|Love not war: "The thing I can't stand about you, mate, is you're always so bloody cheerful." - Frank to Archy, Gallipoli|
No surprise to hear, for example, that our Prime Minister does not wish to keep the company of one Alan Jones. If he calls, she's not home.
But we'd be wise to refrain from grandstanding. How many of us have said, whether in or out of school (Jones, notably, was at a dinner meeting of the Young Liberals when he deemed it suitable to make his shame claim), something we lived to regret?
How soon we forget ourselves, when in the company of those we wish to entertain, or to score points (hello, presidential election) when what is truly called for is a little restraint. Pride and ego so often get in the way of doing the good and respectable thing, don't they?
The family, or any group setting, can teach us so much about interacting with others – marriage alone can teach a person a lot about the need for respect, a healthy sense of humour and grace for mistakes. In short, empathy for fellow man's fallen state.
When we permit ourselves a little leave-of-conscience, and strike a particularly low blow, it inevitably comes back to bite us. I've been there, perhaps you have, too? And in the world of social media, it's a trending theme that is, thankfully, meeting with some resistance.
In the latest edition of WHITE magazine, the brilliant Choe Brereton describes a situation between friends in which there is friction.
"Insults, even petty ones, cumulatively breed a type of neglect that dissolves trust. I call it neglect because the very use of tactless language fails, in particular, to consider another's emotions, worth and confidence in you."
The reasoning behind this mud-slinging behaviour? "I hate being made to feel small," says Brereton.
Pride – blasted source of all evil!
How much of society's woes might be attributable to our desire to be seen, to be loved, to be heard, to be respected, to be right, to be the king of the world? And how much damage is done in the process because love, not selfishness, is the route to social cohesion and good relational wellbeing?
Is is all very Australian, this devilish, muckraking behaviour, from the slanging that occurs on the cricket pitch to the parliamentary floor, behind Young Liberals doors and now social media.
We never miss an opportunity to put a pin to a big head. This part of our character flourished on the war fields when the British dared to talk down their Digger counterparts.
"These "gentlemen," presumably because their asses are higher from the ground that ours, tend to assume airs of superiority," said Sargeant Sayers to his men in Gallipoli.
"But, they won't have their horses with them today, so I want you to go out there this morning, and short of actually killing them, show them the stuff the infantry is MADE OF!"
On that note, as an aside, did you know that the phrase going "to the top of the Wazir" derives its meaning, of doing something to excess, from a troop riot in the red light district Cairo on Good Friday 1915, over the prices being charged by prostitutes and the rumour that they were intentionally infecting the men with sexually transmitted diseases?
Wikipedia says it is so under the page titled 'Digger Slang'.
But blanket acceptance of a part of our culture that perhaps could do with some spit and polish is cause for reflection. At the risk of hampering our blessed freedom of speech and Ned Kelly-esque national character, there is also civility to consider. We all have to occupy this space together, after all.
In this sense, making an example of people like Jones can be helpful. It tells us something about ourselves and gives us pause to reflect on our behaviour.
No matter your thoughts on her politics, a Prime Minister commands respect because of his or her position. Our current Prime Minister's role came via the usurping of the caucus over the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, but it is her role now, nonetheless.
The same might be said for the home. Respect for parents and respect for one's spouse ultimately lead to cohesion, though often we find ourselves dancing in the realm of conditional love: I will love you when you...
a) Stop behaving this way
b) Start behaving that way
c) Start treating me this way
d) Stop treating me that way
"Dealing with what we say and how we say it is undoubtedly a question of practice – and of respect," writes Brereton.
"You love them, so identify the triggers that get you talking crass like a crabby 14-year-old and find a way to let the temptation pass. Grab the proverbial boot...and stick it on the other foot! Pause. Think. Walk away if you must. Make it a choice not to buckle to words you may later regret, or to leave the one you love feeling insignificant and withdrawn."
In our quest to feel more significant, we too readily belittle the other. This always creates what Winnie the Pooh would call a lot of "bother". So, in an effort to raise the National Standard of Discourse, some reflection on why we feel a certain way about others, or why we feel the need to demean them, is par for the course.
Calling a member of parliament past or present an "unflushable turd", as noted by The Australian and attributable to one Mark Latham, just won't do, will it, Winne the Pooh? Is this a sign of our national immaturity levels?
A little tenderness goes along way; empathy, having a clue that someone else is not exactly like you and that their own history examined might reveal something behind their own motivation, politics and thinking.
Though there will always be people who are unkindly and rude and crude, this behaviour would be the exact opposite of love as described by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians and referred to so often in wedding settings:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
I must confess, I don't always adhere to these basic principles of love, especially when making excuses such as tiredness for myself, but I am always humbled when I venture against them. The proud are always humbled – humiliation follows on egotism's tails.
Thankfully, true love always forgives and always prevails.
Girl With a Satchel