Friday 4 March 2016
It is said that in war ‘truth’ is the first causality. Lying is probably one of the most common wrong acts that we perform. In fact lying as we understand it is an unavoidable part of human nature. Therefore it’s worth spending time thinking about it.
Whilst it might be true that truth is the first causality of war, I would contend that over the past ten or twenty years it has become a major causality of our public discourse. If I were asked to pinpoint it I would date it at around, or post, Ronald Reagan’s appointment as president of the US.
It was a period that saw the beginning of the Religious Right’s involvement in Politics and of Neo Conservatism.
In the last US election Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan took lying to an unparalleled level. Fact finders alerted the public to 2019 lies by Romney alone. I watched the first Presidential debate and became fascinated with how Romney could present fiction as fact. It is my contention that President Obama lost the first debate not because he was of his game, or that he was unprepared, but rather he was taken by surprise by the wilful lies that Romney was telling.
Political lying in Australia since Tony Abbott’s appointment as opposition leader reached unprecedented levels and insinuated itself into our public dialogue, including the media. So much so that it is now almost impossible for the average punter to know just who is telling the truth.
Which brings me to my point. What resources does the average punter have to accessing the truth? If we have the time we can do some research? Look up the facts presented by fact checkers. Pay for FOI documents. Who has time for all that?
The truth is that in the absence of readily identifiable evidence we all use what is generally called ‘the pub test or common sense test.’ In other words we digest all the available information and ask ourselves the question ’is it plausible?’ Does what I am being told have the ring of truth about it. We make judgements based on our life’s experience. Unless your personal bias clouds the ’Pub test’ your inner conscience dictates your judgement.
‘I don’t judge people but I do form my own opinion of course’.
‘Life is about perception, not what is but what we perceive it to be’.
Let’s take two current items currently making headlines.
Firstly, there is a National Security leak. There is nothing more serious politically. The story appears in The Australian Newspaper which is a known supporter of former Prime Minister Abbott. The journalist in question, Greg Sheridan is also a personal friend of Abbott. Abbott is also quoted in the piece thus giving the leak credibility. To adhere one’s own words to a leaked document is dangerous.
Everyone knows that our former Prime Minister is a liar. He might even be the worst in our political history. He is certainly the worst this nation has ever seen. Many of our most respected journalists and media commentators have said so. He has even admitted he is a liar himself.
The evidence is so abundant, so overwhelmingly copious that it is beyond contradiction. It is fair to say that in general the populace accepted his lying as a fact. I and many others have listed them, quoted them, itemised, analysed them and exposed them in crystal clarity. Even members of his own party have accepted that he is a liar of nefarious intent.
And his sheer indifference to the fact that he lies together with his lack of conscience about it I found sickening. The list is as long as a toilet roll.
Secondly, Cardinal George Pell gives evidence at the Royal Commission into Child Abuse. Despite at all times being but a breath away from all the vile conduct of the church, the suicides, molesting, families destroyed, he denies everything and blames everyone else pleading that he was told nothing.
In the first instance, the leak, an investigation is being carried out. Leaks of course are not uncommon in politics. John Howard famously leaked to Andrew Bolt at the time of the Iraq war to discredit the outspoken Andrew Wilke. It wasn’t successful because Wilke had too much integrity.
History shows that enquiries reveal nothing. I therefore in the absence of hard evidence I conclude that my common sense tells me that Abbott is still upset with losing the Prime Ministership and is intent on undermining Turnbull’s position. The same as Rudd did to Gillard.
In the case of Pell I conclude, again in the absence of proof, that he could not possibly have been that close to the action, and not be aware of the unmitigated evil being carried out. Time and time again he pleads ignorance. I didn’t know I wasn’t told. Even when he pleads the greyness of the context of the time I deduce that time doesn’t diminish the crime.
‘The standards we walk past are the standards we accept’.
Despite a tendency inherited biologically by all to lie. Truth in politics and society in general matters enormously. It is not a trivial matter in any democracy. Our whole system is based on the assumption that truth prevails over all else and that it is the people who judge its veracity.
Without truth the people cannot give informed accent to office and democracy fails. There are ethical obligations of integrity and coherence upon which society depends. Our leaders when they lie fail the highest standards of social morality.
At this time in our history we are experiencing a toxic tide of leadership mistrust. No other politician has contributed to it more than Tony Abbott. Is he the most dishonest, the most cynical and pathologically perverted liar to ever lead our nation?
Pell may indeed be found to be the worst religious liar this country has seen. A blight on the very essence of the teaching of Christ.
I will leave you to ponder the question. Use your common sense and ask yourself is what they are saying plausible. It’s the pub test.
Two thoughts for the day.
‘Humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. However, it is truth that enables human progress’.
‘Question everything. What you see, what you feel, what you hear and what you are told until you understand the truth of it. Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact’.