Flat White

Only certain outrage makes the Letters to the Editor

19 August 2018

8:18 AM

19 August 2018

8:18 AM

There are some words and phrases that are better left unsaid and newbie Senator Fraser Anning has now probably realised that, like the old tailoring adage, in speechwriting, one should say aloud twice and ‘final draft’ once.

Some words, derogatory and insulting, were in common use in an earlier, less sensitive, time.

In India, before independence, the term in common use by both (higher caste) Indians and British alike was ‘untouchable’, denoting castes that were considered so unclean that their mere drinking or drawing water from the village well was considered to contaminate it.

That term, after independence, was replaced – officially- by ‘Dalit’ and Dalit members are represented in India’s Parliamentary body in Delhi.

Yet insults, both verbal and written, are used frequently, often by letter writers bolstered by free speech conditions of Australian newspapers. This week, in the national capital’s local newspaper, The Canberra Times, a letter writer declared:

If people want to indoctrinate their child with the Goat-Herder’s Guide to the Universe (aka the Bible, that’s their (misguided) choice…  there is far too much pandering to a group of parents who have decided religious brain-washing is more important than any other aspect of their child’s education.


The letter writer was expressing his opinion:

If you want to send your child to a private school it is not up to the rest of the tax-paying public to pay extra to support your decision.

He was also exercised that the ACT’s Green-Labor government has declared its intention to cut school buses:

Why is it that parents of today are convinced their children can’t possibly walk from one stop to another at a bus interchange. From the age of seven (in the 1980s) I was walking to school or using public transport.

The letter was, in fact, definitive evidence of why parents and often grandparents now, make considerable financial sacrifices to send their children to independent or faith-based schools, in hopes that those children make sensible life choices without the corrosive class-envy that seemed to permeate the letter-writer to The Canberra Times.

As well, would the writer of that letter have referred to Islam as ‘the Goat-Herder’s Guide to the Universe (aka the Koran) ‘ in his letter. Instead, he (it was a ‘he’) singled out Christians, along with school fee-paying parents, on which to focus his spite.

It takes a somewhat addled mind to link school bus services with derogatory references to Christianity, but, free speech in the media permitting, this was accomplished.

Should the Letters Editor of The Canberra Times allowed such a diatribe to go through to publication? Good taste and sensitivity to minority religions (where Christianity appears to be heading) would say no.

But, in Canberra, if the letter writer had instead attacked unions or developers, instead of Christians and school fee-paying parents, his letter would certainly not have been published.

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