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Jul 02

Day 12 – Je Suis Confused – Testwood to Hursley

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

 

Yesterday was said to be the hottest day this year and today was apparently forecast to be thundery, in fact it was even hotter than yesterday so the forecasters clearly double as election pollsters!  But how kind of the health authorities to warn us about high temperatures and the effect they can have if you don’t drink enough. What a nanny state we have become!  We have just sweated to Hursley where we devoured ice creams and where I told a pretty South African lady called Caryn all about ZANE.

 

And while I am feeling hot under the collar:

 

Je Suis Confused

 

In a free society we should be allowed to say what we like, and the right to offend is crucial. However just because we have that right does not mean that we should exercise it lightly; with rights come responsibilities, and one of these is not to offend people gratuitously.

 

Let’s make no bones about it: the freedom to speak our minds is precious. Once a government starts to erode freedom of speech, history tells us, there can be no stopping it: this is why our national press campaigned strongly against the extension of government censorship, however light and innocent it purported to be. You will recall the fuss surrounding Hugh Grant’s “Hacked Off” campaign a year or so back, and his attempt to get parliament to apply press controls.

 

I am *Not* Charlie

If you doubt the merits of a free press, just take a look at the wickedness that the likes of Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Stalin and Saddam got up to under their draconian censorship laws – and Mugabe still does today – and you’ll see what I mean. They imposed tough censorship laws in the name of protecting the state; under its dark veil, they murdered people, and they did it with impunity.

 

The not inconsiderable pain that freedom of speech is bound to bring to those offended by it is, I submit, the price we pay for living in a free society. Yet we already have censorship. It’s already against the law to make inflammatory statements about minorities and it is illegal, for example, to display placards on the windows of bed and breakfast houses stating, “No Jews, blacks or Irish”. Such notices are discriminatory: they can give rise to grave offence and may lead to violence.

 

Yet various prominent Bitish politicians showed solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo magazine that grossly insulted Muslims. I should add that when the magazine’s journalists weren’t insulting the prophet Muhammad, they were insulting Christians –particularly the pope – in disgusting terms, or anyone else they thought cared deeply enough about something precious to allow them a cheap headline. We were all encouraged to go around proclaiming, “Je suis Charlie”. I didn’t join in.

 

Yet recently, Christian Harry Hammond was prosecuted under Section 5 of the Public Order Act for wandering about with a placard proclaiming, “Homosexuals will go to hell”. Whether I agree or disagree with Harry Hammond, or what the Charlie Hebdo journalists were saying about the Prophet Muhammad or those placards that insult minorities is beside the point. My argument is this: if insulting minorities is forbidden by law and Hammond was prosecuted for exercising his freedom of speech, then why is the Charlie Hebdo magazine lauded for insulting Muslims?

 

None of this makes any sense to me. Does it to you?

 

No Solutions

I have just heard a true story. Swarms of birds were pooing all over the Lincoln Memorial – not only was the fabric of the stonework being degraded, but tourists were complaining.

 

So the powers that be tried to stop the birds by using nets, but that failed and it looked ghastly anyway. So they asked themselves why the birds were collecting in that precise spot in the first place, and after a great deal of investigation they discovered that the birds had an overwhelming appetite for the spiders that were also gathering in vast numbers.

 

Then they smothered the memorial with anti-spider juice and that failed too. So for some months they continued their intense investigations and discovered that spiders were crawling all over the memorial because thousands of mosquitoes were present. So they tried a special mosquito insecticide but that didn’t resolve the problem either.

 

Next, they asked themselves why mosquitoes were attracted to the memorial. After weeks of research they determined that it was because of the floodlights. So they turned off the lights and the problem seemed to be solved….

 

Then people started complaining because the lights had been turned off and they couldn’t see the memorial properly.

 

As Enoch Powell once said, “There are some problems to which there are no solutions.”

 

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