I might get in trouble with this one.
Freedom of speech. How truly free is it? As writers, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak our minds.
Of course none of us decent people want to read inflammatory remarks in print from racists and other assorted sickos – and there are laws to stop such things – but where is the line to be drawn?
A lot of it is down to political correctness. I saw with great disappointment but no surprise that a taxi driver from Northwich in Cheshire in the UK has just been ordered to remove a “racist” slogan from his cab.
The “racist” slogan in question? “British by birth, English by the grace of God.”
Forgive my despicable political incorrectness, but how in hell is that racist? Fiercely patriotic, yes. But racist …?
Those of you who don’t know the UK may not know that Northwich is not a particularly racially-mixed area, but the council has nevertheless taken to heart the complaints of two passengers who deemed the slogan racially insulting. The reason I mention the location is because such ludicrous council decrees are commonplace in more racially-mixed areas of the UK, where people are ordered to remove their national flag from the front of their business/house.
Yes, you may want to read that again. Some councils will not allow you to display a Union flag (for the UK) or a Cross of St George (for England). Those are the national flags. Of the country they are being displayed in. And they’re banned. However, any amount of foreigners can flag-wave in the UK and receive no such sanctions.
I’m quite sure such decrees would not be well-met in the US where patriotism and flag-waving is a way of life. Land of the free, and all that. Bloody marvellous.
And before anyone thinks I have an axe to grind about foreigners, my wife, who I’ve been with 20 years, is Malaysian. She was an immigrant to the UK, just as we are now both immigrants to Spain.
So … crazy, yes? But what about those other areas of life that you may want to comment on, but don’t feel able to, or certainly not with the degree of honesty you’d like?
Take religion. I have no time for it. You are free to believe what you like, and I respect that, but don’t tell me I need to kow-tow to your sensibilities. Following a religion is no different to following a football team. You choose to do it. It is not like colour, race, sex or sexual proclivity, which are all gene-dependent. Yes, people are born into a religion, but that’s no different to being born into a family of rabid Manchester United supporters. The likelihood is that you will also become a Man U fan. But it doesn’t mean you cannot become a Man City fan when you eventually realise in later years that you have been brainwashed.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. Faith and religion are very different. Faith is personal – it is your “thing” with the greater power. Religion is man-made – a facile attempt to make concrete what is and always will be ethereal. It is man’s need to control what cannot be controlled, and it has led to incalculable heartache, suffering and death on this planet.
Why does the Catholic Church keep banging on about the need to eradicate poverty? Why does it preach that the good person should give away their wealth to help others? The Catholic Church is a huge financial power. Its true wealth can only be surmised, but is suspected to be tens of billions. That could help one or two poor people. I understand they may want to keep some by, though. It’s an expensive business compensating people for the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of countless of their priests.
And don’t get me started on the subjugation of women the religion of Islam has made a staple part of its doctrine. Or the Jewish practice of circumcising baby boys. Possibly understandable thousands of years ago when cleanliness was an issue in the desert, but I reckon a trip to the supermarket for some soap could probably sort that one nowadays. As purely an act of religious dedication, its argument is also fatally flawed as it is performed when the kid is 8 days old. So who exactly is making the dedication? Not the baby. Leave it until the kid’s eight years old and see if he wants the end of his prick chopping off.
I’m going to leave it there.
As I asked at the beginning: How truly free is free speech? I guess I’ll gauge that from the comments I get.