Speaking out for Free Speech

Freedom of speech has been going extinct in the UK for a few years now. On paper, we have the right to freely express ourselves, but in practice, if someone gets offended or if you’re spreading conspiracy theories, they will come for you with torches and demand your head. This rather long article is my way of getting my head around the subject as well as an attempt to defend free speech and why I think we should embrace it, cherish it and use it in the name of truth.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”

George Orwell

Cover your eyes

I don’t have too many memories of my father. He left before he was able to pass on his wisdom to me, but today I am reminded of one particular Sunday afternoon. The year was 1996 or 1997 and I was just nine or ten. My dad had by then infected me with his love for martial arts movies. He was to me an action star himself. He could do side splits and handstand with almost no effort at all. That afternoon we were sitting in the living room and watching the newly released on VHS Rumble in the Bronx with no other than Jackie Chan, who is known for his impressive fight skills, fight choreography and being his own stunt double. His movies, though action packed, are usually family friendly with moderate violence and nothing extremely upsetting or offensive. We were both admiring his athleticism, and my dad was excited to introduce me to him. He’d say to me, “He does all these dangerous stunts himself, you know? He’s nothing like those Hollywood fakes”. As Jackie Chan kicked, punched, jumped and climbed and surfed his way through the movie, something unexpected happened. His character was about to kiss a girl.

In order to explain what happened next and why it matters in the context of free speech, let me take you back a little. My sister and I often watched movies, either on TV or on VHS, with our parents. The unwritten rule was simple: don’t look when they tell us to. This meant that whenever there was nudity or violence in the movie, we weren’t allowed to see it. This might sound like a weird practice to you, but you have to understand that this was before sex and violence were everywhere. There was no internet, no violent video games, and movies rarely included sex scenes (and when they did, they were like a kiss on the cheek in today’s standards), and music videos focused more on telling a story than on showing tits and asses. Of course, these things did exist, but they did not flood the TV screens like they do today. Not in 1990s Catholic Poland anyway. Those days the only way I could be exposed to a naked female body was by discovering my dad’s secret stash of Playboys, which I did. I remember taking some of the magazines down to my parents’ shop and showing them to their young female employee, Renata. Because I had no real concept of age and I segregated people into grownups and kids, I never thought Ms Renata, as I called her, was perhaps a lot younger than my parents. She might have been twenty at the time. Me and Renata were friends. They sold electronics, so the shop was never too busy. I often came down after school with comic books and we’d read them together. Sometimes, Ms Renata helped me with some schoolwork too. Imagine the surprise on her face when, instead of the latest Batman comic book, I brought down a bunch of Playboys. We looked through them together without a shade of embarrassment. We both laughed when one of the models’ name was Renata. I don’t know if she ever told my parents. You can see how, before the internet or on demand TV, the only time you could see these things was if you physically went to a shop (no self-check outs either), picked up a copy of the dirty magazine, walked up to the cash desk, looked the lady in the eye, handed her the magazine and paid for it. If you’ve never done it, it is a pretty embarrassing experience, trust me. So, you can imagine that even Renata might have not been exposed to such pictures too often.

And now Jackie Chan is kissing the girl. My dad looks at me and, just like a hundred times before, orders me to close my eyes. But this time, I don’t. I look on. In my head, I am ready to see this. Not necessarily because of the Playboys because I don’t remember if I discovered them before or after this afternoon. I just think I am ready. I am not a kid anymore. I want to see the forbidden scene. “I can handle this, dad”, I think to myself. The kiss doesn’t last that long, but it goes on forever in light of my disobedience. My dad is not happy. The look on his face says if all as he repeats, “Don’t look!”. The anger mixed with surprise, disappointment, embarrassment and powerlessness are all painted on his face as he witnesses, what I believe to be, the moment I become a man.  “Why?”, I demand. Silence. The movie goes on, Jackie gets the girl and I learn that it’s important to be the good guy of your story, and I also learn that adults do this disgusting thing called kissing – Yuck!

Looking back, I know my parents only tried to protect me from being exposed to what they knew and thought I wasn’t ready to see. I think this is reasonable. Parents should keep their children from harm, even if it means not letting them look at scenes they may not understand or that may upset them. You could say that parents get to censor certain content to protect their children’s vulnerable minds.

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What is speech?

If everything you did was right, you would never know what was wrong

Matthew McConaughey

As I write these words, someone is making a You Tube video expressing their views on climate change. By the time I finish the next sentence, millions of Twitter users will have condensed their complex thoughts into a narrow box of a tweet and posted them on the platform. Some of them will get hundreds, perhaps even thousands of retweets by other users who either agree or disagree with the statement they’re responding to. Somewhere else two friends are having a drink and are trying to settle their argument about the ending of Inception. Some politicians are having a debate about taxes. By the time I finish expressing my views here, millions of students around the world will have raised their hands in the classroom, ready to answer a question or ask one themselves. Millions of preachers and priests around the globe will have told the faithful about the glory of God and his kingdom, while thousands if not millions of job seekers will have declared themselves non – religious on a job application. All while someone somewhere, unaware of it all, is thinking and wondering about the world. He asks questions and ponders the possibilities. He is thinking.

What is speech? It’s all of the above because speech is communication. Speech is thought spoken out loud. Speech is the extension of a thought which then becomes known as “your opinion”. A thought that finds its way out to the world. It takes the shape of an idea, a view, a theory, a narrative, a solution. Of course, not all thoughts, when spoken out loud, lead to scientific breakthroughs or million-dollar ideas, but it is by communicating these thoughts to others, can we create new ones. Only by sharing our views can we find out if we are right or wrong and come back with an upgraded worldview. Without telling others what we think, what we believe to be true, without communicating, it is impossible to replace bad ideas with good ones or see the problem we are facing from a different perspective. We must all believe we are free to speak our mind. We must all value this ancient contract in order to be able to connect, solve problems and continue to prosper. Speech is a platform, the town square for our thoughts to meet, to gather,  to mate, and language is a tool that allows them to flirt and create other thoughts. Speech is an arena where thoughts of people, like the gladiators in Ancient Rome, can fight to the death. Free speech is the right of an individual to allow their thoughts to come out and hope to be interacted with. Free speech is the right of an individual to present his or her thoughts to those who will listen. It is their right to do so without the fear of violence, persecution and with hopes of being listened to, understood, agreed or disagreed with, related to, learned from. It is the right to repeat a joke, share a meme. It is their right to say, “I don’t believe you!”. It is the right to let their thoughts, which are largely influenced by the outside world, to be spoken out loud. If speech is not free, and I mean all speech, then neither is thought. If speech becomes a crime, then so does the thought.

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What is a thought?

Around the time I found those Playboys, my sister had a pet parrot. We learned that pet birds enjoy seeing their own reflection in the mirror, so we put one in her cage. God, I miss those days – when you couldn’t Google everything so every fact or information you found out felt like a ground-breaking discovery. I think this is what makes my generation unique. We spent our childhoods without our faces glued to mobile phones, our parents had to worry about bruises on our knees and not online predators, sexual content and social media bullying. Now we get to spend our adulthood consuming as much information as we want without taking technology, that makes it possible, for granted. But I digress. The mirror detached from the cage and fell on top of the parrot and she died. My sister was upset. She was only about five or six. The mirror tricked the parrot into thinking she had company. Her tragic death in the loneliness of the cage was caused by something that was supposed to save her sanity.

A thought is like that parrot in the cage. Instead of feathers she is made of words, images and memories. The cage is all she knows. What if she were to escape? What if she were set free? Through the mouth of the cage the parrot would announce her presence, her freedom to the world. And so, out through the window she goes. Still just the same, but now she gets to interact with the great outside. As she flaps her wings awkwardly, trying her best to do what she’s been designed to do, she gets noticed. Other birds (thoughts), who have been free for as long as they can remember, observe her with suspicion. Her unconventional colours and her unfamiliar song threaten, puzzle, fascinate, gain admiration, cause a debate above and below all at once. From this interaction alone, they all learn something they didn’t know before. The birds who all look the same, sing the same, behave the same, have learned that it is possible to be different. They now know that there is a world beyond their colony. The parrot now understands that the outside world can be uninviting. She knows now that she has to learn to communicate. She knows that not everyone will understand her song, its meaning, its context and her intentions. Richer in experience she can now go back to her cage and reflect, then try again tomorrow.

This is what happens to our thoughts. They live in our head. They remain unchanged, unchallenged, unconfirmed for as long as they stay unrevealed. These thoughts, these ideas, claims and theories that form in our heads need to be exposed to the sunlight. Only then can they grow and become better. Bad ideas and radical thoughts, when exposed, can be stopped in their tracks. They can be debunked, criticized, ridiculed, questioned and possibly destroyed. Interesting ideas, theories and points of view, on the other hand, can be pondered, explored, learned from, praised, helpful, revealing and revolutionary. We only ever find out when our thoughts turn into speech. If our idea has the potential to make the world a little better, we won’t know until we share it with someone who can put it into practice. If our opinion is wrong, unfounded, based on false information, formed on incomplete evidence, then only by exposing it to someone who may have already battled with the same arguments, can we really know if we’re onto something or not. If we allow our thought to stare at its own reflection, it may die admiring its own greatness before ever reaching its full potential, or it may live on and forever remain a delusion. I will argue that even if our opinion is clearly wrong or offensive it needs to be free to express. It may be, no matter how incorrect or hateful, based on pure ignorance and indoctrination.

Imagine if the parrot that was set free earlier is some form of a narcist, extremist or a heretic. She loves her blue, green and yellow feathers. After all it’s all she’s ever admired when she stared in her own reflection. Nobody ever challenged her. She flies out of the window and into the city and she sees that pigeons act like savages. They fight, they eat McDonalds leftovers on the street, they lack any manners, they poop everywhere. She comes to a conclusion that all pigeons are inferior to her. All grey birds are inferior, in fact. They are dirty, she thinks. She is now convinced that parrots are smarter, superior, more intelligent, cleaner, smell nicer and are more beautiful than all grey, black and white birds. She is a bigot. We know she is a bigot because we know what she thinks. Most of the time, we don’t know what people, or parrots think. We only know what they decide to share with us. How can we engage with the parrot’s views if we don’t know what they are? If she tells us her opinion, we can then explain to her why she is wrong. Both of us must feel confident that we are free to express ourselves without the threat of violence or punishment. We both must feel comfortable that our thoughts are safe when we let them out of our cage. Without it, no real progress can be made. Our opinions and arguments will never meet, they will stay in our heads and confirm their righteousness in their own reflection. Here they don’t die, like our parrot did earlier, they remain a delusion that never gets debunked.

It seems like in the world today, we prefer to prevent people from expressing their thoughts rather than dealing with those thoughts. Stopping a heretic, extremist or a conspiracy theorist from expressing their views does not eliminate heretics, extremism or conspiracies. It only suppresses an individual’s right to tell their truth, often pushing them further into their illusion by confirming their convictions. Racism, sexism, homophobia still exist despite the so-called hate speech laws. Facebook, Twitter or You Tube can delete offensive content all they want, but it will not turn the world into a big happy politically correct utopia. I am not saying that hateful content should be unfiltered (threats of violence or calls for violence should be reported and deleted), but I am saying that this only makes things look nice on the surface and the problems it tries to solve still exist. Would we prefer our parrot to remain silent about her racism, or would we prefer to know about it and engage with it, find the root of it and try to reason with it? It wouldn’t be easy, it could be impossible, but simply censoring her speech would not solve the problem at all. We can always choose to distance ourselves from the bigots. We are free to think. Speech is the expression and extension of thought. Thoughts seek validation. Speech should, therefore, be free as it is just a thought, just an idea that can be confirmed or debunked only by someone else using his freedom to speak his mind.

Of course, we can all read a book or go online to confirm or debunk our beliefs. But even a book can only exist because the author and the scientists and philosophers, he quoted in his book, all exercised their freedom of speech. Only thanks to free speech can The Bible and The Origin of Species be sold in the same bookstore. Only thanks to freedom of speech can you pick up both of them and decide which idea makes more sense. Freedom of speech of everyone employs your critical thinking. For thousands of years there has been no other truth other than that preached in churches. As a matter of fact, a few hundred years ago, in Europe, you’d face a certain death if you made a scientific discovery or a claim that went against the teachings of Christianity. In 1600, an Italian man, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive for suggesting that Earth was not the centre of the Universe (something Galileo got away with it just a few decades later and is now credited for that discovery).

 Now, thanks to free speech you can listen to ten different people telling you what they think. You can agree with some and tell others why they are wrong, and they will tell you why you are wrong. The thoughts would be mating and fighting again. This is how critical thinking works. It wouldn’t be possible if our thoughts remained trapped in our heads or censored by those who think you are not ready to see them, that you are not capable of making your own judgement, that you are not an intelligent adult who can think for himself, that you need to be protected from your own thoughts. We don’t need our fathers to cover our eyes anymore. We are ready to see nudity because nudity is truth. We are capable of deciding what to do with it. I might have been just a little kid, but I didn’t go around kissing everyone after seeing Jackie Chan do it. I wasn’t interested in it. Twenty – three years later, I can read psychology books, news articles, watch You Tube videos about UFOs, ghosts or politics, documentaries about the Universe, listen to David Icke talk about lizards, judge Trump’s presidency based on his policies or speeches. I can do all that and decide for myself what I think and believe. I don’t need my views presented to me and formed by a third party. What I need is free and equal access to all sources of information, so I can evaluate it and create my own worldview based on which I can then vote, campaign, work and raise my children. I can be wrong but let me be wrong.

We are still being parented and the content presented to us is filtered and moderated. It’s almost as if we are back in the 90s, all sitting in my living room with my dad, who is deciding what we are and aren’t allowed to see, what we may not understand, what is incorrect or “false information”. He is our moderator and our fact checker. He is our daddy, and his name is Google. You can click here Vaccines or Immune System? – Deserts of Mars (wordpress.com) to see just how the information you google is manipulated before it is given to you. Don’t get put off by the title, it was just a quick experiment on what search results you get from Google and a less popular search engine when you search for the same exact phrase.

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Thought crime

Of course, words have consequences. Whatever you say may be used against you. You tell the wrong joke at the wrong party, and you will be remembered as that inappropriate guy never to appear on the guest list again. The same joke worked when you said it to a few of your friends, and it worked even better when it was said by Ricky Gervais on the stage and in front of a thousand people. But at that party, people didn’t appreciate your dark humour. What for one person is “you shouldn’t joke about these things”, is “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s so funny!”, to another. The line is different for everyone which means no joke is inappropriate.

In a free country social exile should be the only risk of speaking one’s mind. It is, however, not the case more often than not. In the last few years, the police in the UK have been more and more involved in policing speech and even arresting people for jokes. In 2018, Mark Meechan, a Scottish man, was found guilty of gross offence. His crime? He taught his girlfriend’s cute pug a Nazi salute, filmed it and posted it on You Tube. The video went viral, he was found out, arrested and charged. Now that he faced justice, antisemitism is surely defeated. The people who found the video funny all disappeared. Some would argue, of course, that his joke was in poor taste, but so what? It was too much for them, but the same people would possibly gladly laugh had he made fun of another sensitive subject deemed inappropriate by someone else. It is ridiculous that a man should face criminal charges for a joke, the subject of which was the dog, and not those it offended. What is weird about this situation is that You Tube already has policies in place which ban “offensive” content. Shouldn’t it be as simple as reaching out to You Tube to delete the video? What about all the people who enjoyed and shared it on Facebook? Should they get a visit from the police too? You have to ask yourself, though, who is responsible for the content they put out? If the social media site can remove the video (or entire channels as it turns out) for violation of their terms of use, but at the same time, police can come knocking on your door, shouldn’t it be one or the other? It just seems like the police gets involved to “check your thinking”, and thinking should not be a criminal offence. Thought crime belongs in the Orwellian novel.

Of course, this has to do with political correctness and hate speech. The former has been weaponised to change how people think and the latter has been relabelled and criminalised so that anything “offensive” you say can be used against you. But remember, offense is taken, not given. What should be just a disapproval of your family and friends, now has real criminal consequences. What people who create these laws don’t seem to understand is that you can’t put a joke behind bars. You can’t fine an opinion. No matter how offensive or controversial they sound. You can’t arrest a room full of people who laugh at a racist joke, so why should you arrest the one saying it? The same joke said in a different room would be met with a disappointment and disapproval and that should be the end of it.

It isn’t only offensive content or opinions that you can get in trouble for. I remember the time when you could go on You Tube and go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about 9/11. Plenty of them arguing that either the US government or the Jews were behind the attack. These videos had hundreds of thousands of views, which over ten years ago was a big deal. I admit, I did shortly buy into the theories, but apart from wasting my time watching hours of content, it changed nothing in my life. Now, Google, who bought You Tube a few years ago, are acting like our daddy again. If you type in 9/11 in the search box, your top results will be the so – called reputable sources like CNN and other usual suspects (despite having far less views than the more intriguing conspiracy videos). Alternative journalism, commentary and sources of information are as good as dead on You Tube. Your daddy, Google, not only tells you to look away, but also deletes all the content in case you’re not able to think critically and make your own judgement about it. What used to be a great platform for people to share ideas in a video format has now become just another TV channel. Unless you’re subscribed to various Youtubers, your landing page will have some music videos, movie trailers and news stories and it will be very difficult for you to find other people like yourself and find out what they think. You Tube, Google, Facebook and increasingly the government are like a restaurant where you don’t get shown what’s on the menu. Instead they serve you a meal they think you should eat and enjoy. In this virtual restaurant you are not trusted to decide what meal is good for you. You are not trusted to look at the menu, read the ingredients for yourself and choose your food. You’re just served the same vegan salad as all other guests – bon appétit.

Over the last four years, since I started paying attention, I have witnessed a lot of controversial views being silenced, stomped down, and their authors or even messengers deleted off the internet. I’ve seen a biology professor being removed from Twitter for stating a scientific fact about males and females which went against the transgender ideology. Offensive charm, triggering rants and controversial views got Katie Hopkins deleted from the certainly left leaning platform as well. Stefan Molyneaux, a You Tuber with nearly a million subscribers and nearly a decade of making thought provoking, philosophical videos, was removed from the platform without a warning. Not to mention hundreds of lecturers and speakers on US campuses that were cancelled or met with protests by students who were triggered by their very name. Just this week I read about another attempt at censoring controversial views. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychologist, University professor and a published author. His well thought out, evidence based and eloquently presented and controversial views gained him a large following as well as cult – like hatred. He has become a target of the Left who labelled him with every “ism” you can think of. His publisher, Penguin, have just announced his new book Beyond Order – 12 More Rules for Life. Some of Penguin employees, who believe Peterson to be a Right – Wing fascist, demand the book to be cancelled. A few months ago, a similar thing happened at Spotify, when Joe Rogan, who is Peterson’s close friend, moved his extremely popular podcast from You Tube to Spotify. Some staff at Spotify were not happy to host The Joe Rogan Experience, so they protested. Luckily, both Penguin and Spotify didn’t bend the knee. Their triggered staff however sound a lot like they don’t want you to see the menu and decide what information you want to consume.

Speaking of Joe Rogan, one of his guests and now the 2nd richest man in the world, Elon Musk, said on his show that sometime soon we might have mind reading technology. He suggested that a microchip could not only collect your thoughts but communicate them to somebody else’s brain through their chip. He argued that this technology would allow ideas to communicate more efficiently without the barrier of our vocabulary or inability to express ourselves. With a chip like this, I wouldn’t have to spend hours writing this trying to make my opinion of free speech clear. I’d simply have to transfer my thoughts through my chip to yours without having to explain what I mean. You’d just get it instantly by downloading words and images that form that idea or a thought.

My dad was right to protect my ten – year old self from offensive content I wasn’t ready for. My compass of right and wrong was still developing, and I needed guidance or perhaps he just didn’t want to or didn’t know how to address the questions I’d have after seeing that kiss. His censorship was justified. So where does this put the government or the social media platforms who take it upon themselves to decide what you can and cannot be exposed to? Censorship of speech, opinions, views is not only Orwellian, but also suggests that those who do it consider you and me to be incapable of critical thinking or dealing with negativity and offensive content. They think it is up to them, just like my dad did, to protect your eyes and ears from seeing and hearing what they think you wouldn’t be able to process. They think we are operating on that still developing compass and need them to hold our hand. They think that if you watch an interview with David Icke, you will immediately become a conspiracy theorist. They think that if you listen to Katie Hopkins, you will not be able to filter her words yourself and you will become what people accuse her of being – a racist, which I don’t believe to be the case. These people, whether they sit at the headquarters of Facebook, Google or Twitter or in the Parliament genuinely think that they are superior to us therefore get to decide what you can and cannot read, watch or listen. Yet somehow porn is easier to access than ever. What is so dangerous about believing a so called “conspiracy theory” or spreading or being exposed to so called “hate speech”? What is it that at the same time makes porn so widely available? We are all adults, and we don’t need the information, no matter how crazy or offensive, filtered by these people who think they know better. It is condescending to us and in the long run, ineffective at achieving whatever they’re trying to achieve. Are we not allowed to decide for ourselves anymore?

We already moderate our thoughts and filter what we share with people. We do it because we know words have consequences. We want to maintain social life, so we don’t tell people what we think all the time. Just imagine if someone had access to your mind just for a day. How many times did you think of something offensive? What are some of the taboos you battle over in your head sometimes? Did you ever fantasise about doing something horrible to someone you know? Do you ever have these dark thoughts that just pop into your head out of nowhere? How many of those, if you spoke them out loud, would get you in trouble or make your family, friends and colleagues distance themselves from you? Imagine if someone could open up this diary in your head and read every page. All the embarrassing memories you don’t think of too often, but when you do, you relive that embarrassment again. All those times you imagined beating up that customer. Throughout our day, we only give people a taste of what’s in that diary. Only the stuff we want them to know. In a way, we personalise the menu of what’s on offer in our head. But that’s ok. We want to maintain that friendship, keep that job, see that girl or man again. We censor ourselves and we know when to not say things that are considered crazy or controversial. Unfortunately, now, the Scottish government wants to take away your right to free speech even at your dinner table. They want it to be criminal to make a “controversial” comment while talking to your family and friends at your table. Think about it.

And yet, despite our self-moderation, thought crime is possible. It is possible because we read our diary out to people. We share some of its pages with friends and on social media. By doing so, we give people access into parts of our mind. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes it’s cold, offensive and unfriendly and aggressive. But, if this invitation into your head triggers the wrong response, you may end up losing your friends, your job or worse – with a criminal record preventing you from taking on certain jobs in the future. All because of your thoughts. All because what was in your head came out through your mouth and landed on somebody’s sensitive ears. Now your friends don’t want to be associated with your controversial views, your boss thinks they’re bad for business or for staff integrity, and the law enforcement must defend those fragile feelings of those you did or might have offended, so they must punish you. Your speech is now that kiss scene my dad tried to “protect” me from because he “knew” what was best for me.

Freedom of speech is your right to express yourself; it is your right to be wrong; it is your right to disagree; it is your right to speak your truth; it is your right to explore ideas; it is your right to protest; it is your right to demand answers and evidence; it is your right to consent to refuse and to deny; it is your right to lie; it is your right to think out loud; it is your right to teach and to learn from others; it is your right to laugh at a joke; it is your right to defend your beliefs; it is your right to vote; your right to demand justice; it is your right to listen and say you don’t believe; it is your right to write a tweet, a blog or a book; it is your right to say the unspeakable only because you first thought the unthinkable; it is your right to criticise or to praise. If any authority tries to rob you of that right, they are inevitably robbing you of your consciousness and your right to think.

The bottom line is this. There is time and place to speak our mind. We should all be able to freely hold our beliefs and express our opinions without the interference of the government, social media platforms or our boss if they happen to be your friend of Facebook. Free speech allows us to argue and debate, disagree and criticise. It allows us to listen to and read about different ideas, problems. Free speech allows diversity of opinion, diversity of thinking which are often key to solving problems in the company to figuring out how best to tackle a crisis like COVID19. Without free speech you are not exposed to different ideas. This disables your critical thinking and the ability to think for yourself and shape your own opinions. Similarly, when your phone upgrade is due you surely spend at least a little while comparing the latest phones to choose the one that suits your needs best. The freedom of Apple or Samsung to provide you with the options is your freedom to choose from them. We need free speech. We must not let the corporations or the government take it away from us because when it comes down to it, this is one of our fundamental human rights, given not by them but by Mother Nature herself when she endowed us with the ability to think and to speak. We must not hand it over to the state because without their suits and titles they are just the same as us, governed by the same laws that come from Mother Nature.

Speech is thought, just louder.

When things go back to normal

Do you ever text your friend and suggest you should get together and they say “Yeah, when things go back to normal, we should go to the pub or something!”?  Do you ever scroll through your social media feed and see people making holiday plans for when things go back to normal? Do you ever visit dating sites and see people looking to date after the lockdown? I bet you have come across at least one of these people. Or maybe you are one yourself. Making plans for when we are given thumbs up to get on with our lives. What if planning and arranging your life from now on will never be the same? What if things don’t go back to normal? What if lockdown ending is not what we should be anticipating but what comes after?

Are we in control? Are we truly in control of our lives? Are we the authors of our story or are we just narrating it? Are we making the decisions or are we just choosing between the options provided for us? Maybe we are all enslaved by the algorithm that advertises careers, products, lifestyle choices and romantic partners to us and we stick to choosing between the options provided. The endless chain of choices creates the illusion of freedom while be become dependent on the state or corporations to give us what we think we want and need.

We never needed Netflix. Nobody needs Netflix. Think about it. I am sure a lot of you can relate. You want to watch a movie but now you are bombarded with choices and none of them seem to scratch that itch. You scroll through recently added and the most popular. Then you move on to comedies and then maybe you check another category only to find nothing. You’ve just spent twenty minutes deciding or rather choosing between the options provided by somebody else. More often than not, it’s too late now, you have to be up early and if you started watching something now, you’d not get enough sleep. Sometimes you might settle for something just for the sake of it. Either way, your time has been wasted and you are not satisfied. Do you think people who run Netflix, waste their time on watching movies or lose sleep to watch entire series overnight? Isn’t it ironic that the more options you have, the less happy you become? The options are almost limitless. You know you can watch a certain movie any time and unlimited number of times and yet for this very reason you are restricted. Back in the day, when I was younger, we were restricted by the number of options. We had to go to the video store and rent VHS tapes. We had less options but enjoyed more freedom. More isn’t necessarily better.

But I digress.

Do you think fast food chains are ran by unhealthy and obese CEOs or that cigarette manufacturers by heavy smokers who are on the brick of getting lung cancer? No. For the same reason why a drug dealer is not a junkie himself. They want you to buy and use their product. Time, money and health are their resources and they won’t waste them like they want you to. They need you to rely on them while their mind is clear and they continue to make money because you are willing to waste your resources – money, time and health on useless subscriptions, alcohol, cigarettes, unhealthy food, drugs, trainers and expensive clothes. You submit to their rules. They don’t live by them. I’m not saying they are all evil. I am saying that a CEO or a founder of a clothing company, doesn’t spend countless hours walking around shopping for trainers and jeans. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t spend his days scrolling through Instagram seeing what other people are doing with their life. He has a whole team of spies to do it for him. But seriously, these people spend every waking hour trying to improve their product, their company, their life and to find ways to make more money off you. In a way they don’t care that you are wasting your money on their products or life on their platforms. Just know that they don’t. They think of more ways to get to you. To get to know you. To advertise to you. They live by different rules. They’ve earned it or sold their souls to the Devil to get there. You choose.

We have seen the proof with our own eyes as soon as shops re – opened. People queuing to buy, to browse, to consume to enslave themselves and submit to the will of the elite. This is what we have become. Defeated and braindead. Crawling through the High Street abandoning our purpose in life for a new pair of Nikes believing they will help us walk into happiness. They don’t realize that happiness is going to pass them by as they are distracted and seduced by a temporary fix. They are even willing to accept the New Normal and sacrifice their sanity by waiting for the security guy to let them in. Public toilets are now guarded too. Can’t have too many people using the facilities now, can we? The town is full of arrows and footprints that must be followed and there are people in uniforms enforcing the one-way pedestrian system which drives me mad. Police walk around enforcing it too and making sure people don’t gather in groups while shopping. I could not go through it just to get a new pair of jeans.

But the New Normal has arrived. It seems to be here to stay. Don’t make the mistake of assuming this New Reality is everyone’s reality. No. Just like the founders of Netflix don’t waste time endlessly browsing through it, the people who introduce this reality are not the ones who will live in it. Your politicians don’t go shopping. They have assistants doing it for them. I know someone who does it for a living. She works as a personal assistant of a wealthy family and up until recently she worked for an Arsenal player. She does the bills, food shopping, walking the dog and everything else in between that distracts the rich and successful from making money. Nothing wrong with that but just remember, they live in a different world and pay others to do the dirty work in the real world while they focus on their careers and expanding their wealth.  

Politicians are no different. They are creating a world for us, not themselves. People think things are going back to normal, but they are not. Try going to your favourite pub when it opens. Try to get a haircut on the 4th July. Try to have a wedding or arrange a funeral. Everything that you used to take for granted is gone or changed forever. Modified to fit the New Reality. The reality of the common man and woman. While we adapt to the world with no handshakes, no affection, no singing at weddings, no socialising in pubs, the life of the elites will, for the most part, remain the same. Like I said earlier with Mark Zuckerberg. He doesn’t check his phone all the time for a new Facebook comment, Instagram like or Whatsapp message. He cares that you do. He is in business of making you waste your time seeking approval of others on his platforms. And while the world changes before your eyes, the rich, powerful and famous people will carry on as normal. Some of them might have spent the last few months on a yacht surrounded by supermodels and don’t even know that 99.99% of the world population were absolutely not affected by some Chinese virus.

I was just reminded of Dark City, a great movie I recommend everyone to watch. It tells a story of a man who finds himself in a city ran by powerful entities who rearrange the city and the lives of its citizens when they sleep. Every morning they wake up not remembering who they were the day before. They have a new family, new house, new job and don’t even know it. He discovers the truth. The entities he is up against create new reality every night. New rules that don’t affect them in any way. They execute their plan and the people of the dark city are just subjects of their experiment. Have we just woken up in The Dark City? Some of us act like we barely remember our life before the quarantine. Others act like they never want things to go back to the way they were. Yet others live in denial and think this is still only temporary. A handful of us are awake and try to take on the powerful entities who are ruling over us and are rearranging our lives with an illusion of our consent.

Are powerful entities in control of your lives?

On the bright side though…

Football is back, isn’t it? The excitement and passion are back… well, not quite. You can’t go to a match. Are you ever going to be able to? At least the way it was before? Shoulder to shoulder with the fans of your team. Jumping, singing and celebrating together? Are you ever going to be able to go to a game without being treated like a big bag of germs? Probably not. So, this aspect of your life is gone. Sure, you might try it for a while but eventually you will get sick of it. Just like we all are of queuing everywhere and being reminded that we are all murderers if we don’t wash out hands or cover our face with a mask or a cloth (they both seem to be equally useless but while they cover your mouth, they signal your virtue). While your employment is still a big question mark, football players are back to work. Kicking the ball and getting paid millions. Not much has changed for them then. Empty stadiums are nothing new in football either. But even when fans are allowed back in (in reduced numbers to observe social distancing), most players will not notice the number of supporters and they probably won’t care what you had to go through to get to your seat. They play, you watch. They don’t queue. They play while their assistants are queuing for their groceries and after the game you will have to queue for yours.

Is there room for this in the New Normal?

Movie production is probably going to resume soon too. Do you think we will see the new normal there? I doubt it. Movies will remain normal and will ask for your money and won’t care how dreadful your trip to the cinema is. I realized this when I watched Dave Chapelle’s most recent stand up. It was filmed a few weeks ago in America. It was outside. He was on stage, doing exactly what he did before. The audience’s experience was different. The seats were spread. I assume they could only sit together if they arrived together and they all wore face masks. Not just any face masks. They had Chapelle logo on them but that’s beside the point. I think Dave Chapelle is a great comedian and this has nothing to do with him. The point I’m trying to make is that stand ups, musicians and other live performers will at some point resume their lives. The key word is resume because they won’t be affected by the new normal. Not that much anyway. For the past few months, they have been in their mansions with their lives paused. They’ve earned it so I’m not having a go at them. What I am saying is that soon they will all be back performing while who knows what their audience have to go through to see their shows.

The movie industry will return in the new normal too. Are we going to see social distanced Hollywood productions? Or will the movies look like nothing ever happened? While you and I walk around our High Street following arrows and avoiding eye contact with strangers, avoiding conversation and touch with them as they are all potential asymptomatic murderers spreading the deadly disease with their breath, cough and hands, the movies will continue as if there is no pandemic. The fantasy world will be here to entertain you while you live in this nightmare and walk through a maze everywhere you go. Their convincing trailers with explosions, car chases will trigger emotions in you and Hollywood stars will invite you to go to the cinema and contribute to their lavish lifestyles while your life is a living hell and you a ticking time bomb. You will pay the same price or more for your ticket as you did before you even knew you could put “social” and “distancing” together and it would make sense. In other words, your cinema experience will not be the same. You will queue, walk through a maze, queue to go to the toilet (if going to the toilet will be at all possible during a movie, given you will have to be in a close proximity with other germ carriers when leaving your seat). Saying that, going to the toilet during the show might actually be banned. What about leaving the room after the movie? Will you be able to just walk out or will everyone have to walk out in some kind of sequence. What if you have an emergency and you have to leave halfway through? Can you see what I mean? Your experience will be sabotaged while the whole movie crew gets paid and carries on as normal. They won’t care how you get to the cinema and what your experience is like. As long as you tap your card and buy that ticket. Somehow, I can’t see cinemas lowering the prices because of your inconveniences.

When things go back to normal…. What? Like going to the pub and not being able to interact with strangers? Like going to the pub and not being able to stand at the bar? Like waiting for an appointment with your hairdresser only to find out they aren’t allowed to talk to “control the virus”? Like not being able to sing at weddings or fathers being banned from walking the brides to the altar? Like having to follow arrows anywhere and being followed by people with job titles that didn’t exist a month ago? You know, those who enforce the social distancing and one-way walking system? Do you think it’s going away? When? When we’ve flattened the curve? When we’ve saved the NHS? When we’ve made sure there is not a single patient at any hospital? When we’ve protected every single elderly from dying?

No more singing comrade!
I suggest you make your own rules at your own wedding!

I know what you’re thinking. “No singing at the weddings? Nobody is going to follow that!”, or “No small talk with your hairdresser? I’d like to see them enforce that!”. Of course, nobody will follow these stupid rules. The point is, we shouldn’t have to be intimidated into thinking that singing at a wedding is against the rules, but we will do it anyway. We shouldn’t have to question the morality of it and fear that the antiterrorists will crash our wedding or that the Thought Police will arrest you and your barber halfway through the haircut because he or she asked you if you have any holiday planned. We shouldn’t have to sneak out. So, the point isn’t breaking the rules. The point is these rules being there in the first place and the only way to have some kind of normality is breaking. Rules which again, will not apply to those making them. And in case you aren’t aware of what The New Normal has in store for us, then all of the above paragraph are genuine headlines I’ve seen in recent weeks leading up to July 4th. Another one that caught my attention read Experts say women should cut their hair short to prevent the spread of COVID19. If you’ve ever shamed anyone for not wearing a mask or not social distancing, then I wonder if you would cut your hair short or advise women in your life to do so – for humanity’s sake.

Are you ready to enter The New Normal in style?

The media is trying to convince us that The New Normal is inevitable and we need to adapt. But you know what? I think the New Normal is faulty and I’d like to see the manager!

Mike Tyson is planning his return to the ring too. How exciting! He will make his millions along with organizers and promoters no matter how you experience his return. While you have to social distance yourself from everyone you love, boxers and other contact sport athletes will continue exchanging punches, sweat and blood. This kind of reminds me of The Hunger Games. Regular people lived in awful conditions while the elite enjoyed the luxuries of The Capital. This is the difference between us and the elite – the celebrities, politicians and billionaires. All of them like to tell us how we should live, they make rules and virtue signal all the time, desperately trying to stay relevant and say the right thing. All from the comfort from their mansions guarded by armed security while we have to live under the regime of their false virtue. In the movie, the difference between us and them was extreme. The Capital was glamourous while the districts were filled with hunger and poverty. Back in the real world The Capital is not a physical place. It’s a state of mind combined of the number of social media followers and big bank account status, power and influence. We, living in the District, are the consumers of their existence, subjects of their power and influence. They do not live in the world they are building for us. We have seen this during Black Lives Matter riots. Number of celebrities bailed out the looters and rioters when they got arrested and many Instagram personalities voiced their support of burning buildings, destroying livelihoods and communities in the name of BLM. It’s all fun and games when it is not your house that’s on fire. It’s all fun and games when you’re rich and famous and live hundreds of miles away. These people don’t have to live with consequences of their words and actions.

The Capital – detached from reality, yet full of wisdom how to live in it

Politicians are no different. Do you really think they care if social distancing is doing more harm than good in the long run? Their kids go to private school.

When things go back to normal you will have all the fun in the world, won’t you? You will get your life back. You will get that body of your dreams. You will go for that career you’ve been dreaming about. Unless you live in Leicester. You will have to wait a few more weeks. See, the lockdown is never going to finish. It is no longer about “flattening the curve”. Now whenever the government decide, they can put a single city on a lockdown and then all your plans and dreams have to be put on hold as well. If you have a business, you will have to close again. Maybe for good this time. If you are self – employed, then you may need to consider applying for a permanent job at Tesco. In Melbourne, an entire building block has been put on a local lockdown or a house arrest. Can you see it? This is not going away.

You can forget about being spontaneous. More and more gyms and pubs are introducing booking systems which means you won’t just be able to walk into a pub or gym whenever you feel like it. You will have to book your slot and I bet that won’t be easy.

Let me leave you with this final thought.

Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be constantly told he wouldn’t be successful in Hollywood because of his accent and his size. He was told they were his disadvantages. He used them to his advantage and his accent gave us the Terminator. He also took English lessons, speech lessons, accent removal lessons and even lost some muscle mass for one of his early roles in a record time. He took control of what he could. I know. He was up against his own accent and muscles, not against billionaire elites who use their resources to put you in a Skinner box and control your behaviour. I know it’s hard to be optimistic if you don’t have a safety net, if you live alone and have bills, rent, mortgage and other things to pay. I know but maybe we can all come out of this lockdown better than when we were dragged into it. It’s not too late to give up a bad habit, start reading or listening to audiobooks, listening to podcasts, find an online course and get qualified. It may feel like we have lost control. It may feel like we never had it, but there are still aspects of our lives which we CAN control. We can control what we learn. If you don’t want to wait for your country to turn into China, learn a language and a skill that will let you live somewhere else. Let’s not wait for them to do it to us. They are all just people who’ve read books. One thing I’m going to research when I finish this post, is what part of the economy, what jobs are likely to never return or change forever in the coming months or years. I work in the fitness industry but if there is good reason to believe this sector will suffer, then I’d like to be ahead and prepare myself. I am not suggesting joining them if we can’t beat them. I am saying we should take control of what we can and continue to fight for what we believe.  The New Normal is here, we need to resist and push back against it as hard as it pushes against us. Defeat is not an option, but it is a possibility we should be prepared for.

What do you think? Tell me how you are coping with the new normal. Do you need someone to talk to? You are not alone. Get in touch