|My clergy colleague and I were
astonished to find ourselves the object of a complaint to the presbytery
(the regional controlling body in the Uniting Church) for our
inappropriate behaviour towards one of our congregations. The
congregation in question was also somewhat startled to hear this, and said
so!. None the less, we were required to attend a meeting with our accuser
and a couple of presbytery representatives to explain ourselves. Fortunately
one of these clearly saw the jealousy which had led to the complaint and
the issue was cleared up. It was frightening to see how the other
representative was so uncritically swayed by the plaintiff's story.
The episode left both of us bruised, and it took a some time to regain
confidence in our work. In a later parish I was the subject of sustained
lying by at least one person which was so personally destructive that I
was on sick leave for almost 12 months.
Currently a friend has been challenging the policies of a new departmental
head whose approach to his department has been quite damaging. This
recently came to a head, with a mediation meeting with the Dean, who was
quite concerned with what my friend had been reporting. At the
mediation, the Departmental Head said my friend had physically assaulted
her, which is a complete lie, and completely out of character with the
man's personality.. She has even found a "witness." The
Dean said to him, "Surely there is a grain of truth in what she
says?" The seeds of suspicion have been sown. The Union has
said to my friend that there is no point in acting on his complaint about
this slander. An innocent man, he will have no hope of winning because
we are predisposed to believe the allegation. And the real issues of
management and competence have been forgotten- effectively submerged by
Our Governor General is currently the subject of a rape allegation, which
on the basis of the news reports also appears unstainable. Most likely
there has been a mistake in identity rather than an lie. But the
false charge of rape and assault are underlying fears for many men, who
now conduct interviews with doors open, and tape recorders running.
(Something that always should have been done.) Even if there is no
foundation and the allegation is thrown out of court, enormous damage will
be done to a man's reputation. For centuries women have been
powerless in the face of assault and an imbalance in power which meant
totally inequity in most spheres of life. Now some have learned to
play the game. Each time a woman lies like this, she feeds all the
gender hostility stored up by unrepentant and un-reconstructed men.
Lying is immensely destructive to the cause of justice for women. (The
Adelaide Advertiser reports a sympathy towards the Governor General
because of the allegations. The falsely accusing woman stereotype is
alive and well, and it will be a pity if he is able to sustain his
position on the basis of this.)
Lying has been at the centre of Australia's treatment of refugees. We
call them illegal, to begin with.
The government has propagated this lie with such total consistency
that the word refugee has almost disappeared by comparison! There
has been political lying to win elections, with the Tampa
stand off and lies about children overboard.
Cartoons by Nicholson and Leak regularly showed our leaders as
liars. Nothing has been done. Now in recent days there have
of torture at Baxter "Detention Centre" with a man being
hung by his wrists from a wall. The reporting article said in
When The Australian spoke to the detainee yesterday through a translator, he variously confirmed and denied the hook story, eventually saying he was reluctant to discuss it because he believed his voice was being recorded.
Melbourne-based Greens refugee activist Pamela Curr began circulating the detainee's story among the activist network this week. A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said some of Ms Curr's information had to be taken "with a grain of salt".
The problem for Mr Ruddock is the clear
perception, relayed extensively in the media, that the Government has
consistently lied about refugees.
Enough of us have colleagues and friends who have visited Baxter and
Woomera, or worked there, to know that conditions are not good, and that
at the very least, the authorities have been economical with the
truth when answering questions and making statements. Despite that
fact that The Australian has reported the wavering nature of the
man's claims, despite Ruddock's put-down of Ms Curr, and despite the fact
that some refugees have obviously also lied, we know that conditions are
far from ideal and being hidden from us. While friends who visit
Baxter "don't sleep the night before they go and can't sleep the
night after" I will not be able to trust government claims of beneficence.
Reading the reports from various human rights groups on the situation is
horrifying. People will simply not believe the minister.
In all this we see the destructive nature of lies. Not only
may a man be hung up on a wall by his wrists, and no action taken,
but the nation is hung out to dry by lies. Trust is destroyed,
confidence is crushed, and cynicism and disillusionment grow. We
need a groundswell change in attitude where lying is treated with a kind
of horror at all levels of society. Instead it is the commonplace
and we expect it from our politicians. It means we cannot function
efficiently and coherently as a nation. Justice and compassion are
crippled by lies, and we will all pay the price as society degenerates
into right defined by power and money rather than truth.
Lying in high places will only stop when we stop. Lying will only be
unacceptable if we don't lie and if we don't accept it. A politician
should know full well that if caught lying he or she will lose their
ministry and seat. We should respect apology and admission of error
as strengths, not weakness. We should vote upon the basis of
integrity, effort, intention for justice and competence. As it is we vote
for lying. Not just the lies of individual minsters, but the Big Lie
that what constitutes policy we will vote for is what suits our prosperity
and security, not what is moving toward justice for all of us.