Keep conflict where it belongs, in the family
Bold and The Beautiful eat your heart out. Gina Rinehart’s family saga has all the ingredients of a gripping soapie: money, power, drama, threats and fierce sibling rivalry.
It’s a fantastic combination if you like that kind of thing. Every day there’s another new twist and feisty morsel of accusation and blame.
What a pity it’s nobody else’s business.
There are two rules when it comes to family arguments. Rule number one: only family members are allowed to comment on the situation and have a right to play a part in any unfolding drama.
Rule number two: nobody else should get involved. Ever. Even if you’re a spouse or partner of the family members.
In times of conflict these rules can get confusing. That’s mostly because as an “innocent” bystander, family squabbles can appear petty or easily fixed. In reality, they are anything but.
Families are incredibly complex and history plays a huge part in creating this complexity. Every relationship comes with its own intricate web of old arguments, allegiances, understandings and misunderstandings. And they’re more complicated than can ever be revealed in a series of emails about money, no matter how widely they are read or what newspaper they are published in.
Same goes for perceived universal notions of family expectation and even hierarchy. Sure, some children seek their parents’ approval and some parents assume a position of guidance.
But one rule does not fit all. Families are just groups of individual people, all motivated by a huge and differing range of emotions - misguided, well-meaning or otherwise. In times of conflict these emotions are heightened and normal avenues of communication are broken down. Hardly anyone comes out looking like the good guy.
For example, it’s not hard to imagine how it must feel to be publicly written off as greedy and ungrateful, like the Rinehart children, but that doesn’t mean we really understand the entire situation, or have any right to make a judgment call about whether they deserved it or not.
A terrifying test is to imagine your own family under the public microscope right now. Very few of us would escape without an ugly word, a cranky email a period of estrangement or a painful memory of a long-held gripe. Such is the nature of families.
Gina Rinehart is no stranger to family controversy. Her father threatened to disown her and she spent 11 years battling her stepmother, Rose Hancock, over the rights to his fortune.
Perhaps that’s why it feels almost normal to be weighing in on this new generation of conflict. But that doesn’t make it right. No matter how rich or unlikeable you are.
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