A statement from the Australian army
regarding unacceptable behavior. Contains fierce, but entirely safe for work language.
And please watch before reading my words. I think the video is important… hopefully for obvious reasons.
Moral courage is important to me. The fundamental importance of moral courage exercised by people with power, coupled with the Australian Army’s leadership making commitments to social justice and moral courage is why I almost joined the army when I was 20 years old… maybe technically I did, I’m not sure. I got into officer entry (several days of testing and ‘facing the board’*) but they lost me in paperwork for a year and when I called them they said, “just turn up.”
I never did. In part because I was emotionally exhausted (my mother had just died and I was in my final semester of university), but more significantly because I fully grocked that an officer in the army shouldn’t express political views. To have the moral courage and impartiality that I thought was essential to be an officer in the army (and was why I was prepared to put myself through the experience) I would not be able to talk about politics. I would not be able to write opinionated folk songs or stories, and the idea of losing that felt like cutting a fundamental part out of myself.
Note, talking about politics is different to the politics of a voice that has moral courage, ethics and is inclusive. “The army shouldn’t be political” should not be used as a silencing tool that covers up unethical behavior. It takes moral courage to speak and this is something that must be cultivated. It is something that is necessary at a leadership level, it is something that is necessary at a grassroots level.
The notion of “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept” is something I’ve tried very hard to live up to. I have scars to show for it. It’s not always easy and there are times when it’s too much. I try not to beat myself up too much about the times I have failed others through silence. I try to be a good fighter, but you can’t be on the front line all the time – it’s bad for everyone if you try.
The Tao Te Ching puts it well “the master approaches conflict with the sadness and respect of a person attending a funeral.”** I don’t like conflict, but I refuse to stop caring, even if I would like to. May we all cultivate our moral courage and take care of each other.
* Where I was completely up front about who I was and where my values stood. One of the reasons I almost went through with joining the Army was the most blokey member of the board saying “You’re going to struggle, there are times you’ll hate it and you’ll want to quit a bunch of times, but please stick with it. You’ll be good for us.” Part of me still feels guilty that I didn’t, though I’m 100% happy with the choices I made.
3 thoughts on “A statement from the Australian army”
I’m still glad you didn’t. While I respected your belief of the Australian Army’s standing up for the underdog and doing good things in the world, I still believe them to too often be a pawn serving the US’s Ruling Class interests.
Yeah, to be in the military you are a tool of politics (it essential the military doesn’t decide politics) and, well… there’s stuff I’m super unimpressed with and you’re right about Australia inevitably following America’s lead (rightly or wrongly). Folks with moral courage are essential – we need folks like Private Bradly Manning. We need people in leadership like, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, but I think I am much more suited to being a folk singer, storyteller and activist. We need those things too. The people used as tools need us to question and challenge foreign policy.
I’m also glad you didn’t. And… while you might have been good for them, that’s true of any group or community you partcipate in. I’m very glad to see you do good in the ways you are now, which have to be a bit less spirit crushing.