We glibly assume

I went to hear Frank Furedi on Monday who spoke along with Nick Cater, and the message was that we must be brave and speak out because silence is the great betrayal of our values and yada yada yada etc. So I spoke to them both after and pointed out that there are major consequences for stepping out of various lines of conformity. And in speaking with Nick Cater, I was also asking him to sign my copy of A Better Class of Sunset, a collection of Christopher Pearson columns he had edited, which I highly recommend. But then when I got home I opened the book at random and found myself on the first page of the section on the Culture Wars and at a column titled, “The political correctors”. And there I found this quote from Les Murray who says exactly what I was trying to say myself:

We glibly assume in Australia that there is such a thing as freedom of speech but for most people there is not. If they express opinions which aren’t on the agenda, they are punished with extreme social opprobrium. They can lose their social life, their sexual life, their jobs. Ours is, for all its pretence of liberty, an age of timidity and terrible conformity.

Two of my close associates have in the past month or so lost their jobs for statements that their employers refused to have associated with their organisation. It is a risk that anyone who blogs or tweets or says anything in public that is not part of organisational policy runs. We have freedom of speech in the sense that the government will not put you in jail for what you say, but there are so many other ways to make you pay very dearly, it is no longer necessary. To be brave requires bravery, and not many of us have the kind of bravery that allows their entire careers to be shot to pieces through some gesture that will not deflect the world in its way by so much as an inch.

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