Ok, I promised my wife that I’d mow the lawn today, but it just started raining so I really should wait until tomorrow… Or the day after. It’s not a race after all.
Was my promise to mow the lawn a lie? Would she be correct if she were to say that if I didn’t keep my word in relation to the mowing, how can she be sure that I’ll stick by my marriage vows? Am I just a dishonest creep who says one thing, then does another?
Of course, when it comes to political promises we’re all a bit cynical. Only a fool would expect that a politician’s election pledges are all going to be fulfilled even when they’re in the form of a glossy booklet with a title like, “Real Solutions”. (The Liberals really do like their booklets outlining what they’d do if they got into power. They like it so much that they produce booklets of their plans even when they are in power!) Often there’s a good reason for it, but frequently, the political party had no intention of fulfilling the promises and they were just a way of getting votes. The difficulty for voters is distinguishing between the reasonable excuse and the free-unicorn-rides-for-everyone type promise. For example, should we look back and say that the Liberal promise to introduce a federal integrity commission was just a way of killing the issue at an election, or accept the very reasonable proposition that they haven’t been able to do it because they have no idea what “integrity” is and, consequently, are totally unsure how to go about creating such a commission?
Getting back to my un-mowed lawn, I’d like to suggest that wherever one sits on the issue of promises, there is an enormous difference between me being it put off because of rain and, “But, darling, I DID mow the lawn; it just grew back overnight!” While the promises of all politicians are suspect, I actually think that the Morrison government has moved into the category of telling us that the grass grew back overnight.
In the case of the vaccines, it is true that a lack of supply may have caused a slower than expected rollout, and we could nod our heads and say that the assertion that Australia was at the front of the queue still fits into the everyday hyperbole of political rhetoric. However, when we have politicians telling us that they never said that it wasn’t a race or that there was no rush because, well, that makes them a little bit responsible for the fact that some people have decided that it isn’t a race and there’s no rush, I think my claim that the grass grew back overnight is at least as plausible.
I recently read a wonderful essay by Rebecca Solnit called “They Think They Can Bully The Truth.”
Solnit talks about “the indignation that arises in powerful men when it turns out other people have things to say and that they might be listened to and believed”, While the whole thing is worth reading, I particularly liked her thoughts on Trump:
“More and more I come to see the compulsive, frenetic pace of lies by the president as a manic version of that prerogative of dictating reality. It’s a way of saying, I determine what’s real and you suck it up even if you know it’s bullshit. He has abandoned credibility for dictatorial power. When you’re a star, they let you do it, and the size of your stardom can be measured in how much you can force people to accept—or pretend to accept—contrary to their own intelligence and orientation and ethics.”
Worryingly, Morrison seems more and more to be going down the same path, which is a worry not just to me, but to all those mainstream commentators like Bolt and Jones who thought that they were in charge of dictating reality. It may be that Scotty’s days are numbered for no other reason than that!
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