“Wowser: an ineffably pious person who mistakes this world for a penitentiary and himself for a warder.”
Despite living in Australia for more than a decade I can still be mystified by some expressions used here. Australians insist on calling football “soccer” and here in Queensland they call Rugby League “football.” That’s why I failed to understand when someone at work said everyone was becoming a “wowser” these days; he was talking about the AFL firing a couple of employees for having an affair outside work. Looking up this new word (new to me I mean) it struck me that this is exactly like the H.L.Mencken quote I used before – “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”
Despite the rapid decline of religious belief in the West, some folks have brought the moralistic, nitpicking attitude of religious quarrels into the political arena. People died in the past because of nonsensical arguments over transubstantiation versus consubstantiation or whether Jesus Christ had one or two natures. And Christianity isn’t the only religion where minor differences in religious doctrine have had real world consequences – look at the Middle East where Shi’ite Iran confronts Sunni Saudi Arabia, a division that dates back to the succession to Muhammad in 632. Sharp-eyed and humourless pedants police social media to root out any possible deviation from accepted speech. Recall the row that blew up when Benedict Cumberbatch said “coloured people” instead of “people of colour” on some American chat show? Facebook now has more than 50(!) ways to describe gender, despite the fact that for 99.7% of the population gender is a binary option. Invention of new terms – usually ending in “phobia” or “ism” – is a popular sport on some websites; make up a thoughtcrime and accuse your opponents of said thoughtcrime is some people’s method of “argument” these days.
Free speech must be upheld and protected. Without free speech we cannot debate ideas and without ideas we will soon be in a second Dark Age ruled by the same type of religious bigots who made the original Dark Ages such a delightful time for those who dared to think thoughts not found in the Bible or the Koran.