The Celts are great story-tellers of tall tales and true. Last night I was once again in the audience of an Eric Bogle concert when he warmly told us all that there is a difference between lies and what we call bullshit. The real difference I think is around the person who can detect if what is being told is bullshit or not. Having a reliable and functioning bullshit detector is considered a discernment quality of high value. I have always thought Aussies were pretty well endowed with this talent.
Bullshiters at their worst, are sociopaths or even psychopaths, tirelessly misrepresenting the truth and the larrikinism that might have been the genesis of a falsehood camouflages more sinister overtones. What started in fancy can take a life of its own. In my county a relentless myth that asylum seekers were illegal and thinly veiled potential terrorists, has now been able to be accepted as a truth leading to changing the law! I was speechless this week when our Parliament passed a Bill essentially removing my country from fulfilling its obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees (a convention Australia once upon a time helped write). What have we become as a nation – have we lost our collective bullshit detector?
During this season my mind always turns to those fleeing their homes from tyranny or violence, my favourite first family having made the trek around 2,000 years ago to avoid their first born being murdered. Fellow followers of this tradition spent some time this week in the offices of members of parliament ministers of religion meeting ministers of government – one quietly sitting in silence and prayer and the other calling the police for trespassing. The story continues as real today as ever – children being carried away by their families seeking safe haven, but instead of finding refuge being turned away and labelled illegal. A former Prime Minister, Hon Malcolm Fraser did not mince his words:
The minister’s powers are outside the “rule of law”, they are beyond appeal. He has the powers of a tyrant. We should not pretend that this is just a minor change. It presents a destruction of democratic process.
My favourite response from the week of action was a Salvation Army band playing Christmas Carols out the front of the Geelong court as their minister appeared before the magistrate. It seemed to be complete the response and action.