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The dangers of complicity


TUMBY BAY - Silence has always been recognised as complicity. Failing to speak out when something bad is happening is often interpreted as endorsement, especially by the people perpetuating the badness.

A cowed and silent population is the ultimate aim of despots who use the repression of its citizens’ right to a free voice as a political weapon.

Unfortunately, silence is becoming a growing trend the world over, particularly in places where conservative regimes are establishing themselves.

In these cases silence also represents the degree of futility people under these sorts of regimes feel.

There are many other ways to become complicit however and they don’t necessarily have to occur under political or economic duress.

One of the things that bothered me over the years I did social mapping in Australia and Papua New Guinea, was that I indirectly facilitated social and resource exploitation, generally by large multinational companies.

This was particularly true in PNG where the companies were ruthlessly exploiting local landowners and the nation at large.

Added to that was the uncomfortable knowledge that many of these companies were also involved in fossil fuel developments which would ultimately add to the problem of climate change.

I was naïve enough to believe that through the social mapping process it was possible to mitigate some of the grosser effects of resource exploitation.

I now know this is impossible.

These companies don’t care about the people they hurt or the damage they cause to the countries they pillage. Nor do they care about their impact on the world at large.

I was thinking about this while observing the latest shenanigans in the Papua New Guinean parliament where a group of self-centred and reckless politicians are in the process of destabilising the nation for their own selfish interests.

Just like the big multinational resource exploiters, they will no doubt have plenty of claptrap rhetoric on hand that says what they are doing is for the benefit of the nation and its people.

It must be terribly hard to be an honest person in PNG and it must be even harder to be an honest politician or public servant.

The will to resist corruption must be a daily torment for those few honest individuals.

When the gravy train pulls up at their station and they refuse to get on board, their corrupt peers must chuckle at their naivety and ridicule them behind their backs.

What must also lie heavily on their minds is the fact that they are in the tent with these dishonest rogues and, wittingly or otherwise, highly likely to be seen as complicit in their shady deals.

They might argue, as so many do, that one has to be in that tent to affect positive change.

Unfortunately this adage is increasingly being exposed as a furphy, just like trickle-down economics has been exposed as a crock of nonsense.

Complicity doesn’t work whether it is the profession of social mapping for big resource companies or membership of a corrupt political clique.

When you get to the point of seeing that what you are involved in is a nest of thieves, the only really honest option is to have the courage to walk away and find some other means of addressing the ill.

Change from the inside seldom works. To affect real change one has to be outside the tent.

Tearing it down while you are still inside will only get you a bump on the head.


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Joe Herman

Something to think about, Phil. Also Martin Luther King Jr expressed similar sediments: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the
silence of our friends”

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