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Gedogen

I’m working on my second speech for Toastmasters, and decided to describe the differences in cultures I found in traveling from Jubail, Saudi Arabia to Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  Then I found this article in the New York Times, “Nudists Want State to Look the Other Way.”

This article describes a continuing battle between nudists who use a “remote patch of San Onofre State Beach” to surf and sunbath (and have sex and some other things that might be less savory to a conservative American crowd) and the Park Service, which doesn’t allow nudity on any park premises.

Gedogen is a Dutch phrase that, while not directly translated to English, represents a pragmatic approach to enforcing the law.  A couple of examples are the Dutch drug policy, where possession of up to five grams of a hemp product is allowed, and prostitution, which was only legalized recently but was tolerated in certain zones, the famous red light districts of Amsterdam and other Dutch cities.  I find this practice amazing – local councils will decide that some legal action needs to be taken or avoided, and they try it out.  If it works, the practice continues and may expand.  Eventually, laws may change, or not – its the practice of law, not the code itself, that seems to matter in the Netherlands.

When the United States was founded, the law was intended to be enforced with the the consent of our peers, the jury trial being an important guarantor of the law being enforced in a reasonable fashion.  Perhaps we could learn something from a small northern European country.

Perhaps posting a note about the special feature of this section of beach, along with occasional patrolling, would allow visitors to sunbath nude, which is a relatively safe practice after all, while warning those that don’t want to sit on a nude beach to keep away.

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