36. An invitation to Prince Harry and Duchess Markle.

“A drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”

1. It’s that time of the year when the sun is warm enough for us to be wearing a T-shirt, but the breeze is cold enough for us to be wearing a jumper.

For the first ten minutes, Helmut and Mr B argued about the workings of Speakers’ Corner. Then, once all speakers were in place, the day unofficially began. Mr B prattled on about how his life was changed by a nine-year old girl, who at school chose to remain seated for the singing of Australia’s National Anthem.

He said that whether or not the schoolgirl’s reasons for abstaining were justified, each and every one of us should be able to remain seated for the National Anthem without having to give a reason why. After all, it’s a “victimless crime” hurting no one, and our democratic values should allow it. He added that standing for the anthem is institutionalised peer pressure, and that every one of us has the moral obligation to resist that peer pressure. “If we ask our young people to resist peer pressure to take drugs”, he said, “then we should encourage them to resist peer pressure in other aspects of their life, to get practise. Remaining seated for the anthem is a good opportunity not to be wasted.”

“Why do people create such a big fuss about not standing for the National Anthem?” he asked, before answering his own question. “It’s because there is no such thing as ‘we’Australians. Australians are a cluster of separate, disparate groups, and the anthem is about the only thing that gives us the comforting illusion that we are united. To remain seated is to suggest the scary notion that we are not united after all. For the rest of us standing, we are suddenly presented with a yawning abyss. And who wants that? It’s no wonder people have been making a big fuss about the schoolgirl’s refusal to stand.

Uncle Pete pointed out that the girl’s public school handled the matter with intelligence and sensitivity. They offered her alternatives. “But”, said Mr B, “the school should not have questioned the girl for staying seated, or offered her alternatives. Instead, the principal should have asked the other students, ‘Why are you succumbing to peer pressure and standing up?'”.

From now on, Mr B will remain seated for the National Anthem, he promises. Mind you, he tells me he hasn’t set foot in a cinema for years, and has no plans to do so in the near future, so it may be some time before he has the opportunity to remain seated for the anthem.

2. Speaking of democracy, John August and some of his colleagues from the Pirate Party turned up to speak across the way. The Pirate Party is not as absurd as it sounds. It has serious policies you may wish to consider.

3. Mr B relinquished the Ladder of Knowledgeto Mark the Grinner, who admitted he didn’t have much to say, but in his entertaining fashion he said it anyway. The other speakers throughout the day were Mirko, Steve, John August (and co.), and Helmut. But where was Maria? (Just in: she had a cold.) Where was Ray? Where was our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison? Prime Ministers have spoken at Speakers’ Corner before, so it’s about time we had another speak here. But Scott: no longer than four minutes please. We don’t want to lose the crowd.

Speaking of guest speakers: Prince Harry and Duchess Markle will be visiting Australia soon. They come from a country that created the original Speakers’ Corner, so they will be keen to visit our Speakers’ Corner to see how we are faring. Further, they may have heard that our Speakers’ Corner is more intellectual than the one in their Hyde Park, London, and they will be interested to see what we are doing right. When they arrive at Speakers’ Corner they will be asked whose side they’re on: the Republicans’ or the Monarchists’? They will be given four minutes each to rebut any arguments put forth by our speakers and hecklers.

4. Under severe duress from Mr B, this scribe reluctantly gives Mr B’s new website a plug: dogquiz.org Your scribe agreed to comply with this request only because the site features a photograph of our dear departed Speakers’ Corner dog, taken at Speakers’ Corner.

She was smarter than Mr B and more likeable.

Here is another photo of her at Speakers’ Corner “borrowing” a sandwich from Mr B’s bag.

5. We discussed the poem,“Spring” by Mary Oliver. 1990.

6. Six months ago Mr Bwas given a small book: a pocket guide to The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and he was asked to read it. Today the man returned to hear Mr B’s verdict.

Mr B had read it and he had it with him. (Presumably he has been bringing it for six months!) What followed was a long and passionate “discussion” between the two men as Mr B expressed his thoughts on the ideas presented in the book.

Your unbiased, dispassionate scribe doesn’t like to take sides, so here are two memes representing each point of view.

Other subjects discussed:
– A young lass asked Mr B what he thought of teenagers. He seemed pleased to be given the opportunity to express his high regard for them.

– Unfortunately, your scribe doesn’t know what Steve Maxwell, Helmut Cerncic, John August (and co.) or Mark the Grinner spoke about. How about coming to Speakers’ Corner and finding out for yourself?

– The question was asked, “What’s the meaning of life?”

7. In our Unusual Creatures Series, this Gerenuk from Africa wanted to appear on our Facebook page. We are happy to oblige.