When I was 16, I had a fake I.D. and decided to go to a gay bar by myself because some friends bailed on me. While there, an older gentleman bought me a drink. He wasn’t a creeper, and he definitely wasn’t unattractive. I accepted the drink and began talking to him. No big deal. As the hour progressed, I felt myself feeling strange. I mentioned that I felt like I had a headache, and this guy helped guide me out of the bar. As we were walking down the street, the thought of, ‘Oh god, he’s drugged me, I’m going to die’ came to my head. I tried to get away, but I was so drugged up that I could barely walk, let alone speak. It also didn’t help that I had really large ‘goth’ platform shoes because I was going through a phase. Anyway, this guy brought me to his suv and began undressing me. As a final act of defiance, I hit him over the head with my platform shoe. He then punched me, and I remember thinking, ‘Why don’t they ever give workshops to gay guys about being victims of rape too?’ While I was as careful as possible, I never saw the guy slip something in the drink. I even watched the bar tender make the drink. Anyway, I lied there completely paralyzed while this pervert was lubing up. I locked eyes with his for a moment, and that’s when it happened. A very large and angry drag queen opened the door of the vehicle and beat the shit out of my attempted rapist. She and her other drag friends helped dress and care for me while the police arrived. I was saved by a group of guardian drag queens. They were basically the modern day ‘angels from heaven.’
We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others, be hard on your beliefs, take them out onto the veranda and hit them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous, identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges. Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies and then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.
… Please don’t make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another. That is a recent, stupid, and damaging idea. You don’t have to be unscientific to make beautiful art, to write beautiful things. If you need proof, Twain, Douglas Adams, Vonnegut, McEwan, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens, for a start.
You don’t need to be superstitious to be a poet, you don’t need to hate GM technology to care about the beauty of the planet, you don’t have to claim a soul to promote compassion. Science is not a body of knowledge, nor a belief system, it is just a term which describes human kind’s incremental acquisition of understanding through observation; science is awesome. The arts and sciences need to work together to prove how knowledge is communicated.
The idea that many Australians including our new PM and my distant cousin, Nick Minchin, believe that the science of anthropogenic global warming is controversial is a powerful indicator of the extent of our failure to communicate. The fact that 30% of the people in this room just bristled is further evidence still. The fact that that bristling has more to do with politics than science is even more despairing.
An excerpt from Tim Minchin’s Occasional Address and Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters at the University of Western Australia. Watch on Youtube here.