Let’s bring back the Aussie fair go be­fore it’s too late

The Courier-Mail - - OPINION - KAREN BROOKS karen­r­brooks33@gmail.com

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.