Throughout my life I’ve always tried to see if there are general principles that one can adopt. For example, while a work colleague may be causing me stress and I feel that it would make my life a lot better if I were to “accidentally” knock him or her down the stairs, can I justify the use of violence simply to improve my working life? And once one puts it in those terms, then the answer is no for a variety of reasons, but one of the most obvious ones is that, from time to time, I use the stairs myself and I’m sure that there would be people who, for some inexplicable reason, find me irritating and would happily apply the same method of improving their lot in life.
So I find myself rather confused by many of the positions held by some people in the whole marriage equality debate. I don’t see the point in being abusive to the other side. It doesn’t mean that I’m telling people that they can’t do it. Neither am I saying that I definitely won’t do it myself. I’m simply saying that I don’t see the point of doing it. It won’t change the mind of the person who you decide to call a “homophobe” or a “nutter” any more than it will change the mind of someone when you tell them that they’re opening the floodgates and they’ll be responsible when someone wants to marry a plate of vegetables. If you’re resorting to abuse, you’re simply doing it to make yourself feel better, in much the same way swearing at the televison when Malcolm Turnbull appears makes Tony Abbott feel a little bit less like his whole life has led up to one gigantic stuff-up at the point when he should have been best able to implement his plan to take Australia back to the 50s. Anyway, what are the principles about abuse that I should be applying here, and am I being hypocritical if I object to one side calling the other nasty things, while finding no problem when the side with which I agree does the same?
Actually I have been wondering if the “Yes” campaign should take a leaf out of the “No” campaign’s playbook and use the hypothetical argument against them. A large chunk of the latter’s arguments have been to suggest that if the “Yes” vote wins the day then all sorts of things will happen. Howard says we’ll lose religious freedoms; Margaret Court says we’ll lose Christmas; Abetz says someone will marry the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Maybe the “Yes” campaign should adopt the same level of hysteria and suggest if the “No” campaign wins then women will lose the right to vote, pre-marital sex will be punished by stoning and the Amish will have the power of veto over the government’s plans for the NBN… actually that last one may have already happened.
So, I’ve been a bit intrigued about the whole notion of religous freedom and freedom of speech over the past few months. Let’s leave aside the question as to where were all those supporters of free speech when Scott McIntyre, the SBS broadcaster, was sacked over his comments about ANZAC day a couple of years back. And let’s forget all about Yassmin and the calls to have her deported, sacked and hung, drawn and quartered. No, let’s just look at the recent controversy about the contractor who was “sacked” over her Facebook comments where she suggested that a “No” vote was the way to go.
Now we could get all technical here and point out that a “contractor” is contracted for jobs and a simple decision not to use them any more isn’t a “sacking”, but that would raise a whole series of questions about the ways in which workers are being exploited in our lucky country. Let’s just take it as a sacking.
And let’s compare this to Steven North, the Ballarat minister who refused to allow a couple to marry because the bride posted support for the “Yes” campaign on Facebook. Would those supporting the contractor’s right to free speech, similarly argue that the bride had the same right without being denied the right to use that church?
Of course there’s a obvious difference. In the case of the church, it’s a religious institution and therefore exempt from anti-discrimination laws. The argument that some are running is that there’s a difference between what Steven North did, in that the contractor had her employment terminated. People, it’s being argued, should be allowed to express their opinions freely on social media without losing their job.
And this sounds convincing. Until you remember that public servants aren’t allowed to do this. And, if an employee of a religious organisation were to express a view on marriage equality which was contrary to the views of his or her employer, would this by all ok, or would the “religious freedom” of the church trump the “free speech” rights of the employee?
Like I said before, are there principles which we can apply to everyone, or are these fluid depending on whether we agree with the view being expressed?
And, given that Andrew Bolt consistently refers to the environment movement as a religion, could they take advantage of this and register themselves as one and exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws and ensure that they pay no taxes?
Mm, speaking of the environment, I seem to getting a bit distracted by this whole marriage equality thing. I meant to write about the Liddell coal-fired power station and draw an analogy between it and the HR Holden. They both came into existence about the same time, and it seems to me that the Coalition’s position is akin to arguing that we need to extend the life of the HR Holden we’re driving because new cars are more expensive and they’re not as reliable because they sometimes run out of petrol and one broke down in South Australia last year. My HR Holden is much more reliable even if it does need a new battery, and the compression isn’t quite powerful enough to push the car forward when I have more than two passengers or luggage in the boot. But if I just spend about forty thousand or so, I should be able to keep it running well into 2027.
But that’s a silly analogy. I’d rather leave the silly analogies – like comparing Labor’s policies to East Germany – for the Liberal Party.