I was requested to update my online biography a few days ago. I didn’t have to struggle over what to put in or leave out, I am a fairly uncomplicated man, and I have few skeletons in my closet. I wrote about my family and my Grandsons, about my life in the worlds of Engineering, and my political beliefs.
I could have included, but instead omitted, the little-publicised fact that I once spent a night in a Brazilian jail on charges of drunkenness, damage to a café’s furniture and fixings and general mayhem. My excuse for the melee, along with the rest of the Officers of the ore-carrier I was sailing on at the time, was that the bar-owner wanted to close up at three a.m., instead of staying open and continuing playing selections from his Glenn Miller L.P.s. As anyone connected in any way with the music of Glenn Miller would affirm, a perfectly natural reaction!
The final point, the final sentence of my mini-history was a fervent wish that the Right to Free Speech should return to this over-governed, over-regulated, and overbearingly ruled Nation which I hold so dear!
I write this because, once more, the Thought Police have got their keyboard truncheons out over a UseNet group or WebSite which gives, or purports to give, advice about suicide. How to do it, when and where to attempt it, the list of horrors listed by this silly woman just drips on and on.
No, we cannot censor the internet. We couldn’t even if we wished to. True, nations-states like China, Burma, Iran do a fairly efficient job of blocking sites to which they wish to restrict access, but most computer users, if at all proficient, can find their way past the blocks. But a remote server can be anywhere, and all one needs is a PC or a Mac, access to a broadband connection, and that server can be maintained, accessed and updated from anywhere.
My point is simple; it is the very thought that someone feels the need to restrict access to views which they do not subscribe to, that is the totalitarian viewpoint. Much as I dislike and detest the clowns who demonstrate, with their placards of hate, against our Armed Forces, for example, as they rightfully parade through the streets of our cities and towns, it is because they have exactly the same rights as I to demonstrate in support of those Armed Forces that I do not hope that they may be stopped.
We should make sure that each and every viewpoint is allowed, there should be no marches banned, no demonstrations re-rerouted; if two different ideologies clash, that is their problem. As long as no innocent bystanders get caught up, let them have at one another. As I wrote a while back in a review of a book I admired, ‘we have a built-in predilection, almost at a genetic level, for ferocious violence’.
Maybe we should, just, ‘let our hair down’ now and again!