Let’s bring back the Aussie fair go before it’s too late
IN LIGHT of the furore that erupted over Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s photo on Facebook, where he cradled his granddaughter while holding a beer, it seems timely to ask, is the laid-back, smiling Aussie living in the land of the “fair go” extinct?
Captioning the photo “multi-tasking at the footy”, the PM was called “irresponsible”, accused of breathing grog all over the baby and attacked about his stance on SSM.
Even his harshest political critics leapt to his defence, Pauline Hanson telling those who raged to “go and get a life”. The over-reaction to this harmless and loving picture on its own might be dismissed as pollie-bashing, except this wasn’t merely censure and, frankly, wasn’t warranted.
Entrepreneur Dick Smith believes “Australians need to get back to being Australian”.
But what if this is who we are in the here and now?
Evidence suggests that, online particularly, we’re harassing, trolling, insulting and generally being nastier to each other than at any time before. It’s not just the hating on the PM’s happy snap that reveals this either.
Whether it’s denigrating politicians, each other, SSM proponents, SSM opponents, refugees, climate change advocates/deniers, mothers, fathers, models, celebrities, reality TV, teachers, cyclists – you name it – we’re dishing out the odium.
If we’re not hating, we’re “outraged” and offended.
And the bitterness of the attacks appears to not only be growing, but is directly disproportionate to what or who is being targeted.
Dominated by trolls, selfrighteous and angry prigs, the tut-tut brigade and behaviour police who see fit to make rulings on all who dare to have their views, profession, good fortune, hard work, tragedy, or face put forward, it’s easy to be persuaded we’re a nasty bunch.
Since when did we become so vile? Writing in The
Australian earlier this year, demographer Bernard Salt described us as excelling at the “outrage Olympics” where “sensational individual and team performances have catapulted the Aussies to top spot in the prestigious world indignation rankings”.
It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t also true.
Social researcher Mark McCrindle believes Australia has become a “nation of judgers”. He says: “It’s absurd but that is the cocktail that the entitlement of social media and cynicism towards politicians has created.” He has a point. Told our opinions matter, we eschew facts, use personal experiences to validate our reactions, discredit others and events, even when research and expert knowledge suggests otherwise. Dare to disagree? I’ll hate you.
In 2004, psychologist John Suler wrote a paper called The Online Disinhibition Effect in which he discussed six primary factors that change a person’s online behaviour.
These include “dissociative anonymity” (“my actions can’t be attributed to me”), and not communicating in real time or in the real world. They strip away the standards society has spent centuries building. Problem is, this is creeping into every aspect of our lives.
Look at the racial abuse happening on public transport, the violence erupting at children’s sport matches. The scribbled insults on restaurant receipts, toxic reviews on TripAdvisor.
When our elected politicians mock and deride, is it any wonder we feel it’s our right to act the same way?
For all we keep hearing that political correctness has stifled free speech, I’m yet to see evidence, especially when those on the margins keep being besieged.
The only speech that’s been smothered is the supportive, rational and kind type – one based on respect for difference of opinion, fairness, diversity and otherness.
But when disdain for others is coming at us from all sides it’s hard not to be influenced by the negative. Last Wednesday night,
Gruen on ABC observed a cultural shift – in the kind of advertisements being produced. The host, Wil Anderson, quipped, where once upon a time ads used to tell us who to love, now they tell us who to hate.
Where is the love? Where’s our larrikin spirit; the ability to laugh at and with our mates?
Journalist Elizabeth Farrelly writes that the fair go, “be it brief, humble and colloquial … is both our true constitution and our closest approach to a bill of rights”.
Time to resurrect such decent principles and be nicer to each other – before the “fair go” has bloody well gone.