Came across the following speech from Mr Bean creator and London Olympics opening ceremony superstar Rowan Atkinson. He is showing his support for the “Reform Section 5 campaign” in the UK, aiming to modify a long standing law that has more recently been used by the soldiers of the the wobbly army of tolerance in the UK to prosecute people, often in ludicrous situations, for essentially having an opinion that someone else may not “like”.
“While arresting a protestor for using threatening or abusive speech may, depending on the circumstances, be a proportionate response, we do not think that language or behaviour that is merely insulting should be criminalised in this way” (UK Parliament joint committee on human rights)
It is refreshing to hear a public figure speaking out in this way. The majority of “free speech” rumblings I have seen in the last few months are declarations of “rights” while showing intolerance to others (usually Christians). Mr Atkinson defines it sweetly and succinctly “. . . what you might call the new intolerance, a new but intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent”
Atkinson throughout the next few minutes provides some solutions or antidotes to the issue of society’s unwillingness to let an uncomfortable word float in our consciousness without significant retribution.
“For me the best way to increase society’s resistance to insulting or offensive speech, is to allow alot more of it”
“we need to build our immunity to taking offence so that we can deal with the issues that perfectly justified criticism can raise. Our priority should be to deal with the message, not the messenger”
“if we want a robust society we must have a robust dialogue and that must include the right to insult or offend”
I found at this point to diverge from my standpoint of agreement with Atkinson but soon needed to check myself. It is not so much that he is calling for mass dissent and abuse all round but the ability to have meaningful and honest conversations. It is those overly liberal supporters of this new intolerance who have re-defined the word intolerance to “saying those things that I don’t want to hear from you”.
This dribble has been most obvious globally over the last year or so, in debates surrounding islamic militancy and same sex marriage where vocal charges of racism, intolerance and hatred are labelled on anyone who dares to hold a different opinion. It is enough for one to define something as a “right” in this new secular age in order to stop any open debate about it, even with long held opinions not too long ago deemed acceptable. Even when the debate is in a spirit of love, the response is usually a bombardment of hatred.
And when the wobbly army of tolerance gets upset, even at the ridiculous, the outcome can be horrific. Just recall recent global responses to a piece of rubbish film placed on youtube. Just as when Salman Rushdie was given a death sentence all those years ago I had to have a look at what spawned this response. I got about three minutes in when I decided to stop poking myself with the metaphorical fork to keep me awake and label it as “dribble”. Yet in Pakistan three churches where burned down and fourteen Christians murdered as a response to this. More locally to me, people arrested for violent activities in the protests in Sydney admitted they hadn’t even watched this video but he had been told it was blasphemous and got caught up in the protest. Que??????
“it is a small skirmish, in my opinion, in the battle to deal with what Sir Salman Rushdie refers to as the ‘Outrage Industry'”
More beautiful imagery; thank-you Mr Atkinson! The “Outrage Industry” well describes the perpetuation of this new intolerance.
“Firstly, we all have to take responsibility for what we say, which is quite a good lesson to learn, but secondly we have learned how intolerant and prickly society has become at even the mildest adverse comment”
“The law should not be aiding and abetting this new intolerance”
We must all take responsibility for our words and actions but not in a tirade of hate. Nor should we legislate for common sense to protect to cotton wool agenda of the rising new intolerance.
Without this safe environment where we are allowed to question the behaviour of others we are in a difficult position of waiting for our cultural martyrdom. As Christians we are called to turn the other cheek, which must prohibit our engagement in the fighting with the wobbly army on their terms; we are to share the love of the Gospel, not hatred. However this can not cause us to sit calmly by, silently nodding our heads when the motherhood talks rambles past us. We must speak the truth in love, and be examples and icons of Christ.
I do not know Atkinson’s take on faith if at all, but he is taking a very appropriate stand here. Take a look at the speech . . .
Just for fun I dug up the old skit the comedian mentioned from the old UK comedy show “Not the 9 o’clock news”. Hilarious still, but if the world continues on it’s current path it may become a piece of intelligence to help us survive a brush with the law in the future; should we decide to disagree with anything.