Soapbox Speakers

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 4th March.

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm

“The music is not in the notes but in the silence in between.”
Mozart.

We discussed what might Mozart might have meant. The hapless Mr B read too much into it.

1. Today we had a plethora of speakers up on the Ladder of Knowledge: Mirko, Mark the Grinner, Philip Feinstein, Mr B, Helmut and Guy. Across the way was Steve maxwell, and by the kiosk, Ray.

Speakers all over the place.

But the crowds today were the smallest we have seen for some time. It was still an interesting day.

Guy

2. Steve Maxwell held a thought experiment, and it was so successful he held it all day with his passers-by. (A thought experiment is an imaginary scenario created in order to test a hypothesis through to its possible conclusions.) His experiment: what characteristics would the perfect politician have? His passers-by came up with a wide variety of answers, and each point-of-view had merit. And, points-of-view came from the far right to the centre, to the far left.

Steve was very satisfied about how his meeting went, and he will be doing more thought experiments in the future.

3. Mr B was asked about the state of free speech in universities. That pressed a button! He reminded us all of his “generous” offer to speak at Sydney University nearly three years ago and the reply he received: ‘Our stakeholders have advised that allowing you to conduct your event on University grounds is considered not in the best interests of staff and students.’

Presumably, the “stakeholders” were concerned that Mr B might incite violence and leave the university in rubble, or defame a litigious bounder and diminish the university’s coffers.

With his fury reignited, Mr B bellowed that a university’s job, and privilege, is to create a fertile environment for the students, because those students  need to think thoughts not yet thought if they are to be the doers of the future and create a world we don’t yet have. Students are humanity’s lifeline for a better world, he said, and administrators should expose their students to new ideas, not protect them from ideas. And from a soapbox speaker, for goodness sake?! Since when did a soapbox speaker become a dangerous subversive capable of corrupting minds? Since when was a student’s mind so fragile?

The “stakeholders” obviously don’t know Mr B very well. The man couldn’t corrupt a loaf of bread.

Perhaps the officials were concerned the students might be offended? But a university is the place to be offended. That’s where students need to learn to cope with offence, and harden up and deal with it, and decide for themselves what is offensive and what has merit.

And, it’s the university’s role to help each student develop a bullshit detector, to prepare them for a world seething with bullshit. Students need all the practise they can get sorting bullshit from the truth. However, if they are shielded from views perceived to be ‘not in the best interests of the staff and students’, how will they develop the confidence and grit to develop their bullshit detectors or their own fresh thinking? And then, from where will new and exciting ideas spring?

Shielding its students from ideas, wacky or otherwise, is not the way to go. 

To protect the students (and staff) from any speaker is to treat them like children. It demeans the students, it demeans the staff, it demeans the university.

It occurs to this scribe that if the administrators choose to protect the students from a simple soapbox speaker, in what other ways might they be hobbling their students’ development?

Mr B finally concluded his hissy fit and changed the subject.

4. One of the many good things about Speakers’ Corner is that people don’t hold grudges. Week to week passions are ignited and comments can be “blunt”. Ray, for example, is our fundamentalist Christian speaker, and instead of frothing at the mouth when his beliefs are challenged or insulted, he maintains his calm demeanour and remains approachable. Mr B can be insulting in his pathetic attempts to be witty, but his grasshoppers forgive him. Mirko berates his audience constantly (“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” and “Shut up!“) but we love him all the same. Some people get under Steve Maxwell’s skin all day long, but when those same pests visit the following week he welcomes them.

It’s a pleasure to be in an environment in which you can frankly state your opinion, create a tizz, and then everyone is happy again.

This video of Ray and Uncle Pete has had over 138,000 views. People have commented upon their earnest conversation, and one or two have correctly suggested that the two men would harbour no animosity after such an encounter. They might even have a beer together!

5. Thank you to the person who sent in this look-a-like of Tony. Much appreciated.

6. Philip Feinstein provided us with some good news: the Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, was very prompt in allowing Philip to send music instruments to the detainees on Nauru and Manus islands. (Philip is the founder of Music For Refugees.) The instruments have arrived in Nauru, and they’re on their way to Manus Island.

Philip also talked about the 501 visa. He thought it outrageous that a non-citizen, who has committed a crime and been given a 12 month jail sentence, can be deported after serving their time in jail.

7. We learned about the Syrrian fellow who was born blind. At 17 he obtained a student visa to the U.S.A. and arrived in Los Angeles with little money, no contacts, no sight, and unable to speak English. He found a park to sleep in for two months (not years, Mr B!), a gym to shower in, and a library in which he could learn English. In 2 months he could communicate! He found housing, and now, four years later, he speaks fluently and is flourishing. Extraordinary!

Have you ever wondered how blind people use a computer?

8. Other subjects discussed:
– Guy spoke in favour of Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs.

– We examined the other Ten Commandments, 11 to 20.

– We discussed a little more about Bruce Pascoe’s book, “Dark Emu”. What was Aboriginal life like?

– Mirko talked about “No brain pollution” and “no talk, no sense”. I think that’s what he talked about, anyway.

– Uncle Pete is wondering when someone will steal a hair from Barnaby Joyce and his son, and compare the DNA.

– Both Helmut and Mark the Grinner (separately) spoke on religion. Mark the Grinner asked if perhaps being religious is a form of mental illness. He quoted Robert Persig: “When one person suffers from a delusion it’s called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it’s called a religion.”

“Gran calavera eléctrica” by José Guadalupe Posada, Mexico

9. We are on Facebook for reasons unclear. We have an Archives site for no reason at all.

Indian Bull Frog

 

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