for six singers, a cappella [2005]

a theatre piece by
Peter Wesley-Smith (text) and Martin Wesley-Smith (music)

doublethink was premiered by The Song Company, who commissioned it,
in Kangaroo Valley Hall, June 11 2005, and in The Studio, Sydney Opera House, June 15 2005

scheduled performances by The Song Company in 2008 (bookings: call 02 8272 9500):

Campelltown Arts Centre 7:30pm 13 September
Canberra National Library 7:30pm 19 September
Sydney Conservatorium of Music 7:30pm 24 September
Newcastle Conservatorium 7:30pm 25 September
Bundanoon 7:30pm 27 September
Sydney Conservatorium of Music 3pm 28 September
Mayfield Winery, Orange 5pm 19 October

text (by Peter Wesley-Smith)

this is the life worth living | quick march! | trust | propaganda | all hail to thee, big brotherland | prayer
this is the life worth living
a lone latte-sipping liberal, sitting in the audience, sings:

this is the life worth living
the only life I know
the examined life, an attentive life
the only way to go

this is the gift worth giving
an educated mind
a gentle soul imbued with love
and reason intertwined

quick march!

a heart that welcomes beauty
a humour that delights
acknowledgement of duty
and every person's rights

this life is worth preserving
this life that all should know
a modest life, a tolerant life
an ordinary life, a special life
compassion and love unswerving
the only way to go

we ask for truth
you counsel belief
we offer loyalty
but you demand obedience
give us love, not fear
we try to reason
you call it treason

five storm-troopers march in:

no.1 storm-trooper:
attenshun! company, quick march!

onward march our soldiers [
marching off to war
with our fear and propaganda
brutal shock and awe

we spread disinformation
demonise our foe
truth defy, cheat and lie
let the falsehoods flow

fear and propaganda
answering the call
with our DU [
2] and napalm
nerve gas, cluster bombs
and all
amen, amen

go right, right
go smite the loony left (etc)

let's make war on war
not peace
or international co-operation
nor on the UN
or on international law

or maybe we could try
diplomacy, humanity, honesty, and virtues such as these ...
let's give all our support
to our troops and peace initiatives
as we march to another war
a war against that dic - tator:

international law
let's fight the fight
with shock and awe
chief storm-trooper speaks:
Ladies and gentlemen, this election is all about trust - in ME! Trust me on interest rates ... the safety net ... troops to Iraq ... and on all core promises! [

You lie, sir!

no.1 storm-trooper:
Well at least I lie openly and sincerely - honestly! You can trust my mendacity - my knowledge-management skills and our spin doctors are the best in the land!

no.2 storm-trooper:
Come join us, friend. We can't afford dissent at a time like this: the nation yearns for unity, freedom and peace - let us march together under the same banner!

You are traitors and war criminals!

no.1 storm-trooper nods to no.2, who goes into the audience, grabs the liberal, and drags him, protesting, onto stage

no.1 storm-trooper and others:
Onward the march of freedom! Democracy prevails! Support our troops - and our strategic information operations, psy war, image control, perception management, and our tactical selective meretriciousness!

You subvert democracy!

no.2 storm-trooper throws a bucket of water over the liberal, silencing him

no.1 storm-trooper:
Friend, when we act, we create our own reality. [

no.2 storm-trooper:
And while you're studying that reality we'll act again, creating other new realities.

all except liberal:
We're history's actors!

no.2 storm-trooper:
And you, all of you, will be left to just study ...


a picture is worth a thousand lies

use weasel words and euphemisms [5] e.g.:

you've been fired

you've died

Mister Murdoch will choose the news for youse [7]

closed down by government decree
poor old ABC
that was the news [8]

watch out for doublespeak:

"collateral damage":
"active defence":
"energetic disassembly":

there's gobbledy-gook, mumbo-jumbo
nonsense, utter balderdash:

no.1 storm-trooper:
... what we do
just study what we do
with propaganda
the image is the thing
a picture can reach a billion eyes
create your own reality
with propaganda and slander
tell lies, make propaganda

"you have been negatively impacted
by an involuntary career event": [

"yours was a negative patient outcome"

Only eu - phemisms gleam and glow
only me - dia can deem it so
he's balanced and fair, non-doctrinaire

that was the news

killing innocent civilians
nucular explosion

"When we kill them it's for their own good"
"We had to destroy the village in order to save it"


keep it simple, say it often
fabricate, exaggerate, manipulate, indoctrinate
intimidate, misinformation
selective quotation, false insinuations
your government knows what's best for you
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5:
"No one shall be subjected to torture"

Article 14:
"Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other
countries asylum from persecution"

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
Article 20:
"Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law"

The Gospel According to St Matthew, chapter 5, verse 9:
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth"

(while the band plays "Waltzing Matilda")

no rights can exist for a terrorist
(Gitmo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib)

no visas, so hey, let's lock them away!
(free to still call Baxter home)

no preaching for war? then what is it for?

no value, no merit, who would wish to inherit?
(freaky, geeky, sneaky, weak)

this vict'ry song is a goose-stepping waltz
it's our music, and our rhythm
our fancy choreography
very new, very true

we sing of love with a danse militaire
hear the bass drum
and the snare drum
and the fife band
we'll march towards a painted sky
with the Lord up on high

as onward went our troops
we used weapons of mass deception
which were aimed at YOU!

all hail to thee Big Brotherland
You give us tyranny and call it government
you give us government and call it sovereignty
and then you call it democracy
but when we call for freedom
you call us terrorists
you cluster bomb our cities
and call it freedom

is this life worth living?
it's the only life I know
an examined life, an attentive life
is it the only way to go?
this is the gift worth giving
an educated mind, a gentle soul
imbued with love
and reason intertwined

all hail to thee Big Brotherland [9]
our nation proud and strong
custodian of liberty
our country right or wrong

forever free we'll ever be
one nation under God, loving the Lord

our laws, our cause
in perfect harmony
live long, Big Brotherland
live long

Oh Lord, have mercy upon us and forgive us our enemies against whom we trespass, attack, invade, with shock and awe and advanced weaponry; as we blow up their homes and hospitals with our incontinent ordnance; as our bad apples abuse, humiliate and maim terrorist detainees with conduct amounting to torture; as insurgent-controlled residential conurbations are pacified through total destruction; as we liberate their God-granted oil; as we bring order and civilisation, freedom and democracy to their benighted lands, debased cultures and deviant religions
Lord, have mercy upon our enemies 'cos Lord, they need it

text and music commissioned by The Song Company, who receive triennial funding from the Music Board of The Australia Council, the federal government's arts funding and advisory body


[click on the number to go back to the reference in the text]

1 the tune here is by Sir Arthur Sullivan

2 DU: depleted uranium - see Moret, Leuren, Depleted Uranium: Dirty Bombs, Dirty Missiles, Dirty Bullets, SF Bay View: "A Japanese professor, Dr. K. Yagasaki, has calculated that 800 tons of DU is the atomicity equivalent of 83,000 Nagasaki bombs. The U.S. has used more DU since 1991 than the atomicity equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombs." See, also, the website of our conservation piece Who Killed Cock Robin? (click here, scrolling, if necessary, to about three quarters of the way down the page).

3 note: the chief storm-trooper here is an entirely fictional character

4 note: the no.1 storm-trooper here is another entirely fictional character

5 see Fields, Gary, Power, propaganda and the promised land - Euphemisms thwart understanding and resolution of Israeli/Palestinian issue", The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 29 2005: "Language, as George Orwell remarked, is a proxy for power. According to the celebrated author of '1984', those in power use language to disseminate truth selectively through a process of representation and concealment. When applied to the region of Israel/Palestine, Orwell's insights reveal how this interplay of representation and concealment permeates the exercise of power, and why, absent changes in the discourse of the powerful side, there is little reason to expect any progress in the situation."

6 see Watson, Don: Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words, Contemporary Clichés, Cant & Management Jargon, Random House Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney, 2004

7 see Goslin, Harry, Tyranny, Press Whores, and the Slaughter of Millions: "Censorship is a necessary component of every 'successful' war. As General William Westmoreland observed during the Vietnam War, 'without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.'"

8 this little song originally appeared in our piece Black Ribbon (2001)

9 the melody here was transcribed from a CD of Hitler Youth songs and marches

authors' notes

It's an Orwellian title and an Orwellian theme: the destruction of language and thus of our ability to detect the lies and propaganda of governments and economic oligarchs. Compare the contemplative life, in which one is free to make decisions based on full knowledge and understanding, with life based on fear, hysteria, manipulation, strident patriotism, the suppression of reasoned debate, sound bites as news, militarism, determined religiosity, Us versus Them, misleading euphemisms, deliberate falsehoods, blind faith in government, a cowed or supine or biased press, sheer nonsense, public relations operatives trained to dissemble ... we could go on. There are definite trends towards fascism, or at least McCarthyism, in the United States, and even in Australia we've witnessed elements of a hard-right political ascendancy which associates with the strategic objectives of the US and suppresses dissent at home: witness the dumbing down of universities, strangulation of the ABC, the "liberalisation" of media ownership laws, government secrecy and lies, the sending of Australian troops to an illegal and immoral war in Iraq and the pretence that the decision was not made well before parliament discussed it. We do not assert in doublethink that Australia is drifting towards fascism; we merely present a possible scenario, perhaps a familiar one, and leave it to the audience to draw any, or no, conclusions.

Two main themes are seen in the work of Martin Wesley-Smith: the life, work and ideas of Lewis Carroll and the plight of the people of East Timor. An eclectic composer, his output ranges from children's songs (such as I'm Walking in the City and You Gotta Shut the Gate) to large-scale environmental events, encompassing many different idioms. Multimedia is a specialty, particularly audio-visual pieces for instrument(s) and computer about humanitarian and ethical issues - Weapons of Mass Distortion, for example, which is about official propaganda, lies etc, especially those that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and Papua Merdeka. These are regularly presented in concert by the group Charisma (Ros Dunlop, clarinet, and Julia Ryder, cello) and others. His most-performed works include the choral conservation piece Who Killed Cock Robin? and the chamber pieces White Knight & Beaver and For Marimba & Tape. In 1998 he was awarded an AM for services to Australian music.


Peter Wesley-Smith is the author of verses for children (e.g. The Ombley-Gombley, Hocus Pocus) and lyrics and libretti for works with music by Martin (Boojum!, Quito). He resigned from a Chair in Constitutional Law at the University of Hong Kong in 1999 and has since lived in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales. He currently lectures in international law at the University of Macau each October and still occasionally prepares papers on constitutional law topics. Recent commissioned texts for Martin's music include Thank Evans (Australian Boys Choral Institute, 2001), Black Ribbon (Canberra Choral Society, 2001), True (Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire, 2002), and doublethink (The Song Company, 2005). For some years he has been working on the lyric for I Don't Think I'm Indecisive, Am I?, a humerus ditty about his upper arm.


"review" by Graeme Skinner, Sydney Morning Herald, Sept 30 2008

"What might have been a worthwhile statement politically was simply devalued (rather than ironically enhanced) by the music's lazy, blandly euphemistic Victorianisms."

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