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Tolerance: freedom of speech, thought, association and discussion

It has been very interesting (during the 2010 Australian federal election campaign) to watch people advocating freedom of speech on one hand and then getting upset when people with differing views speak out.

The intolerance of opposing points of view has really resonated with me. It makes me a bit sad that we are not always able to have a free and frank discussion of important issues.

However, it has also made me question how willing I am to listen to the other side of an argument. Interesting question, isn’t it?

Both sides of politics here (Liberal/National and Labour) have abandoned all pretense of bipartisan approaches, leading to polarisation. There is not much listening going on at all, and hardly any visionary policy for Australia – just polemical positions that make me sigh. I suspect that will just drive voters to make the Senate not winnable by either major party, with the Greens and a handful of Independents as the only likely winners.

The other thing that I have observed along with this is the growing trend towards ‘thought crimes’. No longer does one need to actually perform an illegal act to commit a crime. It is now sufficient in many regimes, such as Australia to simply think about something or to have contact with certain groups of people (see here for overview).

Also we are seeing growth in surveillance – CCTV and the like – to protect us from violence and crime.

It makes me wonder if all these things are not adding up to create a less tolerant mindset for our society than we have been used to for the past few decades?