AI-generated (stable diffusion) ge of "cyclon writing with a pen".

The sporadic blog of David J A Cooper. I write sci-fi, teach software engineering, and occasionally say related (or not related) things.

Check out Nova Sapiens: The Believers.

I am voting for the Voice

Australia has travelled a long and oftentimes dark road in attempting to reconcile First Nations peoples with the waves of immigrants and their descendants who now reside here too. Right now, as on just a few prior occasions, we have a direction: a glimmer of light into which we can steer ourselves.

The Indigenous Voice to Parliament is not an end in itself. It is not just some shiny thing we must value for its own sake. It is an instrument, a light to guide us. It is a beginning, not an end. Its purpose is to help the government, representing all of us, understand how to do its job in respect to First Nations peoples. There is much work to come afterwards that will benefit from the Voice.

The opponent we face is our own cynicism, sometimes even nihilism. We are almost always cynical towards politicians. We are often cynical towards those of other ethnicities, beliefs, and much else. We are sometimes cynical of the very attempt at doing good, believing it to be a kind of banal theatre. I have been guilty of cynicism many times. It is a powerful adversary. It claims much anecdotal evidence (there are plenty of failures to point at), and it even perversely seems safe. Why believe in anything, when you can hate everything and never be disappointed?

But do we want to be this cynical? Do we want to hate? These things are self-destructive and fate-sealing. If we are too cynical to believe we can act in the interests of our own fellow citizens, then our nation is lost.

To be proud of our nation, we cannot be so cynical of our own efforts to improve it. We don’t always get it right, and we never get it perfect, but inaction is the very opposite of achievement. Inaction is not safe, nor wise. Inaction is justice denied, lost opportunity. It is a failure to overcome, and even an exacerbation of, that which we know to be wrong. A nation’s greatness does not just happen while we sit around; it must be achieved and kept alive through great works and moments of change.

In regards to the Voice, what is the purpose of demanding “more detail” and “practical outcomes” at this point? It is already the culmination of comprehensive dialogues and consensus-building between Indigenous Australians. The whole point of the Voice itself is to provide more detail, to deepen the conversation between a government formed out of the British Empire, and the descendants of those whose land we all now share. These two sides have often lacked a shared understanding. Institutionally, we are ignorant, and the Voice is designed to help address that. Practical outcomes follow from better-informed people and institutions. This is hardly contentious. We will certainly have a much better chance of “getting it right” with the Voice than without it.

The Voice is a simple, clear act of truth-telling, called for by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, adopted by the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention. It is not the invention of any political party. It is a historic opportunity to make our nation stronger, for almost-embarrassingly little cost.

If nothing else, consider the pragmatism of the situation. Even if you’re not convinced the Voice will “work” (and so allowing for a great deal of cynicism), at worst the referendum would be a symbolic vote of confidence in reconciliation and the status of First Nations. So which act of symbolism will it be? Of what use is voting “no”, practical or symbolic?

I think the vote will be more than symbolic, though, because listening is never just symbolic. It will be an education.