Some Australians have forgotten how to speak their truth. Some have lost their ability to hear the truth. This is a shame, because it is always better to both speak and hear the truth, even when it is offensive, hurtful and insulting.
I am not sure why so many of us are perched permanently on the cusp of high offence, ready to squawk at the slightest provocation. Sometimes it seems the entire nation is an infant screaming ‘Mummeeeeeeee, someone said something meeeeeaaaaan to me!’ Are we really that sensitive, or are we just trying to avoid hearing facts because we don’t want to have to do anything to address what has just been pointed out? And while we are on the topic, what has happened to everyone’s sense of humour? Life without laughter is such a drag.
Nowadays, straight talking public figures are in short supply. They have been shouted down, I suppose. Last month, Defence Minister David Johnston lost his cool and spoke his truth. He blurted out that he wouldn’t trust our public sector submarine builders to build a canoe. Hearing this, I whooped, punched the air and laughed. It was an awful, horrible thing to say, and it was fantastically, gloriously, true.
The screeching and carry on that followed was beyond the pale. Workers downed tools and stood in the car park bellowing, sackings and apologies were demanded and commentators’ tut tutted. Someone said we might once have been able to sell the submarine business off, but the Minister irresponsibly let the cat out of the bag and now any possible sale has been scotched. How absurd. What were we planning to do, trick someone into buying it? Put an ad in the classifieds, ‘wanted, gullible chump with no sense and too much money to buy a woeful submarine builder – canoes not included’? Investors do this thing called investment diligence you know.
Unfortunately, the government let the wall of hysteria overwhelm them. The Minister and others backed down and did everyone else a disservice by doing so. When everyone took offense, the Minister should have gone in harder. Ten times harder.
Workers, managers, and the public could all benefit from a dose of reality. How will those managers lift their performance if they cannot admit to their deficiencies? They should read from the script given to alcaholics anonymous inductees. Hello, I’m (insert your name) and I run a really crap submarine building business that wastes everybody’s money. Cue welcoming applause and the first step to recovery.
Because the Minister backed down, all the incompetents will now feel morally entitled to keep on being incompetent. This is no good for anyone. At this point, probably the only hope the submarine business has of ever finding a buyer is to team up with those other duds, the New South Wales government electricity businesses, and try to find a home in one of the industry superannuation funds.
In October, Greg Medcalf, the head of our corporate regulator, spoke his truth, he let slip to a room of business journalists ‘Australia is a paradise for white collar crime…we haven’t indexed penalties to inflation for 20 years. I mean, hello.’
As soon as the comments got out Finance Minister Mathias Cormann rang for an explanation. Cormann reported their conversation as ‘if that’s what you believe I’d be very concerned about that, and the clear and crisp and unambiguous answer that the chair of ASIC put to me was a ‘no’… then he elaborated to say that his concern was that we need to remain vigilant to ensure that we don’t become a paradise for white collar crime. Which, of course, I fully and 100 per cent endorse.’
Again, how absurd. I mean, hello. Are we a paradise for white collars criminals or not? Sounds like we are and Medcalf told the truth in the first instance. What a shame he backed down, he should have gone in harder. It looks like he lied to avert further discomfort to important people, and all he has done is prolong delusion and delay correction. It is far better to stick to your truth, admit there is a problem and then lay out a plan to fix it.
Admittedly, hearing the truth can sometimes be awful, especially if it comes from someone you love. No one should ever be deliberately cruel in speaking their truth, but even when the truth is harsh, it is still the truth, and people are better off for hearing it. I recently asked my husband if he liked my new hair colour, he said it was ‘hideous, the colour of chemotherapy’. Ouch! There was nothing to do but laugh… and make another hairdressing appointment.
Often the truth is both awful and hilarious. Years ago, when Shane Warne was on the portly side, (do you remember what a podgy bum he used to have?) he told a South African cricketer, ‘I’ve been waiting two years to humiliate you again’. ‘Looks like you spent it eating’ the man snapped back. That is a witty response, but can you imagine if someone said that today? There would be outrage.
My personal favorite is when someone speaks their truth and it is awful, hilarious and politically incorrect all at the same time. I love insults that are so fantastic they leave you gasping with laughter.
Once in the dog park, an elderly man with one of those noses that changes colour from blue to green to red to purple and is covered in scales and veins approached me and asked the name of my dog. ‘Button’ I said. ‘Gah!’ came the disgusted response. He waved his cane in my direction as though fending off an attack ‘See! That’s what happens when you give women the vote, the next thing you know they’re naming their dog’s Button.’ I backed away, laughing.
As Christmas approaches, children all over will be writing letters to Santa. This year, I am going to write and ask if he can give Australia its sense of humour back. In return, I am going to promise to be a good girl and speak my truth, even if it is offensive, hurtful and insulting, especially when it is hilarious, and when someone speaks their truth to me, I am going to take it like a woman that has been given the vote with a dog named Button, and lighten the hell up.
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