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  • Ned Manning

In Search of a Common Goal

Updated: May 26

As a nation we are bleeding.


We are as disconnected from each other as much as we have been at any time in our history.


This weekends "Bash the Budget" protest is a reflection of this. So are the various Marches that have, it has to be said, seemed a little unfocussed. There is a lot to protest about. So much, in fact, that it feels like we are thrashing around like drunken sailors in a storm. We are desperate for something to hang on to.


That’s why the Socceroos meant so much to many of us who aren’t really that obsessed with soccer. We’re desperate to find something that unites us. That gives us a common cause.

Something to share, to high five and hug each other about.


The incredibly gifted, humble and perceptive Tim Cahill said as much when taking about what playing for the Socceroos means to him. It is about bringing together the rich diversity of our cultural backgrounds to represent all that is good about us on the world stage. That is what he celebrates when he pulls on a Socceroos shirt and it’s what we celebrate when we cheer for him and his team mates. You only have to run your eyes over the names on the team sheet to understand that.


It’s why Tony Abbott’s seemingly innocent gaffe in mis-pronouncing the Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak’s name is anything but innocent. Calling Mile “Mike” might well be a metaphor for what Tony Abbott and many of his supporters would like us to be. “Mikes” not “Miles”.

Let alone this weeks gaffe about Australia being "unsettled" when the British arrived.

From the moment white settlers landed on Botany Bay and set about dismembering Indigenous Australian "settlements" and  rich cultural traditions we have rarely been able to find a unity of purpose. We began by imposing a foreign culture on this Land. Dividing it up into different, often warring, tribes. The settlers themselves were far from united and nor was their purpose. This seemed to set in train a culture of divisiveness. There was nothing united in Federation apart from the name.


The forced splitting up of the families of the Stolen Generation might be an apposite metaphor for our determination to divide rather than unify. We seem hell bent on creating disharmony and dysfunction.


Even in times of war we have been divided. In World War One we couldn’t agree on conscription and in World War Two there was an argument to draw a line across the top of the country and let it go if we were invaded.


The modern politician, on both sides of the political fence, has honed in on this flaw in our make up. By definition our political system encourages an almost juvenile adoption of opposite positions. The result is that issues of conscience like gay marriage or asylum seekers are reduced to point scoring. Women and men who hold compassionate views on both topics are unable to express them because they are part of a team. It’s pathetic. The current Labor opposition are so frightened of scoring an own goal on asylum seekers they refuse to attack the Government’s appallingly inhumane position. Witness Bill Shorten's pathetic, poll driven, response to a question about the Tamil refugees who have been turned back to Sri Lanka.


Politics Australian style 2014 has been reduced to “wedging”. Instead of putting forward cogent, compassionate, intelligent arguments both sides of politics search for a way to “wedge” their opponents. Not only do they try and drive a wedge into their opponents, they try and wedge us. It doesn’t matter what the cause or the argument. What matters is that they split us into separate camps and put the fear of God into us that the other camp is the enemy.


The tactics for “wedging” are dreamt up by clever dick advisers who seem to think running a country is a game about “winners” and “losers”. Their game has absolutely nothing to do with uncovering the correct course of action. It is all about the winning course of action.

The wedges are then fuelled by a pack of shock jocks and media toadies who pull issues apart like mongrel dogs slathering over road kill.


Now one of them has been appointed to a position of influence at the ABC.


This wedging is tearing the fabric of our society apart instead of sewing it together. It’s all about dividing and conquering with the “winner” taking the spoils.


There have been moments in our history when this hasn’t been so. When we have managed to bury our differences and resolve to work together for the greater good.


The election of the Whitlam Government was an example of this. A short lived moment in our history when we dared to collectively dream that we could be better than we were and understand that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. The fact that even Murdoch supported Whitlam shows how astonishing this was. Even he was able to, albeit momentarily, put aside his personal ambition for the good of the nation. Of course he quickly reverted to type and sent out orders to “kill” the Whitlam Government. A sense of unity of purpose couldn’t last long in the Australian landscape.


Ironically this unity of purpose briefly shone again when thousands of us came together for the Bridge Walk for Reconciliation to share our collective guilt and offer the hand of friendship to our Indigenous brothers and sisters. The Apology offered another brief glimmer of hope that we might be able to be bigger than ourselves and stand together for a common goal.


The referendum of 1967, when 91% of Australians voted to include Indigenous Australians in the constitution, was another example of us pulling together in the one direction even if it was for one flickering moment.


Like the Bridge Walk and the Apology, the 1967 Referendum was about white Australia collectively acknowledging its Indigenous past.


The apotheosis of this was achieved in the Opening Ceremony at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney when we proudly came together as a nation to show the world how good we could be. For the next two, glorious weeks we put aside our differences and bonded magnificently.

But these moments are only too rare.


For most of the time we don’t share a common goal. We aren’t encouraged to play as a team. We are urged to play against each other.


It might have something to do with settlement since the British Invasion. Each wave of immigrants to this Land has been vilified as invaders and outsiders on arrival. Relatively quickly these boat people from all over the world have made this country their own and then weirdly turned their attention to preventing the next wave of settlers from coming aboard. This has never been more dreadfully realised than now when basically big hearted Australians have been duped into supporting an inhuman policy that owes more to fascist theory than the democratic one we so passionately embrace.


The clever dicks have got into the politicians ears and urged them to put the fear of God into us by convincing us that everything we value is in danger of being rent asunder by people who are seeking freedom from tyranny.


The mongrel dogs have exploited this by playing on our deepest fears and appealing to the worst of our natures. The result being that we have been unwilling and unable to embrace people who might seem different to us but are making exactly the same journey we have made.


So when Tim Cahill and the Socceroos pull on their Australian shirts we momentarily put aside our differences and come together as one. Anyone who was at the Olympic Stadium when we beat Uruguay and qualified for the 2006 World Cup knows exactly what I mean. Total strangers from every nationality imaginable hugged each other like long lost brothers.

This sense of sheer pride in our communality that we yearn for is constantly being undermined by our politicians and the mongrel dogs and clever dicks who urge them on.

We want to find a common ground. We long come together as one.


We desperately need our politicians to show some leadership and find ways to bring us together rather than tearing us apart.

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