Writing – Politics and Vigilance
Updated: Feb 14
I have begun this new year with hope, despite not getting off to a great start, I'm not giving up on it yet. Of course, many of the issues we were dealing with in 2020 haven't gone away and we have no way of knowing what the year has in store. We’re fortunate in South Australia that we’re able to live a cautious version of normal life. We celebrated Christmas with our families and had modest gatherings for New Year. I missed having fireworks herald in the new year but maybe that will happen next year.
I spent much of 2020 being distracted and didn’t write as much as I expected to, despite having so much more time. Hence my second book isn’t ready for professional editing yet. Even my reading was sporadic but I did finish a couple of books from my to-be-read pile late in the year.
I'm a glutton for difficult and thought-provoking reads, and although I occasionally seek light-hearted and gentler stories, at the moment I've been reading more serious works. I recently saw that the 2021 Adelaide Arts Festival will feature a play based on a book in my to-be-read pile, so I brought it forward.
‘The Work I Did’ is a memoir of the secretary to Goebbels, Brunhilde Pomsel. It documents an interview with Brunhilde before her death in 2017 and Thore D. Hansen also provides a commentary on what this account means for us now and into the future. It’s an interesting read. Brunhilde was an ordinary person. She says she didn’t pay much attention to politics and took no interest in the rise of Naziism. She was too busy and preoccupied trying to make a life for herself, establishing a career and working to improve her personal circumstances. The story is an insight into societal norms and living through those tumultuous times. It’s also a warning about political apathy and the tendency to look the other way when confronted with alarming and challenging events. This is not to apportion blame, none of us know how we’d act if speaking out endangered our lives and the lives of our loved ones, but this book is a compelling commentary on what can happen if we don’t pay attention.
Thore D. Hansen provides a well written and well thought-out commentary on what the story of Goebbels’s secretary teaches us for the present day and for our future. I found it compelling and highly recommend it. I’m also curious how this book will be brought onto the stage.
Politics is an area fraught with issues, no matter what time we live in. Currently, nations are descending into warring tribes where opposing opinions and any disagreement is treated as a personal assault. How do we unite in the face of so much divisiveness?
I hear people say they ‘don’t pay attention to politics’ or ‘aren’t interested in politics.’ Sometimes it’s said with a sigh and they admit that they’re overwhelmed or exhausted trying to keep up with all the issues, or they're afraid to challenge the aggressive and angry voices. Sometimes it’s said in a way that suggests politics is ‘beneath’ them. The Brunhilde Pomsel story is a perfect antidote to that attitude and shows us that letting the loud, aggressive and strident voices define political debate is dangerous.
On a recent weekend away in the Riverland of South Australia, I came across a memorial park in Renmark. The RSL (Returned Servicemen’s League) motto inscribed on a plaque in the gardens sums it up for me.
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”
If we believe in democracy, and that a government should govern for the benefit of all, then we need to pay attention (stay vigilant), ask questions and care about the answers.
Writing political fiction has its own challenges. It’s a fine line between caring about issues and bringing them into a story, and preaching a philosophy. I am not so much an advocate for a party but for the need to ask ‘what if?’ That question often generates my plot.
An issue I find particularly troubling at the moment, is the prosecution of whistleblowers in Australia. I’ve previously featured the book Banking Bad by Adele Ferguson in my blog. It exposed the illegal and fraudulent activity by the big four Australian banks and led to a Royal Commission (reluctantly agreed to by the Morrison Government and confined to a quick 12-month time-frame that couldn’t examine all the issues raised). It’s a scary read. It took the courage of a whistleblower, willing to risk everything, to expose this misconduct and yet, we are still waiting to see the commission’s recommendations enacted.
Unfortunately, the Australian government doesn't protect whistleblowers. I’ve read of three separate trials of whistleblowers (being held in secret). The bank whistleblower had his charges reduced but was still facing jail; Witness K, who exposed the Australian government’s bugging of Timor-Leste during negotiations over ownership of lucrative oil and gas reserves, and his lawyer; and a soldier who brought the alleged war crimes in Afghanistan to our attention. Given these trials are being held in secret we may not know what happens to these courageous and selfless people.
I remember Andrew Wilke revealing the lie of Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2003, and saw how he was vilified and his name blackened for daring to speak out. I witnessed the destruction of the career and life of Denis Ryan, the policeman who persisted in investigating paedophile Catholic priests. He was persecuted despite doing what was right. How many more? As a society we owe these whistleblowers a debt of gratitude. They are brave and courageous enough to speak out, despite the cost to their own lives. We should protect them, not prosecute them or persecute them.
Whistleblowing is a theme that I find compelling and thought-provoking. The protagonist in my novel, Deadly Secrets, is Shelley, a public servant at the Department of Immigration. She's an ordinary person who uncovers a high-level plot involving powerful organisations, even the Prime Minister appears to be involved. What is she willing to risk to save the lives of others?
My current work-in-progress (still in editing mode) is also a story of ordinary people uncovering a serious conspiracy and having to confront what they are willing to risk to achieve justice.
You can visit my website www.hrkempauthor.com which has details about my novel, my author biography and my published short stories. If you'd like to be kept up to date with progress, recieve special offers and have advance notice of special deals, you can sign up to my newsletter too.
I hope you stay safe and well.
Until next time.
If you'd like to read Deadly Secrets you can use the following links to buy it in either eBook or paperback.
Universal Link for eBooks on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Google Play, and more: https://books2read.com/u/bzoZVZ
Paperbacks available from:
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