The first thing we should learn
Epictetus was a stoic and the Enchiridion, from which the following extract is taken, was one of the principal manuals of Stoic philosophy.
The science of philosophy of divided into three parts: the utility and importance of the principles established; the proofs or demonstrations by which these are sustained; and the organisation or arrangement of the various parts which constitute such proofs and demonstrations. The most essential part of this division, and that to which our attention should be especially directed, is the utility and importance of the principles; because it is on the knowledge and practice of these our present and future facility depends. But, yet, what perversity marks our career! We devote almost all our attention to the last-mentioned part, that is, the technical arrangement of the constituent points of proof and arguments; while with a reckless indifference we pass the others by. Thus it happens that, while we are ever ready with technical arguments to prove the impropriety of speaking falsehoods, our tongues never cease to usher forth misrepresentations and lies. The first thing we should learn is not to lie: to prove that it behoves us not to lie, is a mere auxiliary branch of knowledge.
The above words were written in about 50 CE. Epictetus maintains that the foundation of all philosophy is self-knowledge, that is, the conviction of our ignorance and weakness when measured by the standard of good, and ought to be the first subject of instruction. What has become of the thoughts of Epictetus in contemporary Australian society?
Well it seems that after 2,000 years we are still more concerned with technicalities than truth and no better evidence of this can be found than an article which appeared in today’s (29th November, 2010) on-line edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. In the article headed: Aussie pilot sues federal govt for $45m journalist Evan Schwarten outlines how the Australian Federal Police maliciously prosecuted an Australian pilot by the name of Mr Marten for the the rape of a 14-year-old Papua New Guinea girl in Port Moresby. Mr Marten was found guilty and spent 940 days in jail. While awaiting trial in Australia his daughter died of malaria in Papua New Guinea.
Mr Marten was the first Australian to be charged under Australia’s sex-tourism laws which target Australians who commit sex crimes in Pacific Island nations. Queensland’s Court of Appeal last year quashed Mr. Marten’s conviction after his family obtained flight records which proved that he was not in Port Moresby on the dates the girl alleged the offence occurred.
While my blog is primarily concerned with human rights violations committed by Australian authorities against Indigenous Australians, it is not exclusively so. What happened to Mr. Marten at the hands of the Australian Federal Police is a classic example of the AFP abusing their powers in pursuit of the wider political objectives of their political masters. When this happens, the ‘rule of law’ is subordinated to political whim and the average citizen is the loser.
I have spoken in earlier posts at length about abuses of AFP power for political ends. In my post titled Angelique, Pat and the ‘rule of law’ I discussed the suppression of evidence by an elected Australian Government in a successful bid to pervert the course of justice for political ends. In Pat’s case these ends were about suppressing a letter calling the Australian Labor Party to account for the theft of 120,000,000 dollars from treasury for party political purposes. In Mr. Marten’s case these ends were to show the world that Australia has a responsible and non-paternalistic attitude to our near neighbors. In both Pat’s and Mr. Marten’s cases the ‘rule of law’ came second to political corruption and paternalism.
In both Pat’s and Mr. Marten’s cases the AFP used technical arguments while usher[ing] forth misrepresentations and lies. Why would a ‘professional’ police service, such as, the AFP fail to check immigration records before subjecting a man to trial, when those records could potentially make or break their case? In the case of Mr. Marten AFP mendaciousness cost him not only his business and his freedom, but also the life of his daughter. In Pat’s case AFP mendaciousness cost him his career, family and life.
In excess of 400 of the statements I have collected from Indigenous Australians relate to AFP politically motivated human rights abuses. How politicised does a police service have to become before it ceases to be a police service and becomes something akin to state sanctioned ‘bovver boys’? The AFP is perilously close to that point and average Australians like Mr. Marten and Pat are paying the price.
When I first raised my concerns about the politicisation of the AFP and the systemic corruption that resulted, with the Commonwealth Ombudsman, I was fobbed off with platitudes followed by threats and finally a whitewash! What Mr. Marten’s case proves is that; my concerns, and the concerns expressed by the other 400 Indigenous Australian’s who gave statements to me relating to AFP corruption, are and remain justified. Moreover, if the Commonwealth Ombudsman had acted when I first raised my concerns about corruption within the AFP with his office, it is likely that Mr Marten would not have been prosecuted, and that his daughter would still be alive today!
For the rest of Australia what Mr. Martens case, Pat’s case and all the other cases prove is that the AFP is above the law and beyond accountability. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office is at best blasé about and at worse sympathetic to AFP corruption – either way the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman is not doing its job in relation to the AFP.
Unless the AFP and the Commonwealth Ombudsman begin understand that [t]he first thing we should learn is not to lie: to prove that it behoves us not to lie, is a mere auxiliary branch of knowledge, we the people (their employers) should ask of them and our politicians – what purpose do they serve. If we fail to receive a satisfactory answer, perhaps we should consider if our tax money could be better spent elsewhere!