There is a Chinese proverb that says “talk does not cook rice”. Very true. But a lot of talk - and writing - takes place between the paddy field and the pot. Words are essential for making ourselves understood, getting things done and, of course, building strong relationships. When words become worthless, confusion reigns. Right now in Australia we are being given a sense of what it would be like to live in a world in which words are meaningless.
Last week our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, used a television interview and his ‘sauce bottle’ persona to declare that his government is “fundamentally committed to climate change”. Firm words … but worthless.
Even if it can be (tenuously) argued that there are valid reasons for the government’s emissions trading backdown, the fact that there was essentially no new spending on climate change mitigation in the recent budget gives lie to the PM’s words.
Then this week there was an extraordinary admission by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. Apparently the only statements he makes that can be “taken absolutely as gospel truth is [sic] those carefully prepared scripted remarks”. Other remarks, such as those uttered in interviews or stump speeches, shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Such words should basically be ignored.
So we have a Prime Minister whose commitments are earnest but unlikely to be acted upon, and an Opposition Leader whose commitments aren’t commitments except under special circumstances. Worthless words coming from both of them.
For many years we’ve had to navigate political spin when trying to understand what politicians really mean. Euphemism and obfuscation have been used as smokescreens to hide inaction, incompetence and broken promises. Now it seems we are entering a whole new era - let’s call it Spin 2.0 - in which words, no matter how well hidden, are openly meaningless.
It’s going to be an ‘interesting’ election year.
(Image Rohit Rath)