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Letters from Downunder

And thatís the truth

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

 That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright,
but a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.
      Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'The Grandmother', 1859

(8/12) Fahrenheit 451 is a book by Ray Bradbury about books and their burning. 451 degrees it the auto-ignition temperature of paper, and the story tells of the destruction of the written word because it caused unhappiness to minority groups and governments. The last thing any ruling body wants is for their past promises, dirty deeds, deals and mismanagement to be headline news - or even the object of academic study. Nor do they wish to see the history of proletarian struggle and reform taught to those who may, as a result, begin to rebel. Instead, they aim to get their citizens hooked on 'factoids', packets of words supposedly true, but mostly coined for convenience by those who hold that power is the ultimate aim and reward.

These 'Fool's Facts' are generally devoid of real truth and meaning, but produce strong emotive responses because of brainwashing by the media: Fear, loathing, disgust and cynicism about what they consider bad, and hero-worship, envy, syrupy hope and misplaced trust about the 'good' things. A few decades ago we here in Australia elected a prime minister who had school history books revised to remove things we should not be taught because they 'did not reflect the truth'. Of course, that is exactly what they did do, but truth is destructive, truth helps remove the pus and stench of secret deals; truth, as the saying has it, sets us free. That is something politicians do not want their citizens to have, for they offer something far better: The appearance of truth, the factoid of believability, the delusion of democracy and the illusion of freedom.

Now, with the almost universal use of electronic communication, the challenge for governments has not been to burn books, but to doctor and distort the net so that the same result is achieved. From being the supposed saviour of free speech and the exchange of lucid, meaningful information, the internet and its spawns have byte bites, little misdirections, opinion shaping 'truths', all in the name of safety, protection, and the good of society. And they have it stitched up very nicely, because if you dare to question the 'facts' as presented, or publish classified information, (millions of documents are classified because they may have a bearing on clandestine deals, the support of dictators, bribery, and other less savory things), you will be hounded, jailed, tortured and ridiculed.

When it is all boiled down, we are left with the fact that it is big business that runs the United States of America, corporations whose aim is to dominate as much of the world as they can, and have the government support them. Privatisation has become an unchecked cancer, unchecked because its public image has been papered over, has gone to the beauty salon, had elocution lessons, and looks real pretty. But underneath - oh my, it's not pretty at all.

Big business is not liberal, it is conservative. It thrives when government is also conservative, because the checks and balances that keep them in line are then dismantled, and factoid number one is unleashed: 'Reduce the size of Government, reduce taxation, everyone can make it on their own.' And the more right wing a country is, the more it actively dislikes its citizens.

You disagree? Consider this: there are about 7.5 million Americans currently under correctional supervision. That means some 3.1% of the population is in jail, 85% of whom are there for victimless crimes. There is nowhere else in the world that anything approaching this percentage is reached; the total number of citizens in jails outside America is only just above the American total. It is in the interests of the incarceration business to expand this number, as that is how they make their profits, as well as being the mindset of many conservatives who fear for their way of life and wish to hide any stark reality.

On the world scale of suicide rates, America is 11th overall, and third for the 15-24 age group. Suicide rates go up under Republican administrations and down under Democrat administrations. Why? Because Democrats have a greater awareness of the plight many of their citizens are in, and with a little more social service reduce their feeling of hopelessness.

America is by far the biggest consumer in the world of illegal drugs. 42% of the population has used marijuana, 16% cocaine, 3% heroin; the graphs of age and longevity versus use are horrifying. It is indeed no country for old men - or women. The war on drugs has had no positive impact - how can it, when sections of government are involved in the supply? When truly gargantuan cartels have a stranglehold on production and distribution, with almost complete immunity from real action being taken against them?

Americans are the world's biggest consumers of tobacco; there are more deaths by civilian gunshot than anywhere else; it is the most obese society on earth. And, apart from some reformers who run up against concerted discrediting, little has been done to redress any of these diseases.

It is the shame of your country, yet I know quite a few of you who are truly wonderful, caring people - from all aspects of politics -who have accepted the factoids, falsehoods and figments as the whole truth and nothing but it. Factoids, to be honest, are addictive, as they take little careful thought or analysis. In a society of speed and high priority, a factoid is easily and quickly digested, then regurgitated as the truth it isn't. There are those, too, who have written in the darkest of prose about these matters - Noam Chomsky for one - and who have had their writings published.

This, to me, is the one great hope - that although the fight against the forces of corporate insatiable greed is not going well, that liberal governments have to fight hard, and get lucky, to have even minor reforms such as the health bill passed into law, the ability and the right to speak out against the dark forces is still there.

Freedom of speech, as John Stuart Mill observed, is one of man's inalienable rights. Possibly the last of them, and therefore the most precious. Let's defend it to the hilt and forever as we seek to help the truth shine forth.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker