It’s time for a politeness revolution
I was given tickets to hear former Prime Minister John Howard give an address at Adelaide’s Elder Hall recently. Curious as to what he might say in the current political climate and given that I had been promised Hungry Jacks afterward, I went along.
As he got up to speak, a heckler stood and started decrying Mr Howard as a war criminal and a liar. Sure, it was a bold move in a room full of people I assume – judging by all the pearls and popped collars – were Liberal Party members, but I couldn’t help thinking how unbelievably stupid this man was.
I’m not sure what outcome he had in mind. Perhaps he hoped that by shouting abuse in a public forum that Mr Howard might exchange email addresses with him or set a meeting to flesh out the issue at a more convenient time.
Either way, he was manhandled out the door by an overweight security guard while people booed and was subsequently arrested.
Similarly, I was at a Mumford and Sons concert last night and it was glorious, magical and utterly lovely. As an experiment, the band decided to perform a completely acoustic version of their ballad “Timshel”, without microphones or amplification of any kind.
It was beautiful. Thousands of fans stood in an awed hush, scared to even breathe loudly in case we missed out on a moment of the magic.
Sadly, the moment was lost entirely halfway through when a drunk yobbo who clearly objected to this ethereally lovely interlude yelled out that the band should get back to playing rock and roll. He capped off his request by calling the band a “bunch of c***s.”
Did this man think that if he abused the band and ruined a moment for 3000 people that he would get what he wanted?
Friends of ours recently returned from five months travelling through Europe. As any Australian traveller knows, the key aim when in Europe is to make sure the locals understand you are not an American because we all know that Europeans despise Americans but are quite partial to Australians.
However, when we discussed this crucial element of Australian international travel-lore, they reported that in many places Australians have now earned a reputation for binge drinking, swearing loudly in public places and causing brawls. It has become known as Australian Contiki Culture.
Instead of being perceived as the tall, happy-go-lucky, friendly nation we all like to think we are, we are known as a bunch of rude drunkards who can’t be trusted to behave appropriately.
When I hear about radio shock jocks unleashing a torrent of inexcusable abuse against the late father of our Prime Minister, Twitter trolls, religious extremists rioting on the streets of Sydney about something completely unrelated to Australia, and young men taking up the sport of King Hitting bystanders on weekends, it makes me wonder:
Who the hell do we think we are?
I cannot think of one good thing that can come out of rudeness, abuse, drunkenness and violence but these characteristics seem to be pervading every age group, culture and social forum in our nation – from our Parliament to our pubs.
This is not a new or particularly insightful observation, but unless we class up and start aspiring to something more than infamy and belligerence, we will lose what is left of our cultural integrity and moral authority.
So I propose a little frontier justice; some peaceful-but-powerful vigilante action. Nothing is as effective as social exclusion in helping people understand what will and will not be tolerated.
You want to drop the C-bomb on Marcus Mumford? We will banish you to the social equivalent of the Outer Hebrides.
You want to laugh and swear at a Holocaust Memorial in Germany? We will shame you so virulently you’ll go crying to your mother, who will – like us – have zero tolerance for your loutish behaviour.
Fire up, Australia. A nation is only as great as her people and we need to raise the standard for ourselves.
Katie is a freelance journalist and PR consultant happily squirreled away in the backwaters of Adelaide. She blogs about life at www.fruitfulbird.com.
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