Tarago Diaries #25 – Risk

Reflections on offending people, democracy and social media.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 14 February 2020.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/


Article Text

You’ve got to be careful what you say these days. You hear that a lot right? But what does it even mean?

Opinion driven by impulse:

‘Jeez.. Weather’s shit. Don’t ya reckon?’

Or what about

“Coal’s ok! You know that don’t you?” A thought bubble right? Cos it might be.

The Earth might actually be flat too.

Whether the impulse is driven by a genuine belief that needs to be heard, or just some bloody-minded shit-stir, the argument that it is better not to ‘speak your mind’ because it ‘might offend’..

Well, who can even pin that down?

Let’s face it. You’ve given it serious thought. You’ve done a bit of research. You believe you are right. But the thing is,

You can never know who will be offended and who won’t or even how harmful the offence might be, to you or anybody else, until you open your gob and actually speak.

In other words, it’s nonsense.

Basically, just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, people will get offended.

If you feel the need to speak, you may as well dip your toe in the water and see what rises.

Or not.

It’s entirely up to you. And your thick skin. ‘Being careful’ is all about weighing up your own sensitivity and whether or not you can handle the pile on..

I’ve received messages responding to comments I’ve made on stage, which have run the line that I actually don’t ‘have the right’ to express my opinion about certain things because it offends people.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been times when I’ve apologised if I’ve caused offence. That was not my intention.

My intention was:

To express my opinion!

But at this point I’ll freely agree that some things are out of bounds.

And this is where my politics fall to the left.

Because there is a collective judgment to be made here. There are boundaries to free speech. Language is power and as a consequence of that simple truth, some ideas about society and people are abhorrent and can even be physically harmful. Not only to individuals but to groups as well. As a community we have the capacity and intelligence to make the right judgements in this sphere.

Where there is meaningful consensus so should there be restraint.

That’s democracy.

But the fact remains, unless ideas are expressed, there is no way to measure their worth. Silence is as equally deadly.

If I make comment to the cruelty inflicted on asylum seekers by Australian border policy, or if I publicly profess to ‘believe’ that there is a connection between human activity and global warming I’m not vilifying anyone directly. No-one’s personal self-worth is at stake..

So why do people take offence at this?

And how much time have we got?

This is a FACEBOOK Post after all. It’s not going to change the course of human history so let’s not get bogged down.

My point is, I rely on my better judgement. Not yours. On that basis, I reserve the right to express my opinion. Just as you do. End of story.

That said, the fact remains, people are very easily offended. By whatever. Loose talk could blow the gig vibe completely. So yeah. You’ve go to ‘be careful.’ Punters might have sudden rush of blood, start grinding their teeth, or even go home, get on FB and pole-axe your good name or the name of the band you front. Call you un-Australian, post pictures of maimed children, if you can believe that. They might even trash your CD’s and tell their friends you are a communist.

There you are, in the middle of the circular firing squad, burning at the stake like Salem’s witch for uttering some heresy that someone found more uncomfortable than the length of the toilet queue.

You deliberately flew in the face of an ‘accepted’ belief held by how many? Or how few? Who knows? The bloke in the tree with his page open?

But hey. Let’s not get too rational.

Do you think Scotty Boy wasn’t taking a wild punt when he brought that lump of coal into parliament? He was definitely flying in the face something.

And boy did the shit hit the fan.

It was a calculated risk though. Create outrage and see how the numbers fall. And it worked for him. Not against.

The whole notion of ‘culture’ war is based on this kind of thinking. Get the other mob screaming then afterwards rush to the claim that this ‘This is what Australians really think.’

Do they? Buggered if I know.

But see, the culture wars are all about percentages. In politics, nothing is fixed.

But hey, post summer I’ll know two things.

Australia has change irrevocably.

And it pays to think.