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Speaking your brain

Thanks for that.

Thanks for that.

The obituary praised the young man's honesty, his work ethic, his easy smile and ability to "speak his mind" - even when it got him into trouble.

Ahoy there, muckers! There's the crux of the matter - "speaking your mind" - so much fun, like farting for the brain, but the ripe smell of truth can often get you into all sorts of trouble.

Take Kevin Rudd's expletive-ridden video from his time as prime minister, which was leaked last month. What a rarity! What a treat! What a bucket of froth and bubble it spilled on all involved!

To be fair, it probably caused more hassles for Prime Minister Julia Gillard than it did for Rudd, whom it humanised, possibly bringing him even closer to the Australian voting public.

Given that side-effect, what do you think would happen if we got to hear all politicians - in fact, all people who regularly lie us, from our bosses to celebrities and partners - actually say what they're feeling?

War? The collapse of civilisation? Or perhaps a reorganisation of our loyalties and priorities once we realised where we stood with those who mattered in our lives?

A while ago, I saw the barista at my local cafe for the first time in many months and she said "Hey, fatso."

Part of me despaired that she'd so commented publicly on my weight gain, but it also freed me to mock her own rather bulbous bum.

I think we were both happy with the transaction. It was honest, we spoke our minds, it didn't leave us feeling like used-car salesmen because we'd done one of those horrific "so how you been?", "good to see you" conversations.

What I don't get is why there's not more of this? We all know that people in power lie to us, that they lullaby us with plausibly deniable horseshit so as not to make waves until they have to.

Some would argue this is "what we want to hear", that we're not used to the truth and its unalloyed brutality, so, when it oozes out of someone's mouth by accident, we're overwhelmed by a knee-jerk mass psychosis.

"HE SAID SHE WAS FAT! SACK HIM!" "SHE ADMITTED SHE DOESN'T LIKE GAYS! RESIGN!" "KEVIN RUDD SAID F---! HOW UNREAL WAS THAT!!"

Isn't it better that this stuff is out there? Isn't it preferable that we have to navigate in the real world, rather than some grown-up fantasy land where everyone pretends to like each other and says "golly gosh" when they're angry?

Perhaps, but I think there's a massive difference between a person "speaking their mind" and actually telling the truth. Too often when people "speak their mind", they're just running off at the mouth, confusing facts with "how I'm feeling right now" because most of us speak emotionally and not intelligently.

Last year, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was quoted as saying to independent MP, Tony Windsor, that "I would do anything for this job [PM]. The only thing I wouldn't do is sell my arse, but I'd have to give serious thought to it."

I mean, that's fantastic stuff, because it leaves you in no doubt as to what Abbott is capable of, just as last month's video of Rudd swearing like a wharfie showed you Rudd could, at times, be a demanding, foul-mouthed sook.

But that's about it - which is why I don't think speaking your mind deserves to be held up as the holiest of virtues, nor is it worthy of a mention in anyone's obituary.

Speaking your mind is invariably talking crap - which is why we're taught as children to think before we speak.

The alternative might better be called "speaking your brain".

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.

0 comment so far

  • Imagine some guy showed a video of a bad dude from Africa, others raised questions about it, and the first guy who implored all of us to heed its message told those who questioned it that the mere fact we didn't see things the way he wanted us to caused him to despair for humanity (although you also despair at being called a fatty so I guess we can take that emotion with a grain of salt) and that we disgusted him.

    Golly gosh indeed.

    Sometimes, when people speak their mind, others try to shame them into following the party line.

    Or, to use your words, we have to deal with a knee-jerk mass psychosis.

    Commenter
    hired goon
    Date and time
    March 12, 2012, 4:38PM
    • Oh snap!

      Commenter
      CityChick
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 6:29PM
    • Too right, Goonie.

      Commenter
      Thea
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 9:05PM
    • Still no comment form Sam? He was jumping right in on the Kony comments. Maybe he has learnt a thing or two about the complexities of international aid, development and geopolitics in the last day or two. Learn the difference between cynicism and critical debate yet?

      Commenter
      Trevor
      Location
      Cambodia
      Date and time
      March 14, 2012, 4:29AM
  • i dont disagree with your sentiment here sam, but i do believe we've lost the art of articulating displeasure and disagreement without it descending it some all and out name-call brawl. More the shame.

    Personally, I dont understand the fascination with Rudd, he's quite disingenious and he's media savvy is akin to a bear trying to rollerskate while wearing a tutu.

    Commenter
    CityChick
    Date and time
    March 12, 2012, 6:35PM
    • I think people, particularly younger folks, are missing the art of verbal jousting... the way they converse with others is either with gushing sycophancy or denigrating name calling.

      Maybe they are related, and the tendency some people have to speak of those they hold favourable opinions of with unrelenting praise has the side-effect of rendering them incapable of handling a contrary opinion without resorting to hostility? I'm used to being on both sides of an insult so it's all gravy on this end.

      Perhaps the reason why Sam is talking with derision regarding people speaking their minds is that he feels the people he interacts with aren't speaking with much of a mind? Such opinions say more about who holds them than about whom they are held..

      Commenter
      hired goon
      Date and time
      March 13, 2012, 9:38AM
  • I think it's depends on the person's intent. If their intent is for purely selfish reasons then they should stfu. If their intent is to make a better world then I'm all for it. Even if it means the old 'commie' vs 'facist' stalingrad like hate fest.

    But what a 'better world' is could be somewhat subjective.

    Also, people who speak their mind and criticise you are quite annoying, and it hurts, but when they compliment you you know it's the truth and it's not like just your mum saying you're handsome or beautiful.

    Commenter
    Fred
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    March 12, 2012, 7:56PM
    • Not much fun in Stalingrad, no.

      Commenter
      enno
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      March 13, 2012, 2:00AM
  • It depends on whether you have had the chance to make a calm and informed response of if you are making a purely emotional response. Sometimes one influences the other.
    Personally, how I feel about something influences how I respond to it. I hold my values and beliefs very highly and I cannot help but have them form part of my opinion so when I speak my my mind it is as much about me as it is the issue at hand.
    I do my best to not make personal slurs and address the issue and not the person. Sometimes my failing is that neither makes sense to the recipient of my message.
    But then I may just be a cranky crazy person who lets loose whenever I can. I also don't care if that is the case. If that is someone's opinion they are entitled to it. I am also okay with offering the middle finger salute to that.

    Commenter
    M
    Date and time
    March 12, 2012, 9:38PM
    • I think if two people are trading insults there's a net loss in happiness. If someone insults me and I insult them back the pleasure I get from the riposte doesn't usually outweigh the resentment I get from the insult.

      It's funny though watching Tyrion insulting Jon Snow by calling him 'bastard' at every opportunity and Jon Snow tamely accepting it. "Hey bastard, come here!" "That's because you're a bastard!"

      Commenter
      Eric U-B
      Date and time
      March 12, 2012, 11:05PM

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