I would like to be writing a short, clever trenchant piece about freedom of speech, but I have lost the knack.
When I first met my (eventually) best beloved, he was a civil servant and had the flexible views that come with that territory. He was never trenchant, though he was clever.
I had firm views on lots of things – those things that mattered about politics, life, bigots – hand me a glass of wine and I could rant about the rights and wrongs of almost everything.
Of course, they were not necessarily right rants or even well-informed rants, but they were firm.
Now I find myself saying things like, “ Well it is complicated.” Or “ The trouble is for every ‘this’ there is a ‘that.”
He meanwhile, has changed tack significantly and has very firm views on all sorts of stuff.
He tactfully says I have become wise and thoughtful, but I suspect he means wishy-washy and boring.
Is it being buried here in Deepest Sussex and the need to zip the mouth in the face of most people having different politics. Or is it doing nothing much in the way of intellectual activity, and not having to have an opinion you can stand up in the face of a table full of people in your house asking what you think? (Those were the Peckham days.)
So, freedom of speech. What do I think?
I am tempted to leave this thorny issue aisde and set about making supper but that, you see dear reader, is the problem. Displacement activity to avoid thinking.
So, here are some random thoughts.
How many people murdered in Nigeria by Boko Haram does it take to get anywhere near the coverage of Charie Hebdo?
Is it freedom of speech to wear the hajib and if so, why not let French women wear then?
Why does our Prime Minister come back from a freedom of speech march in Paris to tell us we need to have more surveillance and more people locked up?
Those of us on the Left have let the Right claim the ground for what are our values. We have embraced multi-culturism and I think, we need to re-visit what that means and what rights and responsibilities people living and loving and making their home here, have to do, and not do.
When I was young and involved in left politics, I met a lot of people who joined the many groups.
The differences between the SWP and the Communist Party for Great Britain – leave alone the difference between them and the Euro-Comms – were arcane, but immensely important to the people involved.
Getting them together to fight against what was happening in Thatcher’s Britain was like herding cats.
At the time, it felt like those people could just have easily been captured by religion or a cult.
They had found something to belong to. Something to give them the words, the thinking, the comradeship, the way out of all the problems of navigating yourself through thought and action and a daily life which wasn’t all that promising.
And maybe that is the same for those young people who are going out to Syria and coming back.
Actually, now I am getting going, I could go on for a long time – but I must make supper.