I’ve had lies on my mind.
How our governments and politicians lie, and lie, and lie, and how we let them. How much damage that has done. How much damage it still does, day after day.
I’ve been thinking to write about it, but knowing it’s another downer, and we can’t just dwell on what’s wrong because we lose hope and become numb and cynical. It’s cynicism and numbness that creates the space for the liars.
Then a video came along, a video of a man speaking the painful truth about his country, speaking from his head and from his heart.
Two nights ago we saw a performance of Ngapartji Ngapartji. It’s about Trevor Jamieson and his family. His grandfather as a child lived in the central Australian “desert”. His people’s country is bigger than Greece, bigger than Japan. British and Australian authorities chose to view their country as a nearly uninhabited wilderness. They exploded nine atomic bombs, making only token efforts to remove the inhabitants first. The radioactive clouds drifted over the country. Many people got sick, many died, and many were driven off the country that sustained their bodies and held their spirits.
The governments pretended no-one was harmed, helped by the fact that Trevor’s people do not speak the names of their deceased. Many whites were harmed, among the thousands who worked on the project – soldiers, workers, rangers and their families. One of the clouds drifted over Adelaide. Who knows how much harm that did? People who tried to speak the truth were intimidated. Some of this came out in the McLelland Royal Commission in 1984-85, but responsibility for deaths and illness of blacks and whites has been consistently minimised. Many questions remain unanswered.
Ngapartji Ngapartji answers some of those questions from a close personal connection. It is “searingly truthful, vital theatre that pierces the heart.” Have a look at the videos. See the show if it comes your way.
Of course that was then, we know we’ve done bad things in the past – invading a country, committing protracted genocide on the inhabitants while we pretended the land was terra nullius, an empty land, stealing children from their mothers for their own good, allowing the use of asbestos long past the time it was known to be a dangerous carcinogen, claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and so on and on.
These days we don’t drive people off their land for our own convenience and enrichment, do we? We wouldn’t put innocent, desperate people in remote concentration camps for years on end, there adding grave emotional and mental harm to the trauma that drove them to our shores, would we? Nor would our politicians, with minor exceptions, fail to challenge the many myths that have blown a minor inconvenience for our nation into a major xenophobic and racist issue, would they?
If we persistently avoid challenging a lie, we are complicit in the lie.
The Australian Government has, under duress, imposed a modest price on the burning of carbon fuels, but the Prime Minister never has the guts or the nous to spell out the full strength of the case, which is not hard to explain, and to put to rest the crazy conspiracy theory that has come to replace in many minds the very strong scientific case that we cause global warming.
If we persistently distort events, we tell lies.
A somewhat rowdy, non-violent demonstration was perceived and reported as a “riot” by all Australian media, though many questioned that interpretation of the media’s own evidence. A storm of criticism and disgust descended on the participants, who just happened to be indigenous Australians angry about a patronising statement by the Leader of the Opposition. There were no injuries and no property damage. Various investigations eventually concluded no charges could be made.
Media sensationalism persistently distorts the truth into something else – in other words it creates lies.
Today I received a video link to a US person who was asked to state his reasons why “America” is the greatest country in the world. Evidently the scene will be used as the beginning of a TV show, and not everything in it and about it is gospel truth, but those are quibbles. Watch him respond, and watch the power of the truth, a simple, painful truth spoken from the heart.
Our politics is a culture of lies. Our governments lie all the time about what they are doing in our name, especially overseas. Atrocities are happening all over the world all the time, mostly to do with people’s lives and livelihoods falling victim to the plans of the rich.
When we demand, and get, politics of truth, then we will deserve to call ourselves civilised, cultured, free, mature, wise or whatever is your label of preference.