Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Have Your Say. Intelligently

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Have Your Say. Intelligently

Article excerpt

Chris Sarra

@chrissarra

FORMER prime minister John Howard waded back into public discourse recently searching for relevance by suggesting a level of intolerance was stifling public debate and that people were becoming too afraid to speak for fear of being challenged.

I couldn't help wondering to myself what's wrong with being challenged?

Surely this is the only way our society can be at its best.

In many ways I see politics stifling sensible and robust debate but, on this occasion, I can't help thinking that voices are not being silenced, they are just being held to account or called out in the way that they must be. Surely, this is not silencing the debate but rather enhancing it by demanding those views are put in a more informed and sensitive way.

Howard's voice reminds me of those calling for a return to the "good old days" where one could call a spade a spade without being challenged seriously. Those who join the chorus of voices yearning for the good old days don't usually understand that those days were not particularly good for many people in our society.

In those days select voices - usually middle-aged white guys - could say what they wanted without ever being seriously challenged. Other voices were silenced and powerless.

In those days one could refer to Aboriginal people as coons or boongs and if we ever complained then we were labelled as troublemakers or not able to take a joke.

We could refer to gay people as poofters and faggots and somehow blame them if they ever got bashed for being who they were.

Women just had to accept their role was to serve men without even daring to question why they never received equal pay or got promoted in the workplace.

Thankfully our society has evolved and it seems that some who might have once had all the power are now feeling powerless.

As I reflect on this circumstance it seems those feeling powerless now simply got accustomed to a time when they could speak and behave in such unevolved ways without ever being seriously questioned or challenged.

To them this was a kind of normal they were comfortable with perhaps because they enjoyed the fruits of such a status quo. …

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