Isn't it refreshing we can speak our minds? We can pontificate, bloviate, even vacillate between one opinion and the next in person, on TV, on social media and myriad other forums where we vent, rant and commiserate.
Freedom of speech means saying what you want, when you want, without worrying whether your neighbour will dob you in to the police or government for expressing your views.
But more and more, it seems the free speech pendulum is swinging back to the bad-old-days when racism and misogyny were accepted norms.
A theme blowing in the global trade winds goes like this: white men's rights are being trampled by an ever-increasing proportion of brown, black and Asian people and this is not okay. An offshoot of this theory in New Zealand is white people have given far too much money and land to Māori and we need to stop.
When someone trashes the Treaty of Waitangi, people scratch their heads, sigh, mourn - while others say "What a bloke. Way to exercise your right to speak out".
Indeed, we're all free to speak. And our character will be judged not only by what we do, but also what we say.
The world is filled with nationalist leaders, (mostly) men who say whatever they like, apparently without an inter-cranial edit function. They say it's time to end or radically restrict immigration, impose tariffs and be wary of women and anyone who doesn't share their religion.
Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro is infamous for exercising free speech. When talking about a black settlement in Brazil founded by descendants of slaves he said, "They do nothing. They are not even good for procreation".
American President Donald Trump never misses an opportunity to speak his mind either, bashing people he perceives as enemies from his Twitter account with tweets like: @MeghanMcCain was terrible on @TheFive yesterday. Angry and obnoxious, she will never make it on T.V." or "Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!"
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Or how about these greatest hits: "You know, it really doesn't matter what the media write, as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass," or "I've said if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her."
These are some of Trump's milder comments. Then there's that not-small matter of an impeachment inquiry as a direct result of speech - a phone conversation between the US president and the president of Ukraine where Trump allegedly asked for dirt on a political rival in exchange for providing military aid.
The Don is right - it doesn't matter what media report about him - tweets and recorded sound bites that are hostile, bullying, sexist, racist, arrogant or a combination of all of them - his base still adores him. And many of them love him not despite what he says, but because of it. The rest of us ask ourselves if we'd want someone who so freely expresses angry thoughts influencing our children or grandchildren.
Free speech is what allows me to write this and what allows you, if you choose, to pen an indignant letter to the editor telling me I'm full of sh*t.
Not all ideologies are equal and neither is all speech. Civil rights groups around the world monitor hate speech (whose definition they admit can be murky and malleable), while defending the rights of people to say nearly anything, unless they seek to incite violence.
Authors of a 2014 paper entitled, "Starting Points for Combating Hate Speech Online" say racism seeks spaces and opportunities for confirmation and legitimisation. "- is shifting and strategic, capable of absorbing and re-coding references, political ideas, statements of value, and in particular, those ideas that are placed in opposition to it." Its authors say current definitions of free speech mean any argument made related to hate speech can be cast as an "attack" on free speech. "More and more regularly, 'free speech debates' are instigated as a way of creating a legitimate space for racist utterances…"
Political debates about speech and its relationship to democracy and liberty will continue to spin like a ceaseless tilt-a-whirl. It's exhausting and demoralising to sift through commentary promoting an us-versus-them agenda and wonder why people seem to be filled with resentment, fear and anger. Plus, our expanded communication networks have relieved us of the obligation to listen. I can post in ALL CAPS as many comments as I like without reading anyone else's.
One issue with electing people to public office who promote an ideology of ''otherness'' is their public profile helps legitimise views that could be considered offensive or even racist. Just when we're trying to repair damage inflicted by colonialism, some free talker jumps in to say "Not so fast. The 'others' are getting too much".
Ask yourself if someone whose ethnic background is different from yours has ever cost you a house, a job, money…? What kind of misfortune have you suffered at the hands of someone who's not white?
What kind of misfortune have people who were colonised or forced to migrate suffered? Slavery, land confiscation, imprisonment, torture, rape, homicide… Where has colonialism worked well? You know, that magical land where European saviours arrived to show the native folk how things should be done and everyone lived happily ever after. India? South Africa? America? Australia? New Zealand?
Even free speech has a price. People have lost jobs, homes, even their lives, thanks to free speech. Again, not all ideologies are equal and neither is all speech.
Of course I'll defend your right to talk. And who hasn't put their foot in their mouth on occasion, only to later regret what they've said? We're human.
I wish we'd remember that before we use words that wound our neighbours.