When I thought there was nothing more to write about apropos the events of the last fortnight, I came across an op-ed penned by Daily Telegraph shill Tim Blair.
The headline read ‘The coup we had to have’.
An impressionable child could fairly ask a parent, what does coup mean?
So the language of sedition and treachery dominate the Australian vernacular as never before.
I lived through the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, a prime ministerial stickler for the values of the Constitution. And while Australians were outraged by his ignoble sacking by an unelected governor general, at no time — correct me if I am wrong — did the nomenclature of treason enter the debate.
Yet descriptions of the moves against former Prime Minister Turnbull were punctuated with shadowy mutterings about the means of a political killing.
Coup, destabilisation, put him to the sword, the killing season, political assassination, bloodletting Kill Bill, the Mad Monk, Morriscum, Jbish … Just a few of the words and phrases deployed by journalists, commentators and ordinary citizens to describe the events which paralysed the nation.
How and when did we allow our language to become so malevolent?
In the year 2000, after the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony, Australia presented an image of a young, sanguine nation. And the planet responded in kind. The Games marked the emergence of Sydney as a world city and Australia a capable, buoyant and welcoming nation with limitless potential. We were magnificent, and I was fortunate to observe my city and country behave in a fashion which confirmed an earlier decision to become a citizen.
Eighteen years on and every Prime Minister since John Howard — the incumbent resident in the Lodge during the Olympic Games — has suffered the ignominy of political termination with extreme prejudice.
Eighteen years marks a generation, and this new voting cohort knows nothing but political instability. This young constituency is bombarded by the lexicon of treason. A shameful inherited, national legacy.
How is this possible? And how can Australians debate big ideas such as a republic without a notion being subverted by seditious language?
With swathes of the media addicted to the rhetoric of the school yard bully, it is apodictic we will remain trapped in a cycle of recrimination. And with this craven determination to tear down any proposition which may change the status quo, it is almost impossible to question who we are and how our destiny might evolve.
I recently eavesdropped a conversation about politically correct terms being deployed to neuter the words granny and granddad. This alleged insistence of the use of gender neutral language is a popular trope among sections of the community, convinced the thought police are denying their right of expression.
There is no evidence for the assertion but this and similar myths, persist and trouble tens of thousands of Australians, many of whom live in regional and rural parts of the nation.
The propensity for hate speak in political debates has grown to such a level, incendiary rascals such as Tim Blair regularly use the allegory of violence to make a point.
A grand master of colourful political vituperation Paul Keating learnt the art of a genuine Australian turn of phrase from his mentor NSW Premier Jack Lang who literally mounted a soap box during street corner debates.
But with the deployment of the cold-blooded invective of the assassins’ creed we have drifted from the resonance and sincerity of Keating’s Redfern Speech.
Or have we?
The Uluru Statement from the Heart dismissed by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is for me an almost transcendental declaration of the possibility of a noble future. The Statement, free of cant and sincere, describes a space Australians should consider occupying if we are to become truly great. It embraces the notions of unity and truth telling and therein the possibility of a confident Australia.
It behoves us as parents and grandparents to teach this generation of its intent, for by accepting the Statement’s recommendations, Australians might become emotionally equipped to occupy an optimistic country; beyond political spite and the dark bombast of propaganda. Consider this paragraph from The Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown”.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney based author. His book, Best and Fairest is available at Valentine Press
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