around a couple of times to see if I could spot a person in the audience who might be a member of the "Red Squad"--the Denver Police Department's counterintelligence unit that they claim no longer exists, even though everyone knows it does. Paranoid? If you aren't paranoid, you aren't paying attention.) She made use of several stories where the police had violated the rights of ordinary citizens not only in this country, but around the world, to fight the "terrible scourge" (once again, my words not hers) of exchanging sex for money. Maggie also pointed out that the police have no problem stretching or manipulating the law to achieve their ends, including the use of rape against professional sex providers.
What bothered me was there seemed to be only lukewarm interest among the audience members in the subject of Maggie's presentation, decriminalizing prostitution. Maybe I am judging from my experience 30 years ago, when I did some work for the Colorado Democratic Party; but there was a very important question that I felt was missing from the audience's questions, which the audience was either too selfish or too afraid to ask: what can we do about this problem?
It has been my experience here in Colorado that libertarians have a tendency to be short-sighted and very limited in comprehending the big picture where individual liberty is concerned. The announcements by the group of upcoming events before Maggie took the floor demonstrated their focus: the late Milton Friedman's contention that free-market capitalism and liberty--and how they can use it to make themselves wealthy--are equivalent terms.
A False Assumption for Liberty
Economics are not at the center of our liberties or our rights. Libertarians: if your socialist neighbor gets the rights he cares about taken away from him today, you can be assured that the government will come and take away the ones that you care about tomorrow.
We all need to learn that if one group within our society's rights are threatened, then all of our rights are threatened. To broadly paraphrase Francois Marie Arouet, better known to the world as Voltaire, "I may not like what you are doing or saying, but as long as it does not cause harm or irreparable inconvenience to myself or others, I will defend to the end your right to do and say it." The converse of this statement is also true (Girard's Corollary to Voltaire's statement on rights): "Even if your rights are being abridged in such a way that it cannot directly or indirectly effect me or anyone that I know, I still have a duty as a free individual to help you defend and advance those rights, whether I agree with your viewpoint or not."
Our most fundamental rights, as enumerated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," are being steadily eroded in the name of the ever-increasing wealth and power of the oligarchs and their corporate proxies. This includes our right to a better life through hard work, as Richard (R.J.) Eskow pointed out in his 29 August 2012 AlterNet.org article, "Goodbye, Liberty! 10 Ways Americans Are No Longer Free":
"Social mobility in the United States is dead. Career choices are increasingly limited. As for working hard and earning more, consider this: Between 1969 and 2008 the average US income went up by $11,684. How much of that went to the top 10 [percent]? All of it. Income for the remaining 90 percent actually went down."
I believe that part of the problem is this: the self-reliance upon which libertarians pride themselves has a down side as well. Libertarians keep trying to do things on their own, when they should be banding together in common cause with their fellow libertarians and others with whom they have a general agreement on a given subject. Too many libertarians have forgotten Benjamin Franklin's admonition that, "We must all hang together, or we will surely all hang separately." In realpolitik you do not score bonus points for the purity of your movement.
Fighting for an Unpopular Cause
Maggie McNeill realizes that to achieve her goal of decriminalizing prostitution, she cannot rely on just the professional sex providers in this country: they are too small of a minority. As I pointed out in my 24 March 2012 OpEdNews article on prostitution, "Making Sex a Crime," the number of full-time female professional sex providers in this country has fallen to between two-tenths and three-tenths of one percent today, with perhaps half again that number working part-time. That is no more than 1.5 million individuals, most of who will no longer be involved in the trade in ten years. This percentage is down from the estimated five-and-one-half percent of the female population engaged in prostitution at the beginning of the twentieth century (Larry Flynt and David Eisenbach, PhD.; One Nation Under Sex; 2011; p. 5). It is a very small number compared to the five to ten percent of the population that make up the LGBTQ community, whose struggle for equal rights and equal protection under the law began at the same time as that of professional sex providers in the late 1960s.