Saturday, 10 July 2010

A Balanced Diet: In Which Ricochet Overworks A Metaphor And Shouts A Bit

As I was leafing languidly through a recipe book I discovered something startling.
You can put hazelnut oil on salad.
I didn't even know they MADE hazelnut oil.
I wanted to try it.
Right now!
Delicious hazelnut oil infused French salad on my table, on my fork, in my tummy!
So I trotted down to the supermarket and... they didn't have it.
Neither did the other local supermarket.
Apart from being miffed it got me thinking.
If I hadn't read about these recipes and these items I wouldn't have known to look.
Obviously I haven't memorised the contents of the supermarket but gradually there has been a smaller variety of products on offer and then less choice of brands of those products available.
And strange as it may seem all I can think of is the internet and the proposed Australian internet filter.

Yes, I know once again I sound crazy but I'll explain myself. At great length.

If you haven't heard of it you can find an in-depth explanation of the filter here but the basic story is that the Australian government is using 'think of the children!' to propose banning the access to any webpages they find distasteful.
For the whole country.

Considering child pornography is already illegal and not just available to all and sundry who know how to use a search engine, this is a bunch of bull-twang, especially when they start listing other things to ban 'just in case the kiddies see them' including certain types of fetish pornography and pages discussing euthanasia, abortion, rape and video games.
Without context.

A test run of the filter, as it is now, resulted in the blanket banning of all sites that mentioned rape or child molestation including those which offered support and legal advice to victims.
All this is being offered instead of expecting parents to take responsibility for their children and said children's net use.
As the banned sites are to exist on a secret blacklist that isn't to be disclosed to the public it leaves the option open for the government to block pretty much whatever they like, including blogs or sites that post political protest material or criticism just in case this promotes riots, dissent or a change in government which is clearly not good for the kiddies.

So with that brief summary before you, let us return to my crazy-ass theory.

You go to the supermarket, you pick up all your corporation-approved and provided essentials and every now and then you'll spot something you haven't tried before or something you've not heard of, you have a look at the suggestions on the label and you think 'yes, I'll give this a go'.
Now imagine this supermarket is a metaphor for the internet.
They've decided that, oh I don't know, peanut oil should not be offered for sale because some people are allergic to peanuts and might accidentally be offered something cooked in peanut oil by some irresponsible or ignorant member of the public.
So they type 'no nut oil' into their ordering system and in one fell swoop knock half a dozen oils off the selection including macadamia nut oil and other such products.
People who used to buy this oil now can't find it and the supermarket uses the fact that these people are now forced to purchase other alternatives and aren't protesting this lack or requesting it en masse as a rationale to keep the discontinued products off the shelves.
People who have never heard of peanut or macadamia or hazelnut oil never get the chance to try them or even consider trying them.

Now let's imagine the person in charge of fruit and veg ordering is a weirdo prude who decides that any long, cylindrical vegetables may be too phallic to be offered to minors or unsuspecting virgin diners by lecherous chefs or dinner party enthusiasts who might be secretly getting off on it.
So all these fruits and vegetables are knocked off the system in favour of less arousing tubers and so on.

Seeing as many people these days use the supermarket (internet) as their only source of produce (information) and might not have the inclination, opportunity or awareness to visit farmers' markets (read books/newspapers or listen to radio stations) or are worried that produce (inforrrrrrmation!) from specialist stores might be out-of-date or dangerous to their health (if it isn't on the internet it might be behind the times or *gasp* biased!) the consumer is - to summarise - screwed.

I'll drop the metaphor to conclude lest I write any more torturously long sentences but my point is this:

No, of course I'm not advocating the availability of child pornography or pornographic material that is composed of the real-life assault of unwilling participants. That material infringes human rights and is rightly illegal.

But on the other hand, whilst I'm not personally interested in many varieties of legally produced pornography performed by consenting adults that cater to people with specific tastes that doesn't mean that I think it should be made inaccessible to the adults who do find it arousing if it is used in private with other consenting adults.

I do not think the government should be allowed to block access to websites discussing the ethics of euthanasia or even instructions and advice on how to help administer or self-administer euthanasia just because it isn't legal in this country and/or the legislators find the concept personally reprehensible.

I do not think a government should be able to have a secret list of banned material, or that the only criterion offered for a site being added to this list is that the material is 'distasteful'.
Who gets to decide?
What do they think will happen if the general public has access to this material?

The internet is a vast and sprawling cluster-hug* of data, some of which I never EVER want to see, but I do not under any circumstances want the government to tell me that I'm not ALLOWED to see it.
If the material is illegal or criminal then they have ability to prosecute, to contact the ISPs concerned and have the websites shut down.
Anything else is censorship which implies that people aren't intelligent enough to be capable of distinguishing reality from recreational fantasy or to make their own judgements on the validity of information presented to them or their own decisions concerning how to live their lives or whether/when to end them and enforces a narrow band of morality that is decided for the many by a select few.

If you're worried about the children, hold the government accountable to provide a good education system, adequate funding for hospitals and GP training and actually spend some time with the new people you saw fit to bring into the world.
Make some personal effort to make sure the world you're leaving them is a better place than when you entered it.
Don't expect the government to do it for you and for the love of all that is, don't give them an open mandate to do whatever they want under the claim that they're doing just that.

PS. I still want my goddamn hazelnut oil salad, dammit!

*Yeah, I'm still not swearing on my blog for funsies. You can now start replaying Grandpa Simpson's anecdote about tickling fluffy bunnies into their cuddle-bunkers if you so desire.

No comments: