Our health as individuals is linked to the health of society. Free societies have always enjoyed better health. But we can take this for granted.
Long before Hunger Games spawned a new interest in dystopia, there was George Orwell’s 1949 book “1984”. In this, the futuristic society had the four government ministries of peace, love, plenty and truth. The role of each was the exact opposite of what their name implied. The ministry of truth was responsible for lies and propaganda, and the ministry of peace was in charge of wars.
And the government would routinely detain and investigate anyone who was not sufficiently loyal.
This book is a classic. Indeed my daughter’s class at school are just about to start reading it.
Freedom of expression is a vital part of human existence. When we cannot give voice to how we feel our health can be impacted. In addition false accusation and long drawn out inquiries are highly stressful.
I have come across quite separate matters which all sparked thoughts of Orwell. First a restaurant reviewer is being hounded by a body, which is supposed to support freedom of the press. His crime is to express an opinion on food.
The Australian Press Council has been investigating the case for seven months. The food critic expressed the view that it was good to eat kangaroo meat. People will have their own opinions on this for a variety of reasons. Some may strongly disagree and could write to the paper and express this. However as a critic his job is to express his opinion! How a press council could possibly get involved is a mystery.
According to Terry McCrann in the Weekend Australian the competition commission wants to stop oil companies accessing what their competitors charge for petrol (gasoline). Since the year dot business competition has been based on knowing what your rivals are doing. But now having such knowledge would be anti-competitive. The ministry of truth could not do better.
Rugby players have accepted a penalty, which is effectively as little as three weeks for alleged doping. I could be wrong but it strikes me that the case against them must have been pretty weak for this to be the penalty. It also seems likely that the players accepted it not because they felt they were guilty but because it stopped the matter being dragged on and on.
And that is the thing. Assorted regulatory boards (which are not accountable to anyone) can grind people down by dint of deep pockets and limitless time. Individuals end up conceding not necessarily due to guilt but because they can’t fund the fight or stand the stress.
In Europe the EU is dictating what strength vacuum cleaner you can use at home! Is it any wonder people despair of, what should be a worthwhile European project, when this sort of nonsense is imposed on them?
The worst example is the Human Rights Commission which fails to defend that most basic of human rights, the right to open your mouth and speak. Yes the ministry of truth is with us.
The pressure exerted on people by unproven allegations, which get a life of their own, is enormous. Justice is rarely served and the health of individuals is affected.
Indeed the health of society is affected when the ability to speak freely is reduced. And when power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable bodies.
One final thought. It was reported on The Daily Beast that in Ferguson County, the second biggest revenue source was fines. I am not suggesting that this is what led to the recent riots, yet nothing happens in isolation. Eventually people do bring down governments, which treat them unfairly and remove their freedoms.
1984 might have been 30 years ago but it is now here. Time for us, as citizens to be mad as hell, and refuse to take it any more.