10 | 09
2012

A process of truth and judgement

Categories: Asia-Pacific, Corruption, Globalisation, Human Rights, Indonesia, International Law, Julian Moti, Neo-Colonialism, Pacific Neighbours, Rule of Law, Shared humanity, United Nations, West Papua

by: Bakchos
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Judgement is our oldest belief, our most habitual holding-true or holding un-true, an assertion or denial, a certainty that something is thus not otherwise, a belief that here we really “know” – what is it that is believed true in all judgements?

Friedrich Nietzsche – The Will To Power (trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale) P. 288

“Truth”: this, according to my way of thinking, does not necessarily denote the antithesis of error, but in the most fundamental cases only the posture of various errors in relation to one another. Perhaps one is older, more profound than another, even ineradicable, in so far as an organic entity of our species could not live without it; while other errors do not tyrannize over us in this way as conditions of life, but on the contrary when compared with such “tyrants” can be set aside and “refuted”.

An assumption that is irrefutable – why should it be for that reason “true”? This proposition may perhaps outrage logicians, who posit their limitations as the limitations of things: but I long ago declared war on this optimism of logicians.

Friedrich Nietzsche – The Will To Power (trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale) Pp. 290-91

Our judgements about “truths” are what allow all of the injustices that we write about on Blak and Black to go not only unaddressed, but to go unnoticed. While there are undoubtedly many reasons for this, the most obvious is our obsession with authority. By authority I mean that specious argument that goes something like “The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has publically stated that Julian Assange has committed criminal acts, therefore Julian Assange must be a criminal”. This is what philosopher’s term arguments from authority. Another example of the same type of argument and one that might become relevant to Mr Assange, depending on how his drama plays out, is to do with the death penalty.

Suppose we are arguing about the death penalty, and I tell you that we should believe in the death penalty because Plato believed in the death penalty. Since you don’t know Plato’s reasons, I might not either; this cannot be to any thinking person sufficient grounds for either of us to believe in the death penalty. We need positive arguments, indeed we should demand of those relying on arguments from authority the “proof” behind their statements and their rationale for supporting their “proof” versus other “proofs” that may be out there. Advertisements are notorious for subtly – and sometimes not so subtly – using this device. In a beer commercial a famous athlete (nicely remunerated for the exercise) can be seen gratifying his thirst, proclaiming the beverage to be the nectar of the gods, or some other equally outrageous embellishment, as if it were proof of its quality.

The other favoured argument and one that politicians, the police and others in authority tend to rely on when they’re caught with the proverbial “smoking gun”, is what is known as the ad hominem argument (or an argument against the man). This argument attacks the person instead of the position. For example, if the former Commissioner for the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) Mick Keelty were to say, as he did in his speech to the National Press Club on October 11, 2006 that:

“What if Moti was not a politician? What if he was accused of another type of crime? Albeit that it would be hard to imagine a more deplorable crime than the one alleged…”

Of course, the crime that must be held as worst in any criminal or philosophical school of thought is the one that allows a lack of transparency to subvert the true intent of the rule of law. It is this lack of transparency that allows the sort of corruption that Mark Standen has been found guilty of, to be perpetuated and continued in the very institutions in whom we place our trust to protect us. And when that happens, the institutions cease to act for the people, becoming the controllers of the people, of thought and action, our new Orwellian reality.

But, of course there is always the possibility (and if such a possibility exists, it is yet to see the light of day), that Commissioner Keelty’s reasons for wanting Moti removed as Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands might have been sound on independent grounds. The point is that even the Devil, or Julian Moti or the gods forbid an Indigenous Australian can have true beliefs. The character of the person is irrelevant to the soundness of the argument.

Another favored argument of politicians, police commissioners and Australian Foreign Ministers is what is known as arguing in a circle. Suppose that Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bod Carr were to argue, and the gods forbid that he should, that West Papua should remain part of Indonesia.

I respond with an incredulous Why?”

“Because at international law, it is part of Indonesia.”

“How did that come about,” would be my naïve retort.

“By a vote of the people overseen and sanctioned by the international community”.

Suppose I were then to respond with something like, and naturally I assume this to be the case (not!), “Was the vote free and fair?”

“It was sanctioned by the international community and is recognised by international law”. That is, but only in this scenario, Senator Carr would be arguing in a circle, using his conclusion as a premise to prove the conclusion. It is worth noting that all valid deductive argument can appear as arguing in a circle, since the conclusion of such an argument brings out a non-trivial feature of the premises. Essentially, arguing in a circle is not invalid, trivial and unconvincing, having no power to convince a thinking opponent.

I could go on and discuss other equally fallacious reasoning techniques, such as arguments from ignorance, false dilemma, slippery slope, etc… I suspect that this would only serve to bore my readers while serving no useful purpose. The point is that we rely on certain mechanisms to form our judgments, judgments that we then hold to be true and irrefutable.

What informs our judgments?

I think most people would be prepared to accept the premise that our individual judgments are formed on the basis of what we as individuals perceive to be reliable “facts”. Reliable “facts” in themselves are ones that derive from credible sources, such as Prime Ministers, AFP Commissioners and Foreign Ministers. Each of these in turn are reliant on the popular media to convey their message. In Australia, we are confronted with a number of interrelated problems which serve to muddy the truth and confound those trying to evaluate “the posture of various errors in relation to one another”.

The first and perhaps the biggest problem confronting Australians, as individuals in our pursuit of the competing merits of various errors, is that we have been brainwashed into thinking that we live in a democratic utopia. A utopia where, if you have a certain cache, such as looks, sporting prowess, political clout or any number of other facile attributes, you are more likely to be believed over and above those of us who lack the same cache, because we may have committed the ultimately unforgivable crimes of being born Indigenous, not classically beautiful, with limited innate sporting prowess or lacking in many of the other facile attributes that in Australia pass as authority in terms of what to base our judgments upon.

If we are told by a successful sporting “hero” that drinking one brand of beer over another is good, we’ll drink that beer because we have an ultimately facile belief that some of our ‘heroes’ cache will pass on to us, just because we drink the same brand of beer. Likewise if an AFP Commissioner tells us that Julian Moti deserves whatever the Commissioner or his political masters dish out because it would be hard to imagine a more deplorable crime than the one alleged”, then it becomes somehow acceptable to kidnap him and transport him across international borders to stand trial for a crime for which he had already been exonerated in the jurisdiction in which it was allegedly committed.

More importantly, but only because it directly affects more people, if Australia’s Foreign Minister tells us that West Papua is and will always remain part of Indonesia because of a cynically manipulated vote, then to the Australian psyche a denial of human rights amounting to genocide against the indigenous people of West Papua somehow becomes acceptable solely because someone with cache told us via the popular media that it is.

The limits of truth

If we accept Nietzsche’s premise that “truth” “does not necessarily denote the antithesis of error, but in the most fundamental cases only the posture of various errors in relation to one another” then we must also accept the premise that every “truth” is multi-faceted. If we are only presented with one face of a multi-faceted multi-dimensional concept, we are not really in a position to form a proper judgement about its actual shape or dimension. That’s why social media and blogging have such an important role to play in informing our views.

One of, if not the major hurdle, blogging and social media have in relation to forming judgment and the fair evaluation of one error over another is that of acceptance. It is more likely that the Australia Prime Minister making an outrageous and totally unsupported allegation against Julian Assange is going to have more cache in terms of truth evaluation than even a thousand bloggers running counter arguments supported by concrete facts.

Unfortunately, the same holds true ofAustralia’s Foreign Minister, whose track record in terms of management leaves something to be desired. In saying that West Papua is part ofIndonesiaby virtue of international law if factual, how it came to be so is what is important. Because of his cache as Foreign Minister, he can gloss over the second and all important part of the issue, concentrating on the outcome rather than the process. Again, because of his personal cache as a successful politician and his access to the popular media, the process can be glossed over in favour of the politically desired outcome. As in the case of Julian Assange and the Prime Minister, even a thousand bloggers running counter arguments supported by concrete facts are unlikely to be able to influence the majority of individual’s judgement making processes.

As I argued in my post Dialogue and spin: genocide on Australia’s doorstep, the West Papuan story, before a society is able to claim to be a fully functioning democracy as distinct from a wide oligarchy, it most have processes in place that enables the proper evaluation of the “various errors in relation to one another” that masquerade as truth to be made. Only after a proper evaluation of a multi-faceted truth has been carried out can sound judgements be made.Australia is yet to reach this level of development. This is why social media and blogging have a valid place inAustralia’s political discourse.

While on the issue of Australia’s political immaturity, is an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy really the type of political organisation that the world community wants to endorse? If not,  this another reason why Australia should be denied a seat at the Round Table of the United Nations Security Council.

15 Comments

  1. Unless and until the media in Australia becomes more responsive to minority views Australia will never become a functioning democracy in the true sense of the word,

  2. Our judgements will remain flawed until we learn to respect others views, including minority views that we might not agree with.

  3. To make a sound judgement we must first analyse the truth or the competing truths. This may not be as easy as it first appears. The major difficulty is in determining what those competing truths are. In Australia where the media is compliant to the wishes of the establishment, finding avenues to determine the truth or the competing truths can be diffiult.

  4. Yes Paulo very true, where is the media independence in Australia? It just does not exist, if it did, there would be no room for blog’s like Blak and Black as the issues would have been in the main stream media years ago.

  5. Truth leading to sound judgement, sounds ever so good in theory, but when you apply the theory to the real world, well… Perhaps, if we at BnB keep pushing we might just find a way to make the theory work in the real world. Keep the pressure on guys!

  6. Mahmud Ahsan via Facebook says:

    Truth and judgement the big questions in life and philosophy! I wonder if anyone in Australia would recognise either if they feel over them in the street? I doubt it, there is just not very much of either here. In other places a lack of truth would be called corruption, here its just business as usual!

  7. Yes Mahmud Ahsan they are life’s big questions. In Australia however the bigger question is racism and how the government just lets the issue slip under the radar. With truth must come accountability, Australia wants no bar of accountability, therefore there will never be truth in this fair land we all call home.

  8. Anne Shiny via Facebook says:

    This is what has happened to Pat, Ms King, Lucinda and Angelique. This is what has happened to Moti, Jill Courtney and Fred Martens. Truth has been subverted by a competing intent, the intent to maintain power at all costs, even at the cost of cutting down every law in the land. That power is held by the ruling elite, non-Indigenous, so-called Christians. I say so-called, because if they looked deeply into their own faith, they would find the hypocrisy in their own intent and deeds. Where will they stand when the land is denuded of the forest of laws that is supposed to protect every man?

  9. As Fox Moulder would say “the truth is out there” however in Australia it’s just very hard to find. The big peoblem in Oz is media ownership concentration. Not a good thing for democracy.

  10. Richard Orr the truth as you say might be out there, but in Oz it is so well hidden that it would be hard to find. Truth is part of justice, but in Oz there is neither truth nor justice!

  11. Guys I’m still looking for the truth in Australia, can’t even find its trail let alone its reality! So much for Australian democracy.

  12. Whitefellas would not know the truth if they fell over it in the street, as for whitefella judgement fuck me they think Australia discovered itself in 1788 having been hidden just waiting for some pasty faced Pom to come and find it and start a war of genocide against its sub-human population. So much for whitefella judgement!!!

  13. Sinclair Peters I would give up if I were you. There is no truth or justice in Australia especially if you are black!

  14. Judgement and truth the only truth in Australia is that white Australians continually judge us (Aboriginal Australians) as somehow wanting and in need of moral guidance. Guidance from whom? Some white Devil by the look of things.

  15. How some white folk judgement the treatment we freceive at the hands of the Australian Government as being wrong and in need of redress!

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