The Price of Free Speech   Leave a comment

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”

Wise words, as told to Thumper by his father in Bambi.  A few people should take heed of that advice but most of us live in countries where we’re allowed to say (almost) anything.  Political correctness is going crazy.  I think it’s quite simple – if it’s hurtful, it’s not funny.  I think it’s how something is meant.  Are we becoming too sensitive?  I can take jokes about Taffies and the Welsh and sheep, I’ve heard them all!  But I don’t take offence.

The great Frank Carson passed last week.  I love his joke – What’s the difference between my wife and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.”  

He told that in Belfast, during the troubles, but it’s funny, especially if you know my wife!  He grew up in a different time yes; I remember seeing Jim Davidson early on in his career, and he was so so funny. His sketch about different airlines, the stiff upper lipped BA, to the dope smoking Air Jamaica, was very clever and funny but probably couldn’t be told today, and of course his career is almost zero after his appearance and comments on a reality TV show, and quite rightly, (although I have to say I once contacted him in regard to a celebrity charity auction I was organising and he provided a massive cuddly toy, at his expense, – this was during his Generation Game days).
Many comedians would lose much of their material today – Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock to name three could not do the same stand up shows today that they did years ago.

Some do overstep the mark but I think they are soon ‘outed’, they’re just not funny, just insulting, but I also think that some people are becoming too intolerant, looking for things that aren’t there but still ending them.

It often seems that the minority have the loudest voices, sometimes this is a good thing of course, it’s how society changes, when it needs to.

Racism for example in the UK is more behind closed doors, which I feel is more dangerous than having it out in the open.  I’ve encountered it many times, from people who you wouldn’t think felt that way, had those feelings,  I’ve actually been spat at for walking down a high street in North Wales with my friend Rikki.  In the States it is more open, the KKK of course, in the UK we have the BNP.  In Tennessee I have encountered it a few times.  I’ll always let it be known it’s not appreciated and most people will then refrain from similar comments in my presence.

After employing an Egyptian, a black Dutch chef and a Czech girl at in my theatre I had a caretaker say to me that it was “getting like the bleeding United Nations here.”  I replied that I agreed and that it was great wasn’t it?  He was not amused.  They were though simply the best people for the job at that time.

My first brush with ‘racism’ came when I was ten.  I was having a birthday party and invited friends.  The next day a boy whose parents were from Pakistan, was telling others that I hadn’t invited him because he wasn’t white.  As another of my friends was Jamaican and another African, this argument obviously wasn’t true and I remember walking up to him in the playground, (where it all used to happen!), and telling him that the reason he wasn’t invited was simply because I didn’t like him, nothing to do with the colour of his skin.

There’s a good example of this too in the original MASH book by Richard Hooker, involving Hawkeye and Spearchucker Jones.

Racism is not the only minefields, religion and politics are too when it comes to free speech, and it usually does come at a cost.  


All the lives lost in wars; sacrifices great people like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King have made, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice as with MLK, for their beliefs.  

We are in quite an unstable, scary time at the moment – Israel seemingly wanting to attack Iran before it gets nuclear weapons, which of course would start in all likely World War Three and of course the problems in Syria, who are backed by Russia and China.  Why were we so quick to act in Libya and not in Syria – could it possibly be oil? or is it the threat those two countries pose?  Finally there is the on going situation in Palestine.

Living in a democracy we hear all views and that’s how it should be, but it seems governments now waiver quicker due to a few protests and campaigns.  Recently there has been outcry at Tesco getting work experience people, cheap or free labour, and I agree they shouldn’t, but there are other positions and companies that could utilise people.

I personally feel that there should be a time limit to unemployment benefit, six months.  After that the person becomes ’employed’ by the Government, who then either place them in work experience and find them a position that suits them.  Small companies who can’t afford to hire additional staff will welcome additional people, people who will not be working for nothing as they will be ‘paid’ by the government, and also will be either learning or retraining which makes them more attractive for full positions.

Using an example close to me I know someone who moved far away from home and ‘worked’ as an unpaid intern two days a week, to gain experience, and worked in a shop two other days a week to earn just about enough to pay bills etc.  They have now been offered a full time, well paid position within the company they were interning with, doing what they are passionate about.

A few people play and abuse the system, at a cost to taxpayers, and this has to stop.  It seems they feel they have a God given right to be kept by others.  There is talk about raising tax again to 50% but why should hard working, talented people support people who simply don’t want to work?  They shouldn’t.

There are many many genuine people out there desperately searching for work and they need support from the government but the spongers are draining the country financially, and they need to be stopped.  

I’ll now get off my soapbox but isn’t it great that I can say this, give my opinion, and that is all it is, just my opinion, and not worry about being carted off to prison, never to be seen again!  Welcome to the free world.


And if that’s not a cue for a song, I don’t know what is!  This is Neil Young’s thought-provoking video for Rocking in a Free World, highlighting all that is good and certainly all that is bad –


Posted March 6, 2012 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

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