(This is an update of a piece I posted in November 2014).
Wednesday September 16 2015.
ABC News: We asked how you felt about Malcolm Turnbull replacing Tony Abbott as prime minister and the response was overwhelming. The morning after the challenge almost 25,000 readers told us their mood and one word stood out – relief.
“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.” Tony Abbott, August 22, 2011
Every time Abbott lies to the citizens of this country we become increasingly disaffected, and not only from our Prime Minister, but from the institution he represents. Abbott has normalised the discourse of lies. He has taken the dishonesty of politicians to a whole new level. We barely expect anything else from him, and from his fellow politicians. Under the leadership of our mendacious Prime Minister, we have increasingly abandoned hope of fairness, straightforwardness, belief and trust. Our Prime Minister doesn’t think we are deserving of the truth.
One of the many unpleasant effects of being lied to is that the liar insults and patronises me by creating a false reality that I have to inhabit, until I discover I’m the victim of deception.The liar denies me the right to know the truth, a serious offence against me, because truth is something no one has the right to deny me.
Whether it’s on a personal or a political level, lying to me signifies the liar doesn’t consider me as entitled to the truth as is he or she. This infantilises me, is disrespectful to me, and denies me the knowledge I need to make informed decisions about my life. There’s little more insulting than being lied to, kept in the dark with lies of omission, and intentionally misled because the liar doesn’t consider you capable of handling the truth, or is acting entirely in their own self-interest because you knowing the truth will in some way threaten them.
The Prime Minister of our country, Tony Abbott, has never made any secret of his ambivalent relationship with truth. There is his notorious assertion that nothing he says is “gospel” truth unless it’s written down.
There’s his prescriptive declaration that “It is better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.” While this isn’t necessarily an endorsement of lying, it is a ruthless and callous prescription for relationship with one’s fellow humans. It recommends that one do that which one desires, and if it backfires, apologise, but it isn’t necessary under the terms of Abbott’s prescriptive to negotiate with or communicate intention to others, prior to taking an action. This has a similar effect to lying, in that it assumes an inferiority of some kind on the part of another that doesn’t require Abbott to enter into an equal, respectful relationship in which another’s opinions and wishes count for the same as his own.
We have a liar for a leader. When the lies start at the top, there’s little hope truth will ever see the light of day. Abbott is leading us into an abyss of normalised deception that will damage every one of us, because when dedicated liars are in power, the country will inevitably lose its way.
It makes perfect sense that relief is the feeling described by so many after Abbott was relieved of the prime ministership earlier this week. There is little more psychologically disturbing, both personally and politically, than living life under the pernicious influence of a liar. The toll this takes on individual and collective well-being is often not recognised until the experience is over. Abbott trashed the unspoken social contract that allows civilised society to prevail over anarchy and chaos: most of us will, to the best of our ability, strive to be truthful to one another.
We will not, as did the former Prime Minister, adopt dishonesty as a way of being and publicly justify that choice. Once a person has admitted their penchant for and comfort with lying, it is not possible to establish or maintain a healthy relationship with them. While all politicians lie to some degree, as does everyone, Abbott made the lie the foundation from which he attempted to govern.
We are well rid of this lying little man. There was not one issue on which we could trust his words. In itself, this creates a climate of fear and apprehension in the country, as the worst kind of uncertainty prevails. What we most value in one another, what we most take for granted in our society and without which we will crumble, the will to truth, was contemptuously dismissed by the country’s leader as counting for nothing.
Good riddance to the liar.
This article was first published on No Place For Sheep.