Killing the messenger: Je Suis The Word

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The Charlie Hebdo massacre was an utter atrocity, yet every year scores of journalists are imprisoned, tortured and murdered — most receiving little or no attention at all from the world. Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence provides a touching tribute to those brave forgotten purveyors of 'The Word'.

KILLING THE MESSENGER has long been the coward's solution to annihilate truth and the unwelcome dissenting voice.

To that extent, insofar as we communicate in various ways with one another, within our families, amongst friends, peer groups, communities and beyond, we are all messengers of some kind; all citizen journalists, daily reporting on the vagaries and predilictions of the human condition.

Our collective history was not spawned in the hallowed halls of academe under the patronage of the likes of the Medici or under latter-day subjugation to sponsorships from multi-nationals.

The unbroken umbilical chord of communication that continues to nourish the human family is forever attached throughout the ages to those gamechanger creators of cave drawings, instagrams from our ancestors transmitting information and depictions whose meaning and interpretations still cause controversy, debate, argument and wonderment.

Ancient Indigenous rock art from the Kimberleys

These pictographs and petroglyphs are part of the Universal Messenger's DNA, including those eloquent and elegant stick figures conveying sometimes complicated tracts of activities, predicaments and often intelligence on local species of floral and fauna.

Today, we still use their empiracal knowledge and messaging technique in generic symbol language, as any pedestrian traffic light will attest.

Stop and go men from East Germany (top) and West Germany (bottom)

What else is a cunieform, but the forerunner of the ubiquitous tablet ?

Did not a god deliver Ten Commandments to one of the prophets on the equivalent of the iMoses pad? Can not the same be said for other religious scriptures?

The awful massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff in France cruelly warns us of the sometimes deadly consequences of freedom of speech (including to non-journalists, as in this tragic instance) and causes us to reflect on what that complex phrase means to different people.

They are not the only ones to be brutally assassinated in the line of duty these past 12 months and it will not escape media and social analysts that, against the backdrop of international outrage and outpouring, from political heavyweights as well, that the victims were part of the European white intelligentia, establishment and media elite — just some of the reasons for which they were killed.

But every year, there are scores of murders, imprisonment and torture of journalists, and among them I include musicians, authors, cartoonists and documentary makers. Many of them are not white and unknown to the world at large.

They are not celebrities and the only ' A' list they are on is the one for Assassination.

Who will speak up for them? Who will march for them? Who will place flowers upon the ground where they were slain?

(Cartoon by Jeff Hook, 1976)

At this moment, I cannot place one life above another. For sanity's sake, in a sometimes madding world and because of my personal belief, I try hard to adhere to the notion and philosphy that we are all the first amongst equals, unless we forefeit that right. 

I seek justice and not revenge for my brother and sister colleagues. And at home, there is still much work to be done.

In October last year, the Australian Federal Police, indecently doing the bidding of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's Coalition Government to appease the Indonesian Government, announced the cessation of their war crimes investigation into the 1975 murders of a team of Australian newsmen in Balibo, East Timor.

The Balibo Five and Roger East (Image via

That same year, crusading and controversial journalist Juanita Neilsen, editor of the Now newspaper, vanished and, to this day, no clue as to her whereabouts or her corpse has been found.

The truth is, the big boys at the top end of town got rid of her. And who cares ?

Neilsen, who wore a spectacular beehive hairstyle, had been vigorously and fearlessly campaigning against the demolition and redevelopment of historic terrace houses by a real-estate company called Victoria Point Pty Ltd, in Victoria Street, Kings Cross, where she lived.

Her case is worthy of an ICAC investigation. Like the execution of the Balibo Five and journalist Roger East, who was also murdered in East Timor, Neilsen's case should be re-opened.

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, Australia's near-forgotten son, who is under protective self-incarceration in London's Ecuadorian Embassy has found himself under seige from foreign politicians calling for his execution without censure from Australia's political leaders who even approved a preposterous and corruptly assigned Interpol Red Notice.

Successive Australian governments have abandoned Assange, perhaps the foremost messenger of our generation.

Some while back, I started to write a poem to try and articulate my feelings about "The Word" and its messengers.

I have often expressed that journalism is my religion, because it is how I feel about what I hope is a vocation as well as a craft — as poncy and dopey that might sound to others.

Here is an excerpt from that work in progress: Je Suis The Word.

There is no god but The Word

there is no god but The Word
and we are its messengers,
we are legion.
you cannot kill the word.
you cannot drive a stake through its heart for it has no vital organs to impale.
its invisible skin is a viscus unto itself.
It has no veins, no vessels, neither blood nor artery,
you cannot explode it with a grenade,
you cannot raw its nerve, you cannot cause it injury,
nor can the unforgiving rounds of a Kalashnikov render it silent.
neither can a cluster-mine shatter its whole,
nor despair melt its too insolid flesh.
no blade can slash it, no oath can pledge it,
no Guantanamo rendition it,
no Peace can war it,
no coin can worth it,
no freedom can imprison it,
no chain can shackle it,
no hate can curdle it, no love can cloy it,
no flame can scorch it,
no vice can grip it, no hammer on anvil reshape it.
Neither sun nor rain can weather it,
no shadow can shade it,
no good can evil it,
no twist can turn it,
no soil can dirt it,
no shine can dull it,
no pick can axe it, no weapon can wound it
no kiss can heal it, no kiss can betray it,
no love can hate it,
no sex can mate it,
no lie can truth it,
no life can death it,
no law can rule it,
no hush can quiet it,
no Rutherford can split it, no alpha can beta it,
no past can present it, no future foretell it,
no well can drown it, no writer claim it,
no deed can own it,
no weight can hold it down,
no nitrate can explode it,
no suicidist vest it,
no wrong can write it
no right can wrong it
no gas can exterminate it
no volt can execute it, no lethal injection administer it,
no sword can decapitate it, no prison restrain it,
no rapist can violate it,
no flag can claim it
no king can beggar it,
no blasphemer can sully it,
no perfume can unsweeten it,
no steal can thief it,
no sniper can sight it,
no sin can tempt it, no whisper coax it,
no tongue can lick it,
no whip can tame it, no chain can shackle it,
no caress can comfort it, no lullaby sleep it,
no missile can strike it,
no earth can earth it, no dust can dust it, no ashes can ash it,
no balm can soothe it,
no beast can tame it,
no hurt can harm it,
no sea can calm it,
no siren's song can lure it,
no matilda can waltz it,
no steed can outrun it,
no hand can sleight it,
no torpedo can sink it,
no Hades can Hell it,
no Heaven can gate it,
no mass can destruct it,
no tide can wash it, no rain can fall it,
no book can holy it,
no mirror reflect it,
no prison contain it, no chain restrain it,
no prophet can doom it, no deity can absolve it,
no pimp can whore it, no shore can sand it,
no law can ban it, no axis tilt it, no Horatio earth it,
no moon can shine it, no candle light it,
no tear can stain it,
no soul can sell it,
no wisdom can fool it, no savant can idiot it,
no wine can age it, no thirst can quench it
no lie can truth it, no seek can hide it,
no bow can arrow it, no strength can weaken it
no lightning can strike it, no feather can judge it,
no scale can weigh it,
no balm can soothe it, no death can sting it,
no missile can stalk it,
once drawn, once seen, once spoke, once sung, once heard,
once writ, once read, once made flesh, its message is borne eternal,
there is no god but The Word
and we are its guardians.
we are the keepers of the flame,
we are the messengers.
we are legion.

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