Saturday, February 14, 2009

Don't gag the Victorians

In fact, don't gag any Australian. We used to have a tradition of sounding off and you could sound off about anything...and be told not to sound off if people didn't want to listen. We stopped it and replaced it with well modulated tones, rational speech and endless, mind numbing speeches. Your average Australian has been stopped from sounding off because we have become frightened of emotion and we have also used it as a weapon to stop people from saying things we don't want to hear. It's a power play. Gagging people means you push your own agenda through because you run the argument that they are too upset and emotional to be rational. Sounding off was a great way to get everything out into the open. it was a great way to get things off your chest and it was a great way of easing the pressure which had built up over something. Others would bring you to a calmer and steadier expression of your views but your emotion was what drove open, honest discussion. There was a programme on the ABC last night which was beamed around the world on our radio. It had different people who represented the different aspects of the Victorian bush fire situation as we see it at the moment. It was a controlled programme but it raised all sorts of issues. One man was beside himself and he was sounding off. At one point I really felt for him because he was genuinely upset by what he saw as problems and yes, they were pretty big problems, but the interviewer gagged him and moved onto someone else. At one stage the man was talking about the roads they didn't have and how that had been an issue. Then he was talking about how they had been stopped from using fallen down trees by the roadside as free fuel for their wood  fires at home. His point was they wouldn't have been there to add to the fuel load if people had been allowed to use them for wood fires. His best point, where I though he was going to swear, and I really admired him for not swearing , was when he was talking about his friend's car . His friend had gone in his car to try and escape the fire and it had just melted. The man was horrified that the car had just melted. Any other Australian would have called the car a bleeping useless piece of crap for melting like that. Luckily the friend had got out. Yes, he named the car brand. The interviewer could have drawn him out on the roadside trees, or the poor quality roads or diverted the melting car into a general discussion of how we need to look at what cars are suitable for the bush. Then there was the lady who was having some difficulty getting her points out but they were incredibly valid and should have been clarified and  better heard. She made one point about her town not even being on Google maps so any talk of using GPS to track those who are trapped needed to include this oversight and incredible coverage gap. Her other point was we need to think outside the square and ponder whether it might not be better to turn some of  these townships into something else which was safer in terms of our society..create a new role for them. Neither of those points was explored. She, too, was given short shrift and yet those who were stating the obvious and who could easily express themselves calmly were given more time. This is a unique situation and speeches just are not going to cut it. We need to hear everyone's point of view. If they are sounding off, there will be some truth and valuable points in there. We need to hear them.

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