Pens and Swords

Freedoms of speech, expression and association are historically very rare and precious rights. They are markers of liberty. They are the bane of the powerful and a reproach to the fanatic. They have been hard won and are still under constant threat. Here in Tasmania the “Liberal” government is doing its damnedest to deny freedom of expression to people who object to the excesses of corporate greed and government malfeasance.

Such freedoms are also open to interpretation, and this is where we enter a minefield. Liberty isn’t license. Justice demands we don’t simply to do as we will at others’ expense. The rights of all have to be recognised. Neither are the freedoms of speech and expression absolute.

This is no simple matter. It can’t be reduced to slogans. The whole ghastly Charlie episode should make us think more deeply about the multi-layered implications of the two models of pen and sword. Then we reveal more questions than answers. Its complex and its difficult.

It behoves us to remember that the pen, like any other tool can be wielded by all manner of people in an almost infinite variety of ways. In the wrong, arrogant or careless hands it can be more harmful than the sword. It can be a lethal weapon. And it has many edges.

Reasonable people might agree that if these rights are used to bully, hurt, or harm others, or to inspire violence against them, they are being abused. In Australia the law rightly has a say in this, as in section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.

Where do we draw the line? What on Earth is “political correctness’? Isn’t it just a really a stupidly clumsy synonym for “politeness”, “consideration”, or “good manners?

But satire is not polite so where should we stand? For instance: satire used to mock, defy expose or discomfit bullies, bigots and the over-mighty is surely justified. Satire simply used to bully other people surely isn’t.

Is satire justifiable when it offends people’s world views or belief systems? Yes, probably, as satire is always going to offend someone, so why should ideologues or the religious be spared?

If fear of retribution stifles satire or any other form of justifiable criticism then our whole notion of liberty is threatened.

Can we expect people to risk their children’s lives to make a pointed joke. There is no doubting the bravery of the satirists and cartoonists who set out to mock sacred cows, gods, the Pope, or Muhammad, but their wisdom could be open to question. Should sleeping sacred cows be left to lie? Is the game worth the candle? If it isn’t are we giving in to pre-enlightenment extremism and cultural imperialism?

The reasons for sparing the lash of tongue or pen have to do with consideration of the pain likely to be inflicted on the innocent or defenceless.  It becomes a matter of sensibilities rather than just enjoying clever, hairy-chested mockery.

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions but I think they have to be asked. Ultimately the arguments boil down to questions of intent, effect, affect, justice, fairness, consequences and judgement.

I do know that if we wish to defend our liberties we have to be prepared to defend those who push the boundaries, provided they comply with our equally important notions of fairness.


The Corpocracy profits from prisons

The US has become a de facto corpocracy. It is an almost wholly owned subsidiary of unaccountable mega banks and corporations. This is increasingly apparent in the privatisation of prison systems.

Under the Corpocracy shareholders and the state profit from the forced labour of a million prisoners. At the same time inmates are charged for board, rent, footwear, clothing, power, healthcare and other essential goods and services. Many become so indebted they can never escape the system, even once they have served their time. Those unable to keep up their repayments after release are-incarcerated

This Orwellian system relies on ever increasing numbers of bonded workers for industrial and economic growth. The FBI reports s that one third of Americans now have a criminal record.

To the banker’s mind it makes perfect sense that corporations should own the prisons with minimal state interference. The role of the state and judiciary becomes one of ensuring an abundant supply of cheap labour to ensure a rich return on investments.

Don’t think it can’t happen here.

BRUTE UTOPIA: the Corpocracy rules & it’s not OK!

Brute Utopia

Twisting and spinning their deceptive gyres;
so busy with their little webs;
The members do not hear the despised membership;
The social contract falls apart;
Democracy cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the land,
The corporate hounds let slip, and everywhere
The cries of the innocent are drowned
By the monstrous media.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity;
And the predator’s ferocious joy.
In an ecstasy of excess.

Surely some revelation is at hand?
Thatcher’s Second Coming ?
Or silly Rapacious Reagan?
Hayek at the very least.

The Second Coming!
Hardly are those words out
When a hideous image appears.
It’s not The New Jerusalem;
This wasteland of insatiable greed,

This bleak landscape of Consumer Land;
Where entitled Philistines rule in the people’s name.
Where Barons and Magnates of every kind;
bind all others in irredeemable debt.

These corrupt Servants of Mammon;
Who know the price of everything,
And the value of nothing.
Summon up their Beast.
This rough Beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Canberra to be reborn.
With a pig’s body and the head of a man;
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

It rolls its great thighs, and does its sums;
Puffs a fat cigar, self satisfied self server.
Dances a jig of unrestrained delight;
And pronounces our doom.

Has The Beast employed a J curve,
To shape a prosperous future?
Or used a Hockey stick,
To beat the people down?

While all about it wheel afrighted birds,
Their nests destroyed, all security gone;
Screaming to no avail.
The Beast is deaf.

The Beast’s Budget breaks open
Our fragile cracked democracy.
What has he released?
Spiderlings spill out; revealing Brute Utopia.

The Beast is but its midwife

And now bloated Corpocracy unfolds itself;
Many eyed, many limbed, black web spinner;
The insatiable predator that eats its young
That in the end consumes itself.

It strikes
Paralyzed democracy convulses
It gorges
The Common Wealth is no more.
The Brute Utopia triumphant

With apologies to Yates, Wilde et a