Thursday 23 May 2013
I’m writing this after being deeply moved by the people of Regents Park, Sydney who made up the audience of the Gillard Government Community Cabinet meeting last night.
I ought to be studying… and I guess, in a way I AM. Studying people – a lifelong habit after many hours of acting classes in the late 50s with the incomparable Wal Cherry.
What struck me last night was the difference between the way questions were both framed and asked in this meeting as opposed to some of the questions in other shows on TV such as… well yes… QandA. The questions came across as questions that people genuinely wanted answered – rather than, as is sometimes the case, demonstrating the unique wit of the questioner or a gotcha-trap for a brief moment of television notoriety.
The answer to why this difference was so apparent came to me before the question bubbled to the surface of my consciousness. And it came in just two words… respect and humility.
Respect! Where HAVE you been in the lead up to this election?
Well – there it was last night in the hall of the Regents Park Christian School for all to witness. I was taken aback. Respect is not something I’ve grown accustomed to seeing of late – particularly for the office of Prime Minister, let alone the Prime Minister herself – both from sections of our politicians, broadcasters and journalists to members of the general public. This is not hard to understand when one sees the influence from a Print and TV Media monopoly that is, itself devoid of any respect for our democracy and would choose to tell us who the next incumbents should be. Whether we personally like or dislike the person holding the office of Prime Minister, we cannot allow it to affect the respect we have for that office or our democratic system that ultimately chooses who shall hold it.
You could argue that the audience last night was hand-picked to be positive and receptive to the Government but I defy anyone to tell me that that necessarily guarantees respect. Respect was there however, beautifully obvious – often manifesting itself simply by the addressing of Julia Gillard as ‘Prime Minister’.
And then of course, there was the humility.
Humility! Funny word isn’t it. So close to ‘humiliation’ yet couldn’t be further from its meaning. But it was there too and quite evident from everyone involved.
My Dad taught me about humility. Raised in abject poverty as a child then rescued by family into extreme wealth, this set the scene for him to have a well-balanced view of the world and its people. He was intelligent enough to go to University and study dentistry; athletic enough to be a Country Regional Champion in many sports and raise a son (my brother) to reach Olympic standards – but overwhelmingly he was a ‘people person’ with a perfectly simple understanding of who he was. He could relate to the poorest in the socio-economic scale or the wealthiest from the Toorak suburb of Melbourne but as far as I could ever tell, not once did he deviate from his firm opinion that humility was the key to being a worthwhile human being.
Not so much do I see this in many parts of society today that still cling to the idea of entitlement; the idea that being born into a position of wealth is the measurement of your quality, giving you a natural superiority and right to the largest slice of the pie whether you own it or not.
And what comes with this sense of entitlement? Far too often we see deluded, raised-in-wealth-or-privilege souls become impoverished of a sense of human decency and kindness. Utterly divorced from the reality of other people’s lives and needs, they use a tactic of ‘Aspirational Taunting’ early in life – a ‘look at me, you could be as important and useful a human being as I am if you follow me and do as I say’ to accompany much of what they do. And this in many ways is the first step to bullying – a subject I am as qualified to discuss as the next person who has ever been a victim.
Look at the prevailing attitude by so many to refugees/Asylum Seekers – fellow human beings often terrified, traumatised, homeless, bereft of all human comfort or reward.
Look at the attitude to disability, poverty, inequity, difference and see how much humility or respect you can find in any argument from those of the ‘elite’ of society (influencing their would-be followers ) who choose to use their wealth as their hallmark of quality. Sadly you will more likely see and hear contempt or apathy or superiority as the privileged foot comes down on the neck of deprivation.
Well – I for one was moved to tears last night and the tears removed the scales from my vision. Maybe, just maybe – a sense of decency towards our fellow human beings is making its way back. Maybe, just maybe more of us are starting to see that our successful future lies within the sharing of our wealth and power and expertise with our children and future generations; ensuring that they receive the best education this country can give them; the greatest health and technology support systems we can devise and a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of natural resources (apart from the children themselves) we have in our midst.
And maybe, just maybe we’re also seeing how much more powerful it is - and how much more it contributes to our society - to be a compassionate, respectful individual, than one full of privilege with little respect, humility or understanding of the true worth of human life.
Politicians of all persuasions trying to win the September 2013 Election would be well advised to take heed of the humility they saw on display last night.