It was hideous. It had enormous, malevolent eyes which protruded from its head and stared in almost every direction. Its mouth was a snarling black pit, framed by two pairs of segmented horns covered in spines. Its huge legs reached forward, each of them covered in barb-like hairs that spiked the atmosphere. It was as if Jabba the Hut was wearing porcupine skin, although not even Jabba could ever evoke the same visceral fear that staring into the eyes of this monstrosity could produce.
But then again, none of us ever look closely enough at a house fly to ever stare into its eyes.
It’s all a matter of perspective. The difference between a hideous monstrosity and a pesky little irritation is about 2000 times magnification with a scanning electron microscope. Sometimes the bigger we make something, the more evil and abhorrent it looks.
Similarly, I contend that our community’s collective approach to various social injustices, especially sexism and racism, has made real but relatively minor problems into enormous monstrosities because we have magnified them to extreme proportions.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that racism and sexism aren’t real forms of injustice. Nor am I denying western society’s historical plague of prejudice that has been radically transformed over the last few decades. Neither am I suggesting that racism or sexism no longer exist in our modern culture.
I believe there is a lingering social discrepancy in Australia that still affects many aboriginal people, which is reflected by objective health indicators such as poorer life expectancy, objective educational indicators such as illiteracy and chronic truancy, but also in the personal stories of aboriginal people I have talked to over a my professional career.
Dismay and displeasure over this persistent injustice would be reasonable, but our nation tends to ignore this ongoing inequality and instead, erupts with anger when a footballer is piqued because someone called him a name.
In the few days following Adam Goodes tanty, social commentators made some pretty dumb statements to take umbrage while showing how saintly they were. Eddie McGuire referencing Adam Goodes and King Kong in the same sentence hasn’t helped to ease the inflammation.
But frankly, the confected public outrage hasn’t achieved anything of substance in helping to remedy the real and ongoing disparity of the Australian aboriginal community.
The “zero-tolerance” approach to racism has taken a minor part of a real problem and magnified it so much that it it looks horrific, when it actual fact, it is just a nuisance.
Adam Goodes may have been truly hurt by the comments made to him or about him. But I doubt it will be anywhere near as painful as the 40 year old aboriginal man on Cape York with his chronic festering foot ulcers from his poorly controlled diabetes.
The journalists, the holier-than-thou social commentators, and the vitriolic trolls hovering around social media should catch their breath and gain some perspective.