Updated: Aug 10
We recognise that Burnum Burnum's declaration to the English on 26 January 1988 -which we posted on our SSOA blog last week - deserves singular attention as a complete blog in itself. So some writers from our weekly writing meetups are being given space here to share their views about the importance of speaking truth to power.
The adage is especially relevant now considering the current state of human health, the natural environment, politics and the economic outlook in most parts of the world. The pieces here are written extempore in 10 minutes for our weekly Zoom writing meetups. (Details about how to join us are available at ssoa.com.au )
TRUTH TO POWER
by Jim Piotrowski
Power doesn’t need to exist. The concept should be abolished and condemned for its idiocy.
You can talk your truth to power, and good luck. I’m sure you’ll get somewhere someday. But it’s all part of the primitive hierarchy that we need to evolve out of.
Try this exercise: commit yourself to speak your mind when otherwise you would have held your tongue. Well, within reason. There’s nothing wrong with a white lie, but I mean when you have those moments where you feel restrained and you’re not sure why (and they might not happen that often) ... When you do feel restraint confronted by a powerful 'bully', speak your truth and see how you go.
Truth is so difficult to speak these days; you might get a punch on the nose. But if you speak your truth and hear what others have to say, you might find that the dialogue on the matter was worthwhile.
In this way we may evolve.
Truth to Power
A fictional approach by David Benn
Having been yelled at down the phone by my ex-wife so often, it sometimes comes as a surprise when I hear her voice without heat or volume.
‘David, you know the boys have Taekwondo training every Saturday afternoon with Mr Yang.’ Her voice didn’t even smoulder and I felt a little relieved.
‘Yes, of course.’
‘Then, why don’t you take them?’ Her words dripped with venom, and I closed my eyes, preparing for a confrontation.
‘I do take them.’
‘Well, why didn’t you take them yesterday?’ The words came, cool and measured.
The conversation occurred while I was driving James to his Sunday morning swimming class. So I turned to look at him in the passenger seat. He swallowed and stared back at me. I could hear my ex-wife breathing through the car phone.
I thought for a few seconds. ‘Yes, sorry. I had to meet a customer yesterday afternoon and got caught up. I didn’t finish till late.’
‘Why didn’t you call me? I could have taken them.’ The ice was melting from her delivery.
‘Sorry. I didn’t think.’
Now her words charged out of the speakers blazing hot. ‘David! I pay for these lessons and you need to take them.’ I turned the volume down in the car. James cringed beside me. I looked in the rear vision mirror and saw Harrison’s head resting on his hand. My ex-wife continued yelling at me. Finally, she took a breath and I hung up the phone.
‘Guys, can we have a quick chat?’
‘Yes, Dad,’ they said quietly in unison.
‘Guys, when you lie to me, you really need to let me in on the lie. You have to say, “Dad, Taekwondo training is on but we’re going to tell you it's not on so we can stay home and play Fortnite.” That way when your mother calls, I’m not caught off-guard and I’ll have time to think up some cockamamie excuse as to why I didn’t take you. Do you understand?’
There was a pause before Harrison answered, ‘Yes, Dad.’ James answered with a ‘Yes, Dad’ straight after Harrison.
I looked at James sitting beside me. ‘Really?’ I asked.
James blinked. ‘Yes, really,’ then frowned and shook his head. ‘No, not really.’