Speech is never free…

By Keith Thomas Davis

We may have a right to it, but in reality, there is no such thing as free speech. The words we utter or write are never free from a follow-on consequence. Words have the power to uplift, to soar us away on the wings of imagination, they have the ability to educate, to inspire, to entertain, and they also have the power to discriminate against and maliciously wound others.

In contemporary Australia, if thoughts are tempered by reasonableness, then we appear to have a right to a limited form of free speech. However, if you happen to agree with the version of free speech favoured by the Conservative Free Screech Mob (CFSM) then you can pretty well get away with saying anything you like. You can make an absolute bastard of yourself, and generally get away with it. Which the CFSM seem to do each and every day. That is not a good thing to my way of thinking.

I’ve thought about the words I’m about to write. In my opinion, they are tempered with reasonableness, which means that unlike the CFSM I am not maliciously going for anyone’s jugular. I’m simply exercising my right to free speech, however limited that might be…

The Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Affairs had hardly completed his landmark speech when the conservative supporters of a singular version of free speech promptly dived in and tried to uppercut stiffly any sort of chance of Indigenous people having any sort of real voice, any sort of way of being heard.

Those supporters, or Screechers as I see them, who also are apparently meant to be colleagues of the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, are quite capable of reading the Uluru Statement of the Heart, but they appear totally incapable of actually understanding the content.

Not sure if that last sentence above is an opinion or a fact. Actually, that’s a fib, I know exactly what I meant when I wrote the sentence. The Uluru Statement was written in English, it is a wonderful document, it speaks of the hopes of an entire people, it is eminently understandable.

Not sure also how the Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Affairs in our conservative government feels about the craven White Supremacist views of some of his colleagues, but I’m always prepared to hazard a private guess with such matters.

As ongoing beneficiaries of the land-grab invasion, I think it is a little rich that our Non-Indigenous Culture continues to pontificate on whether Indigenous people, and their 60,000 years at least old Indigenous Culture, are worthy of our recognition. Seriously?

As a man of Anglo heritage, without an Indigenous friend sitting here with me to to put my words into a cultural context … I can only say what I think. For me, it has never been a question of whether we should recognise Indigenous people. For me it has always been a question of whether Indigenous people have, despite everything we have done to them, enough forgiveness remaining in their hearts to recognise us. Wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t want to.

The scaremongering surrounding the issue of an Indigenous voice has started already. There are notable people in our community who are now actively working to undermine the Referendum before it even gets off the ground. Those people, and their efforts, are appalling. In my opinion, they are White Supremacists. In my opinion, they are racists. We need to fight against them and what they stand for with every fibre of our being. We need to adopt flat out support mode and pull in strongly behind the aspirations of Indigenous people.

Over the next three years, it is guaranteed that the racist Anti-Indigenous fear mongers, for that is what they are, will link the issue of the Referendum with the issue of Native Title Claims. They’re coming to get your ute was just a practice run for they’re coming to get your freehold property. The attached should put nervous minds at rest. Exceptional circumstances mean just that, they are rare and they rarely happen.

On other matters Indigenous … the leader of the One Nation party said that the imminent closure of Uluru to tourist climbers shows that people do not understand the importance of tourism to the Northern Territory. I’d have thought that her words show that some people still insist on, from a great height, dropping crap all over the cultural and spiritual sensitivities of Indigenous people. I snapped the following photo on my recent desert trip, and it says heaps about the extent to which the Aboriginal voice is ignored.

I also have an opinion about the free speech issue surrounding a famous Australian rugby celebrity. Does being a celebrity of any sort automatically guarantee that one will happily saddle-bag an understanding of what empathy for the feelings of others is? Open for debate that one.

I don’t have an issue with the man himself, he is young with a life full of learning still ahead of him and I hope he gets to play football again. My interest is not about his free speech issue, my interest is with the words that were reported in the press. I have an issue with where those words came from. Those words were hurtful and divisive and maliciously wounding. Those words, even if paraphrased, came from the bible.

However weak they are we do have laws here in Australia that say you cannot discriminate or vilify or generally tear others to shreds simply because you may happen to feel like it. As a secular humanist even I will say that there is some pretty good stuff in the bible, though I do think that the best parts were filched from the earlier Confucian ideals of how to get along within society. The Confucian ideal of ‘What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others’is but one example. It was written centuries before the bible was even thought of.

I also think that the bible contains an awful lot of malicious shite. I’m pretty sure that if the bible were newly published today the discrimination/defamation no win no fee Tort Lawyers would have a field day, and a handsome payout, if they initiated a class action on behalf of vilified groups against the publishers of such a discriminatory tome. Not against the realms of possibility that one. The payout would be enormous.

Another point to dither on with holy matters. Religious Freedom Legislation. Do we need it?

I don’t, I freed myself from the clutches of religion decades ago.

In my opinion, the bulk of religious people don’t need it either. They may think differently, which is fair enough. But as far as I can see they happily pursue their religious beliefs week in and week out without nongs, or legislators, buttressing their right to do so.

So what is this legislation all about in my opinion?

It is about the negative right to discriminate against anybody who is ‘other’, backed up by an appalling piece of legislation, is what I think.

I’m not yet famous for my Spag Bol recipe, and am never likely to be, so I don’t have the shield of celebrity to protect me from the barbs that flow when you have an opinion that runs at variance to that of the Screechers. But what is the point of even a limited form of free speech unless you are prepared to get out there and exercise it.

Words have power. Words have a consequence. Whether they be screeched or otherwise.

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