OH DELILAH

You've probably heard of Schrodinger's cat. This imaginary creature was the subject of a thought experiment involving a cat being placed into a box which deadly gas would be released into at a random moment. The question was, without looking into the box, whether you can know at a given point whether it's alive or not.

Never mind the details and ramifications of that - the last thing I want to do is add to the body of badly explained quantum physics, a field where my knowledge would barely cover a postage stamp. My interest is in noting that in all the years I've been aware of Schrodinger's cat, not one person has complained about it being an experiment on animals - because this moggy exists only in the minds of those thinking about it.

Meanwhile, there are Welsh politicians planning to ban rugby fans from singing the Tom Jones classic Delilah. Their case is that the song glorifies violence against women. Never mind that Delilah is entirely fictional, and exists in any sense at all only when the song is sung. Real people whose job it is to contribute to the British political process are complaining about the fact that an imaginary woman dies in a song. She's not a flesh and blood person - Delilah is a literary device, allowing Tom Jones to employ his stirring voice in the service of an epic ballad.

Let's be clear - no women were harmed in the writing or performance of Delilah, just as I doubt Nick Cave killed anyone in the process of recording his album Murder Ballads, and question whether Bob Marley actually shot a sheriff. And to suggest imaginary corpses fuel real violence is to go down a road where little is certain, and any alleged evidence is met by equal and opposite counter-evidence.

Thing being, the whole issue is a demonstration of numptiness. Stories and songs are part of the fabric of our imaginations. And in our minds, few of us are rational and operate according to moral strictures. Look at the stories we tell children. Women living in forests cook children in ovens. Grandmothers are slain and wolves take their place (wolves are also serial destroyers of homes in another tale). The stepsisters in the original Grimm version of Cinderella hack off chunks of their own feet so that they may fit the glass slipper.

There is some very curious and dark stuff here about gender and sex and families and violence, for sure. But stopping people from experiencing songs and stories where these themes appear does not change their behaviour. Where attitudes to women are concerned, it's behaviours that make the difference. And one thing we know about behaviours, is that they're a consequence primarily of what we experience around us and mirror in our own actions. Stories shape the world less than they reflect it, and where stories are contentious it's likely to be because they concern matters that right thinking people would prefer their attention didn't go when the lights flicker out...