Minding our language
In taking up the mindset behind the federal Liberal council’s vote to privatise the ABC, Mike Seccombe indirectly emphasises the critical need for truly independent journalism ( “Rancorous and file”, June 23–29). Seccombe, and Omar J. Sakr, too, repeatedly point out the debasement of language that now pervades political discourse; everyone knows what is said is not what is meant. This has been furthered by the Institute of Public Affairs, which uses debased language as a tool as it increasingly promulgates right-wing views through its Liberal parliamentary devotees; this despite it being unrepresentative, having a curious charity status, and having no elected mandate. What is omitted from Seccombe’s argument is that these organisations borrow heavily from the United States far-right, which espouses notions of “liberty”, grounded in economic philosophy but who in the past were actually arguing for the “liberty” of white slave owners to support segregation to maintain their own economic advantage. As then, this mushroomed into opposition towards any notions of collectivism that might threaten privileged power. Seen in that light, attacks by the IPA and Liberals on the ABC, or public education or informed dissent, seem all about “othering”, to make sure no one notices that what they truly mean by “choice” and “liberalism” has nothing to do with notions of freedom in a just society, or reduced inequity. In short, we need independent journalism to carefully scrutinise the use of words, to reveal and speak truth to power that might otherwise enslave.
– Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA
The Liberal Party schism Mike Seccombe describes is unsurprising, given its internal contradictions. For a start, they’re saddled with a name antonymous to their actual nature. They have also had the bad luck to be in a world where the word “democracy” is such a sacred cow it receives lip service from most of the world’s despots, although our Liberals are presently blessed with the absence of a bill of rights and are in a system where sovereign power resides in any party that claws its way to control in federal parliament. While the party’s organisational branch is compelled to masquerade in Westminster conventions, its grassroots id is increasingly drawn to fundamentalist religion. If tortured conscience were an issue for the Liberals, its clear solution could be found in the “illiberal democracy” devised by Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán.
– John Hayward, Weegena, Tas
Hardline policy on asylum seekers
Thank you, Martin McKenzie-Murray, for your insightful, if heartbreaking, contribution, “Hearts in darkness” (June 23–29). Donald Trump is famously quoted as suggesting to Malcolm Turnbull, on the subject of asylum seekers, “You’re worse than I am.”
We have a government that takes advantage of death, rape, murder and mental deterioration as a warning to others. Smarter than the Americans, the Department of Home Affairs does not permit journalists or photographers access, either to the prisoners in their concentration camps, or the islands themselves. No distressing evidence to deal with. Hannah Arendt spoke of “the banality of evil”. It seems this government policy is no better example of it, when it removes hope, sanity and, ultimately, life from asylum seekers who have committed no crime. The soulless calculation of the details of this policy, which aims to keep most Australians largely unaware of the breathtaking inhumanity involved, only adds to our national shame.
– Elizabeth Chandler, Napoleon Reef, NSW
Community central to candidate
On the ground here in Mayo, it’s not all about Georgina (Gadfly, “Deficit net”, June 23–29). We had long been resigned to federal “representatives” overlooking that core part of the job. Then along came Rebekha Sharkie who naively, but wonderfully, thought her constituents were what the job was about. We are not letting her go.
– Kathie Stove, Penneshaw, SA
A week’s events both painful and serious have once again been treated with eloquence and insight by the considerable talents of The Saturday Paper’s writers. The welcome wit of Richard Ackland has sparkled from your pages as an antidote to disheartenment. No currently published commentator can compete with Mr Ackland for the delightful rendered revelation, the droll backgrounder. He is H. L. Mencken with a social conscience.
– Daniel Dennis, New Farm, Qld
A loaded word
I am a huge fan of Christos Tsiolkas’s work and am always excited to read his insightful film reviews (“Teaching stricture”, June 23–29). I was, however, jolted into disbelief and anger at the use of the word “cunt” at the end of his passage: “Happiness is transitory: it’s …there when a woman kisses her beloved’s cunt.” After an entire review expressing the tenderness and deep love, spirituality and emotion of the film Disobedience, I am completely bewildered as to how the use of this particular word fits. As a woman, I know that I would never, in any situation, want my genitals described in this way. The Saturday Paper’s front-page story was about the careful, fearful way women are forced to lead their lives in this continuing age of aggression towards us. The everyday language we engage in feeds and legitimises the undercurrents of sexual violence and misogyny rife in our culture. For a male writer who is such a keen and sensitive observer of the human condition to use this harsh, loaded word – especially when describing love and tenderness – reveals just how far we have to go.
– Paula Levis, Northcote, Vic
Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 30, 2018. Subscribe here.