Not so smug now

Given what’s happened this week – raids on the ABC HQ in Sydney by the AFP, another raid on a News Ltd editor in Canberra – it’s apt that I wrote about Julian Assange just last week because this is all of a piece. What we have are governments – the establishment – seeking to control the narrative. They claim, as they always do, that it’s in the national interest, but really it’s about censorship. It’s about seeking, or preserving political and personal advantage, about protecting shoddy dealings and hiding away corruption and incompetence. Above all, it’s about intimidation, which is what these raids were all about. The message is loud and clear: if you’re a whistle-blower we’re going to get you, and if you’re a journalist then you’re in their targets too. It’s a national disgrace.

I can’t express how angry this makes me feel. Why am I so angry? Well, I’m upset, naturally, at the hit to our democracy and threat to free speech. I’m very afraid of where this is leading, and where it may lead. Mostly I’m furious because over the last ten years or so many of our civil liberties have been steadily eroded by governments justifying it with weasel words about terrorism and threats to national security. Here and there voices have been raised in objection, but too few, and quickly drowned out. I’ve been one of those voices, protective of my civil liberties and fearful that what starts as a few seemingly minor restrictions to our rights become a movement, and combined lead us to a state of intimidation. That’s the lesson of history, not paranoia, but our politic and our media had declined to such a state that no serious opposition was ever raised. Now we have raids on our national broadcaster by our federal police. The media as a collective are screaming blue murder now, but excepting a few instances, and a few journalists, the irony is that the laws they now suffer from went unexamined when they had the chance. And that’s why I’m bloody angry. I just hope it’s not too late.

I have become powerfully cynical these days. That’s what becomes of disappointed idealism. The election broke my heart. My better self seeks to forgive, but I can’t help but despise the selfish and the dumb who voted in this government. I don’t know what would happen if I cornered one of those dozy cunts, but it wouldn’t be pretty. Soon enough they’ll recognise the error of their ways as the economy tanks, as they find they’re not entitled to franking credits, and as Morrison, Dutton and his cronies continue on in their corrupt, undemocratic and self-serving ways – but what good is that? Remorse won’t cut it. Their sloppy indifference has condemned us all, and for that, I can’t forgive them.

For me, this is somewhat existential. I’ve always been a proud Australian. Generally, I like Australians, as most of the world does, but I’ve come to question what we really have to be proud of? This is a big blow to my belief systems, but probably a necessary corrective. How I resolve that going forward, I don’t know, but I’m sure I will.

In the meantime, it’s this lax scrutiny which has led us to a place where our democracy is in danger. We’re not alone in this. As we see with Assange, whistle-blowers and those who seek to expose the truth are at threat all over the world. This must be resisted. Once, it was the totalitarian states guilty of this, and we would sneer at them from our smug democracies. Now our democracies are adopting the tricks of the police states we despised. Sadly – and I never thought I’d say this – Australia has now become one of the leading offenders. It’ll get worse unless we do something about it now.

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