Australia – the country of great freedom, and of course, democracy, where refugees and migrants rush to our shores to eschew persecution and hopefully, to enjoy the good fortune of the Promised Land! (Israel lost its title to that a long time ago!) There are, however, no absolutes; freedom is relative and we can rail against the rules we should obey without fear of punishment or prison. To some extent, at least. We cherish our freedom of speech as we take to the streets in protest, chanting our challenge to the Establishment with bold bravado. The resentment of the proposed resources tax on the mining industry has resounded in the media and across bars around the country; the moguls determined to monster the government as much as they can. Yes, indeed, they can voice their dissent; that’s democracy at work, albeit with millions of dollars at their disposal.

But other ordinary Australians are not always so privileged. The cause of justice is costly, and too often, there’s a price to pay for being outspoken in a conservative and conventional conformist society. Dare to rock the boat and we risk it all; employment opportunities are reduced (if not altogether denied!) and our essential livelihood undermined. We can speak out only so far and so loud before we become persona non grata in the workplace. Kowtow to the power of the boss, even if he or she is a psychopath as psychologist Dr John Clarke has so chillingly outlined in his book, Monsters At Work. Call the boss a bully and your sanity is ruled insensible; you’re incompetent and incapable, I know because I was retrenched from a few jobs for doing just that. So much for freedom of speech! And other friends have lost their jobs for being strong unionists in a company that decried our basic freedom to fight for a fair go. So where are our real freedoms?

If you adhere to the axiom of absolutism that pervades this great Australia you will succeed; but dare to question the authority of the Powers That Be and all can be so easily lost. Left or right, it’s a subtle kind of totalitarianism; certainly, we’re not incarcerated in concentration camps for our audacity; but without doubt, the avenues of advancement are blocked. And too often, we’re labelled mad for our rejection of this power. Hitler threw away the keys not just for The Jews, but intellectuals, communists, homosexuals, the physically disabled and the mentally ill. Anyone who didn’t portray the perfect Ayran. In this country, we don’t lock these people away behind bars, but we do isolate, marginalise and punish people who don’t “fit in” to the nuances our society upholds as normal. Our tolerance for difference is a myth clothed in covert subversion, these people who dare to be different, often through no fault of their own, are relegated to the rubbish tips of the streets, fighting for survival wrapped in newsprint along our riverbanks.

Standing up for yourself is a danger in itself! And as a woman who fights for equality the stakes are even higher. Feminists (even Femmosexuals like myself) are regarded as “trouble” – are we closet lesbians who hate men? The reality of living in a sexist society such as ours is rife with ridicule unless we succumb to the demeaning, albeit depressing and humiliating work we’re expected to undertake just to eke out a living. Demand what we know we deserve and we’re deranged and dangerous; even deluded for thinking we should reap more of the rewards that men so glibly enjoy. Put up and shut up; who do you think you are for championing your rights? Or just a fair go? Equal pay still doesn’t exist in this country; and union is a dirty word for millions of our countrymen and women. Call it unfair and you’re psychotic; out of touch with the real world that warrants you suffer in silence! There is a mere lip service to the maxims of our supposed equal society; some women have Made It but at what cost? Keeping their mouth buttoned up and playing the game as men dictate. Laugh at their jokes, banter about the football to be one of the boys and all is yours. Dare to call their bluff and you’re back on the outside; probably unemployed and even to some, unemployable. It’s not just about power, but the psychology of acquiescence that pervades the avenues of ambition; a woman on her own who fights for justice is clearly misguided and disturbed. If you don’t want to answer to your boss, it’s your integrity that’s maligned, not his. More fool you!

Our society and our freedoms clearly have their limits; we can rebel against the norms but so often, there are two standards for what is normal; one for males and an altogether different one for females. If we suggest there is an undercurrent of psychological violence in our society that puts women down and demeans them (often by other women, sadly), we are insane and paranoid; suffering from a persecution complex that riddles the refugees and asylum seekers that envision safety in this country. (Who are they kidding?) We’re not allowed to think we’re bright, confident and capable and believe in ourselves; indeed, if we do, we’re deemed grandiose and manic; instead, we should accept defeat and surrender the fight to win approval to be called normal. The price we pay to stand up to the status quo is enormous; forcing us to live in poverty and sometimes, on the streets. And our families, as well as some of our friends, don’t always understand us, either. But continuing to take control of our destiny is paramount; our voice of protest must echo in the environs to ensure some freedoms are a reality we can all enjoy! However, relative!