I’m sure it has happened to all of us, at least once in our lives.
You remember that time you got so caught up in that issue that all reason and rationality fell to its death at the behest of your heightened emotions.
You were so frantic with anxiety and emotion that anyone who disagreed with you (on a single point of contention) became relegated in your mind to the category of unsophisticated fool at best…or evil bigot at worst.
For no rational or logical reason, in one fell swoop, your world became simplified to two-dimensional, divided into camps of us and them.
People who may have been friends or colleagues for years, even family, were suddenly in the ‘them’ camp.
They were now enemies, but for what reason?
This has happened to me a few times lately on several social media platforms. Why?
Because I dared to think Izzy Folau did not deserve to lose his career.
Because I didn’t believe he had an irrational psychiatric fear or hatred of gay people (aka homophobia), and;
Because I thought he was within his moral and legal rights to ask for and accept voluntary assistance with his legal costs.
But also because I believe that fundamental freedoms like freedom of conscience and religion and speech were sacrosanct and vital for a healthy democracy.
So people who I’d known for years, even family and old boarding school mates, said I had become an ‘irrational hater’, a ‘religious nutter’ and ‘a bigot.’ (Anyone who know me, knows I’m absolutely none of those descriptors).
But let’s just step back a bit and gain some perspective. It is possible if you try hard – maybe squint if you can’t – to see both the forest and the trees, at the same time. It’s called perspective – and I think we’ve totally lost it!
We saw another prime example of this in the United States following the Presidential Election of Donald Trump. Many thousands of Democrats were so mad, so angry, so outraged that people had voted him in, that they lost their minds and gave away all perspective.
They said things publicly and posted statements on Facebook and Twitter they would later regret. They labelled those who voted for Trump (and there were lots of them) every horrible label imaginable. But they weren’t labelling a crazy minority but people they knew, people in every suburb and town, every state and city, every college and university, every church and workplace. Probably every wider family.
At some point, all reasonable people had to come down off their outrage cloud and admit to their family and colleagues and friends that they had gone too far and misspoken. They didn’t truly believe – though they might have at the time – that every single person who voted for Trump was an irrational sexist, an immoral racist, a hate-filled homophobe, a simpleton bigot.
Some Democrats found perspective in a few weeks.
Some took a few months.
Some we are still waiting for.
Just ask conservative African-American activist woman Candace Owens (@realCandaceO). People still label her a ‘white supremacist!’
Back in Australia, we have a similar loss of perspective.
In just a week, the powers that be at Rugby Australia (@RugbyAU), QANTAS (@Qantas)and GoFundMe conspired to create a perfect storm of publicity and make not just a small mountain out of a social media molehill but one of the country’s highest peaks! Rather than giving Israel Folau the benefit of the doubt and a wrap over the knuckles, suspending him for a few games and getting back to the business of winning Rugby games, they have unintentionally elevated him to the status of national hero of the common man. He has become the defender of basic freedoms for thousands at the grass-roots who feel they have been victims of the culture wars and whom the PC Brigade has tried to silence.
People from all manner of different cultural, religious, educational and socio-economic backgrounds, who hold to any traditional moral or conservative belief system – whether Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Aboriginal or Christian – now identify strongly with Folau and his cause. They have been told they should shut their mouth and ‘toe the line’ but instead have united behind the Folau banner to say “enough is enough”.
In the same way as what happened in the U.S., I’ve seen plenty of angry posts this week, openly labelling anyone who supports Israel Folau as a homophobe, a religious nutter, a hateful bigot and so forth. But people at the grassroots now feel empowered. The quiet Australians have spoken and their response to these labels has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Rather than doing what they’re told by Kochie (@kochie_online ) and his rabble of mainstream media commentators – ie to go sit down and shut up, they have come out in force with tens of thousands donating close to $2 million dollars in just 24 hours.
So what could or should we learn from all of this?
Perhaps that we have all fallen short and let our emotions get the better of us.
Perhaps that we’ve been too hasty in throwing ‘label’ grenades like ‘bigot’ and ‘hater’ at people who disagree with us.
Perhaps that we’ve judged or written off a former colleague or friend, based on nothing more than a silly thought they wrote on social media.
I am calling for us, as a nation, to step back and admit to our corporate loss of all perspective.
Let’s agree to the fact that people are people, all with differing opinions, informed by values and beliefs. And we have to share our world, our workplace, our university, maybe even our lounge room, with people we disagree with. Heck, even those people we disagree with on fundamental issues – like God or Heaven or Hell – are people just like us, even those who dared vote for Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) or support Izzy Folau (@IzzyFolau ).
Let’s be real people. They aren’t all haters or homophobes or bigots just because they support Folau. They are just people who believe different stuff.
So let’s check our emotions before we post. That way we can live and let live.
We can also seek healing for our community and reach out to those we disagree with.
Dean Troth is a quiet Australian, a proud Liberal, an avid humanitarian, a supporter of Israel Folau, and a digital strategist.
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