In the formerly free world, your options are narrowing:
1) In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, don't take up any unusual musical instrument:
The flute virtuoso who performs regularly with The Boston Camerata lost 13 handmade flutes over the holidays when a US Customs official at New York's JFK Airport mistook the instruments for pieces of bamboo and destroyed them... An official opened his luggage and found the 13 flutelike instruments — 11 nays and two kawalas. Razgui says he had made all of the instruments using hard-to-find reeds. "They said this is an agriculture item," said Razgui... "They told me they were destroyed."
2) In the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment, don't say anything provocative:
Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media & any offensive comments will be investigated
3) In the Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free, don't masticate in a non-Sharia-compliant manner:
A 19-year-old West Yorkshire man was arrested by police at the weekend after posting a video on social media showing him tearing apart a Koran with his teeth, before putting it in a toilet and then burning it.
Arrested on suspicion of a racially or religiously aggravated public order offence, the man has not been allowed to go home because of the continuing threat to his well-being from individuals offended by the video. The Yorkshire Standard reports he has been released to an "alternative location" for his own safety.
Number One is not merely a hypothetical issue for me. A few weeks ago, I was in London, recording a number that required an oriental flute. Which one we weren't quite sure. So for the session Andy, our Asian flute guy, brought in a range of instruments with wacky names, and we picked the one we thought sounded best with the band.
I'm very glad we didn't book that session in a New York studio. And I couldn't honestly recommend to Andy that he accept any gigs at Lincoln Center. America's insane and barbarous "Homeland Security" apparatus is more zealous in its crackdown on flutes, bagpipes and Kinder eggs (as I discuss in The [Un]documented Mark Steyn) than it is about terrorists, drug mules, human traffickers and Ebola carriers. As I wrote a few months back:
To be sure, a lot of these things are kinda fringey activities. Why can't the vintage-car guy drive a Toyota Corolla like a normal person? Why can't the bagpiper get into rap like a regular kid? Increasingly in America any deviation from the norm is enough to attract the attention of the punitive bureaucracy. But a society that agrees to be that cowed and compliant will not be a dynamic or innovative one, and eventually will be in steep and terminal decline.
If the first story is one of death by hyper-regulation, the next - the 24/7 surveillance creeps of the Scottish Police - is one about death by societal forgetfulness. It never occurred to any of the cop-shop desk-jockeys before they sent out their tweet that it indicates a profoundly defective understanding of the relationship between the constabulary and the citizenry in a free society. Alex Massie in The Spectator calls it "the most offensive tweet I've seen in months":
You don't have to be an off-grid anarcho-libertarian freedom-squirrel to see there's something distinctly unpleasant – even something dystopian – about this. But such, alas, is the temper of our times.
Times in which the state's officers – for such is McPlod – believe they are entitled to monitor your every conversation, your every outburst, your every opinion for evidence that someone, somewhere in Scotland might be offended by your views. Nor is it too extreme to observe that this satisfies, in its essentials, the definition of a surveillance state.
Our third example - the man arrested for his Koran-in-the-can stunt - is an example of death by one-way multiculturalism. What policeman would think it right to arrest an Englishman for burning a book? Well...
Speaking of the arrest, Superintendent Mabs Hussain of Leeds District Police said: "We appreciate and understand the distress this video has caused and I would like to reassure residents of both West Yorkshire and elsewhere that we are taking this matter extremely seriously and progressing this investigation as quickly as possible."
Let us grant that it's rather rude to dump a Koran in the toilet. It's also rather rude to throw a Bible in there. Personally I would be extremely offended were someone to toss in The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, and then reach for the matchbook. But I can't see Supreintendent Mabs Hussain rushing to intervene in the latter two cases. As my old pal Tim Blair says:
You can destroy any number of books in Britain and find yourself in no trouble at all. Except for one.
If you're not free to buy a book and light it up - whether by Mohammed or Mark Steyn - then in a certain hypothetical sense you're not free at all. If you're free to burn every book except one, then you're not free in a far more profound and far-reaching way.
~What of the Continent more broadly? Commentary offers a piece by Tom Wilson called "Europe Is Losing Its Soul". Nothing wrong with it - I urge you to read the whole thing. But I found it rather depressing that everything Mr Wilson said I'd said myself all those years ago in my book America Alone (personally autographed copies of which, etc, etc) - the deathbed demographics, the loss of religious faith, the triumph of cultural relativism, even the meditation on John Lennon (page 110)...
And yet, after eight-and-a-half years and a big free-speech campaign to prevent the criminalization of my book in Canada, it made such little difference that apparently it's all still news even to readers of Commentary. The days dwindle down to a precious few: there's not a lot of time left for Britain and Europe to change course and reject a future that will consume them. I hope Mr Wilson has more influence than I did.
~Later this month I'll be talking about the aforementioned tome The [Un]documented Mark Steyn and much more in conversation with Indigo Books suprema Heather Reisman on stage in my hometown of Toronto. It's at the Yonge and Bloor branch of Indigo at 7pm on January 28th. Full details here. For any readers in upstate New York, that's a zippy 90 minutes up the Queen Elizabeth Way from Buffalo.
The [Un]documented Mark Steyn is available at all branches of Indigo-Chapters north of the border. Down south you can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and even Costco. And, wherever you are, you can be reading it within seconds - via Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks. Or treat yourself to a personally autographed copy direct from the SteynOnline bookstore.