Contagious Shame

Right now, I feel ashamed.  I have lived my entire life, believing my country to be one that champions common decency, upholds personal freedom, and protects personal privacy.  Every Anzac Day, millions of Australians attend parades and functions, remembering past generations who gave their lives in the name of those ideals.  As the years have rolled by, I’ve been disturbed by nagging doubts as I’ve watched the rights of individuals being quietly but steadily eroded away by successive governments and public funded Crusader Rabbits of one ilk or another.  Its getting so, you can’t fart in Australia without a whole raft-load of licenses, permits and permissions.  The very idea of the aussie battler, doing it for himself and ‘fixing it up with wire’ is well and truly confined to the mists of myth and legend.  Soon, you’ll have to be a licensed specialist to change your own light bulbs!

We still reckon though, that we are living in ‘the lucky country’ and most of us like to believe ourselves to still uphold those ideals of freedom, decency and respect for others.

Then tonight, I see on the news, where Australia has been accused of eavesdropping on the private telephone conversations, not only of the leader of another nation, but even on members of that person’s family.   And are we talking about a leader of a hostile regime, antagonistic to this country’s security?  No.  We’re talking about the leader of a nation which Australia claims as an ally and acknowledges as being its single most important contact in our region, Indonesia.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that our society is ideologically aligned with Indonesia or any other of our close neighbours.  But I think most Aussies would consider it to be a fair crack of the whip, that we show respect and tolerance towards people who hold differing views to our own.  Any society that demands that the rest of the world embrace its way of seeing every last thing certainly isn’t my idea of a decent society.

Perhaps we read too much John Marsden in our formative years and maybe we’re feeling a little bit insecure, particularly in light of the newly emerging prejudices against Islam in this country.  But the fact  remains. we acknowledge the sovereignty of other nations and we claim at very least, a benign stance towards Indonesia.  In fact, I thought we were claiming a spirit of cooperation and friendship.

Now, if you caught me peeping through your house windows, tapping your phone lines, or steaming open your mail, I’m certain you’d be angry, incensed and deeply disturbed and offended. You, as an Australian, have a right to have your rights upheld and your privacy respected.  I’m certain that, at very least, you would demand the protection of the law.  You’d want me prevented and you’d want me punished.  I doubt you’d be content with an apology.

Now, when our nation is accused of playing the Peeping Tom, there is no denial of the claim.  There isn’t even an apology offered by our fearless leader on our behalf.  Instead, there’s an indefensible attempt to justify our actions, based upon the assertion that everybody’s doing it (and the inference that Indonesia is doing it to us).  We are expected to accept this assertion at face value.  I am reminded of the age old adage that two wrongs don’t make a right.  And perhaps it would help us to foster the trust and goodwill of our supposed allies, if we were to show a willingness to exercise some restraint in this regard ….. at least toward our supposed friends.

Bottom line for me is, we have apparently been exposed as having violated the privacy of individuals internationally and to be spying on a neighboring sovereign nation.  The very least that I would have expected would have been an assurance that we’d desist from further spying, together with an apology on behalf of the people. It is, after all, the kind of behavior that the average Aussie would consider pretty ‘sus’ at best.  I know we all love everything American but we don’t HAVE to pick up ALL of their mannerisms!

Our leaders haven’t had any hesitation in proffering apologies to others, allegedly on our behalf, for evil deeds carried out, not by us but by our ancestors.  In fact, for awhile there, I thought that apologising was becoming a new national pastime.  Personally I think, on this occasion at least, we should apologise.  I feel ashamed.

Andrew Caddle 2013-11-19


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