Free the Expression

Butter does not come out of a jar with a straight finger, so they say in Nepali. What this actually means is without conflict, without commotion, without resistance, without action there is no reaction.
In recent times in Australia, politicians want us to believe that an inability to express a racist opinion is limiting our freedom of expression. My reasonable guess is that most Australians have never personally experienced real deprivation of this freedom. I can only think of one story where an individual’s implicit freedom of political communication was severely restricted. In 2016 just before the Federal election, Duncan Storrar a motivated individual and a father, drove all the way from Geelong to Melbourne to attend a QandA, the popular television program, and asked a question, “I’ve got a disability and a low education- that means I’ve spent my whole life working off a minimum wage. You’re gonna lift the tax-free threshold for rich people. If you lift my tax-free threshold, that changes my life. That means that I get to say to my little girls, ‘Daddy’s not broke this weekend, we can go to the pictures.’ Rich people don’t even notice their tax-free threshold lift. Why don’t I get it? Why do they get it?

Now he struck a cord with the audience and the masses. Some media channels followed up, praised him and called him a hero. Others saw him as a villain, so ridiculed, and later smeared him for not paying taxes. No one knows how corporate media was able to get his tax records. Duncan had noted during the program that he pays taxes through GST and duties. Despite these responses, the dogs of war were unleashed upon him to tarnish his reputation and prevent his view from becoming an election issue in 2016. And the dogs were very successful at it.

On the other hand everyday Australians are highly unlikely to deprive another’s right to freedom of expression- in fact there is encouragement to speak your mind with volume.

So my real problem with freedom of expression is that in reality it is not restricted enough. In other words my environment hardly creates conflict that I can feed off. If my freedom of expression was taken away I will probably voice an opinion to protect it without external influence. But in the absence of conflict, I feel paralysed and formulating an opinion becomes a chore. Coming up with one takes incredible effort and organisation. So how can I free my expression? It appears that I need a plan.

I have a cunning plan to generate this conflict, not only for myself but also for others who are interested. This is because with more conflict, more resistance, we might opine more frequently. That’s right, with more conflict I hope to free my expression.

I propose that we introduce a fine for not expressing opinions. If one attends a public forum and voices an opinion once a month, their name gets ticked off a list. I say this because in Australia we already get fined for not voting. And voting is only another form freedom of expression. Voting converts a busy Saturday into a proper BBQ once every three years. That’s not enough. They say 93% of communication is body language, but what percentage of it is actually communicated through votes. And then we complain how politicians don’t get our message when our communication is passive

On the other hand an obligation to make a speech on a weekday once a month sounds like proper conflict to generate opinions. Forums particularly at local councils will appear everywhere due to this initiative or at least memberships at current forums will increase. And we could even print “How to make speeches cards” just like the politicians print out “How to Vote Cards”.

If the option of fines only, does not work, then I have a second proposal as part of my cunning package. My second proposal adds a reward over the obligation to opine so that there is a positive trigger: a carrot not just a stick.

An individual who provides receipts for 12 speeches in a year receives a 10% income tax cut, and 5% for 6 speeches in a year. Even Duncan would be pleased with that.

If all these measures do not work then there is a third option. Provide a wage indexed on the Consumer Price Index, directly into our bank accounts after we have voiced an opinion at our local council on a burning issue in the community. This is not far fetched because politicians get money from the Commonwealth to run election campaigns all the time. Why can’t an everyday Australian get paid for speaking up?

In conclusion I would say we need more conflict or behavioural triggers in our day-to-day lives to free the expression rather than hope for high levels of motivation. After all we are human, and prefer BBQs over lazy Saturdays, and prefer them once a month over once in 3 years.

Butter does not come out of a jar with a straight finger.