Minority Groups Define Freedom

(Originally posted November 30, 2010) Civil rights, human rights, freedom and democracy. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right to not be persecuted, intimidated or killed. Most people today take these for granted. Except of course if we are part of a minority group, when we gradually become aware that all is not rosy and safe for us, least of all just because a piece of paper says it is.

Today most countries which are considered “civilized”, have some form civil rights entrenched in their national Constitutions and legal systems, granting citizens the freedom to feel, think,  speak, gather, and to express their individuality and identities, without fear of reprisal or persecution – and yet today, even in these same countries, there are a great many people of different subcultures and groups – who live in fear of precisely those things.

Today people are being killed for who they have relationships with, for the gender of their partners, for their own gender, and for changing gender. They are murdered for not being Christian enough or for being too Muslim. They are killed for being pagan, for being “vampires” and witches. They are targeted out of ignorance, stupidity – and in order to give expression to hatred and the violent, misdirected urges of those who don’t know any better – and who don’t care to try.What happens when people see you as different to them? Let’s look at an example:

Sophie Lancaster was a girl who was murdered in the UK in 2007, during a violent and unprovoked attack in which her boyfriend was rendered unconscious. Both were severely beaten by a mob of maleassailants while walking through Stubbylee Park in Bacup, Rossendale in Lancashire. Because of her severe head injuries she never regained consciousness, and died.

The reason they were attacked? They weren’t criminals, they weren’t dangerous, and by all accounts, they weren’t bad people – but because they were perceived by their attackers to be different to themselves, they deserved to die.

Sophie Lancaster was 20 and a gap year student planning to do an English degree the following year. Robert Maltby, a 21-year-old art student at Manchester had been her boyfriend for three years and they both identified with the goth subculture. The couple’s family described them as “Goths”, and said: “They’re both intelligent, sensitive kids. They’re not the sort of people to get in trouble, but they have had problems in the past because they stand out.”

On the day of the attack, they were walking home and were “subjected to a “vicious mob attack” from “a large group of people” between 01:10 hours and 01:20 hours on Saturday, 11 August 2007, at the skate park area of Stubbylee Park, Bacup.” The couple encountered a group of teenagers at the entrance to the park, who followed them. It was noted by witnesses that they engaged in a good-natured chat with the large group of teenagers. Sophie handed out cigarettes to them, but suddenly a gang of five teenage boys turned on Robert.

One was heard to shout “let’s bang him,” before one, identified asHarris, started the orgy of violence with a flying kick to Robert Maltby’s head. According to witness reports, there had been no trouble until then. The assault seemed unprovoked. In the attack, Maltby was knocked unconscious. The gang then attacked Sophie, who tried to protect him by cradling him in her arms. She begged his attackers, who were laughing, to leave him alone after they battered him unconscious. Instead, “acting like a pack of wild animals”, they ignored her pleas and Herbert and Harris began “savagely and mercilessly” directing blows at her head “as though it was a football” until she lost consciousness.

According to an article on Wikipedia, “A 15-year-old witness told police: “They were running over and just kicking her in the head and jumping up and down on her head.” One traumatized teenage witness used a mobile phone to call for emergency services saying: “We need… we need an ambulance at Bacup Park, this mosher has just been banged because he’s a mosher.””And after the attack? Remorse? Regret? Worry that their crime would be reported? No. Witnesses revealed that “the killers celebrated their attack on the goths — or “moshers” – by telling friends afterwards that they had, “done summat [something] good,” and claiming: “There’s twomoshers nearly dead up Bacup park — you wanna see them — they’re a right mess.” Apparently one was making jokes about the incident with his mother when cops picked him up at home later. Police officers said Harris (15) and his mother sniggered while he was interviewed by police about the appalling attack. I can’t imagine anything at all funny about such cruel and uncivilized behavior – and the dynamics of a family like that boggle the mind.

When the attack was over, some of the teenage witnesses who called emergency services stayed with the couple and tried to tend their wounds. At the trial they were commended by the judge. Whenparamedics arrived they found the couple lying side by side, covered in blood.

Police said soon afterwards it was, “a sustained attack during the course of which the pair received serious head injuries and their faces were so swollen we could not ascertain which one was female and which one was male.” The pattern of her attackers footwear was also reportedly imprinted on Sophie Lancaster’s face.

Both Sophie and Robert were hospitalised. Robert’s injuries left him in a coma with bleeding on the brain, but he recovered, although he does not remember the incident. Sophie was not so lucky – she had suffered horrendous head trauma and would not recover. She died on 24 August 2007.

Lancaster’s parents said of her after her death:

“We were proud to know our daughter. She was funny, kind, loving and brave. She was a beautiful girl with a social conscience and values which made her a joy to know. Not being able to see her blossom into her full potential or even to see her smile again is a tragedy beyond words.”

Lancaster’s mother said:

“The thing that makes me most angry is that it is seen as an isolated incident, maybe the seriousness of what happened to Sophie is isolated, but attacks are far from isolated. Just because you follow a different culture you are targeted; you are seen as easy pickings.”

Five people were convicted of the attack in 2008, following an intensive investigation in which over a hundred people were interviewed. Two, Herbert and Harris, received life sentences – one of which was reduced to a mere fifteen years, from an equally ridiculous sixteen. It appears that British courts view sixteen years as “a life sentence” – which is almost as funny as Harris and his mother sniggering during his police interview. I wonder whether they will still think it so funny when he gets out in 2024? Probably. After all, he’s still going to be alive – and back on the streets, having received a free prison education in how to be a better criminal and not to get caught next time.

Police said of the attack on Lancaster and Maltby that “the attack may have been provoked by the couple’s wearing gothic fashion and being members of the goth subculture.” Excuse me – “May have been”? They were clearly killed out of contempt for their perceived differences. Their choices, values and humanity were invalidated and rejected out of hand by their assailants – who hated them for it – enough to do the things they did to them. It was hatred – and action inspired by hatred – a hatred of perceived differences. Being different should not be seen as a provocation for an attack – after all, everyone is different. Only the imbecilic and irrevocably stupid use that as an excuse to indulge in violence – hence more than half the wars in human history.

It seems obvious to me that the fight for gay rights, trans rights, and any other minority rights are all connected to one common denominator – human rights and equality for all. But in that fight, the definition of what we all need under the umbrella term of “human rights”, because of our individual uniqueness, varies slightly – and so itbecomes necessary to define those differences, or the needs of some groups could end up being overlooked.

To show one example, even in the broader LGBT rights movement, there are smaller sub-groups which make up the bigger group, whose unique differences are often overlooked by the broader alliance – and this causes endless trouble for the groups overlooked – and for the movement as a whole. Minority groups the world over should all learn from this example.

Hence, while some say that those who belong to minority groups should rather just stay in the shadows and take on the mantle of global human rights, the opportunity to focus on the uniqueness of what makes a particular culture unique, and its unique needs, is missed.

A group which has unique needs which are not particularly addressed under the broad “human rights” label, such as those identifying as real vampires, will not specifically benefit by this – except where there is significant overlap with other groups. Therefore, specific mention HAS to be made of particular needs of these communities – such as what identifies a subculture – within and as an integral part of the broader human rights movement.

We are Vampyres, and as Vampyres, we have needs which in some cases are obstructed by oppressive laws, mostly founded on archaic superstitions and religious misconceptions. We need blood and energyto remain healthy and to function, and in some places there are laws which criminalize us for performing acts of consensual feeding with donors. There are places where any kind of supernatural act, or witchcraft, is a crime – or where those suspected of it face intimidation, violence and death. Despite clauses in law and Constitution which give people freedom of religion, in many cases this translates to the “freedom” to practice only one specific religion to the exclusion of all others – which is of course, not freedom at all.

The ultimate truth about modern human society is that the mainstream likes to think it defines “freedom” – but it sets restrictive laws. It is the minority group which embodies and epitomizes freedom – because it has to rise to the challenge of convincing the majority to relax its laws which curtail freedom. Minority groups define freedom, embody it, express it and live it.

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