When two kisses are the focus of attention there is a crisis in the air. One, of Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness event in Delhi. The other is Mohamoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran kissing the gloved hand of his old school teacher at the national teachers day ceremony . The kisses are vocally condemned by religous bigots in the two countries, one predominantly Hindu and the other Muslim. They are in a rage desribing them as an affront to religious sensitivity, custom and moral well being. In India things went to the ludicrous extent of a magistrate in Jaipur issuing warrants for the arrest of Shilpa and Gere. Being a committed liberal I cannot concede the argument that public kissing endangers morality . They should be viewed as displaying natural feelings of affection or liking between the people involved.
After stating the liberal position i should also point out that religious fundamentalists are emblodened to act in this manner due to the support they receive from unexpected quarters. Such support is not out of any sympathy for their religious extremism but only because they are the folks who howl and protest against certain unhealthy trends which are not acceptable to many sections of society who would otherwise fully back liberal causes. This is caused by the indiscriminate mingling of the sexual in all aspects of life, indeed even in matters which have no remote connection with sex. Modern means of communication are used to circulate intimate sexual information widely. Britney's exit from a limo with skirt upflowing to expose her pubic regions and Paris Hilton's videos of her having sex, both posted on the net and seen by millions are instances . Graphic accounts of sexual relations ordinarily not approved by society like that between teacher-student, adult male-teenage girl or which are near-incestous or encourage perversions like pederasty are vividly recounted to their minutest detail in the print media.
Openness and freedom in matters sexual form one of the sheet anchors of a liberal society. But breaking sexual customs or taboos on which there exists a wide consensus merely for the sake of exhibitionism and drama or to proclaim the freedom of artistic expression do not help liberal causes, especially when the freedom to declare and publish one's expression is available to millions and not just to a privileged few as in earlier times. When the borders separating liberal attitudes from licentiousness and excesses gets blurred , the orthodox and the fundamentalist gain a bonus opportunity to suppress the liberal in the garb of saving society from sexual perverts .
We who are left with protecting and enhancing the liberal foundations of society have to be on alert against two dangers. One, of the religious right or the orthodox who hanker to pull back society to purtian ways of thought and action. The second, of the licentious who in their frenzy attempt to destroy the foundations of liberalism to unleash anarchy. When the second acts in ways that elicit oppostion and reaction from the first, maximum damage falls on the true liberals who are unluckily caught in the cross-fire.