Australia is a free country. That means you can do whatever you like, so long as it’s peaceful and voluntary. If you want to buy a pencil, no problem. If you want to play monopoly with your family, that’s OK too. You can even go for a walk in the park, phone your mum, brush your teeth or wear an Hawaiian shirt. You can do all of this and the government won’t get involved at all.
But of course, we don’t want to get carried away with freedom. So Australia isn’t totally free. To protect us from ourselves, the government has banned various forms of drugs, various forms of marriage, various things you can say, various types of sports, various types of home renovations, various types of food, opening various sorts of business and plenty more.
Yeah, yeah… I can hear the cynics saying that freedom means the freedom to ‘make mistakes’ and that even under teh most totalitarian regimes people were ‘free’ to do as they were told.
Fine. But we can still say that Australians are mostly free, and are still allowed to make some mistakes. Indeed, we are free to set our watches to the wrong time, free to wear ugly clothes, free to get questions wrong at trivia night and various other mistakes. So really, our government is still quite tolerant of us silly humans.
But not too tolerant. Even if we allow people to make mistakes, the government is still there to tell us how to live.
Don’t eat too much. Especially the wrong food. More veges. Exercise more. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. OK, you can have one or two. But not three! Put on sunscreen. Put on a condom. Put on your seatbelt. Put on a helmet. Use a different sort of lightbulb. Don’t cut down that tree. Stop using plastic bags. Do your civic duty and have a kid. Make sure you vote. Take the stimulus and spend. But also save more. Or something.
And in the spirit of our modified, controlled, bureaucratic, semi-“freedom”, the government has sent me a lovely little pamphlet telling me (with my own money) that I should really buy some better boots if I’m going to ride my motorbike. I would have bought them, but unfortunately I gave my ‘boot money’ to the government so that they could tell me to buy boots.
It’s not fair to say that the government sounds like my mum. My mum is much more tolerant of my choices and doesn’t spend billions of dollars pestering me every day. Thanks mum.
I’m not going to get carried away. I recognise that I still have important freedoms, like the right to make (officially approved) spaghetti in my (officially approved) kitchen. They still let me play some (approved) computer games, hang out with my friends (as long as they don’t belong to a bike gang) and they don’t yet pester me with their opinion about which aftershave to use (as long as it has been approved).
And unlike those poor guys in Nth Korea, I am allowed to turn off the radio. Even the government broadcaster.
But still, I object.
I understand that some people want to be told how to live. That’s fine. Join a religion, join a club, marry somebody who is bossy. Outsource your own decisions all you like, but please leave me alone.