18C and the doctrine of emotional protectionism
Who gave you this authority?
Anytime authority is exercised over you a legitimate question to ask is, ‘who gave you this authority?’ As the discussion about 18C & D continues in Australia, a thought should come to mind whenever you turn your attention to the issue. When was this ever discussed at an election? When did my local MP ever bring this up in communication with me?
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce claimed that this was not an important issue among the electorate and was ‘a political distraction’. Well I suppose that view is a luxury a politician can afford to indulge, a university student not so much. He further espoused his view that ‘the Turnbull government should not engage Labor in these philosophical debates’ and that ‘we should be talking about things where we have greater potency than the opposition, which is delivery. Power prices, dams, sealing roads. Things that I can show and touch.’ This is an interesting battlefield for the Coalition Government to select considering its limited capacity in this area at present.
Barnaby is wrong. The philosophical debate is exactly where you must engage because philosophy precedes action. The actions in the tangible world he focuses on are a result of the intangible realm of thoughts. Most particularly where resources will be allocated. Such as what courts will receive judicial appointments; criminal courts or thought courts? Wind mills or roads?
The Deputy PM’s need to get this mere ‘political distraction’ off the table is a sign of the inescapable entanglement this type legal censure creates. Life is governed by philosophy and you cannot remove it from debate. One may as well attempt to swat air away from your face. Furthermore, the scale of community reaction belies Barnaby’s comments about its unimportance.
Some excellent work has been done in opposing this legislation with in-depth arguments the left would rather ignore. Brendan O’Neill wrote in The Australian that the law infantilises ethnic groups, a point brilliantly amplified by Jacinta Nampijinpa Price in her submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Human Rights enquiry into Freedom of Speech in Australia. Waleed Aly also helps out by talking. He’s trying to help his side of the argument but as per usual, he manages to make a total hash of it by being too clever by half. It’s a bit like the proverbial snake in the grass, except there’s no grass and everyone can see him. He’s not subtle or nuanced and seems to truly believe that by coming down from the academic Mount Olympus to us mortals he’s doing us a favour. By doing so, he simply alienates those undecided viewers who can think, so thanks for the help I say.
For my part, the strongest arguments against these laws are grounded in one simple question:
“Who gave you this authority?”
What are the origins of protecting emotions with legal force? When did we as a society empower our rulers to use taxation money to employ legal professionals to take people to court over emotions?
As a society we have given authority to our leaders to give us and our property physical protection. This is THE primary purpose and duty of the government, to enforce law and order and bring justice. Put in simple terms, the role of the state is to stop and restrain evil. This is the state of affairs that makes sense to peoples within civilised societies. It makes sense because it covers the tangible world of persons and property.
Then along comes a new doctrine of law enforcement in western liberal democracies, namely Emotional Protectionism. This is a move by the state to expand the shield of legal protection from the objective physical realm to the subjective emotional realm. If you steal my phone I can prove it because I found it in your pocket. If you hurt my emotions how can this be proved except by expressing opinion? And even then, so what?
“Your rights don’t end where my feelings begin.”
The home and that which extends from the home are the foundations of individual belief and there is a long and sad history of governments attempting to usurp this role.
The reason that is doesn’t work for government but works in the home is because of the purpose for the institution’s design. The home exerts tremendous influence over the heart, the soul, the psyche. The influence run deep and begins early, things learnt early tend to stay with you throughout your life. Parents have the natural authority to teach beliefs, moral restraints and ideas of right and wrong.
The state is a very different kettle of fish.
It is not designed for endearment or moral influence by virtue of law implementation. Political leaders can exert some moral influence through example but this is limited and fleeting.
The dangers of underground thought
Another powerful argument against 18C is the problems of ideas in isolation which are not subject to scrutiny.
Restricting free speech drives thoughts underground and into dark places. When treating depression, councillors try to get people to talk about what they’re thinking for a very good reason. When an idea is contained within the mind, it can take on any dimension it pleases, the space and scope is limitless. Bring it into the open and the originator can then see how ridiculous the scenarios they have created really are. This is a very real function of a person talking to their friends over a drink. It objectifies opinion and allows a check and balance to the imagination.
Speech is how we dress thought. It is how we bring thought from the unlimited dimension of the imagination and into the real world of human interaction, and consequences.
Take for example the concept of true racism. The idea that one race is inherently superior to another for no other reason than they are of that race. This is a dark concept that cannot be addressed and overcome if restrained within the confines of the mind, or the kitchen table, or the Facebook chat group. The best way to check ambition is with ambition and the best way to check ideas is with ideas. If someone has a bad idea, let them speak it out. Force them to think it through by placing their concept within a vocal framework and show them and the greater public the fallacies within their idea. This must be done openly and in the court of public opinion where others are free to disagree and bring counter arguments or better arguments. This then engages the technique of the feedback loop where the results of any given undertaking are fully felt. If you can just eliminate the feedback loop you can continue your ideas ad infinitum North Korean style.
Speech restriction is intellectual darkness
The Australian Human Rights Commission effectively operates as a sleeper cell of leftist ideology. It is designed to promulgate the priorities of the left while in or out of government. The word ‘commission’ sounds very grand to the ear of the average citizen because ‘The Australian Thought Police Department’ just doesn’t have the right ring to it.
Our civilisation has a choice. Will we travel the road of intellectual darkness like Canada has with its de facto sharia blasphemy law? Will we allow intellectual pygmies to dictate to us all what we can think and say? Or will we follow the titans of philosophy who dragged the civilised world from mental darkness and into The Enlightenment?
Philosophy is a full contact sport and like it or not, you’re playing. Our intellectual ancestors fought hard, sometimes it cost them their lives but it was a contest worth fighting. It was worth it then and it’s worth it now.
Stephen works as a Quantity Surveyor in Brisbane and has a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management. He has an intense interest in the ideological contest between freedom and control that dominates our social and political discourse. Stephen strongly believes in free market systems, freedom of speech and smaller government.