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Lindsay Perigo: Respectability Vs. Liberty

"The poorest bargain that a man can make," wrote Robert G. Ingersoll, "is to give his individuality for what is called respectability."

I agree. I think that the desire for respectability in a corrupt establishment is one of the most lethal impediments to the struggle for liberty. Note I say, "respectability in a corrupt establishment." Respectability in a truly honourable establishment would be an admirable thing, & would flow from, rather than compromise, one's individuality. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the desire for status for its own sake in an establishment such as ours which is based on force & fraud. It's the kind of respectability you can see exhibited at the opera, where Remuera fluffheads with political connections coo over each other, "Isn't it wonderful, darling?" while not having a clue what they're seeing & hearing. It's the kind of respectability where a person's worth is assessed by the suburb he lives in, the car he drives, the school he went to, the family he was born into; that takes no account of what he achieves or represents in his own right.

When I was at TVNZ, I had respectability in bucketloads. I lived in a financially secure, much-envied comfort zone, & probably could have stayed there for the rest of my life had I chosen. But I was selling out my individuality. I had to disguise the convictions that I was coming to hold with ever-increasing passion & urgency. I was part of the establishment, part of the problems I was now identifying with greater & greater clarity. Not only did I have to disguise my views, I often had to do violence to them. TVNZ was getting dumber as I was getting wiser.

I won't pretend that I wasn't nervous about stepping out of the comfort zone & leaping out of the ideological closet. Financial considerations aside, I knew I would become a pariah rather than a paragon, that I would no longer walk the establishment's red carpets & have its doors swing open for me. But "mine own self" was dying within, & to it I had to be true.

I'm often asked, would I go back? My answer is, only on my terms. I give this answer knowing that I will never be accepted back on my own terms. But I have gotten used to being a pariah, & I relish being true to myself. Sometimes, admittedly, I have lost the plot, even with - in fact, especially with - those who have chosen to take up arms beside me. They, fortunately, have been able to see their way clear to cutting me some slack, making allowances for my cranky episodes & Vesuvian explosions.

Overall, I wouldn't change a thing. The ideas that I began to promote eight years ago are now well & truly "out there," clearly audible & visible. Eight years ago they were virtually non-existent in this country. Six thousand people eschewed respectability & voted for these ideas at the last election. Thousands more quietly agree with them, but, desirous of respectability, refrain from saying so. That's why I say respectability is an impediment. If progress continues at this rate, however, these people may not have to worry; respectability & individuality may converge; it may become fashionable to be true to oneself!

In my dreams, you say? Well, let's see where we are in another eight years!

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For Lindsay Perigo's daily "Politically Incorrect Show" editorials, visit: www.freeradical.co.nz or listen to Radio Pacific from noon to 2pm weekdays.


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