On the road, I work to the sound of arguments. However, since 18C reared its head again, the discussion has turned louder, and more extreme.
The virtues of a transient workplace such as mine mean you can roll your eyes at fellow staff’s comments without reprisal. The downside is that the comments you hear don’t have a face, they just come through the radio, supplanted by the next, louder comment. There’s an ease about saying whatever you choose without filter. We seldom get together (comes with the job), so the connections we make are with people of a fellow employ we have nothing in common with. When in person, crossing paths in the beige-carpeted, brown-brick cafeterias of wherever, we sometimes nod, sometimes smalltalk, but that’s it. I’ve often wondered if that harsh voice on the radio belongs to the man standing in front of me.
Now, I’ve heard a lot, a lot of which is not fit to print, and it’s always been like that in one form or another. But over the last four or so months, I’ve noticed the vibe has changed. It’s become more direct. This could be a knock-on effect of me being on the road less, which means more of the societal sensibilities creeping in, but there seems to be an air of validation behind the once baseless jibes at whoever, for whatever.
The root cause, for my money, could be two things.
One: Pauline Hanson’s mob, the “saying what people are thinking” speech, or two: Canberra changing 18C. The subtleties of the many facets of 18C – watering down the legislation versus reform, versus how elastic said laws would be, versus the hanging of freedom of speech – have been done to death and should be left to greater minds than mine, but I do know this:
In the wake of 18C, if you need a barometer on free speech and our rights to it, the recently-sacked Mark Latham provided us this week with the requisite, fleshy windsock with which to measure the direction of future change.
For those of you who missed the headline, Latham, alongside losing his gig at Sky News, is also facing possible legal action over his comments toward Wendy Harmer in which he called her a “commercial failure” who could only get a job at the “sheltered” ABC because she is a “female with a disability”.
Now on the road yesterday, the general vibe from my colleagues was (aside from the odd laugh) generally that Mark Latham is a choose word here. But what is interesting is that this is not because of his comments regarding Harmer; simply, his status was confirmed long ago. No, the majority of them believe that he had the right to say what he said. Not everyone, but, those who spoke loudest on the topic got the most support.
Years ago, I was up for a meeting of the minds. But this time I didn’t feel the need to add anything. It’s not ancient Greece, but it’s a forum nonetheless. I realise that the trucking community is probably a poor indicator for where the wind blows in “normal” society, but I will tell you this:
In every article I read or comment box I look through, the conversation is the same as it is on my CB:
Loud. And one-sided.