Saturday, December 11, 2010

Garrow's Law

Based on the pioneering eighteenth century lawyer, William Garrow, this BBC series though it follows all the expected pathways of such programmes (a tortured love interest, backroom corruption by the elite and an implausibly noble lead) is wonderfully compelling.

It has a highly literate script that does give you the feel and texture of eighteenth century speech, context and mores. It powerfully evokes the difference between then and now - a child hung for thieving pennies, slaves thrown overboard as they are seen as chattels and the offence of sodomy as a capital one.

You find yourself giving thanks for progress and then are brought up short.

You recall the street children of Bogota who each night took shelter in drainpipes and sewers lest the police 'solved' the problem they represented by killing them (as I remember from a visit in the mid-90s). You know that somewhere now a leaky vessel, packed with migrants, illegals, is being transported across a treacherous sea. You know that in many countries sodomy remains either a capital offence or an imprisonable one.  

The world does progress - but fitfully and in fragility - our humanity is quickly unwound under pressure but Garrow's life is happy testimony to the worth of trying: of lighting a candle and not debating whether it will dispel all darkness. It will not but the light will be cast and some of the world will be illumined if only for a time.

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