Soapbox Speakers

What is Speakers’ Corner?

In Speakers and hecklers. on March 8, 2015 at 11:51 pm

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” 
Gerry Spence.

Every Sunday, from 2pm until 5pm, people gather in Sydney’s beautiful Domain park to discuss matters. The ones standing on ladders are ‘the speakers’, and they believe it’s their job to educate  their ‘grasshoppers’ or ‘groundlings’.  The ones sitting in chairs believe it’s their job to point out why the speaker is wrong, and to heckle. Both parties are kept busy.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

Click here to see their 2014 highlights.
Click here to see their 2013 highlights.

Find past posts  on our Archives site.

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The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell, legend.

Steve Maxwell is the world authority on Speakers’ Corners and soapbox speakers. He has written a book on the subject, travelled to many Speakers’ Corners throughout the world (and participated), he is the author of ‘Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade‘, and Steve’s Domain Diary, and he has spoken at Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner for yonks. We are very fortunate to have him.

In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about religion, Australian history and politics. Click here for highlights. To see more videos of Steve, go to the archives site. From his book, ‘Soapbox Oratory‘ Steve writes: ‘In a modern city, there must be a place where strangers can meet and discuss the issues of the day without fear of persecution; where the right to retain one’s individuality is allowed.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist – part-time speaker.

Helmut 4

Helmut once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest and in Sydney worked as the professional wrestler, Helmut Rommel.
More importantly, Helmut knows a lot about metaphysics, and is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus.
Helmut calls his listeners his ‘groundlings’. Here are some highlights.
For more videos of Helmut, go to the archives site and to his own site, Is Science the New Religion?’.

Mirko Terzič, 21st Century inventor – occasional speaker.

Mirko

Mirko has created a phonetic alphabet to be used world-wide, and it’s better than Esperento. He has solved the problem of perpetual motion and has diagrams explaining how to get free unlimited energy from hydropower. Mirko knows how to think outside the square. Here are a few highlights of Mirko. For more videos of Mirko go to the archives site.

Ray, Christian.

Ray is concerned about your soul.

Ray is passionate about spreading the word of God. He takes the task seriously but isn’t confronting. He is a gentle man, willing to answer your questions. Here are a few highlights. For more videos of Ray, go to the archives site.

Mark the Grinner, disquieter.

As a heckler, Mark regularly gets a laugh from the crowd with his meticulously crafted questions. As a speaker his humour is still there, but his talks have substance. He comments on human behaviour and attitudes, and he doesn’t hold back. To see Mark in action click here. Mark’s  companion, Sue, is less vocal, but she has no trouble speaking her mind when she has something to say.

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

‘Epiphany specialist Mr Bashful says he is the spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, though that’s yet to be verified. He calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’ and his foes ‘garden gnomes’.
  His favourite topic is his evolutionary approach to happiness and resilience, but he ends up talking about almost anything else.  He has presented an Ockham’s Razor talk on ABC Radio National and believes we should burn the Mona Lisa.

One thing he isn’t, is bashful.

To learn more about him click here.

John August (occasional speaker)

John speaks earnestly on a wide range of subjects, and hosts his own show on Radio Skid Row, 88.9 FM every Tuesday, from noon until 2pm.

John is an active member of the Pirate Party, which is a serious political party devoted to making Australia more democratic. He and other pirates speak at the Domain now and then about their policies and other topical matters. (That’s ‘topical’, not ‘tropical’.)

To see videos of John performing at Speakers’ Corner go to his Youtube channel.
John also has a website in which he comments upon current affairs, both here and abroad.
He is a busy man.

THE HECKLERS

Uncle Pete (heckler and occasional speaker)

Peter - best

During the week Uncle Pete teaches students, and if he teaches them with the same verve he has for Speakers’ Corner, they are lucky students indeed. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Uncle Pete, go to the archives site.

Max (Quiet listener)
Max

Max is one of the gentler regular visitors. Says little, but when he does speak, it’s sensible. Click here to discover why he visits Speakers’ Corner.

Jack (Quiet observer)

Jack

“The old grey owl sat on an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?”

Click here to hear a few words from Jack.

Peter the Younger

Pete

The well-read Peter knows an awful lot about many subjects, and in particular: geo-politics and U.S. shenanigans.  Click here to hear why Pete comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Howard
howard

Howard is always polite and reasonable, yet despite that he fits in well at Speakers’ Corner. His contributions are appreciated by all. Click here to hear why he comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Ben the Whisperer

Although Ben is softly spoken, when he does speak, people listen. Click here to hear why he likes Speakers’ Corner.

Ray

Ray has been coming for a long, long time! And he is always welcome.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 18th April.

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 19, 2021 at 8:51 am

‘He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.’
Samuel Johnson

1. Steve Maxwell’s legendary status has spread to the big screen. He stars in Friends and Strangers, a film that has just been released in the U.S.A. It was filmed in Australia and Steve appears in the trailer.

2. Before Mr B’s meeting had even begun, the troll turned up to threaten him. The troll said Mr B had better be nice to him. What a lovely, lovely man.

Thankfully, Mr B did not seem intimidated by the threat, and throughout the afternoon showed no sign that he might buckle under the troll’s onslaught.

3. It was good to have aphantasiac Philip speaking again today. He spoke about the future of artificial intelligence and kept the crowd interested  the entire time he was up there. Good work, Philip!

4. Vladimir spoke aboutGuess Culture versus Ask Culture‘. Some people are direct when they ask for something or when they refuse a request, and some people are ‘polite’ and avoid answering an awkward question directly and instead get the person to guess what they want. Which one are you?

We established that the older a person is, the more direct they are likely to be because they are less likely to give a shit. (See graph below.)

Well done, Vladimir!


5. On Steve’s ladder John August gave a harsh review of the Scott Morrison government, referring to Scott Morrison’s response to the bushfires, Covid 19, and the treatment of women in parliament. He drew a good crowd.

6. Andrew from the Pirate Party had a short stint on Steve’s ladder, and he spoke about the Central Bank and digital currencies.  Unfortunately, your scribe didn’t get to hear him speak, which is a shame because it was a good topic and Andrew is a good speaker.

7. Voltaire said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities . . . can also make you commit atrocities.” In this week’s look at conspiracy theorists we look at how they benefit from creating or adopting a conspiracy theory:
(1) Their research gives them a sense that they are the holder of privileged knowledge.

(2) They like to be a part of a revolutionary movement ushering in a golden age and ridding us from evil.  For example, they fight against the ‘evils’ of The New World Order, The Illuminati, and ony other organisation aiming for a One World Government.

(3) It can make them look smart. They know more about the topic than you do.

(4) Their beliefs give them a sense of community. They share a bond with other believers.

(5) By being non-conformists they gain a sense of identity. By being different from the rest of us, they stand out.

(6) They get comfort. When they see chaos and malevolence in the world they feel comfortable knowing someone is to blame.

8. What do these three things have in common?
1. Monarchs throughout the centuries.
2. The CEO of a large company.
3. A waiter.

Answer: They all have the same job: to serve. (Of course, not all of them do their job, but it is their job.)

Ask two men to “please tell me the speed of light in kilometres per second, roughly.” One man answers: “300,000 kms per second.” The other man (Helmut) says: “299,792.458 kms per second.”

Which of the two men is showing off? Which man is more interested in impressing people than informing them?

In short, it’s a speaker’s job to serve, not impress. Mr B got stuck into Helmut today and it wasn’t pretty.

9. Helmut responded by getting stuck into Arnold Schwartzenegger, accusing the man of taking steroids by the handful. The discussion then turned to the topic of survivorship bias.

10. The entire universe began as a singularity far, far smaller than the head of a pin. Mr B explained how that could be.

11. Other topics discussed:
– Another highbrow joke: ‘A chemist froze himself at -237.15C. Everyone said he was crazy but he was OK.’
(That’s why wordplay jokes are banned at Speakers’ Corner.)

– People keep asking Mr Bashful why he shaved his long beard. His answer is that his entire beard has been made into a merkin for the coming winter. If you ask him nicely he might show it to you.

– Passer-by George described the Duke of Edinburgh as “a beautiful man in a bad system.”

– Mark the Grinner pointed out that America has never gone to war with a country that has a MacDonald’s restaurant, and he concluded by suggesting that if a country does not want to be invaded by the U.S.A. it should embrace the hamburger chain.

– Steve spoke about San Francisco’s earthquake 115 years ago.

– Mr B bragged that it was he who defended Christine Holgate months ago, and only now are the media and the public catching up.
(Were you trying to serve us when you bragged, Mr B? Or impress us?)

– Mr B spoke about the myth of positive thinking.

– For those wanting to improve their confidence and competence with public speaking skills: mute the television advertisements and speak to your companion for thirty seconds without umming and ahhing, and without saying ‘you know’.

12. This week’s unusual creature is the creatonotos gangis moth, found in South East Asia and Australia. This one has reported to the authorities our Facebook page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 11th April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 12, 2021 at 10:42 am

‘The idea of rapists as monsters exonerates by caricature.”
Kate Manne


1. When foresters cut down old growth forest, how much do they make on each tree after all expenses have been paid?  $1,000?  $2,000?

Answer: twenty cents. That’s what Steve Maxwell told us. He writes:

How much does New South Wales Government receive from ROYALTIES from the  Forestry Corporation?

The answer is truly shocking for all the damage done to old growth forests, water-ways and the creatures living in the forests. The State get $28 a hectare. That is about 20 C , a tree.

We’ve received shocking information which demonstrates the pointlessness of destructive native forest logging, and the urgent need to end it. Analysis of Forestry Corporation figures obtained by my office show the profit from native forest logging in 2019/20 was a just $28.03 a hectare. Over the last five years native logging profits have declined from a high of $225.85 in 2016/17 to a fraction of that. This means an average profit of less than 20 cents for each mature tree logged.

After the fires, everything changed and communities across NSW are asking the Government to protect their local forests and chart a path out of industrial logging of native forests. It is time. Share this post and join the call!

re; David Shobridge office Nature Conservation Council NSW, Bob Brown Foundation, Extinction Rebellion, Total Environment Centre, Save Sydney’s Koalas, National Parks Association and more

next week

Steve ‘s subject for next week Sunday the 18th of April 2020 will be the great earth quake of San Francisco 1906 that is 115 anniversary.   He will reveal three not well-known stories about the people during the quakes. and will it happen again?




2. Before we get to business, your scribe believes Speakers’ Corner has unfairly gained the reputation of being a place where oddballs gather. I believe we could enhance our image by making the place classier. We could, for example, have the speakers arrive and depart in palanquins. Volunteer carriers would jump at the chance to assist.

I put this idea to Steve Maxwell, Ray and the delicate Mr B and all three men humbly accepted the idea. They said if being carried in palanquins would enhance the image of Speakers’ Corner they would be prepared to do it.

We will need money to have custom palanquins built of course. Please give generously.

3. It was good to see fundamentalist  Christian Bill back! Before he began his meeting he kindly prayed for Mr B’s wonky hip to be healed. Then before he began speaking he had a good chat with fellow fundamentalist Christian, Ray. Was it a chat about something mundane like football? Or did they discuss strategies on how to save  a sinner’s soul? Whatever the case, welcome back, Bill!


4. Mr B
 said some conspiracy theorists have been claiming that the New World Order (with the media in tow) contrived Covid 19 to have us all vaccinated with either micro-chips or a vulnerability to 5G. So, what do the conspiracy theorists make of the fact that the media are now dampening our enthusiasm for the vaccine? Here are three possibilities:
1. The New World Order have changed their mind and their plans.
2. The media have rid themselves of the influence the New World Order has had upon them.
3. There was no conspiracy in the first place.

For conspiracy theorists, 3 is not a viable option.

5. Mr B does have one theory he fears might be called a conspiracy theory: he believes Prince Philip was murdered. The duke supposedly died in his sleep, but in 2002 the Queen Mother ALSO DIED IN HER SLEEP!  Coincidence? Hardly!  Something is going on, said Mr B. 

At first your scribe thought it unlikely, but then . . . Prince Harry did leave England. Perhaps he had good reason? 

Is the IRA responsible for these unexplained deaths in the royal family?

Is SHE next? 

An IRA operative.

6. People have been critical of those working in Parliament House for not dealing adequately with the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins. Protocols were not followed, they claim. So, today Mr B said he was the CEO of a large company and asked his board members (us, the audience) to help him compose a protocol that could best deal with such a situation if it were to happen in his big company.

(For overseas readers, Brittany Higgins and a co-worker worked in Parliament House. At midnight, after drinks somewhere, they let themselves in and Brittany was allegedly raped by the man in an office. A furore followed about how the staff dealt with the matter.)

What protocol did Mr B’s board members come up with? Here are the main suggestions:

‘Don’t let employees have keys to your business.’ Mr B thought that would make it a trifle awkward for companies employing people who work different hours to the boss. And, if the boss went on holidays they would have to shut down the company.

‘Tell her she either goes to the police or gets the sack.’ Mr B thought this a touch coercive, and not 100% fair on the woman who may have a good reason for not going to the police.

‘Introduce mandatory reporting. i.e. If a woman says she has been raped, but does not want to go to the police, the boss rings the police anyway.’ Mr B feared that a woman knowing that, and not wanting to go to the police, might as a consequence not tell her employer she had been raped. She would then not get support from anyone in the building, and she would have to continue to work with the co-worker who had raped her.

‘Sack the man who raped her.’
Without a police enquiry it would not be fair to simply sack the accused if he denied the incident happened. Further, the company could be sued for wrongful dismissal.

No one suggested that the company sponsor independent rape or crisis counselling for the employee, and no one suggested that designated staff members could attend courses on how to compassionately, helpfully and legally guide victims on the best course of action to take. And, everyone seemed to think that ethics has a geographical component. i.e. If a rape occurs on the grounds of the company, the company must take responsibility for dealing with the matter and apply the protocols; if the rape occurs on the other side of the fence then the company has nothing to do with it. It was interesting to discover that ethics, compassion and responsibility have such a clear boundary.

In short, Mr B was not impressed with the advice he received and still does not have a clear protocol that protects the company AND supports the employee. The point being: it’s easy to be righteous and throw stones at the people working in Parliament House, but do you yourself truly have the answers?

If so, dear reader, please let us know your suggested protocol in the comments section.


7. Speaking of strategies, a number of people have advised Mr B to ignore the vicious negativity of the hecklers because his responses only serve to feed them. Plus, the consequent tedium turns people away. However, he can’t seem to follow their advice; he always takes the bait. 

At least the dinosaurs at Speakers’ Corner are well spoken.


8. Other topics discussed:

– The question was asked: ‘Are intelligent people less happy than unintelligent people?’ It was an interesting question and Mr B floundered trying to answer it. Mark the Grinner helped him out.

– Is China a communist country that has introduced capitalism? Opinions were divided. And heated.

– Vladimir spoke about misandry.

– Helmut spoke about mass and subatomic particles.

– Workplace inclusivity. Is someone racist if they mistake one brown-skinned person for another? Or for making a fundamentalist Christian who has never seen television, travelled, or experienced popular culture, feel isolated?  No one answered, ‘yes’.

– If I have only enough time to read 20 resumés and interview 20 people for a job that requires clear diction, and I have 200 similar-looking resumés on my desk, am I wrong to choose 20 resumés from people with anglo names?

– Mr Bashful vainly tried to convince us that capitalism is a wonderful system provided firm regulations are in place and enforced.

9. This week’s unusual creature from the Unusual Creature Series is the Jesus lizard from Central and South America. It is called the Jesus lizard because it has the ability to heal the sick and turn water into wine. It says our Facebook page is just dandy.

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