War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength
George Orwell, 1984
Lord, what fools these mortals be
I remember when we were kids, we took more than just a little delight in hurling insults at those we didn’t like. Sometimes, it was a precursor to a fight but most of the time it was more an exercise in expressing the superiority of ‘our side’.
Much of the time it was pretty mundane, if hurtful, insults that bordered on bullying. If you were overweight, you could expect to be called fatty, porky or fatso at some point by someone or some group who cared less about your feelings than they did about striving to get others to like them. Sometimes, it could get quite colourful and when it did, we referred to it as ‘Doin’ the dozens’; a more formal, almost ritualized even good-natured at times approach to seeing who could come up with insults that topped the other guys (or at least, we thought they did).
Some of the more imaginative among us came up with such notable phrases as:
“You’re mother wears army boots”
“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground”
“You’re an armpit!”
And my particular favourite;
“Fuck you and everybody that looks like you.”
That last one was one of those ‘end of the argument’ phrases you used when you didn’t have even a shred of a fact to support your opinions and couldn’t think of anything else to say. We were too young to know what the word fuck actually meant but we knew it was bad so it was the final insult that kind of encapsulated everything you had said up to that point.
They were simple insults that required no thought and I believe that may well be the precursor for today’s partisan rants like “all Liberals are stupid” or “Cons are fascists”.
I look around me these days and see something as profound as freedom of speech being reduced to school yard taunts that have more in common with doin’ the dozens than advancing understanding of an issue through informed debate.
In fact, freedom of speech, has been reduced to freedumb speech by too many who speak without benefit of their words having passed through their brains first. I don’t think there has ever been a period in history where so many have been given so much freedom and done so little with it.
We are a society that has become more adept at contriving excuses for our failures than developing solutions to overcome our challenges.
At a time when fully 13% of Canadian children go to bed hungry at night because they live in poverty, our society devotes its energies to figuring out ways to take better selfies that can be posted on Facebook. Softer toilet paper is a higher priority for many than making sure that all of us have enough to eat.
One of the more recent social media outrages is over a woman who shot a diseased giraffe in 2010. I’m not a hunter and I don’t condone trophy hunting or cruelty to animals but I don’t have an issue with those who hunt game for meat.
It started with a verbal assault by that great moralist, Ricky Gervais, who castigated the hunter a mere five years after the fact. That led to the Internet’s Halleluiah Chorus jumping on board to express their moral outrage. Nothing inspires a mob on the Internet quite like a brainless, self-absorbed celebrity.
Want to get outraged Ricky? How about being outraged that more than 30 cities in your country have now made it illegal to feed the homeless?
Imagine that – a society that is not only losing, but is actually legislating against, compassion but you won’t hear too much coming from the privileged lifestyles of the rich and clueless about that; there is a dead giraffe to mourn.
We’re a people that posts more outrage about dogs being left in cars on hot days than we do about children.
Our political structure has been hijacked by politicians and their political parties and we choose sides rather than uniting to protect it from them. So caught up in our weak-minded partisanship have we become that we no longer recognize the threat that all political parties have become to our democratic principles, our shared prosperity and basic rights and freedoms.
Election promises mean nothing but the sophisticated among us simply acknowledge that it has always been this way and move on to making some other profound comment about why the people they support are so much superior to those they oppose. The rest of us simply resort to doing the dozens: Liberals are stupid, Cons are crooks.
We have phones now that are smarter than we are and we revel in it. We even mock ourselves for the inanity of our Facebook posts but just keep on posting. We talk about freedom and liberty with great passion but haven’t got a clue what those words mean and are not prepared to defend them if it means having to criticize the political party we support.
Freedom has a price and demands a great responsibility.
Many died to give us the freedom we so causally take for granted these days – many continue to put their lives on the line.
It is incongruous to send people to war to defend our freedom and our way of life only to have the same government that sent those people into harm’s way undermine the very freedoms people die to preserve.
We are rapidly degenerating into a foolish, feudal society where our wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few who distract us with toys and polarizing issues that have no basis in reality.
We are a people who believe that the solution to gun crime is either more registering of gun ownership or simply more guns. We are a society that believes every storm in an indication of climate change, every heat wave an indication of global warming and every cold spell an indication that global warming doesn’t exist. We are society that is selling its water even as states like California face severe drought; a society that would rather institute water rationing than build desalination plants to take advantage of the Pacific Ocean at the state’s doorstep.
We criticize the wealthy but support them in their quest to restrict minimum wages. We follow blindly the teachings of Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy even as we turn our backs on doctors and the medical community. We demand better health care in Canada even as we condemn paying appropriate salaries for doctors and nurses, demand better policing and firefighting even as budgets for those services are slashed to allow for more frivolous spending in other areas.
In Canada, a budget will be released today. It will offer a wide range of handouts and pre-election goodies which Conservatives and Progressives alike will be lined up like hogs at feeding time. When the trough is being filled there are no political ideologies – only pigs at the trough. The tax breaks will be targeted to The Select, most affluent, the very people who need them the least. The money being thrown out for things like infrastructure will not be enough and will simply be a step in trying to catch up for having ignored maintenance of our roads, bridges and rail lines for a couple of decades.
And we will applaud and dance if we were among the chosen who received some of the largesse that will flow from a benevolent government — or – we will whine and complain if we aren’t. Many will applaud the government for eliminating the deficit even though it was the same government that ran deficits for seven years.
Our politicians will continue to lie to us and we will criticize those who voted for it even as we support other politicians who are as equally dishonest. Corporations will continue to extort tax breaks to improve their profitability threatening to leave town and take their jobs with them unless government gives them what they want. Unions will continue to demand irresponsible salary and benefit increases and too many who profess to be religious will continue to spread hatred, intolerance and prejudice among the weak-minded.
Many among us will oppose vaccinations because God knows it is better to expose your child to a fatal disease than to the remote possibility he or she might contract autism. Others will sign petitions to have the food colouring removed from Kraft Dinner in order to keep our nation safe.
If there is nothing else to concern us, there is always a dead giraffe over which we can demonstrate our moral superiority. It will matter not that more people died in any one of our cities in the past month as a result of shootings or poverty or stupidity than all of the giraffes killed in the past twenty years.
I don’t believe in censorship and accept that to be free, it is necessary to accept the commentary of the truly stupid in our society but I don’t believe that we should support it by becoming part of it, or worse, try to argue with it. It wasn’t so long ago that we simply ignored stupidity. We used to be able to recognize it for what it is but no longer.
Our collective stupidity is slowly destroying the very rights and freedoms; our way of life more effectively than any terrorist group could ever hope to achieve..
We live in a society that celebrates stupidity. We are a society that is free to stand for anything but has chosen to stand for nothing of any real value. Many call that freedom but they are wrong.
Too many people gave their lives to defend the freedom we now so carelessly have turned into freedumb.
© 2015 Maggie’s Bear
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