Wednesday, 14 January 2015


Let me begin by sharing this ridiculous piece with you.

No, I'm not picking on Muslims. No, I'm not picking on religion. Yes, I am picking on the concept that people are regularly forbidden from doing perfectly ordinary harmless things by people in power for all sorts of reasons, and I don't approve, and I shall speak out about it.

I've never been afraid to speak my mind, in fact it has got me into trouble ever since I learned to speak, and as that was in 1963 I've been getting into trouble a long time.

I upset everyone, at some point or other, even when I try not to. I've never been deliberately rude, I just tell it as I see it, and some people don't like that. Especially people in authority. My teachers hated it, and I spent a lot of time out in the corridor. But it never stopped me.

But here on my blog? Oh boy! I get to upset lots of people all at once, some of them complete strangers! Visitors to my blog often get so upset that they......oh wait. No. It's actually very rare that they take me to task over it. And usually, if they do, it's done privately so nobody can see what dickheads they are. They fail to exercise their freedom of speech. Because they do have it. My freedom to say what I want is equalled by your freedom to tell me to STFU.

Anyway, I love blogging because I get to say whatever I want. This is complete freedom, and it's freedom 4 ways. How's that Melanie? Like this:

1. Freedom of expression itself. So far, there are no limits whatsoever to what I can say here. If I want to say that the Prime Minister is an arsehole, I can. I can even accuse him of corruption, without proof, and get away with it. My government lets me do this. I am very lucky because that's not the case in all countries. And if Harper sucks Uncle Sam's tit much longer it could change. But at present, it's all good.

2 & 3. Freedom to publish. For free. It costs me nothing to share my free thoughts with the entire free world. That's unprecedented in history. The technology to do it is right here at my disposal, obviously a critical aspect of it all. Not that the entire free world reads me, but the point is they could. They have plenty of better things to read, of course, but they have the option to read me.

4. Freedom to be wrong. I can write complete bollocks, and either my opinion or my facts, or both, could be waaaaaay off, but there is nobody with a red pen editing me.

I was censored a few times, obviously. Internet forums have moderators and sometimes they do a better job than others. I've been banned permanently from a few places.

But I think my favourite example was back in England when I worked for the Ministry of Defence. I used to do the menus for the week, print them out and put them up on the noticeboards. Being me, I started adding a few funnies here and there, cartoons, word puns, little remarks about famous people, including some famous, or infamous, members of staff. It was quite popular. And I got away with it, even when I had a dig at the Colonel.

It all had to stop the day I made fun of the food itself. I suspected that would happen, but it needed doing. Anyway, I was told it was in poor taste (it was, very poor taste, bleargh) and that in future menus should be "straight".

So, freedom of speech has been in the news lately, which is as good a reason as any for me to freely talk about it, and we should, we really should. It's such an important thing.


A lot has been talked about lately about radicalization. About how it happens, why it happens, and who it happens to. At no time must we forget that it happens in part due to historical causes that have led us to where we are today. Don't ever forget that our western governments are partially responsible for the situation. Don't ever forget that poverty and oppression are involved. I've written about that before, and it's always in the back of my mind. BUT it's not the whole story. It really isn't. Especially when it comes to leaders. They are just power hungry bastards like any other. They happily recruit to further their own ends. The radicalized are de facto tricked.

Sometimes it happens to an entire nation without their consent.

I don't know if you had a chance to talk to any Iranians who were living there at the time of the revolution, but it's a a good example. As events unfolded the very first casualty was free speech. If you are interested in reading about this in detail, the daughter of Hadi Khorsandi writes about it in her autobiography, "A Beginner's Guide to Acting English" (you may have to order from, but it's worth it, I promise). Her version squares with those I've heard first hand. Families left behind in Iran were very careful what they said on the phone. Walls had ears, and all that.

Authoritarian governments, and pseudo-governments don't want people to talk freely, but above all they don't want word getting OUT. It's one thing to talk among yourselves (in hushed tones if need be) but quite another for what you are saying to be heard by "others".

200 years ago if you were charged with a crime you were not allowed to speak in court. You couldn't defend yourself. This was considered quite normal, and it was justified by saying that an innocent man would be obvious to the court (bollocks!) Not only that, if you paid for a lawyer to speak for you, it often went against you because it seemed as if you knew that you appeared guilty and needed help. Needless to say, most defendants couldn't afford a lawyer.

Having a voice gives you power. If people want to take away your power, they take away your voice.

So, today, with social media making it possible to share information easily, the first target of anyone who wants to take away your power is the internet. Around the world there have been many examples of this already, and it will happen increasingly, I guarantee it. There is so much power in the sharing of information that we are running fast just to keep up with all the safeguards and legislation required.

Now, it has to be remembered that the word freedom is over-used, wrongly used, and not always what it seems. As I mentioned the other day, capitalism gives the wealthy and powerful tremendous freedom, including the freedom to hoard wealth, while the poor are free to starve. But this applies to all systems, not just capitalism. We have yet to come up with a system that guarantees freedom and security (including security of welfare) to all.

It has to be said that one reason for this is that not all humans WANT freedom. Some disapprove of it or are afraid of it. Other humans wants power over you, and to take away your freedoms, one way or another. If you get a combination of humans who want to take away your freedom, AND humans who are willing to give up their freedom (for whatever reason) you have.....less freedom. Duh.

Generally we don't give up freedoms easily. Some we do, for sensible reasons, e.g. traffic laws. Not everyone does. Some people seem to think red lights are for other people. That's just stupid. If you are going to rebel you should do it sensibly, for pity's sake.

I'm going to briefly touch on the A word here. Anarchy. I am, in my heart, an anarchist. But you'll never hear me advocate for anarchy because, sadly, many of my fellow humans just can't cope with it. They need leadership. I don't. I can behave myself. Usually.

I freely admit to having a bit of an issue with authority, and I was born that way. That is to say, I do not do as I'm told unless there's a bloody good reason to do so. I'm a rebel. And yet I behave well, most of the time. I walk on the right going up escalators, and when it says "please shut the door" I do. Isn't that funny? We'll come back to that. My point is simply that I hate being told what I can't do when I see no good reason for it.

Many, many years ago, who knows when, probably in many places at different times, leaders were having a hard time of it. They had a lot of people like me around. Not bad people (they had those too of course, adding to their problems) but people who when told "don't do this" said "WHY?"

If you've ever raised a child this will be familiar territory. "You must go to bed now" "WHY?" "Eat your vegetables" "WHY?" "Don't draw on the walls" "WHY?" and so on and so on. Well, imagine you have a whole tribe to wrangle. That "WHY?" would becomes a really huge problem.

LIGHT BULB! Scare them. Tell them a big scary invisible supernatural being is watching them all the time. You know, like Santa Claus. No, hang on, I mean God. Tell them God will punish them. THAT'S WHY.

It works well on children. It also works on the masses, and once it was set in place, well it just became part of the culture. Part of civilization. When you needed laws you just said God gave them to you. End of argument.

What if the rabble decided they could talk to God themselves? You insisted he only spoke to leaders. And they wrote it down. And that's that.

There was a reason the early church didn't allow Bibles in the language of the common man. Between translations and the printing press they lost control. Oh and there's this of course: 1 Corinthians 14:34. Often quoted by extremists. Quietly forgotten by others.

And now they have a new hurdle:

It was inevitable. The only way to get 'em back is to cuddle 'em. That's what Papa Francisco is doing. I like that guy. I won't be joining his religion any time soon, but he knows his stuff. He knows that the church is doomed unless he makes it more cuddly and he's GOOD at that. 

If religion concentrates on ethics and charity, then I'll leave them alone. 

So let's get back on topic. If I'm free to do what I want, why am I mostly well-behaved? 

Well, why not? Why is there this assumption that freedom leads to bad behaviour? That's an awfully dim view of humans. Yes, I know some are like that, but why assume they are? I happen to believe that most people know damn well how to be decent, given the chance. Nobody's perfect. Everyone does stupid things sometimes, but most of us know right and wrong, and unless it's really inconvenient, most of us are kind and civil, most of the time. Freedom to make choices includes freedom to make the best choices. Right?

As an immigrant, I suppose I have a little bit extra experience. I was free to leave my home country (not everyone is) and given the opportunity to live in another one, of my choice, and then given all sorts of freedoms here. Canada is a country that offers many freedoms. Europe is no less free, that's not why I left. In places like these you can speak your mind, it's a long-standing tradition.

Yes, there are exceptions. But you get more chance in countries like these. It is better, on balance. These people going on about French restrictions on freedom, yes, you're not wrong, but REALLY? Do you think you'd get more freedom elsewhere?

This gentleman thinks not:

This lady, with a history of repression of speech in her country in the back of her mind could be accused of staging things like this as a photo op, but she gets my support for doing it anyway:

And these people also stand in support of freedom of expression:

But maybe we should give the final word to the man who seems to be at the centre of the latest attack on freedom:

EDIT: When you've finished arguing over what it was about, here's a word from the sponsors:
"....the shooting was an operation to teach the French the limits of freedom of expression..."
Harith al-Nadhari (Yemen Branch of Al Qaeda)

1 comment:

  1. I was that tot, also, who constantly asked the "why?" question as much as I could, once I was able--and really haven't stopped since. Asking why does not lead to bad behavior or even anarchy (agree with you there, too, by the way); what it does lead to is understanding. When you ask the hard question, you have to be ready for a better response than, "because I said so." There's always more to the story.

    Speaking of there being more to the story, our human story itself is filled with many such instances of manipulation, small and grand, that we can use to illustrate a variety of things. Our being able to express even hint that 9/11 was a psyops on behalf of the banksters who had funds in Bldg 7, or that pointing fingers at North Korea was an advertising ploy to see a somewhat obscure movie, "The Interview," or that the terror incident in France was a way to rally world leaders who wanted to get together and sell out a somewhat obscure magazine on behalf of 'freedom,' well, that would just be sick to even hint at those things wouldn't it--that humans would stoop so low as to use and waste the lives of others to further some agenda...?

    Darn, there goes that "why," again.... ~ Blessings! <3