How free are we really?

I was telling my husband that Lorde’s concerts in Miami might be cancelled because Florida law states that they will do no business with anyone involved with the BDS movement. He said, “In a free society, I am amazed that there are laws like that.”

My reply to him surprised me.

“If you really think you live in a free society, you are just kidding yourself.”

And the more I thought about that, the more I realised it was true.


Take, for example, the time that I was at drinks in a small group made up entirely of Europeans. We were talking about how crazy the world had become – talking about pussy hats and the #Metoo movement, actually when I said, “And you can’t even use the word “nigger” anymore, not even to name your dog.”

The group fell silent. There were a couple of nervous giggles. And I thought, “What did I say that was so terrible? There are no ‘persons of colour’ here.”

There was the time when my husband described the two young men who lived on our street as ‘those two poofters at the end of the road’. He wasn’t being insulting. He was simply using an expression that was once commonplace. His daughter went ballistic. So, obviously, that is not acceptable any more either.

Have you noticed how often you say certain things only to close family members possibly only to your partner because you wouldn’t dare say them in public? I don’t mean comments about how someone is fat, someone is ugly – nothing personal. But, so often nowadays, we feel that we dare not say what we are thinking any more because we are afraid of the reaction.

We keep these things to ourselves, and we like to think we are doing it out of politeness. But, it is not that. We do so out of fear.

It reminds me of China under Chairman Mao where people could be dragged out of their houses and taken away for saying the wrong thing. We are all doing this now – saying things at home that we won’t say to anyone else. In China, some people were betrayed by family members for speaking inappropriately. Could this happen here?

Think about the Bob Jones article that was rejected by the NBR last week. He said that Maori should be grateful to European settlers for keeping their race going. Why was that so terrible? But, the NBR have done something that we knew was always going to happen. They have tried to silence one of the few people in our society who still tells the truth. And, even though Sir Bob is going to court to tackle the issue, we all know that yet another line has been crossed. There is yet another thing that we are not allowed to say.

If he had said Dutch people should make us breakfast, no one would have batted an eyelid. But, say that a Maori should do it and you are implying that they should be treated like slaves. It is not what he said, and it is clearly not what he meant. But, that doesn’t matter, does it?

Ten years ago everything he said was fine. Now there is a petition to strip him of his knighthood for sharing an opinion. But, here’s the thing. Bob Jones hasn’t changed. He has not become more outrageous as time went on. It is our world that has changed.

Freedom of the press is supposed to be an essential right in Western society. Without it we are back to Nazi Germany, where newspapers were shut down, their printing presses smashed and the only news available was Nazi propaganda. This is not true nowadays, of course. The media tell us everything that goes on in the world in a completely unbiased fashion.

Except they don’t. We constantly talk about fake news. We constantly point out that we do not hear about sex crimes in Sweden,  protests in the UK, riots in Germany. Some say the media are full of wet liberals, which is true, at least for the most part. But, isn’t it the job of a reporter to tell about things that are happening? Isn’t that what they are supposed to do?  Why do the media fail to report on items that we really should know about, and want to know about? Again, I put it to you that they do this out of fear.

We are back to Nazi Germany again. Newspapers did not DARE write anything even remotely critical about the Nazi regime, and everyone knows why, and so it is today, particularly when it comes to reporting terror attacks by Muslims. But, if there is even a hint, like in the latest school shooting in Florida, that the perpetrator is a white supremacist, the media are all over it like a rash. Why is that?

Remember Charlie Hebdo? The Danish cartoonists? Salman Rushdie?

Then there was Teresa Gattung last week who said that if a woman had been at the helm of Fletcher Building the company would not have made the huge losses that were incurred. She received thunderous applause. Are you seriously telling me that everyone in that room agreed with what she said? Most people would have recognised her statement for the sexist pile of tosh it really was, but no one dared say it. It reminded me of North Korea where you could be dragged away in chains for not clapping loudly enough at Dear Leader.

You may think I am exaggerating, and I am at the moment. At what point, though, do we realise that it all went too far and we didn’t see it coming?

We all think we are OK. We don’t say things that might offend other people, but we are still true to our beliefs. We are still the same – everything is fine. I’ll bet people thought that in Germany in the 1930s too. First, they didn’t want to stand out. Then they were afraid to stand out. And then they rolled over with the Nazi regime and just hoped to survive it. No, that is not a concentration camp at the end of the street it is just a factory for making lampshades. Out of human skin. No big deal.

How free are we really?

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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.