Historical Enterprises 1) Not Spoken, 2) Not Heard, 3) Not Understood

July 5, 2023
On sending out an article from The New York Times, on how a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana claimed the American Federal administration was trying to silence its critics on social media, a dear friend asked me, “Isn’t free speech part of their constitution?”     “Free speech” is not […]

On sending out an article from The New York Times, on how a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana claimed the American Federal administration was trying to silence its critics on social media, a dear friend asked me, “Isn’t free speech part of their constitution?”

 

 

“Free speech” is not part of the written constitution, American, Australian, or otherwise. This fact also relates to misinformation on The Voice referendum. Free speech is inferred in statements from constitutions. No constitution states in black-and-white: “all citizens have the right to speak.” The capacity to speak to government, to the state, is never guaranteed, and is only granted on the charitable reading of the powers-that-be.

 

 

Then there is the further problem, which persons rarely think about. Say, I can speak to government, the state, and indeed the public, on the public square, the critical state of affair is, am I heard? Is my message accepted, and if accepted – it is acted upon, and if not accepted – there is openness to a dialogue where I have the opportunity to convince of the importance of my message.

 

 

The latter problem is the battle of my life and career, not the issue of “free speech” rhetoric which too-often only confuse the potent issues. Currently, I find that I am not heard by the Brisbane City Council, the Queensland State Government, and my colleagues as university historians looking at the Brisbane-Queensland scoping. In the latter grouping are colleagues from New South Wales, Victoria, and occasionally South Australia, and maybe on rarer occasions: Tasmania, Western Australia (memories of Geoff Bolton), and the Northern Territory. In these cases of the academics, there is the failure to truly to hear my existential message as a person whose critically reflective personal history in, and with, Queensland-Brisbane goes backs to 1961. The latest effort was my Wither Local History paper at the 2023, 50th anniversary, Australian Historical Association conference, yesterday afternoon (4 July 2023; a prominent anniversary for dialogue for free speech in a national context).

 

However, perhaps, I am being heard? Then there is a third problem – am I understood? The point that I made in the verbal presentation, off-cuff, yesterday, at the session, called “Bicentenaries, Centenaries and Semicentenaries”, is that my work is internationalised with references to the thinking of Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911), Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), Marc Bloch (1886-1944), Karl Mannheim (1893-1947), Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), Emmanuel Levine (1906-2003), Paul Ricoeur (1913-2003), David Lowenthal (1923-2018), Bernard Williams (1929-2003), Randall Collins (1944-) and Allan Megill.  These are the international critical thinkers of the 20th century who have shaped my multidisciplinary thinking of local-regional scoping. They come with insights from historiography, several sub-fields of sociology, and several important fields of philosophy.  These insights are multidisciplinary without eroding the disciplinary principles across the fields. They are insights from educationalists on curriculum, and, in particular, coming from higher education policy critics (such as me). We, the educationalist critics, have been saying for decades, that obsessive academic specialisation, and it’s insane political attitudes, is killing education and knowledge production. It is the very opposite of creativity and innovation, and yet we have been ignored in policy by councils, states, and all kinds of governance – simply because the powers-that-be never read a solid and comprehensive book on the critical decisions that they are making. At the roundtable session of the Australian Historical Association, called “Beyond Academia: Historians Working in the Public Service”, there was no representative in the municipal space.

 

 

Most of these global thinkers are dead white males, but, if they remain forgotten, we are dooming our thinking in forgetting half of ‘gender’ (or there abouts) in our cultures, as were women are forgotten and hidden. Our obsession with gender issues can obscure our thinking and understanding other important historical themes; that is a criticism of both sides of the binary politics.  Generally, the public, Council bureaucrats, Council politicians (yes, politicians, not merely councillors), State government bureaucrats and politicians, and university historians do not understand the international outlook in the local-regional studies. If they did, we would still have the local studies unit at the University of Queensland.

 

 

Rather, today, the state of affair (a critical term in the philosophy discipline) is that I am marginalised, yes, 1) well able to speak, but 2) unheard, or 3) not understood. The state of affair is that, over my career, I struggled in these three ways, as a multidisciplinary learner and teacher, who lost the other love of his life (28 years), who I had promised decades ago that I would have steady employment in our lifetime. The state of affair is that I am eating up superannuation to invest in a well-needed field of community education that the powers-to-be are ignorantly or arrogantly uncaring about. The state of affair is that the powers-to-be in council, state government, and the university, in either contracting or employment, do not 1) speak openly and honestly on these issues, 2) heard the voices of the dispossessed, and 3) not engage in dialogue for understanding, and 4) act to change the state of affair.

 

 

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Neville Buch (Pronounced Book) Ph.D. is a certified member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). Since 2010 he has operated a sole trade business in history consultancy. He was a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow 2014-2015 at the State Library of Queensland. Dr Buch was the PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin, the monthly state association’s electronic publication, and was a member of its Management Committee. He is the Managing Director of the Brisbane Southside History Network.
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Bruce Cifuentes
11 months ago

Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Dr. Buch.

steve
11 months ago

???”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.

Steve
11 months ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech”…the government will attempt to make laws and use underhand methods to “abridge” freedom of speech, but if? the Republic is well functioning, the Supreme Court is the final decider. This applies (strictly? or mainly?) to the government, private entities are another matter. They may make rules and you may accede to those rules which restrict what you say if participating in their services or community (as I understand it, which may be incorrect). The issue with Twitter, for instance, is not that Twitter restricted or censored certain individuals (which is controversial… Read more »

Steve
11 months ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

As regards this colony…shrug.

As an instance of the strength of America’s 1st amendment, just do a search for neo-nazi or skinhead or racist American websites, or check out documentaries of their meetings and rallies. The government would very much like to shut them down, but as long as they do not incite rioting or attack public order, it can’t.

steve
11 months ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

Your comment only brings more queries to my mind: what does “the semantics in the abridging the freedom of speech” mean? Do you mean the ways and means that the law is applied (or not) by the powers that be (the government)? The US Founding Fathers inscribed certain rights into the Constitution and its amendments, some as “inalienable”, others as checks on the government (power). They (the founding fathers) had the whole of western history before their eyes (Rome as described by Tacitus up to – what they considered – the 18th century absolute monarchical state). Free speech is not… Read more »

Steve
11 months ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

If you are referring to Awstrala (protesters with their mouths taped over?), yes, as I commented re. the constitution and the High Court’s consideration of implied free speech etc. If you referring to the lack of capacity of the powerless to speak to power; yes, and see my other comments re capacity vs right. 2.You made a blanket statement about all polities and their constitutions; but free speech is inscribed (guaranteed) in one (the most globally important), the US. I have replied to this enough, and also in my other comment posted a link to the entry on the Ist… Read more »

Steve
11 months ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

It is the first amendment to and in the US Constitution. It is not just part of a Bill of Rights.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution   That means it is constitutional law. “The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America“. So again, in the US the right (not the capacity) to speak freely (including to government) is legally guaranteed. As regards Awstrala, what most petitioners think and what rights they (imagine) they have, are usually incongruous. Again, yr issue about being heard and/or understood is a separate matter to whether a person has a right to… Read more »

Steve
11 months ago
Reply to  Neville Buch

I was referring to technology strictly in terms of material power. If you want to consider the law as (more than) a techne, then we get into the matter of what is the relationship between law and reason (logos)? how far is law just an emanation of the powers that be (positive law)? or not, and so on.

capacity – speak – government – guarantee – charitable…see other replies

Dr Neville D Buch
11 months ago

We all talk the talk. But my challenge to the Australian academy during the 2023 AHA conference is whether the academy conceded to the loss of Australian intellectual history and local studies as deinstitutionalization, and whether the academy is going to make a stand on a 30 year process of ignoring the problem.

https://www.chronicle.com/article/are-colleges-bad-employers?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=campaign_7183424_nl_Academe-Today_date_20230705&cid=at&source=&sourceid=&sra=true