Anew phrase has entered the national lexicon. I suspect it has been imported, although surely we could have come up with something similar. The phrase to which I refer is “social licence” and it seems to be linked to the notion of political correctness. It is the idea that something is permitted not so much by governmental decree but rather by tribal (or social) agreement.
Historical examples include tobacco companies, which might be legal but long ago fell out with the powers that be on the Social Licence Review Board. It is now quite acceptable to round up smokers and herd them into enclaves where these untouchables may, if they must, practise their vile habit without affecting the rest of humanity. And so, armed with the imprimatur of the SLRB’s judgment, we happily and eagerly participate in the marginalisation of the entire smoker race.
Recently, financial institutions’ social licence to operate has come under review. The social licence of the church – specifically, Christian churches – is also under scrutiny, largely because of the heinous behaviour of many individuals who operated unchallenged for years within the institution. Fair enough, too.
Oddly, in other circumstances the SLRB is careful to ensure that the terrifying behaviour of errant individuals not be conflated with the belief system to which they belong. The board has yet to explain this anomaly and even more oddly it remains affronted by the question.
I don’t know who is on the board, but they have a backlog of cases to review. There’s the live sheep export trade, and the rice-growing and cotton industries (water usage issues, apparently). The coal industry’s case was first heard a decade ago, and I think we all know that outcome. Not-so-quaint household habits such as burning autumn leaves in the street, burning rubbish in backyard incinerators and hosing down concrete driveways all had their licence revoked a generation ago. I suspect that within a generation, meat-eating and gambling will also fall foul of the SLRB.
There is another group whose social licence is likely to come under review. According to the minutes of the SLRB’s most recent meeting, all rich people can only have enriched themselves by nefarious means and via the exploitation of others. Among the most marginalised people in this nation are workers earning $181,000 per year – just enough to get into the top tax bracket, be excluded from any form of support or concession and be on the receiving end of the community’s opprobrium, but not nearly enough to live a really rich lifestyle.
A subcommittee of the SLRB adjudicates applications for new swear-word licences. The f-word was brought in from the cold a generation ago and given free licence to operate in any social situation. However, by the 2030s the licence to use the term “fat” will be withdrawn. Increasingly offensive terms such as “old” and “retired” have also been submitted for review but as the proponents are ageing baby boomers, the submissions aren’t likely to succeed.
It’s not so much that the terms aren’t discriminatory, more that the beneficiaries of a withdrawal of their social licence, the baby boomers, are themselves the subject of a licence review.
Apparently, there’s a move to position baby boomers alongside smokers, and possibly rich people, as social pariahs due to their history of paying mortgages in order to accumulate wealth. The key skill in being admitted to the SLRB is being able to see and nurture division that others cannot or will not see.
◖ email@example.com ◗