Soapbox Speakers

Archive for April, 2017|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 23rd April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 24, 2017 at 11:31 am

“The greatest horrors of our world, from the executions in Iran to the brutalities of the IRA, are committed by people who are totally sincere.” 

John Mortimer.

1. Mr B’s propensity to give his grasshoppers 4 minutes to speak, and then answer questions, seems to have become a habit. Today’s extra speakers were the usual suspects: Albert, Jean, Mirko, Rhonda and Helmut.

Helmut was asked to speak about his days of being a professional wrestler in Sydney. He explained how he had wrestled as Helmut Rommel for more than three years, having 167 matches. How many did he win? There was no point in asking him, given that the winners were decided beforehand, he explained. No match did not have a pre-determined outcome. He told us what he was paid. He gave anecdotes. He was required to be a good guy, which he thought was stupid. After all, Germans were the bad guys in those days. (He is Austrian, it must be noted.)

Helmut also spoke of the bodybuilding world and its scandals, and that was interesting too.

Killer Karl Kox, one of Helmut Rommel’s opponents.

2. The best work of the Higher School Certificate art students from NSW high schools (public and private) is being displayed in the NSW Art Gallery, directly opposite Speakers’ Corner. The speaker claimed that some of that art work is far better than much of the rubbish the gallery owns and displays.

There was hum of agreement, and Mr B was in danger of launching into his regular diatribe against the gallery. Thankfully he was distracted, and the audience were spared another dose.

3. It was asked, is this sign below racist? (The owner of a Melbourne milk bar stuck this sign to his window.)

Mr B certainly found the mix of ‘blacks’ with dogs objectionable, though he conceded that the poor phrasing was probably due to the writer’s poor English.

For the sake of the argument we assumed that the ‘black’ kids of that age were indeed stealing. The following questions were asked:
(1) Could the ban simply be a financial move?
(2) What about the fact that the shopkeeper is only prohibiting 14 to 18 year olds? Older ‘blacks’ are welcome? Does that change our perspective?
(3) What if the shop owner didn’t include Sudanese kids, only Aboriginal kids? Or vice versa? (In other words, skin colour wasn’t an issue.)
(4) What if the shop owner was white, and he found that only white skinned youths of that age stole, and he prohibited only them? Would he be racist?
(5) What if the shop owner was Sudanese and he was only banning Sudanese teenagers of that age?
(6) What if the shopkeeper knew some of the black kids and trusted them, and made them exceptions?
(7) What if there is a gang of young white kids, aged from 14 to 18, and they all wear a blue bandana to show they’re in the gang. To stay in the gang they’re expected to steal, and they steal from the shopkeeper regularly. What if the white shopkeeper put up a sign that said: ‘Members of the blue bandana gang are prohibited’? Does that mean he has a prejudice against the colour blue? Does it mean he has a prejudice against bandanas? Or a prejudice against blue bandanas?

 Or does he have a prejudice against teenagers who choose to wear blue bandanas? Does he have a prejudice at all?
(8) For those of you who still think the sign is racist: let’s say the shopkeeper is obliged to pull down the sign and as a consequence loses $1,000 a year, every year, to theft. Would you be prepared to reimburse him?

Discussion was vibrant.

4. The Something Nice segment. To charm some and irritate others.

5. A few months ago Mr B explained why there is no such thing as a Scotsman (or Swede, Tongan, Aborigine, Jew etc.) He even made a video of the talk which has resoundingly been ignored. The video below expresses the same sentiment, but says it much better. Lift your game, Mr B.

6. Other topics discussed:
– Waterlogged homes in Wooloomooloo prompted a discussion about the merits of housing developers using their own inspectors to self regulate.

– Mr B railed against the idea that someone could be charged with ‘blasphemy’, and he expressed concern about the idea of people voting for a candidate simply because that candidate shared their faith. He would prefer that people vote for the person they think is best for the nation.

– Peter the Younger read another pleasing John Clarke poem, and then the group discussed Mary Gilmore’s poem, ‘The House’. Its reception was lukewarm at best, with Mark The Grinner being genuinely distressed.

– Bad statistics. To say that you’re nine times likely to be killed by a bee than a shark is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, Mr B claimed, indignant.

7. Our Facebook page is still short the ten million subscribers it seeks. And try our Archives site if you want to know more about our speakers or see past posts.

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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 16th April.

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 17, 2017 at 11:41 am

“The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

1. Welcome back, Steve Maxwell! Steve told this scribe that today went well for him and he felt no pain.

His theme for today was “Australia: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going?”

After an afternoon of soul searching and debate with his grasshoppers, a consensus was reached. Their answers:

“We don’t know who we are, we don’t know why we are here, and we have no idea where we are going.

That’s a good day’s work, Steve! See you next week.

2. Today was Easter Sunday. Tony arrived late, and it was suggested that it was because he had trouble finding the Easter eggs he had hidden for himself in his garden the night before.

This scribe has just received some photos from the Danish Delight, Pia. I will intersperse the posts with them.

Speaking of Easter Egg hunts:

3. Mr B urged us all to buy only free range chocolate eggs. Then in a more serious vein he compared Easter egg hunts with today’s western society. He pointed out that although older children find more chocolate eggs in the garden than younger children because they have the advantage of age, height, nimbleness & experience, at the end of the hunt the eggs are combined and shared equallly among all the children. However, in our society, those with the the advantages (born into wealth, with high intelligence, going to the right school . . .) aren’t so quick to share their ‘Easter eggs’ with those less fortunate (those forced to stay home to care for a loved one; the intellectually or physically disabled, the uneducated . . . ).

4. Today, on Easter Sunday, we all felt it appropriate to have a minute’s silence for J.C. And so we did.

Then Pete the Younger solemnly stood on the Ladder of Sensitivity and read two of his poems as a tribute. As usual, we enjoyed them.

John Clarke was certainly a talented and likeable man.

Our Danish visitor Pia recited an old favourite and got a good laugh for her effort.

Dave, an artist who brought along a whopping big painting featuring Christ on the cross, also read a poem. Both his painting and his poem gave every person who trivialised the real meaning of Easter a harsh metaphorical wallop. Both painting and poem were wonderful! Thanks, Dave!

Then Mr B had to let the side down with some doggerel:

Daisy the Beautiful
Oh daisy with thy flower of gold,

Thou art a thing of beauty to behold, 
growing there in the dark, dark ground,
the ground where worms and slugs abound.
But when you flower in the bright, bright sun,
we know the slugs have lost and thou hast won.
Rex Dawe.

5. If the poem below doesn’t make sense to you now, it might this coming Sunday when Mr B and his grasshoppers discuss it.

6. Mr B invited members of the audience to get up and speak. Cyclone Rhonda spoke about the need for Australia to become a republic and left all of us in her wake. A fantastic effort.

Norm had the crowd intrigued with his views on education. He received lots of questions. Good work, Norm!

Albert the Whisperer claimed that Jesus Christ was mortal and the resurrection was a put-up job. He agreed that Jesus Christ was effectively just a soapbox speaker.
(Does that mean that when the Second Coming finally occurs, the returning messiah will be a soapbox speaker? Should we be speaking to Steve Maxwell and Mr B with more respect?)

This scribe suspects that the ‘dead man’s fingers‘ fungus is the closest thing we’ll get to a person being resurrected.

Dead Man’s Fingers fungus

7. We spoke about the man in the U.S. who was dragged off the plane and suffered injuries as a result. Mr B explained why the man was at fault, and that whatever injuries he received, he deserved them. (Mind you, the man will win millions in a law suit.)

8. Mr B nearly fell over when a grasshopper expressed interest in his assertiveness tips. (Everyone else thought she was a plant.)

Today’s tip? He told us to not try to be mindreaders. When there is something we don’t understand, let’s ask. Click here for more information.

9. The ‘Something Nice’ segment. To charm some and irritate others:

10. Mr B discussed a video of a Muslim woman explaining to another Muslim woman how an angry husband should hit his wife with a scarf. Mr B defended the woman, and said that the media were unconscionable in their self-righteous protest. By saying that she was condoning violence, and that it was outrageous that she did so, the media were simply trying to gain viewers.

He hoped the media would turn their focus back to the high rates of real domestic violence in anglo society.

11. We discussed a knotty problem about Australia’s intake of refugees. How many should we welcome? Were the people who were against the idea of welcoming more refugees lacking in compassion, as advocates suggested, or were there other factors? Should logistics be part of the decision? Is it a question of values?

Mr B claimed that 99.9% of Australia’s population were willing to take refugees, but differed in the number that they’d take. Further, he claimed that 99.9% of Australia’s population would baulk at taking every displaced person on the planet, which means that nearly everyone would at some point feel compelled to say, ‘That’s enough. No more refugees.’

The conclusion? We should talk more and be less self-righteous. And every overt advocate of refugees should be asked the simple question: “Of the 40 million refugees who would be willing to come to Australia, how many would you accept?” Because as soon as they attempt to answer the question, they have to face the fact that whatever number they give, it would mean they too would be rejecting refugees. (Unless they said, ‘All of them’, in which case, they should be locked in a closet.)

12. Other subjects discussed:
– ‘Why did the Vikings bury their soldiers with their swords?‘, Mr B wanted to know. After all, if they had dug the soldiers up a few years later they would have found that the sword had not been whisked away to Valhalla. (Nor had the soldier, for that matter.) That would have told them to not waste swords by burying them.
One grasshopper patiently explained to Mr B that it was the spirit of the sword that accompanied the soldier to Valhalla. (As though that made more sense.)

– Women should not be expected to love their bodies, said Mr B. They already have enough problems with their self-esteem without having to deal with their failure to heed that banal advice.
One grasshopper suggested that perhaps we should be encouraging women to stop hating their bodies.

13. Lost property. The speaker asked the crowd if anyone had lost a roll of $100 notes wrapped in a rubber band. They had found the rubber band.

14. A big ‘thank you’ to the kind grasshopper who handed Tony Boyce and Mr B an Easter Egg each after the meeting. Both the egg and the generosity were appreciated!

Thankfully, the eggs were made of chocolate, unlike this one:

This beautiful work of art was created with fine drills and steady hands.

14. Someone has left a comment at the end of last week’s post. Make of it what you will.

15. Everyone who visits our Facebook page before midnight tonight (Easter Sunday) will receive an extra chocolate egg from the Easter bunny on Monday morning.

 

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 9th April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 10, 2017 at 9:52 am

“. . . the old idea that ‘Mother Nature’ knows best is a concept that could only have arisen in a comfortable, well-fed society which has forgotten what it is to struggle for existence. Nature is not motherly, she is red in tooth and claw, she ravens for food – and she has no favourites.”
John Wyndham.

1. Cyclone Rhonda is back, up from Melbourne! When she stood on the Ladder of Knowledge she wowed the audience with a string of opinions. She and Norm had a few words to say to each other, which only added to our amusement.

Later in the day she agreed to debate with Mr B the idea that Australia should become a republic, and she won the debate easily by not bothering to present her point of view. She used the opportunity to talk about 1970’s communism and Chiang Kai-shek. A brilliant manoeuvre that left Mr B looking silly.

Rhonda will be at Speakers’ Corner for another two weeks.

Rhonda, visiting from Speakers’ Forum, Melbourne in 2015.

If you’d like to see Rhonda in action, click here to see a few video highlights.

2. Other grasshoppers were invited to speak too, and each was given five minutes plus question time. Kieran explained why he thought Donald Trump’s bombing of the Syrian airfield was a good idea. He spoke well and is obviously informed.

Mirko spoke about his phonetic language. He nodded sagely when the group, working together as a team, finally managed to decipher one of his printed phonetic messages. He felt vindicated.

Mark the Grinner spoke about perfectionism, and about the relationship between reality and our growing addiction to electronic devices. He also briefly mentioned selfies. He should know that it’s not just humans who take selfies:

 

3. Steve Maxwell almost made it to Speakers’ Corner today, but a minor setback in his recovery meant that we won’t see him for another week. No backflips or cartwheels for another month, Steve. Doctor’s orders.

4. Mr B admitted that he struggles to complete questionnaires, and to give an example he felt the need to describe the time he was in a spa with eight others and had an awkward experience.

Peter the Younger suggested that most questionnaires are designed to get the result they want anyway, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that Mr B struggles to complete them.


5. Today’s assertiveness tip was:
‘Get out of the habit of using filler words like ‘um’, ‘er’, ‘like’, ‘sort of’ and ‘you know’.

What does that bad habit have to do with assertiveness?  Click here to find out. 

To practise, a few grasshoppers took turns to play the ‘Half a minute’ game in which they had to talk for 30 seconds without using those filler words’. They made the task look easy.

6. Mr B told the tale about Ulysses sailing by the island of sirens. He said that like Ulysses, we also have to  tie ourselves to a metaphorical mast when we are presented with temptations that can disable us.

If that doesn’t make sense see this chapter on his blog.

7. This week’s paradigm. (A paradigm is a pervasive belief held by most people in society, even though that belief might be weird to an objective and sensible observer.) The paradigm: “We are entitled to a high standard of living.”

People who have adopted that paradigm (most of us) have little interest in sacrificing comfort for change.

A few months ago South Australia experienced a number of power blackouts, prompting displays of indignation and blame. Yet not once did someone say, ‘Let’s accept the blackouts. Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars rectifying the problem and wasting resources, and increasing energy bills and pollution in the process, let’s simply shrug and get out the candles. Let’s put up with the inconvenience now and then.”

As expected, Mr B’s grasshoppers objected to the idea, and a discussion about the merits of coal mining and renewable energy sources ensued. That’s precisely what happens when a paradigm is prodded.

8. The something nice segment. To charm some and irritate others.


(A strange meme. A little girl with paper wings attached probably won’t fly. She’ll just plummet. But hey.)

9. Other subjects discussed:
“I am better than no one, and no one is better than me.” Is that true? Or are some people better than others?  Views were divided.

– The parable of the king and the artist. (That’s the story of how the king wanted a picture of peace in his palace.) The story went down well if you could consider stony silence as ‘going down well’.

– Land tax. It was proposed that every investment property is taxed not on the area of the land itself, but on the amount of floor space of a building. So, instead of having 20 apartments that are each charged one twentieth of the land tax for that block of land, each apartment would pay the full tax. That’s 20 times the revenue for the government (for that example), and it would prompt owners to let their properties instead of leaving them empty. It was a brilliant idea, spoilt only by two troublemakers who put forth sound objections.

– Do each and every one of us have a ‘pearl’ inside us, as we try to deal with a past irritant still within us?

10. The poems. Peter the Younger read one short, sharp poem, while Mr B supplied a longer one.

Marguet
by Robert Service

‘Twas on the sacred First of May
I made a sentimental sally
To buy myself a slender spray
Of pearly lily of the valley;
And setting it beside my bed,
Dream back the smile of one now dead.

But when I asked how much a spray?
The figure seemed so astronomic
I rather fear that my dismay
Must have appeared a little comic.
The price, the shopgirl gravely said,
Alas! was fifteen francs a head.

However, I said: “Give me three,
And wrap them in a silver paper,
And I will take them home with me,
And light an ‘in memoriam’ taper,
To one whose smile so heaven bright,
Was wont to make my darkness light.”

Then lo! I saw beside me stand
A women shabby, old and grey,
Who pointed with a trembling hand
And shyly asked: “How much are they?”
But when I told her, sadly said:
“I’ll save my francs for milk and bread.”

“Yet I’ve a daughter just sixteen,
Long sick abed and oh so sad.
I thought – well, how they would have been
A gift, maybe, to make her glad . . .”
And then I saw her eyes caress
My blossoms with such wistfulness.

I gave them: sought my garret bare,
Knowing that she whom I had loved,
Although no blooms I bought her there,
Would have so tenderly approved . . .
And in the dark I lay awhile,
Seeing again her radiant smile.

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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 2nd April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 3, 2017 at 8:32 am

God, grant me the senility to forget the people I don’t like, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.
Unknown.

1. Mostly, the weather was pleasant enough. Though a big chunk of the meeting itself was not.

Mr B will be hiring a body guard from now on:

Professional wrestler Mario Milano.

2. Steve Maxwell is recuperating well after his successful operation. Let’s hope we see him this coming Sunday. (And recognise him.)

3. The Domain Trust has finally installed a much needed ramp for the disabled. Thank you, Trust!

4. The ‘something nice’ segment. To charm some and irritate others.

5. We hope the crowds at Speakers’ Corner continue to grow. We’d like around 200 people, but on drizzly days we are lucky to get 10% of that figure.

6. Grasshopper numbers may be down next week due to the Palm Sunday march in support of refugees at 2pm. The hecklers are encouraged to go on that march. Nay, urged.

7. Mr B felt obliged to talk about ‘The Groom of the Stool‘, the man given the job of attending to a king’s bottom after the king has defecated. This practise began in the middle ages and ceased in 1901, when King Edward 7th took the throne (so to speak).

It was a well paid high status job. That’s because the groom’s close association with the king fostered trust. He was able to look the king in the eye (so to speak).

When asked if a form of toilet paper was used, Mr B admitted that he did not know. He was also negligent in not explaining the groom’s role when the king took a pee. This scribe wants to know if the groom had to hold it for him and aim. All of us wanted to know that.

We learned that there have been 41 Grooms of the Stool serving the last 17 kings, and that the female equivalent was called ‘The First Lady of the Bedchamber‘.

Why did Mr B inform us of all this? He claims he wanted to point out a paradigm that we ‘are in’. A paradigm is a collective belief held by a society that seems normal to those living in that society, but appears weird to those living in another country, or in another time. For example, decades ago most western people believed that women shouldn’t vote, work, or inherit property. Most people thought that view was right and sensible. That belief was a paradigm. We can look back and think ‘That’s weird. How could they have believed that?!‘  That’s because we are no longer influenced by that particular paradigm and can see the absurdity for what it is.

We have absurd paradigms of our own, says Mr B, but we can’t see them because we are ‘in them’.

We can look back and see clearly that for a human being to hire another human being to clean their backside for them demeans both parties, yet we think it’s morally okay for one human being to hire another human being to clean their abode for them. Mr B thinks the two practises are on the same continuum. He says that if we want our house cleaned we have a moral responsibility to do the job ourselves. (Exceptions exist.)

Of course, no one agreed with Mr B. But he would say we don’t agree with him because we are ‘in’ the paradigm that says the practise is okay. We can’t yet see the absurdity of our belief. He says that in 100 years people might look back at us and say, ‘How could they have believed that that was okay?

He forgets that we’ll be dead by then.

A Groom of the Stool

8. Other subjects discussed:
– The merit of the government’s move to lower the company tax rate, and the tax rate’s relationship with globalisation.

–  This week there was no assertiveness tip. It was tactfully left alone. But poems were read on the Ladder of Sensitivity and all three were enjoyed by this scribe.

– Is it fair that taxi drivers, having invested hundreds of thousands of dollars buying a taxi licence, now have to compete with Uber drivers who have paid nothing to provide the same taxi service? And that due to this, the taxi drivers have had their taxi licences plummet in value? Which means that effectively, every shift they have worked may have been a financial loss. ‘Is that fair?’, it was asked.

– Mr B recommends changes to the high school curriculum. He said that instead of asking teachers to teach a language, history and geography, let’s pay them to teach basic but important life skills such as financial competence and how to cook a healthy meal; how to change a spark plug, a tap’s washer and a flat tyre; as well as emotional intelligence and assertiveness skills. He reckons we should be helping children prepare for a life of unclear and changing career opportunities, and that building emotional resilience and basic life competence in the kids would be a good start. Yes, all students should get those skills from their parents, he agreed, but the majority don’t, he added.
It would not be unreasonable to say that his suggestions were met with disagreement.

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