We need to learn and develop language, not the basics of languages but the ability to discuss openly and honestly about anything. We are so hidebound in oh so many ways that so much meaningful discussion gets closed down before it even starts. It is intimately connected with freedom of speech and I’m certainly not advocating the freedom to be racist, misogynist, homophobic or any other type of hate speech, although it has to be allowed. What we need is the freedom to counter such speech. But what I am trying to write about is so much that may well be thought but doesn’t reach any sort of meaningful exposition.
A good example and for long one of my interests (and already before I actually commit this to text my own self-censorship kicks in: how will others interpret this?) has been sex education. See what I mean? Sex education in this country has been bollocks for ever, or at least as long as I am aware. Reasons are multiple: our own poor sex education perpetuates stuff, religion; or more particularly patriarchal religious interpretation and indoctrination, embarrassment, ignorance, capitalist distortion and exploitation, misogyny, fear of alienation, possible prosecution, societal mores and laws but most of all an inadequate language that keeps us mute.
ukip latched onto this during the last election having as one of their policies to have no sex education in primary schools. This fed powerfully into many of the reasons I’ve just listed, preying on people’s hangups and prejudices. But proper discussion is not allowed because as soon as someone utters the term ‘sex education’ all sorts of thoughts kick in for everyone and hinder continuing sensible discussion. Now some have argued that perhaps if we use different language such as ‘relationships education’ then we can get around the ‘sex problem’, for want of a better term. I would argue otherwise and we need to get over our problems with the term sex, it doesn’t just mean sexual acts (important and pleasurable though they are), it is everything about our actual humanity; we are sexual beings, female, male, transgender, or whatever. It is the essence of our being, we wouldn’t exist without it and yet we can’t discuss it properly without disapproval, tittering, embarrassment or lewd salaciousness.
Enough of sex, it’s my example of language restriction and proper discussion. And in the spirit of irony in our age of overwhelming communication proper discussion is made even harder as any public expression can be met with a twitterstorm and the like. As I’ve had to rely on reading more online in the absence of ‘hard copy’ I’ve taken to adding a comment or two about articles or comments I’ve read. This morning there was a piece by a bloke called Jeb who’s upset because jeb bush has entered the republican nomination race stateside and his name will now appear far more and often in negative ways. I tried to post a comment saying “you’re lucky, my name is Duncan Smith!” and up popped a thing saying my comments are being ‘pre-moderated’. What the fuck (suppose I could have used wtf, but what would that mean using that instead eh?):
“Q: When I post a comment, it says that my comments are being pre-moderated – what does that mean? Does that apply to everyone in the conversation?
A: There is a further exception to the overall reactive-moderation approach adopted by the Guardian website: in isolated situations, a particular user may be identified as a risk, based on a pattern of behaviour (e.g. spam, trolling, repeated/frequent borderline abuse), so a temporary filter can be applied to anything they post, which means that their comments will need to be pre-moderated before appearing on the site.
This is a temporary measure applied by moderators to a very small handful of people based entirely on patterns of actual behaviour, and should result relatively quickly in either their posting ability being suspended completely if no improvement is shown, or the filter being removed. The decision to do either of these things would, again, be based on that user’s behaviour and activity during the pre-moderation period.”
So now I’m one of “a very small handful of people” who if they don’t improve their behaviour will be suspended completely! So even in the Grauniad my pathetic little attempts at ‘proper discussion’ are being closed down, or at least threatened to.
Anyway, in what seems to be an increasingly fractured world, I think that ‘proper discussion’ is one very important way to try and get humanity developing a little better than it is. Oh, and pitchforks of course for those who won’t participate properly!
Keep on discussing on, love Duncan.