Farewell...in a good way...you've made me weep.

Saturday 20 October 2012

This morning started off so well. Staring at a fast-approaching departure time for Paris and deciding to ignore potential Pffts, Ahems' and Lulz-at-my-expense I decided  to do my ‘Farewells’ today.

I did not get very far.

Within a few minutes I was bawling my eyes out - consoling myself with a hot muffin and glass of red - or was it the other way around?

Everyone was being so damn kind and thoughtful and loving that I should have been on a high(way) to Heaven…and here I was blubbering.

Not sure which had the effect – the red or the muffin - but regardless, it set me thinking about the nature of ‘weeping’…and the power of Social Media.

Since I joined the Twittersphere a year ago, I’ve done a great deal of it –weeping, that is… some of it from joy… some from empathy for poor souls undergoing hardship… and lately and probably most telling…some from sheer exasperation. Same sort of tears – vastly different instigators.

I’ve seen arguments of late – or is it wishful thinking - mainly from a few Mainstream Media sources of the irrelevance, nay, absolute impotence of Social Media in its ability to faithfully reflect and report on, the thoughts, feelings and political implications of the ‘real common man’ – you and me.

A few Mainstream Print journalists have gone head to head (or should that be finger to finger) against Internet bloggers at 100 paces; perhaps not realizing that other journalists are getting on with it and straddling both worlds with aplomb. [This so reminds me of the 50s and 60s radio actors who feared that those who could perform equally well in radio as they could in that new-fangled television, were going to kill their golden goose.]

Like it or not, we’re all aware that the recent digital uprising from certain Joint-Destroyers against a certain loose-lipped Shock-Jock has startled the doubters by its ferocity and effectiveness.

Sponsors who’ve removed their advertising from within range of said Shock-Jock are very clear that they feel the people have spoken – and significantly so.

But only days ago I noted the suggestion from within Twitter itself, that the campaign against said Shock-Jock was ‘a tad Big Brotherish’ with overtones of Russian Spy movies rather than that well-known Reality Show.

Is there any justification to be had for people in a community to rise up via Social Media and attempt to stifle the right for Shock Jocks and their ilk to say what they like?

I say ‘Yes’.

If the safeguard of stopping to think of ramifications caused by their words does not come from within the very hearts of those who say them – from whence should it come?  As yet – no set rules have had any effect; surely if a community feels someone has gone beyond the bounds of the standard of decency they wish to have in their midst; if they feel that that someone is inciting anti-social actions in others – then they have the right to have their say too.

Let’s look at the point here: If we are in any position of communication-power; be it via print-media, radio, television or the internet…that power (amplified one zillion times of that put out by the funny, sweet and sad little tweets that I received this morning) enables us to make people weep...distressingly.

And who weeps in this way?

I dare you to show me one person on my Twitter Timeline who is not at some stage of their lives going to either: Grieve for the passing of a loved one; agonize over a departed lover; be bullied; despair at a child’s illness or her inability to again conceive; fight off violence; know poverty; feel guilty, unloved, neglected, shy or debilitated by depression…without weeping about it at the same time as trying to lead a ‘normal’ life.

These are our vulnerable times – the times when one word, normally dismissed can push us over the edge. One thoughtless act, one jibe too many, one more show of neglect.

Did Malala Yousafzai weep as they shot her in the head for daring to campaign for girls to be educated?

Did Amanda Todd weep as she put that rope around her neck because of cyber-bullying?

Did Jill Meagher weep as the hands of another took her life away because she chose to walk alone?

Let us ALL think well before we dash off that last word on air… in a tweet …or on paper and ask ourselves this:

Will my words incite someone to anti-social behaviour or make someone weep?

You - my Social Media friends, have embraced me overwhelmingly - and this, on my point of departure is my thank you to you.

I love that you know I cannot hear and yet you send me YouTube Songs; I love that some of you remember the bond we had when you were children; I love your words of kindness and your confidence that I can still mend a graze on your heart with a kiss through the air; I love that you send me links to your own efforts of word and image or articles of great scholarship – (and your faith that I will understand them).

You’re from every walk of life and every level of education; you’re every shade of green regardless of your opinion of deity; and you are as politically diverse as it’s possible to be.

You have (perhaps unwisely) given oxygen to my ridiculous sense of the ridiculous. You have laughed with me, shared secrets and tut-tutted with me. You have let me agonize, hypothesize, empathise and advertise. Above all – you’ve shown such respect and love for one who teeters (but is not yet there) on the edge of the Chasm of The Wisdom of Years that I again fight back the tears.

I DO love you all.

So - Social Media’s irrelevant?

Don’t make me weep!

Back soon.

IS Freedom of Speech really free? Really?

Thursday 4 October 2012

Last night I had a very brief Twitter exchange with a learned friend about the notion – seemingly quite prevalent on the airwaves at the moment - that Freedom of Speech comes with freedom of responsibility.

I do not share that view.

It’s a great defence and it goes something like this: He said/she said this and that so suck it up princess – we’ve got freedom of speech in this country.

Well here’s my disclaimer: I’m about as far away as the moon from being an academic or scholar, philosopher or intellectual. I am but a person who has lived and experienced life for not quite her four score years - let alone her four score and seven as Titus Andronicus would have us say.
And here are my thoughts:

Regardless of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there IS a time in each of our lives when we enjoy complete and utter freedom to do whatever we can or want to do. From the moment we’re born to the moment our wits adjust to the fact that there are certain boundaries to our behaviour… we do as we jolly well please. We wee and poo wherever and whenever we feel like it; shake our fists and hit out at anything and everything; kick and scream and drive everyone bonkers; and some of us are lucky enough to be loved for doing it.

But gradually as our eyes come into focus and cognizance of our environment takes hold, we realize that our actions bring certain other actions… and results. Some will be pleasant – bring relief and our needs met; for some however, the reactions will not be so pleasant. We will all learn accordingly.

And thus it is when we emerge – either by free choice or forcible ejection - from our house, squalid hut, riverbed, igloo, orphanage or mansion into the wide world of freedom - we’re supposedly mature enough to take care of ourselves and be responsible for our actions.

Sadly it is not so.

Some of us will have been shown an age of reason by means of reasonable discourse; some by a thump, starvation or a stick.

Some of us will emerge as everyday citizens going about our business; some will emerge as preachers, brimstone firing on all cylinders; and alas – some will emerge as thieves and thugs… and bullies. All shapes, sizes and colours, we bear the markings and the trappings of those who trod before us.

But emerge we do - given or left to repeat or repeal and find for ourselves values, morals, attitudes, abilities and standards by which we shall live.

And it’s into a country with remarkable personal freedom that we do this emerging. With some notable exceptions Australia is a free country in a myriad of ways. We can largely ‘do our thing’, dress, choose friends and religion and what we say, at will. Albeit ever so slowly, the freedom in the Scales of Equality between the sexes is adjusting, the female dish no longer dragging its bum on the floor; and in spite of fears of Bestiality and Group Unions, Australians in their number appear to be growing in favour of Same-Sex Marriage. Perhaps one day we will even see that in this wide, brown land of ours, there is ample room to share the things we have with those who have nothing.


But how well or wisely are we using this gift of freedom? Are we taking personal responsibility for it? I remember with sadness that it took legislation before we saw the wisdom of rejecting our freedom-to-be-tossed-around-and-mashed-to-pulp in favour of using seatbelts in our cars.

Even in the USA where there’s a constitutional right to ‘keep and bear arms’, one is not allowed to pull a gun out and shoot another for putting insufficient salt in the soup, without taking responsibility for it.

And thus it is with our Freedom of Speech. Are we taking responsibility for the things we say? 

No matter the model we assume, no matter the repeat or repeal of behaviour we take on – are we realizing there’s not one thing we say or do that does not have its consequences of one kind or another?

Earlier I made a disclaimer to address the fact that I am not a Learned Person qualified to speak about Human Rights and the laws of this land. I speak not of Laws against any Incitement of Violence or Hatred.

I speak merely as a member of the Human Race; I speak because I care about the wellbeing of my fellow Man.

Is it not possible that we tread this earth for better reason than to gorge or gloat or indulge ourselves; or rape, murder, brutalise, bully, embarrass, vilify and give pain to another human being?

Is it not possible we’ve been given the freedom of speech that we may uplift the confidence of those around us; that we may encourage, support, share ideas and pull together resources to ensure we leave our world (and those who occupy her) in better shape physically, emotionally and mentally than our forefathers could ever have imagined?

Is this not bringing to the forefront a sense of Human Decency?

Look at the outpouring of grief over the senseless rape and murder of a vital, young woman in Melbourne recently. How many of the tens of thousands who trod the March of Peace knew her? Jillian’s death has come to symbolise the massive Call to Arms against Violence towards Women, against the continuing brutality and misogynistic behaviour some women suffer every day of their lives. 

The message is very clear: Take heed those of you who verbalise publicly, that any words of brutality, hatred or violence will no longer be tolerated. Say what you want by all means; but should you publicly go against the grain of ordinary, common, human decency be prepared to take full responsibility for your actions; and should this cause you loss of income, loss of power and certainly loss of any dignity you may have enjoyed… so be it.