Accusations of racism and bombastic pig-ignorance about the reality of life outside the ‘majority’ (whatever that means) are the reflexive booing of the cultural elite. That lot is far too posh to get out there and actually boo. That’s for yobs and only for yobs, but they can’t say so in as many words. They hate those yobs more than the yobs hate Goodes.
So how clever of the smarties to upbraid and bamboozle the masses by accusing them of being the sleep-walking (or is that sleep-booing?) accomplices of their villainous ancestors who invaded, raped and pillaged the land of the First Australians. That’s the alleged ‘soft racism’ stock-in-trade of lickspittle conservatives, for those not in the know.
Do people boo Goodes because they don’t like black people? Don’t be ridiculous. What about uppity black people? Getting warmer. Uppity any-colour is a good chance for a boo or two. What about really, really talented game-winning uppity black people who get visibly upset at the booing and throw imaginary spears at their tormentors and do phony, uppity dances after scoring yet another goal? Bingo!
Would they boo Goodes at a BBQ at his place? Not likely. Would they like Goodes if they were to meet him socially or professionally? From all accounts that seems inevitable. Would they give him a contract with their club for lots and lots of money and ask to snap selfies with him? Sign here! Say ‘cheese’!
Why does the boo brigade get upset with Goodes and those elements of the commentariat that accuse them of being racist? Is it because the elite wafflers’ culturally penetrative gaze has seen the ugly truth in those dark, bogan hearts? Or is it because they think it’s a lot of nonsense. Many of the booers thought their sin was simple enough and would have been happy (only if caught-out of course) to plead guilty to the charge of not caring enough about someone’s feelings. Indeed, given Australian Rules spectators’ rich tradition of flinging abuse over the fence, some might even have been quite proud of their indifference.
Why is it that no-one can ‘call out’ this Adam Goodes booing thing for what it really is? It’s bad behaviour. The fans know it. It’s something they probably wouldn’t do at home, at work, in front of their mothers or, lets be frank, if they actually met nice Mr Goodes in person. If Mum caught a glimpse of you on the telly, lips puckered (like the proverbial ape at the zoo) and in mid-boo, do you think she’d say, “Stop it at once you naughty boy. I want you to acknowledge your soft-racism and mend your ways by respecting that nice Mr Goodes’s right to his self-esteem as a strong Aboriginal man. Now I know that’s hard because it’s deeply unconscious, but I still want you to try. That’s the Australian way”? No, I rather think she’d tell you to stop it because it’s rude, nasty and common. Calling it ‘soft racism’ or its nasty older brother, ‘hard racism’, is like seeing someone come through the hospital door with a broken arm and making tests for cancer the first diagnostic priority.
In a perfect world, no one would boo Goodes because he makes it obvious how much it upsets him. So why can’t we just admit and accept that some fans can be boorish, rude, cowardly and, at times, cruel? Ultimately, they don’t really care about Goodes’ feelings, and why would they? Since when did sports fans give two hoots about players’ emotional stability or, for that matter, their racial pride? Goodes did his spear-throwing thing to antagonize opposition supporters. That’s OK. But they don’t care about his racial pride. They don’t care about anyone’s racial pride. They don’t care about his childhood, his hopes and dreams, his love for children and ancestors or what car he drives. Personally, I hope Goodes has racial pride by the wheelbarrow load. That’s nice for him.
This spot-the-racist thing is largely driven by the commentariat class. They are more cowardly than the booing crowd. They prefer to pin the charge of racism on others because it reflects well on themselves. They are proud, educated people who have not a scintilla of racism running through their veins, as they are always so keen to demonstrate by spotting that character deficiency in others. They have better manners or better breeding than most footy fans but cannot note these distinctions out loud, as that might draw an unflattering contrast between their refined and enlightened selves. After all, those booing yobs might be ‘working Australians’ from ‘working families’ and your inner-city types still pay lip service to the notion that they hold the best interests of the proletariat close to their hearts.
What the hand-wringing ‘we’re all deeply racist’ set won’t do is ‘call out’ (certainly not boo) the fans for the thoughtless slobs they sometimes are, because they are terrified of being branded elitist snobs in return. They need grander themes, and crying ‘Racism!’ fits the bill. They want to lance the pustulent boil of extreme hideousness afflicting their knuckle-dragging countrymen. The need to find the dark skeins of racism in the fellow white supporters is a compulsion. They want to bare festering national wounds, frolic in the ashes from the fiery crucible of invasion and dispossession. They want the secret knowledge that Noel Pearson has only now intuited. “Many of us we don’t know our fellow Australians,” he lamented. This stuff must really be super-duper hidden to have eluded even Noel. Until now, that is.
Hidden, festering, psychological wounds, ugly truths, secret knowledge – it’s mouth-watering stuff that enlivens the senses of the educated (after a fashion) inner-city cultural critic. Riled-up yobs and slobs who couldn’t give a toss, not so much. Citing the former makes them seem clever. Addressing the ill-mannered latter, just snobs.
Murray Walters is a Brisbane psychiatrist