Lose weight. Work less. Be kinder to my family. Listen more. Take time to smell the roses. Enjoy sunrises. Read more. Exercise.
If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that freedom of speech is more important than ever. It’s taught me that there’s people from both sides of the political spectrum that prefer to use insults and smear to respond to things that cross their sensibilities (or insensibilities!). I’ve learned that there’s a huge movement against free thinking. There seems to be people, ideologies and movements that want to police your very thoughts and closely held beliefs.
2016 has taught me that there are people that are very well prepared to label uncomfortable facts as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. 2016 has taught me that there are some people who’s default response to my beliefs, thoughts or ideology is to call me all manner of things, without actually asking, engaging or seeking to find out the why of these beliefs.
I’ve found that there’s a large swathe of people, like myself, who for too long have been polite. Perfectly rational, normal people who for too long have bitten their tongue, either publically or privately. People that have literally been too scared to voice conservative or libertarian viewpoints. Kind, hard working, compassionate people who have been scared to speak out on important issues because any dissenting view gets dubbed as racist, intolerant, bigoted, nationalist, unkind or uncaring.
2016 has taught me that there are people who passionately argue ‘against the rich’, but never say how much of their own personal income or assets should be ‘redistributed’.
2016 has taught me that there are Christians who worship a Jesus who’s big on acceptance but silent on all that horrible sin stuff, mute on repentance and uncomfortable with a Sovereign Lord.
2016 has taught me that there’s a stack of people who resent being told what to do. That there seems to be a class of people who make decisions based on good intentions, rather that good outcomes. It’s taught me that even within a so called Liberal party, there are people who want to placate and pander to illiberal policies and outcomes.
So if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that my opinion is worth just as much as anyone elses. It’s taught me that I’ve still got a voice, and I’m still going to use it. It’s reminded me that freedom of speech, freedom of thought and liberty are more important than ever. It’s reminded me that I will not be told what to think, or say, and I’m not going to be silent.
So my resolution for 2017 is to remove the shackles of politeness and timid silence. I don’t expect to ruffle any feathers or change anyone’s opinion. I’m not looking to cause a stir or be unkind. I’m just resolving in 2017 to exercise my voice. It’s probably the only exercise I’ll do!
Je Suis Charlie. Shading your Facebook profile in the colours of the French or Belgium flag. Doing a hashtag to support the victims. Signing up for a war in a foreign country at the prime of your life.
Private Mumford, born 1894 and killed on the field of battle before his 25th birthday. I don’t know if Mumford left a wife of children, if he left a promising career or siblings. I don’t know if he was the town drunk or a scoundrel or a racist. The only information I have on Mumford is a random plate inset into a footpath on the headland at Caloundra. I know that 99 years after his death, after him storming some machine gun fire, or being obliterated by a shell, or being bayoneted by the Kaiser’s army, that the very land Mumford and his brothers fought over are once again being attacked, overrun, terrorised.
You can be cynical and say Mumford was but a small pawn in a seismic shift on the European continent some hundred years ago. You could rely on some commentators who argue that the Australian soldiers were brawlers, rapists, drunks and mercenaries. Me? I like to think Mumford signed up for war to fight for freedom for himself and his family.
I’ve been wondering what Mumford would think if he was to come back now. What would he think about the countries he marched across? About the land the blood of his brothers was spilled? About how the police in France and Belgium are now turning water cannons on their own? When a ‘March against Fear’ is cancelled due to security concerns. When parts of Paris and Belgium are now no-go zones for the indigenous population. When the press is now set upon, beaten and attacked.
It’s argued that violence is never the answer. It seems though that there’s a very prominent group at the moment who’s subscribing to the thought that violence is the answer. It seems that one group is using terror, violence and fear in a very effective manner to subjugate freedoms, prevent liberty and impose a set of values and beliefs that are literally hellbent on submission.
I think about my response to terrorism, and the response of my ‘elites’ to terrorism. I think of the talk, and the arguments that ‘diversity is our strength’, and that we need to watch what we say as to not offend anyone. I think about the endless gabfest about the triggers for extremism, about not marginalising disaffected youths, about how we all have a responsibility to make people feel welcome.
I know Mumford wasn’t in World War Two. I know he wasn’t fighting against the evil empire of Hitler, or the oppressive Soviets. I know though that Mumford was still fighting for the liberation of France and Belgium.
You know what Mumford wasn’t doing? Hashtagging his twitter with messages of support. changing his facebook photos. He wasn’t keeping his damn trap shut against tyranny, oppression and haters of freedom. No, he was probably freezing his ass off in some muddy ditch in a field in some French backwater, the Hun’s shells exploding around, machine-gun bullets whizzing overhead and mine-filled no-mans land ahead of him. Like I said before, I don’t know what kind of a man Mumford was. Was he a man of integrity? Was he a swindler? Whatever he was, when freedom was concerned, he was doing a hell of a lot more than I have.
What rights for freedom and her sister liberty have you fought for?
I know that I won’t be keeping silent about freedom and liberty. I’m thankful that, just under 100 years ago, there were guys like Mumford that fought fire with fire in the name of freedom. Fighting against the cold wind of tyranny and oppression away from his family, his home, his country.
As this evil wind blows, threatening to silence, intimidate, cause fear, what are you doing? Cowering, not wanting to cause offence, or standing up and making lives like Mumfords mean something?
Note: I have been thinking about this in the wake of recent events in Brussels. I wanted to capture how much I appreciate ‘my’ everyday, how much I appreciate my freedoms and liberties. I’ve been thinking about how proud I am to live in a country that shares these freedoms and liberties. I’m proud to be an Australian. I guess I just want to say that we do things for the ones we love – usually our family, and family I think is something we all agree on is pretty darn special. I’m proud of our everyday, of our differences and our diversity. I love the kaleidoscope of stories that I pass everyday on my way to work.
Every morning I weave in and out of traffic, passing hundreds on their way to work. They’re all moving forward, all contributing, all doing their bit, doing their bit for Australia.
There’s Araceli, and she’d be mid-40’s at least. The backseat of her small car holds a collection of buckets, mops, a vacuum and cleaning solutions. She’s counting the jobs she has today – 6 in total, that’s 6 x $25 per job. She doesn’t earn much, but she earns more than she would in Manila. She’s working hard, she’s moving forward, moving forward for herself, and for Australia. She turns off the highway and Cindi takes her place in the traffic.
Cindi, or Zhang Xiu Ying as noted on her birth certificate is driving her parents to their Chinese restaurant on a busy strip in a trendy suburb. They’re arguing because she has an Australia boyfriend, and she tells them it’s love, and she tells them he’s not going anywhere. She knows things will be ok, and she knows in time all well be fine. They bicker in a combination of Mandarin and slang English, but they’re moving forward, and they’re working hard. They’re moving forward for Australia, and they pull off the highway, where Deng pulls onto it.
Deng’s dark, dark skin is offset by his fluro orange shirt, his muscular arm dangles lazily from the driver’s side window. He’s on his way to his factory job, where he’s got a nickname and he’s got his name monogrammed on his bright fluro shirt. He’s off to that hot, dusty factory where the men are rough and rude, but they’ve got his back and he’s got theirs. He’s moving forward, he’s working hard. He’s doing it for this amazing country called Australia, and he’s doing it for his family. He takes the inner-city bypass, where Khalil whizzes past on his way to a small office on the outskirts of the city.
It’s Khalil’s first day in a small law office. Six months out of law school, hundreds of application letters, dozens of interviews and handfuls of rejections later, and he’s finally got his foot in a door. It’s not a glamorous office, and the work is local conveyancing, wills and estates. He’s been itching to wear this itchy suit to his first day at the office for three years now, and he’s proudly wearing a beautiful new silk tie his wife bought him. He’s finally moving forward, and someone’s finally given him a shot. He’s moving forward in this country called Australia, and he’s moving forward for his family. He excitedly takes the exit towards the outskirts while Wendy zips past on the way to a park.
Now Wendy has an esky full of sandwiches and a furnace full of coffee. She’s got a box of surgical gloves and a bag full of bandages and antiseptic and wipes. She’s off to a shady park where a small congregation of down-and-outs are milling about. She’s there for the dispossessed, the stolen, the beaten and the broken. She’s there to make just a bit of difference to these weary souls, to move them forward, to tell them Australia still cares about them, that she still cares about them. On the other side of the park there’s Rita, juggling kids and school bags and coffee and life.
Rita’s bundling and jumbling her brood, three sets of heavy school bags, three sets of matching hats, three drink bottles, one hockey kit, one set of drumsticks, one clarinet and the gear for swimming after school. She’s racing to school, then she’s racing to work. She’s doing it all because she knows the value of education, and she knows the value it brings to a family, a community and a country. She’s pushing forward, moving forward. She’s doing the hard yards for the things, and the ones, she loves.
And then there’s me, and I’m on my bike, wrapped in my helmet and jacket. I’m moving forward, but weighed down with a heavy heart. I’m thinking about the enemies of freedom, the haters of liberty. I’m thinking of my family and the ones I love. I’m moving forward, thankful for the Araceli’s and the Cindi’s and the Deng’s of this country. I’m thinking about the Khalil’s and the Wendy’s and the Rita’s of this country. I’m thankful that we’re on this highway together, building a life, building a country. I’m hopeful that when the time comes, when our freedoms are squeeze and our liberties challenged, that we forge ahead on this highway called Australia.
I’m thankful that we’re all on this highway, all on this highway together.
Picture from: http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/~/media/Images/MCC/Editorial/Blogs/Vintage%20Motorcycle%20Auctions%20and%20Results/Rare%20Bmw%20Factory%20Racer%20And%20Vincent%20Isle%20Of%20Man%20Winner%20Added%20To%20Las%20Vegas%20Motorcycle%20Auction/1947Vincent-MortonsArchive_%20jpg.jpg?la=en
Without a doubt, we live in a state of heightened ‘awareness’ of terrorism. Even a cursory glance of the headlines will read stories of people being terrorized by this group of that.
In much of the response to the terrible events in Paris recently, there was much written about the causes of these despicable acts – provocation by a cartoon, colonial overtaking by the West over Islam, disaffected youth, lone wolves – the list goes on.
As I look around, and this is my personal opinion, by looking at the causes of terrorism, one only gets half the picture. Take a car for example. You can investigate how a car was made – its design features, the welds of the joints, the stability of the bolts. You can find out a great deal about a car by looking at how it was made, but it does not answer why the car was made. Of course, we know cars were made to
pick up chicks take us from point a to b, then back again.
If you look at terrorism over the ages (and there are countless examples from different races, cultures and religions), the goal was never just do to something violent. Sure, there are nutcases that get kicks out of being idiots, but the violent acts were not just because a group of people wanted to blow stuff up. There was an end in mind. A change in government. Toppling a regime. Political revenge. The list goes on.
For every violent act of terrorism, there’s a stack of non-violent things happening, but for the same ends. Subtle things. Things that, on their own, you really couldn’t give two hoots about. It could be a label on your Vegemite to say it’s ok for certain people to eat. Perhaps it’s your local pool having nights were women from a particular group to swim on their own. Maybe it’s someone from people group A going to a school run by people group B, and saying they don’t like the cultural symbols of people group B (and asking them to be removed, because they are offensive).
It’s said that evolution is incremental changes over time. Responses to changes in environment, predators, or nutrients all bring about changes in a species. For a species to continue, it must either get stronger or smarter than the opposing force.
We were all shocked by the events in Paris, and rightly so. Like many others, these nutcases that did these horrible things are NOT representative of most of the Muslims living peacefully throughout the world. Many commentators, myself included, believe that events like this, because of a cartoon like this, would NOT happen in Australia. Why? Because there probably would not be a mainstream Australian publication that would publish similar cartoons as those in Charlie Hebdo. Legally, it seems, we’ve lost our ability to offend, and be offended.
For everything we do to change and adapt (tolerate!) to a certain minority, we lose a bit of ourselves. That’s not adapting to a change in our environment. It’s allowing a little more of what we hold to be true to be lost. Make no mistake. There are people and groups out there that HATE liberty, democracy, equal rights and the freedom of speech. Every time we make a special dispensation for a group, we tell ourselves that they deserve something different. We chip away at egalitarianism. Whenever we shut our mouths at the things that offend us, we’ve already lost half the battle.
Terrorism is a despicable act. It incites fear with the innocents. It makes people thing twice about doing the everyday things. Going to a cafe. Scribbling a cartoon. Going to work. Isn’t that what ‘tolerance’ does, though? Make you think twice about having that thought. About writing that tweet. Saying that joke. Asking out loud if parts of a culture, religion or belief are actually compatible with Western ideals?
The aims of terrorism is to change something. It turns liberty into fear, democracy into restriction and free speech into the restriction of speech. It wants to replace what is, with something else.
When the next act of terrorism occurs (and there will be a stack more), think to yourself not what caused it. Offences are caused every day, and the retaliation isn’t a bomb in a cafe. Hurt is caused all the time, and the result isn’t a knife to the neck. Provocation is dealt out hourly, but the result isn’t taking an automatic weapon into a news paper and wasting a stack of people. Think about what the terrorist is trying to achieve – an environment friendly to their thoughts, beliefs and ideas. The next time you think about saying something ‘in polite company’ about your misgivings about a culture, a set of beliefs or a system of ideals, think ‘why are you holding your tongue’. In that moment, you’ll realize that those committing violent acts and those promoting tolerance both want the same outcomes – silencing critique; totalitarianism, submission to a set of ideals and the removal of your personal liberty.
“Terror now being tweeted” the headline wrote. Boko Harum recently tweeted photos of innocent men being herded into a truck, machine-gun fire and dead men falling out of the truck.
Syrians are using all sorts of horrendous weapons and chemicals against each other.
The rise of tyranny was uploaded instantly throughout the Middle-East.
Boastings of church burnings were viewed on Youtube.
In the not so distant past, we learned of Stalin’s gulags. We were shocked at Hitlers camps of death. We wept for those killed under Pol Pot.
In the not so distant past, the West had an authority. A moral authority. Whilst from perfect, we had a mandate of liberty. Something so precious – a principle of liberty and a code of personal responsibility. There was a sanctity of marriage. Where unborn babies were not killed by the tens of thousands. It wasn’t perfect – far from it – but we knew that they cornerstones of liberty and personal responsibility were foundations to a strong society. Where a strong family was a bedrock for productive and engaged citizens. Where faith was the norm, not the exception.
We’ve squandered that moral authority. Liberty has been corrupted. Liberty without personal responsibility is selfishness. Liberty with entitlement is state-sponsored laziness. A lax approach to the covenant of marriage has resulted in the breakdown of family, with the flow of impact of a schism in society.
We could once fight for liberty, knowing that it was good.
Now, the enemies of liberty – Islamists, Communists, Socialists can all comfortably laugh at the moral authority we’ve squandered.
We can’t even keep our own families together – how can we hold together a nation tearing itself apart from civil war?
We issue ‘strongly worded declarations’ at nations who kill there own, but we can’t stem the senseless murder of our unborn babies.
We shake our heads when centuries of culture, art and music are destroyed, but our own state funds absolute perversions in the name of creativity.
Terror now laughs at us. It tweets photos of beheadings. It uploads videos of stoning’s. It publically rapes and kills. What do we do in reply? Hollywood poses with a photo and a kitschy hashtag telling terrorists to let our girls go.
We need to get back to the basics of liberty and personal responsibility. We need to show those in civil war that our way is better. Western democracy and capitalism does bring prosperity. Faith does bring personal freedom.
We don’t have a chance in hell to fight terrorists, not when our own countries are decaying from the inside. Not when all we stand for is being eroded under the name of entitlement.
We need to regain the moral upper hand. Regain our faith, or truth and our life.
Then, and only then, will we be able to defeat the haters of freedom.
Let us be able to tweet the sweetness of liberty, not shake our heads at the triumphs of terror.