By John Moran, November 2019
The mothers of various Australian returned servicemen, who have committed suicide, are calling for a Royal Commission into the issue. This is an understandable response to this tragedy. It confirms for me that little, if anything, has changed since I was an adviser to the Veterans Affairs Minister in the early 1990s. This is an ongoing problem, just as so many issues across society seem to be irresolvable. It’s not just an issue in Australia either. I discuss this, including the war veterans’ issue, in my talk with Professor Rachel Fulton Brown at the University of Chicago.
Australian journalists like Andrew Clennell have rightly questioned whether a Royal Commission is the way to go. I agree with Andrew. I am not sure either, although I understand the families looking for some sort of investigation & wider discussion of this terrible experience.
Firstly, I’m not convinced lawyers are skilled to solve the issues increasingly being flicked to them in the form of Royal Commissions. Secondly, it should be now clear that government programs, as useful & important as they are, aren’t sufficient to deal with most of life’s problems. Government welfare or support programs are necessary for many reasons and can help reduce stress and additional trauma, but cannot, themselves, “heal” something like post-traumatic stress, which is why we aren’t seeing meaningful results in many areas.
All of us need support & help, but in the end life’s traumas have to also be healed internally at the individual, private level. The veteran who comes home from the doctor or the “program” meeting still has to live with themselves when alone. The government “program” or other people can’t be there all the time.
After decades of working & lobbying in these areas, only to see very little progress, it became clear to me something more was needed. In the end it is a spiritual issue, at the individual level, despite the fact that our society desperately wants to deny this fact. It’s why I put pen to paper on how politics, media, public policy, etc all interact with that individual spiritual reality, in The Resurrection Mantra.
We have to stop ignoring this fundamental truth about people & the experience of life, whether it is the horror of war or any other trauma or setback in life. Other people & government programs can only do so much. Psychology and psychiatry are only part of the solution too.
If we can’t connect to & accept the death-resurrection (new life) rhythm of life, no matter what we go through, then we are in a risky place. These courageous Australian mothers have forced us to again confront our ongoing failures in this policy area. Let’s take the chance to address the policy, program and support issues, as well as the need for effective individual trauma healing. Our societies around the world don’t do the latter very well.