The stage and screen actor, Victor Spinetti, tells a story of how during the filming of Help, the Beatles appeared on a balcony in Austria and gave the Nazi salute to thousands of adoring fans below. Naturally they screamed their appreciation at the stupidity of the gesture. Imagine what the reaction would be today.
Sometimes I think we’re more prudish, but then there was Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” comment kicking off a huge fuss at the time that would now be unlikely to elicit anything more than a few raised eyebrows. The changing relevance of the subject or perhaps our changing fear on what the subject represents plays a part, however the feeling persists that in some ways we have become more puritanical; throwing morality into the mix and passing laws accordingly.
For example, when I was younger the solution to my dislike of fox hunting appeared obvious - ban it – but much as I abhor making sport from such an activity, I find suspect this idea that we can legislate people into becoming ‘better’ human beings. More than that, it demonstrates intolerance; we have failed to persuade so we impose our belief.
And I am guilty too, for in just over four weeks I will have animals killed for my enjoyment of a Christmas meal. I’m not sure where this sits on the shifting moral compass, though since I could never kill an animal myself I am at the very least a hypocrite.