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 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.