Bullying, Harassment, and Shrimps on the Barby

Posted on June 1st, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

For about four years now I have been working on a series of writings that I hope to turn into documentaries and teaching resources. I hadn’t decided on a title for the series but the working title is “10 things I hate about Australia”. Oooh, harsh.

Now I love Australia, don’t get me wrong. But when you see incredible potential in something, the problems that stop it from reaching that potential need to be identified and discussed. My list includes Reconciliation (or lack thereof – this was prior to our new Government), Parliamentary Talk, Environmental Negligence, The Suicide Rate, Pornography Culture, Education Structure, etc. to name a few. There have been a few incidents recently that illustrate these shortcomings. Harassment and bullying are always on the radar.

During my time as a teacher, I did my fair share of sorting out issues to do with bullying in the playground. I also sifted through numerous programs and information packs tackling the bullying epidemic that seems to grow and change forms with the development of new techniques. There was a significant problem, however, in that all my plans and efforts were sabotaged many times a week and I would feel like we were losing the war on bullying. On of the most consistent saboteurs, I believe, is the Australian Parliament.

I think we are numb to the embarrassment that is our Australian Government during sitting. I cannot think of a better opportunity to demonstrate bullying at its finest than to turn on Parliamentary coverage during Question Time. If you want to see adults insulting each other, shouting over each other, booing each other, heckling and jeering each other, demonstrating classic mob bullying and getting away with it, you need look no further than Parliament House. It is all there. Not only is it tolerated, the members seem to love doing it.

So how do you tackle a nationwide epidemic of bullying? While schools and families struggle to contain the fallout, our nation’s leaders lead the way in how to do it properly. I would suggest that without a change in parliamentary culture and structure, we are going to continue to lose the battle. It angers me greatly to see our leaders setting this high standard of bullying, and there is absolutely no reason for it to remain. This behaviour is like a rancid stench that wafts over every facet of our society.

Another illustration. There is an entertainment show here in Australia that is based on Aussie Rules Football. There are basically a few sporting commentators, guest football players, a comedian or two and a few hosts. The guys involved generally put on their best man-voices and make football sound as essential to life as oxygen. One of the commentators recently pulled a skit where he mocked a female media colleague by stapling a photo of her face onto a mannequin and proceeded to humiliate with various actions including picking the mannequin up by the crotch and groping her.

The host was told to ‘take a break’ from the program, so I watched the beginning of the first show back where this host was first absent. For a good chunk of the show’s beginning, the two remaining hosts admitted that the skit was inappropriate. The remainder of the opening was spent making up excuses for the particular host saying things like the host probably came back a little to early after recent surgery, he hasn’t been himself recently, he really needs a good break, etc. After the barrage of excuses, they guaranteed “It may be two weeks, three weeks, or four weeks, but he will be back! Have no doubts about that folks!” The crowd clapped and cheered. Please.

Can you tell me in what other arena is this behaviour acceptable (aside from Parliament)? Where else could you do this and not be charged for harassment? Is further evidence needed? I am confused, but in the same way it is very clear to me why we have such strengths and talents in harassment and bullying in our culture. Why wouldn’t we?

So I am amazed with how little is done about this. We can count on this being a significant part of our culture until radical changes take place. Some cultures are internationally recognised by their traditional dress, dance or cuisine. We, as a nation, are quickly becoming recognised for our acceptance (and encouragement) of abuse through bullying and harassment. Being abused this way seems to be as Australian as shrimps on a barby.

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