Writing the words “Yes, I’m being deliberately disdainful” should have been a red flag to ask myself, “So why do it?”. My intention, when writing this week on Micronesian leaders threatening to walk away from the Pacific Islands Forum, has been swamped by the language I chose to use. That choice of language was a mistake. It was ill-considered. It caused offence, and I am sorry.
This is not a “sorry if you were offended” type of sorry. This was a mistake on my part, mine alone.
“There is no Lowy Institute view of the world” is a phrase used here. And it’s true. Our researchers often disagree with each other, in the faith that debate is the best way to advance solutions to difficult policy problems. To achieve this aim, debates can be heated but must remain respectful and constructive.
My hope had been to emphasise that leadership battles at the Forum were a distraction, and to bring back to the fore the longstanding and serious challenges facing Pacific nations: climate change, governance and development, and participation of women in politics.
But when I rushed to publish, I stuffed up the delivery.
I wanted the article to be provocative – but since reading the responses and taking time to reflect on people’s lived experience in the Pacific, I now realise my language was disrespectful. My hope was to engage the reader with the substantive issues of importance in the Pacific, but because of my language, I achieved the opposite of my intent.
Words always matter. I should have remembered that. Next time I will.