An Age of Influence

kindOn the weekend two of my sons had a bit of biff baff. I didn’t know. It is not unusual for brothers to come to blows. Young kids can have a bit of argy-bargy. Except my sons are not little, they are grown men.

I didn’t know. Being Deaf I am oblivious to what is happening in the rest of the house. I was in the backroom watching After Life with Ricky Gervais. I was having a little chuckle as Ricky threatened an 8-year-old with a hammer if he should so much as touch his godson again. Then one of my sons came storming in, red-faced and puffing.

“Why are you puffing?”

“He is a maniac”

“Who?”

“They are my friends not his”

“What, what, what you on about?”

“He tried to hit me, he is nuts!”

After about 10 minutes conversing in this vain I pieced together the puzzle. The short story was one was playing Playstation online. The other did not like it, because it was with his friends. One said, “They like me better…” The other didn’t like that and tried to forcibly turn off the Playstation. Then BOOOOOOOOOOM – the biff baff started. Somewhere along the line one screamed – “You do that again and I will put you in the ground.” I deciphered all this, eventually, while at the same time trying to keep the peace.

This bout of brotherly love bothered me. It made me question myself as a parent. What have I done that makes this sort of behaviour remotely possible? I get angry sometimes and swear. I can be aggressive at sport. Throw tantrums at golf. I am far from the perfect being. But I am not violent towards others. I don’t punch people. I certainly don’t threaten to, “Put them in the ground.”

Nevertheless I realised that certain elements of my behaviour would have influenced my lads. I can be loud, I can swear and I can punch things (not people) when frustrated. I recognised that a little of the hot headedness in them comes from me. I needed to take responsibility for that.

It was a weekend of violence. Over in New Zealand a crazed Australian gunman shot dead 50 people and critically injured just as many. The world is in shock at this terrible act of violence and needless loss of life. The gunman was a white supremacist. His target was Muslims and at their place of worship.

At the place they probably felt most safe he shot them. He shot them knowing full well they would be sitting ducks. It was a senseless and incomprehensible tragedy.

In the wake of all this an Australian politician, Senator Fraser Anning, blamed Muslims for their own death. He said if we had not let them immigrate in the first place none of the deaths would happen. He basically said “You came here, so it’s your fault!”

Unsurprisingly this caused uproar. There were  calls to remove Anning from parliament. A petition was circulated on Social Media calling for his removal. It, apparently, received in excess of 1 million signatures. Politicicians came out of the wood work to condemn the attacks. Many of these politicians, including our Prime Minister, had previously expressed anti-Muslim propaganda themselves. Let us look at some of the things that they have said.

  • In 2011, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, February 17, 2011 – Scott Morrison, our now Prime Minister, urged his party to capitalise on the electorates growing concerns about Muslim immigration and the inability of Muslim migrants to integrate,”
  • On Wednesday 3 January, 2018, Peter Dutton claimed that Victorians are scared to go out to restaurants  because of African Gang Violence.
  • Phil Coorey writing in the Financial review quotes ex Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, defending people’s rights to be anti-Muslim. Abbott is alleged to have said, ” Islamaphobia, unlike terrorism, never killed anybody. (People in New Zealand would beg to differ.)
  • SBS News, 23 March 2017, Pauline Hanson calls to ban the Muslim faith altogether.
  • The last word to Dutton,  22 November 2016, ABC news claims Dutton said ex Prime Minister Fraser made a mistake by letting in Lebanese Muslim migrants in the 70s.

Let’s not forget Sco Mo claiming that migrants are responsible for the congestion in Australia’s major cities. Not poor planning, just too many migrants.

Just yesterday David Koch on Sunrise attacked Pauline Hanson for her anti-Muslim propaganda. He virtually blamed her for the rise of hate speech and white supremacist. True, but Sunrise for many years have allowed Hanson to spout her bile. I don’t see them taking any responsibility.

And that’s the thing. Politicians and the media have to take responsibility for promoting the very propaganda that fueled the views of this deranged man who cold bloodedly murdered Muslims in New Zealand. If I can accept that my actions contributed to my sons behaviours, then our politicians and our media have to accept their role in these murders. Including Koch, who was more than happy to share a TV screen with Hanson for many years. He can hardly blame her for all of it.

Consider this. New Matilda, March 3 2018, claims that Murdoch Newspapers printed 2891 stories trashing Islam in a single year. And if it is not the trashing of Islam it is the white privilege bias. The picture below is from a British newspaper but it could well be an Australian Murdoch press.

On the one hand the white man who killed people in New Zealand was once an angelic little boy. On the other hand a Muslim responsible for the same kind of atrocity in a gay night club is somehow an ISIS maniac. Just born that way, you see. By virtue of being a Muslim. Yes, the media  have a lot to answer for.

Which brings us to Egg Boy. He is the guy that smashed an egg over Fraser Anning’s head. He is just 17 year old and who for his trouble copped a punch or two from Anning and was more or less beaten up by Anning’s minders.

Egg Boy has become an overnight sensation. Every one loves him and Social Media is in overdrive encouraging people to egg Anning just as he did. Egg Boy is even so much of a sensation that he has made Washington Post and late night TV all over the world. He is also quite astute and had this to say,

” Let me inform you guys, Muslims are not Terrorists and Terrorism has no religion. All those that consider Muslims a Terrorist community have empty heads like Anning.”

So Egg Boy is a hero. But should he be? Well no, in my view he shouldn’t be. While I can empathise with his views, addressing violence with violence is never the answer. Yes, smashing an egg over Anning’s head is violence. If we have learnt anything over the last few days it is that violence leads to tragedy. We should not condone it in any form. No matter how strong our feelings are about Anning.

So I wont be joining the Egg Campaign. I certainly won’t  be encouraging others to egg Anning, or anyone for that matters. I am certainly going to be more aware of the language I use. For example, I called Ableist people swine (pigs) in a recent post. Violence is in many forms, physical and verbal. I have to acknowledge that I am also guilty of that.

My take from all of this is that we all of have more influence than we care to acknowledge. It’s fine for us to blame politicians and the media but we are now part of the media itself. Through Social Media we have the ability to influence and even be complicit in violence against others. A violent photo. A sexist meme. Racist comments. All of these influence others, probably just as much as Murdoch’s 2891 anti-Islam stories.

We can change this, simply by modelling and doing the right thing. Be kind to each other, because this is the age of influence.

” Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napoleon Hill, American Author

 

 

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