How much does it matter
On a scale of one to ten?
Is it your Path or pack
You flatter? Check intent.
Then check again.


Free Speech

“‘Men,’ said the Devil, ‘are good to their brothers: they don’t want to mend their own ways, but each other’s'” ~ Piet Hein

Freedom of Speech is an inherent extension of Free Will and Freedom of Thought, born of (call it God, biology, both – I care not) an influence, greater than Religion, Government or Society – despite an often relentless effort. It isn’t a Right to be given by some human benevolence; it can only be diminished, lost and taken away, by either our own sloth or by oppression. Free speech is just that. It is only limited by imaginative thresholds. The OED cites it as “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint”. What follows an act of free speech, however, are its reception and repercussions, either as tolerance or agreement or by punishment under Law (as with hate speech) or by Society’s or peer group condemnation. So, the right to speak freely is obviously not cost-free. Responsibility and consequence are tightly interwoven.

The right and responsibility belongs with the speaker/writer, who must choose whether or not to risk the possible consequences of controversy, retribution or lawful punishment. This does not mean you have no right to react; to be offended – though neither is compulsory. If you take offence it is up to you how you respond and the consequences of your response, justified or not, are your responsibility. There is actually nothing to prevent a person falsely claiming ‘”fire!” in a crowded theatre’ except for the awareness of possible legal reach, AFTER the fact and, obviously, having the common sense and some sense of responsibility we hope is felt toward one’s fellow citizens – whether the oft-used fire! analogy is an act of terrorism, public order or incitement, I haven’t yet discovered. I’ve always felt a bit uneasy about incitement, though. I understand the reasons why we have laws to prohibit it, like keeping public order, concerns about brainwashing, etc and I’m not suggesting repeal. It’s just that the line between the responsibility of the ‘inciter’ and the responsibility of the audience seems obtuse. Doesn’t the adult listener/reader/viewer also bear some responsibility for how s/he receives and responds to information? What does it say about Society and Education if s/he does not..? What happened to ‘and if (…) told you to jump off a cliff, would you do that, too..?’

So, the responsibility of choice – perhaps that is what’s really ‘free’ about free speech.

If I don’t entirely have free speech then it may be for benign reasons: because it has been restricted by, for example, a professional code to which it would be presumed that I’d adhered voluntarily; or for malevolent reasons: from because my expression is being deliberately edited or erased, to having my means of communication actually physically curbed, to imposition by some external force, such as a real fear of brutal, sanctioned punishment.

If I actively choose not to say something then I am self-censoring – I am choosing to exercise restraint. I have the right to withhold my thoughts. This might be because I need/want to be diplomatic; because I am afraid of an angry consequence or of hurting someone’s feelings; because it could be seriously detrimental to my prospects. Societal fashions, the diktats of ‘Authority’, Media and political framing and the responses of my peers might contribute to, even shape my thoughts, values and conscience but, how I perceive such influences and pressures and how I act, according to or against their direction, says as much about the character of my environment as it does about my own character.

When facts become whoever shouts loudest and longest and people cease to think independently and critically; when the world is suffering due to decades of atrocious foreign policies; when State and Society become heavy with the moralising, paranoid and hysterical burdens of invented authority, perceptions about what freedom is, occupy a dangerous, fragile and shifting space, subject to manufactured fashions, propaganda, segregation, disaffection, old sensibilities and populist reactions. Once one becomes affected or infected by this, personality, spirit and free will are increasingly encroached upon and suffocated. Then it’s getting to put up or shut up, fight or flight time. However, when such ‘authority’, whether democratically elected or self-awarded, has to suppress and micro-manage its environment and scrutinise and herd the lives of its fellow citizens, it is already a lost cause whose eventual end is inevitable.

Whilst I worry about and can understand the upset and danger in cheap, nasty, gratuitous provocations, I would be very worried, indeed, if we legislated to punish expression based on someone’s taste or manners. I think there’s a fine line, sometimes, between looking to ridicule, wound or make vulnerable to serve a wilful ignorance or ideology and finding something genuinely significant as to be worthy of comment. It’s a pretty subjective line. I accept that it’s for me to draw a line where I am. I can’t draw yours for you. Nor you, mine. I can only control whether or not I like where you draw yours. And you, mine. Independent thinking, conscience, having boundaries (and trying to respect others’), applying discernment… We all have lessons to learn and motives to check…

“Forgiveness recognises what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred” ~ A Course in Miracles

[Some of this post was transposed from ‘Manifest Thought’ and ‘On No Good Authority’]

The origin of falsely claiming ‘”fire!” in a crowded theatre’ and ‘Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes on the use and abuse of that quote.’ as told to Tim Black


someone else’s responsibility

Outside is all rubbish. Literally. It’s the first thing
I see when I open my front door. A nook, directly
opposite, where some down my lane leave their
trash to make easier its increasingly partial
collection. For years I’ve had a dustbin there and,
when I was well and able, I’d clear up the odd
mess happily, whoever’s crap it was. Now, every
week I wonder at both the efforts of too few to
contain and protect theirs from the local wildlife
and the seeming inability of those who are paid, to
completely collect even all the bags that are intact
– even on the weeks when no one’s fly-tipped. So,
there’s always soggy, disintegrating blankets, a bit
of ripped tarpaulin and at least one lonely black bag,
split and spilling its non-recyclable plastic, wasted
food, broken glass, stuff that could’ve, should have
been recycled and wafting around. And, naturally,
some dog shit. In a bag.

No one cares to clear it up, not even the refuse men,
anymore. Refuse: now, there’s an irony… It looks like
people just want it out of the house and think that
past the doorstep is someone else’s responsibility.
I don’t know if it is or not since the contract changed.
The dustmen certainly don’t seem to think it’s theirs,
anyhow (I’m lucky if they put my lid back on) and no
one down my way seems fussed enough to clean it
up, even occasionally.

And it makes me sad and irritable. Not just because
it looks cheap, neglected, dirty and chaotic and
because I’d prefer my surroundings to be beautiful,
clear and clean and cared-for spaces – tidy house;
tidy mind, so to speak – but because it feels like some
depressing, neoliberal metaphor…

then there’s money

Well, there’s money
then there’s money, Honey –
and spent it all –
It’s funny, really, Darling,
how it readily exchanges
where the sun don’t even shine
– and yet it burns away alarming –
Whereas, further down the line,
it’s hard to earn for love or time
but we’ve got coffers full
for cock and bull:
there’s cash to splash on proxy agents,
business trips for entertainment,
decadent engagements
with a myriad of lobbyists.
We’ve subsidies for corporatists
and Public Service hobbyists;
there’s lashings for a futile folly;
empty democratic jollies;
funds for training frenemies
and spying arbitrarily on each
and any citizen.
And war, we can afford,
of course
but, then,
there’s always funds for killing
in the kleptocratic willing
– economic or blood-spilling –
Just there isn’t any money
for the People, any more.


Oh, pour me a gin, mother dear
I’m in need of its numbing respite
For the thought of another five years
Of this neocon tripe
With its sycophant shite
Makes my poor spirit weary with fear
Quickly! Pour me another one, please
For the cartel of thieves
And the wealth they’re accruing
By Dave’s Road to Ruin
Will fix our undoing, it’s clear
Oh, just pass the whole bottle
I’ve senses colossal
To drown in the liquid of tears


The Powers That Be
oh, something
or other
and loose
utterly vital
and, just as often,
absolutely nothing
– zip –
of any goodly use
or even of particular meaning
at all,
in order to make
or other
seem far more
than it actually is
or to shrink what really matters
into insignificance
with yet another
desperate bucket of blah, blah, blah
to smother
veritable gaps
and confuse
in pursuit of
a wealth of false economies
and self-preservation –
but, collectively,
we know this,
so, to bear it any longer
would be ridiculous.