Words that mean more than they say
28 April 2021
TUMBY BAY - The articles featured in the Anzac Day edition of PNG Attitude had a common theme related to the corrupted mythology of Australia’s leading commemorative event and its emergence as a caricature of reality.
The comments by various authors reflected on the inconvenient truths revealed in the articles or sought to defend some of the mythologies thought to be questionable.
In all the comments, however, there was great care to separate from the argument the men and women involved in the conflicts and the honour due to them for their sacrifices.
This is interesting because those men and women, unwitting or otherwise, were the instruments of whatever policies or beliefs the Australian government chose to offer the public to justify its actions.
At the core of these contradictions was the legitimacy, motives and rationale behind Australia’s involvement in the many wars in which it has taken part in its 120-year history.
When World War I was done and dusted, and the dead and injured counted, governments told their people – perhaps by way of recompense – that it had been “the war to end all wars”. Not even close. Twenty years later there was another monstrous conflagration.
That it is dangerous to blindly accept what any government says on any issue is these days a sentiment acknowledged by most thinking people.
However, the jingoism – the extreme patriotism - that induced many young men to needlessly volunteer for overseas military service during World War I remains a tactic beloved of governments and politicians today.
At their simplistic worst are the slogans uttered by governments as excuses for making unpalatable decisions, such as sending young men and women to war.
For example, over the last 50 years or so Australian governments have given us slogans for Afghanistan (‘The war on terror’); Iraq (‘Coalition of the willing’ and ‘Stay till the job is done’); asylum seekers, often fleeing from our wars (‘Stop the boats’); getting into Vietnam (‘A direct military threat to Australia’); and staying in Vietnam (‘All the way with LBJ’).
And it’s not only governments that use such propaganda as a political tool. ‘Black lives matter’ is currently a powerful slogan that carries a meaning well beyond three simple words.
What slogans, propaganda and jingoism are designed to do is replace logical thought and create a herd response in the community.
Once that response has been established, it is thought, people can be led to wherever the proponents of the message want them to go.
The herd mentality is intended to effectively nullify rationality and replace it with blind, reactive and visceral emotion.
George Orwell had this in mind when he published his short novel, ‘Animal Farm’, in August 1945, less than two months after the German surrender.
The novel is an allegory about how people act in society and how unscrupulous leaders can take advantage of entire populations.
The faithful and loyal carthorse, Boxer, who works himself to death hauling stone on the farm at the urging of Napoleon, the ambitious and greedy leader of the pigs, epitomises the way vested interests can ruthlessly manipulate others to their own advantage.
Billy Hughes used the tactic in 1915 to induce naïve young men to volunteer for war and politicians continue to use it today.
Nowadays slogans pre-empt every election campaign. Whenever a government wants to promote some idea it makes up a slogan. Slogans seek to sell ideas, just as they can sell brands of cars and cornflakes.
Whether it’s James Marape’s brag to make Papua New Guinea, ‘The richest black Christian nation on the planet’, or Scott Morrison’s sound-tough pledge to Australians that, ‘If you have a go, you get a go', we shouldn’t believe them until we think more deeply about what they mean, and whether what they seem to be promising is attainable.
If you think through the slogans in terms of what they are trying to make you believe - and ask yourself ‘does this make sense?’ - you’ll surprise yourself at how good you become at interpreting them.
That Biden speech was absolutely stunning in its implications for the world and yet our piss poor media could only comment on what he said about Covid-19.
Whether the federal government noticed what he said is unknown. If they did it would have scared the hell out of them and yet I don't detect any rapid back pedalling.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 30 April 2021 at 06:06 PM
After contemplating all of the comments on PNG Attitude and emails that I received following the three Anzac Day articles I’ve reached a final conclusion.
That is that despite our continual protestations about wanting peace human beings are naturally inclined to aggression and war, seek it out and revel in all its manifestations, especially if there’s money to be made out of it.
This was confirmed when a senior Australian public servant looking directly towards China observed on Anzac Day that the drums of war were beating and that Australia must be prepared "to send off, yet again, our warriors to fight".
This disturbing image of the Aussie warrior seems to lie buried in many hearts, even the most timid and unassuming, and seems to rise with the slightest encouragement.
Among the messages I received were some from sources I hadn’t expected but which, nevertheless, exhibited a curious pride in the exploits of their warrior forbears in times of war.
The term warrior has many connotations, most of them positive, and include qualities of bravery, honour and righteousness, which stand in direct contrast to the qualities ascribed to their adversaries.
The senior public servant clearly had this distinction in mind when he deliberately decided to rattle a few sabres and use the term. He was implying that Australia, as opposed to China, had right on its side.
He might also have said, as Australia’s prime minister has said, that the government has God on its side too.
Having God on your side is a very handy way of justifying even the most outrageous actions and is especially useful if your opponents are perceived as either godless (communists) or followers of a false god.
These are old and familiar refrains that invariably surface when war is involved but why they should be invoked now is decidedly curious. One suspects that it has more to do with personal ambition than reality.
The senior public servant, Mike Pezzullo, is obviously keen to follow his old boss, Peter Dutton, into the defence portfolio and figured that a little sabre rattling might get him there.
The fact that the same action might damage Australia both economically and militarily seemed to be of minor concern.
We’re less than twelve months away from a federal election and the government’s bungling, corruption and failure to act on important issues is rapidly eroding its chances of success.
Given the nature of these important issues it is ignoring, even God might be looking a little askance at them.
Unfortunately they have a history of beating up issues when they are desperate.
The prospect of going to war as an electoral ploy has proven to be extremely useful in the past, particularly if you have a public with the idea in its blood like Australia.
We can only hope they don’t try to tap into this warrior syndrome because it won’t end well.
Of some consolation might be that it seems Australia is out on a frolic of its own in its immature and belligerent rhetoric. When President Biden made a defining address to Congress yesterday, in discussing the place of the US in the world, and China, he didn't refer to the "drums of war" once - or allude to anything like that. Seems we've developed a real wasp nest of war mongers in Canberra - KJ
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 30 April 2021 at 01:49 PM
"When the rich wage war it's the poor who die" - Jean-Paul Sartre
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 28 April 2021 at 10:42 AM