Recently turning 50 and being a first-generation kiwi born from Dutch parents. I am now officially and old white male.
The fact I am not gay, identify as a male and are born fair skinned, makes me one of those people that it is simply ok to be labelled an old while male. Even if it is in a derogatory way, as in three short words it is both racist, ageist and sexist.
I caused quite a furore on Facebook once when I asked a lady who complained that the opinion of and old white man was insignificant. I asked if it would have been more significant if it was written by a young black woman. Or whether she would have preferred it to be spoken by a middle-aged yellow transgender.
If something is written by a gay Mexican, is it ok for me to say that the diatribe is written by a juvenile olive queer. And if not, if I refer to myself as an old whilst male first, is it then ok to label the person I’m talking to by this equally as descriptive label?
The relevance here is we are soon to have “hate laws” debated in parliament, and then put into law. As an old white male, I used to enjoy comedies that had the ability to laugh at one’s self and others with humour that would at times laugh at the differences between us. Some would get offended at the jokes and then life would go on, as fortunately, being offended is not a condition that causes harm.
If one is to live in fear of offending someone, and being offensive could end up with you being fined or even worse, jailed. What kind of world are we going to create?
Right now our laws give us free speech (of sorts). If we say something that incites violence or harm, it is illegal. This is very logical. It is easy to define, is blatantly wrong and deserves punishment. If you single out a race, a religious group or an individual and vocally demand they get harmed then you are at odds with the law.
However, it seems that with hate laws that are to be put in place, we run the risk of legislating that we “like everybody.” A heated argument with an ex, a spur of the moment bout of road rage, or a dispute with a neighbour could land you in hot water, if you don’t choose your words carefully.
Are we to now have a commission of language whose job is to define the Oxford dictionary as words that are likely to be punishable by law? It is easy now, as if you were to say “death to all (insert race religion, gender, sexual preference)” then you will easily be identified as breaking the law.
However, hate is not so binary. The law can be sold to us by claiming it is as easy as saying “inciting hatred to groups or individuals based on race or religion,” but is it that simple?
Our right of expression could easily become a casualty of laws if the bar is set too low when it comes to being offended. Would new hate laws land many comedians in hot water? Are all tv shows, movies and books that are offensive to be removed and possession of offensive material be punishable? What will become of the movie “Blazing Saddles?”
I think the focus on the law should be obtaining a clear divide between harm and no harm. This means a clear definition of what “being offended” means. Let us be honest. Being offended is not detrimental to your health. No one has required emergency medical attention because they were offended by a sign or what someone said.
From the earliest age we are told to suck it up of someone offends you. remember the age old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Well now it seems that it will be left to a defined group of people, namely the police and our judges to determine if what you say is punishable and the grey area is vast.
Will telling me to “shut up, you old white male” be punishable? Probably not. But if the openly queer Mexican that enjoys being antagonistic in the media, gets an irate tweet suggesting that he goes back to where he came from, well this would be different wouldn’t it?
Hate speech is a dangerous road as it is no longer objective, it is subjective and if there is one thing that should not be legislated is crime that is subjective. We have laws that cover some subjective areas such as untimely death. It is murder and if it is uncertain that the killing of someone was done on purpose, we have manslaughter. In both incidences we have a clear victim. We also have a punishment which is suitable for the instances that brought about the death.
But we are now creating punishment for often a victimless crime, if the only offence is someone taking offence, then do we need to police this? This new dimension in law is rife for political abuse.
In the UK someone placed a rasher of bacon on the door handle of a mosque. A rather tasteless joke and definitely offensive, but who was the victim really? The person who had to remove the bacon and dispose of it was put out but hardly suffered enough to have the punishment dished out. The offender received a jail sentence for the prank and was murdered in prison by a Muslim gang. This is the unintended consequences of laws that are put through as an attempt to force better social outcomes.
I fear that laws that work this way are just a signal from ever increasingly woke politicians that having your own identity as a society, traditions and patriotism are now frowned upon. It seems that rather than going down the road of fit in to our way of life please, we are expected to now accept all for who they are regardless of how inappropriate the behaviour might be.
The UK has introduced hate laws but also hidden the antisocial behaviour of certain groups that the hate laws are meant to protect. Anyone who followed the plight of Tommy Robinson knows just how the hate laws treated him. So hard have they tried to force everyone to get on in the UK that they suppressed the reality that 1000’s of young girls where being raped by certain groups.
Unintended consequences of trying to build a society where our want to get along even if it is destroying it right before our very eyes.
Tread carefully with hate laws. It is just another way of those in power to control the minions.