L. Neil Smith's
Number 337, September 18, 2005

"Prison Time For Gun Confiscators!"

Strange Times and Strange Conversations
Caleb Paul

Exclusive to TLE


I won't go into the ins and outs of that story too much. Needless to say, I think it's pretty bad that this country is now deporting peaceful protesters and not even explaining why they're being deported except under the dubious and nebulus claim of being "directly or indirectly a threat to Australian national security", whatever that means. It seems to me like anyone or anything could be passed off as a direct or indirect threat to national security without further explanation.

What I wanted to write about was the absurd conversation I had with my mother on this matter. She commented that, "...he's a trouble maker and we have enough of those here already. We don't need more." When I said that it's a basic, fundamental tenet of our western, liberal tradition that people have freedom of speech, expression and assembly, her response was, "I don't care."

Firstly, I think we don't have enough people questioning authority in this country. That aside though, it always deeply troubles me when people say the sorts of things my mother said. We should jealously guard our civil liberties as they apply to anyone and everyone, not just ourselves. Voltaire had a point on this, which is why as much as everyone from the wacky Trade Union movements to the neo-cons to Christian conservatives or Islamic extremists annoy or frighten the hell out of me, I think they should be heard. If they're so stupid, the truth should prevail and their ideas should be assigned to the trash can of philosophy via a rational discourse.

It's why we are different to Nazi Germany, the U.S.S.R., China, Iran or about 95% of the nations on this planet and this is really, really, really fundamental to our way of life. Freedom of speech, expression and assembly are major cornerstones of everything in our society, including our prosperity and political stability. It's precisely because voices can get out there and be heard, and then (hopefully) be assessed on their merits, that we don't get extreme swings from right wing military dictatorship to left wing Marxist collective to theocratic nightmare, all going on their various purges. These sorts of problems are endemic to most parts of the world precisely because they don't embrace the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment. It's precisely because we have these forums that we don't get all this sort of pent up frustration or manipulation of the masses that boil over into half the nonsense we see on the news or read in history books. Finally, it's precisely because of all of this that we have a business environment that is relatively transparent and stable, and thus, attracts both innovation and investment, and that we have prosperity.

The great irony is that those who desperately want to maintain the status quo don't realise that it's in a constant state of flux and that without people challenging one set of ideas with another, our society wouldn't be where it is and it wouldn't stay where it is. Stability doesn't come from conservatism alone. When waves rock the boat, sometimes you need little guys rocking the boat their own way so the whole thing won't capsize.


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