Untying the strings: Lucy Watson and Bryant Apolonio

Bryant Apolonio and Lucy Watson ride a rollercoaster

Deception. It’s a powerful tool. Whether it be lying about – or hiding – your identity, your situation or motivation, there are often a number of reasons to want to deceive an audience.

In theatre, the audience is shown the stage and little else. What goes on behind those curtains, in those wings, isn’t meant to be seen. We do know, by the nods of the head and the wave of the hands by the actors at the conclusion, that there are people back there: pulling the strings, calling the shots. Faceless men.

In the theatre, the faceless men are usually competent and humble stage-hands, lighting technicians, playwrights, designers. But, extrapolating this idea further, to life beyond the play, and there are faceless men everywhere (and women, and non-gender specific people), pulling the strings behind a whole horde of stages. Sometimes so quietly you don’t even know.

What happens when the faceless men are revealed? Time will tell in federal politics, as The Faceless Man this week becomes The Face of the ALP. But there are many more, hiding in the shadows. And newspapers – ideally beacons of transparency – are here to throw light into the places where it’s hard to see and hold the powerful to account. The faceless can hold the strings of student politics as the Chinese millionaire Master Shang allegedly does, or their partner’s wellbeing and safety, or just a lot of money and little sense, and the role of the media, we think, should be to expose such things when it can.

But the great paradox of our work as editors is that sometimes you can’t expose. Sometimes it’s clear that there’s just as much value in keeping things secret, to preserve people’s right to anonymity. For one reason or another – personal, social, or, well, criminal – four of this week’s contributors could not put their name to their work but still wanted others to know about, and learn from, their experiences. Whether it was their terrible time with LSD or their experience being a trans* man at university, they’re things mainstream society won’t (but should) let us speak openly about. In attempting to break down larger power structures, the little guys must change or redact their names. Truly great social shifts need to go down before these things can be talked about in the open, for everyone to see.

It’s very easy to feel as though your strings aren’t being pulled. To retreat into ill-formed preconceptions, judgement, and arrogance; the idea that you can see through every pretense and delusion. This is something none of us are exempt from.  But in order to shape the world into something a little better than it is – just a little better, only as much as we can –  we need only be a bit more thoughtful about who has power, a bit more critical of how they use it, and – if it isn’t being used well – how to change things so they do.