Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

I've been reading about Thomas Bowdler today, for some reason. Probably because I was looking at games in the early history of chess and his name came up. Bowdler was a pretty strong player, capable of taking Philidor on at odds of pawn and 2 moves. They played 8 games winning 2 and only losing 3 to the great French player.

Bowdler is immortalised in the English language after he cleaned up Shakespeare for Victorian family audiences. To "bowdlerise" is to change or cut parts of a novel or movie that might offend. The advert for Bowdler's "Family Shakespeare" stated that "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." Seeing that Shakespeare's plays are full of innuendo and sometimes outright filth, it would be interesting to see how Bowdler's censorship took the bard apart.

I wonder how the censor's knife worked on this Shakespearean classic put down:

"By my life, this is my lady's hand, these be her very C's, her U's, and her T's, and thus makes she her great P's."

If you're wondering what this means, try spelling the capitals, but instead of "and", use the abbreviation 'n, and it should all make sense :D

Censorship is a strange thing, and an issue that polarises people. In our internet age, material has become much more explicit than even just 35-40 years ago when I was in my teenage years. For example, I link to Kevin Spraggett's blog on this page, but if I was following the principles of Bowdler, I'd be setting content warnings about it. Personally, I fall more into the category of the allowing freedom of speech camp, though there are some limits that I find difficult to tolerate, usually based on hate or discrimination.

Which brings me to the bizarre banning of chess by Saudi Arabia. According to the Fatwa against chess, the game 'promotes hatred between opponents', 'promotes the potential for gambling', and may cut into prayer time. This is all taken from the twitter account of Musa Bin Thaily of the Saudi Chess Association, who also suggests that chess may not actually be banned, but rather there are some other factors being taken into account such as the authorities need to control individuals. As he says, open air music concerts are banned, but they happen. However, the opportunity is there for the authroities to close the concerts down.

So where's the logic in banning chess? It's a game, a pastime, an activity which promotes logical thinking. And it brings pleasure to so many people, myself included.Can this be a bad thing? I'll finish with another literary quote, this time by Charlotte Bronte which sums up my opinion of the Saudi Fatwa:

"Better to be without logic than without feeling"

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