I’ve now become a paid up member of the Free Speech Union of New Zealand¹. I expect that respecting everyone’s rights to free speech will be quite a challenge for me, as I definitely think some people should just shut up. Myself excluded, of course 🙂 However, having been on the receiving end of cancel culture for not having the right woke-speak, woke me up. When I made a room booking for a public talk at the Christchurch Central Library on behalf of a women’s group I’m part of about pending legislation, which had potentially unintended negative consequences for women and girls’ rights and safeties, the booking got cancelled. It turned out that we were the wrong sort of women with the wrong sort of speak. It gave me a big wake-up call about how far along the silly-silencing path New Zealand has travelled. Until then, I’d taken it for granted that as long as we weren’t advocating for terrorist action, we’d be sweet to speak. Not so.
The women’s group, Speak Up for Women New Zealand² – the very name of which may now inspire some to start building pyres to burn said she-devils – is not wokety-woke-woke according to all the laws of wokery. We are certified ‘bad women’, who, if not actually allowed to be burned at the stake anymore (although she-devils mightn’t be averse to a bit of fire) need to be CANCELLED. The funny thing is that many of us in this group, or supporters of the group, were once firmly on the woke wagon. We were lifetime left-wing voters, thinkers, and social justice agitators. Then ‘woke’ went wacky in a very weird way, so we bailed, and now we’re all sorts of bad. The Christchurch Central Library got a handful of complaints about us, one of whom verifiably had ‘dick’ in their Twitter name – and I don’t mean that as being short for Richard – and the library did what has now become the classic cave-in-and-cancel quick step. A few of the other complainers were suspected to be buddies of ‘dick’ – New Zealand’s a small place – but they were cleverer in keeping their involvement quiet. Anyway, ‘dick’ and co. got us cancelled. So I decided on revenge.
I was quite proud of my creative thinking around extracting revenge, plus it was quite good thought-fun. To my dismay, I don’t have the imagination to be a writer of fiction, but I discovered that I’m quite imaginative in other ways. But, sadly, although I’ve gotten badder as I’ve gotten older, I’m not really enough of a bad-to-the-core person who can wreak destruction with no conscience. It’s a serious failing in extracting revenge.
So, it became apparent that a different strategy was in order.
Currently, the New Zealand government is trying to make us more socially cohesive by pushing rapidly-created policies through parliament to help us be better people in the world. It hasn’t exactly been a roaring success. They’re coming from the right place, but getting it very wrong in the too much, too soon, too fast kind of way. It’s been an exhausting year of being bombarded to be better with various badly thought-out betterment policies being sprung on us that don’t stand up well to close scrutiny. After the mosque shootings in Christchurch in 2019, the Royal Commission of Inquiry afterwards recommended that the government put measures in place to promote more social cohesion. One of the results of the urgent push to make us better people is that it has put cancel culture on steroids, and those whose feelings get in the least bit offended get their ruffled feathers smoothed by cancelling the offenders. I’m a madly jealous, really, because no one nursed my feelings like this when I was young and easily offended.
Of course, cancel culture on steroids also means there’s a lot of revenge that needs to be plotted. That’s exhausting as well. I decided that being mature was the less exhausting option (for the most part – I’m not going to eschew all fun), even though that’s hard work, too. The other option would be to opt out of being political, stop having opinions, and have a quiet life – but that was never going to happen. So I’ve joined the Free Speech Union instead, to help me avoid becoming a revenge canceller. Acknowledging everyone’s right to free speech even if it’s from offensive jerks, and deciding where offence turns into harm, will be a journey. I don’t expect to ever become angelic enough to be without personal prejudice entirely, but protecting women’s and girls’ rights and safeties – or anyone’s rights and safeties – starts with being allowed to talk about them.
PS: I now try to keep this blog from being too political – I save that for elsewhere – but the odd ‘leak’ does occur 🙂
Header pic by: Kane Reinholdsten Kane Reinholdtsen (@kanereinholdtsen) | Unsplash Photo Community