Observations: I am, You are
Or: on Melissa George and why nationalism sucks
One of the popular quotes that I hold dear to me and try to incorporate into my values comes from the German-American nuclear physicist Albert Einstein. You may remember him from such works as ‘e=mc2’. That phrase is as follows;
“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”
Not a popular sentiment among some circles, and one that would probably wind up a lynch mob in some countries (or some sections of my own!). By that I don’t believe Einstein meant you should hate where you live or where you’ve adopted as home, or that loving where you live is bad. It is instead a warning not to allow such love be used to control you, or to turn into hate for others.
We’ve seen it happen all too often; a huge chunk of the big hate movements were born out of misplaced ‘patriotism’. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, the Holocaust had its origins in a cult-like fervour of country and flag over everything else. That’s why I worry about it; because like Einstein I do not want to see it used to hurt people; like it was used to hurt Melissa George in recent days.
Melissa George, for those of you who aren’t Australian (or don’t keep up to date on such things) is an Australian actress who made some headway in the United States. She started her career on Home and Away, a popular soap opera here that’s seen as the launching pad for a lot of Australian actors. A few years ago after reaching success in international markets, she was interviewed by our local media, and she was asked about her time on Home and Away for the umpteenth time.
I need to stress, if you’re an actor from Australia and you were on Neighbours or Home And Away, you’re going to get this endlessly. This frustrated her, and out of exasperation, she lashed out. Some quotes from the ‘meltdown’ include;
“I don’t need credibility from my country any more, I just need them all to be quiet”
“I’ve never spoken out about it before because I have to be the loyal good Aussie, who goes away and comes home”
“My next call will be to Home and Away to ask them to pay me because nobody does more promotion for that f…ing show than me“
Yes, those words are cutting, and they do come across as ungrateful, but you have to put them in context. Melissa George’s worked for a long time to make something of her career on the international stage, and whenever she spoke to the Australian media, it was Home and Away this, Angel Parrish that. That’s going to get annoying. Did she handle it well? No, but to be honest, I’ve said worse. I’ve called a fair chunk of my countrymen idiots, usually when I’m angry at the latest atrocity up at Manus Island or the latest assault on gay marriage or poor people. Emotion does that to people.
Flash forward a few years, and Melissa has opened up to our media again about a horrible situation she’s found herself in. She alleges (and it seems pretty damning to be honest) that her ex-husband in France assaulted her to the point of serious injury. Most people would get well clear of that situation, but she can’t leave France, because her children are there and her ex-husband is fighting any kind of attempt to leave with the children. She can’t leave them, so she feels trapped. Out of desperation in an interview she asks Australia for help. That was when the vitriol came flying in. Here’s just a few examples plucked from Facebook;
“I don’t agree with the violence but she turned her back on Australia do you think anyone from Australia care about you after you shut out the people who helped you to get to where you are”
“Oh!! She wants our sympathy. I remember the hissy fit she had over nothing when she was being interviewed and home and away was mentioned. Got up stormed out like a spoilt brat. There’s always two sides to the story !!!”
“She mocked Australia and wanted to be all frenchy, so how’s that working out for her? Not so good.”
So let me get this straight; we are a country who has unreservedly taken a stance that violence against women is not on, that nobody deserves to be beaten, abused and living in fear, and that we look after our own, yet when somebody says something unflattering about their homeland, that goes out the window? All rights a person has to safety are forfeit when they say ‘god I wish people would get over my time on Australian TV?’. If that’s honestly the bar we as a nation want to set, then maybe we deserve to have people ‘turn their back on us’.
As an Australian citizen myself; who cares what she said? That’s one of our people and she’s in distress. We should help her; and if we can’t do that then we should at least have the basic decency not to mock and laugh at her horrible situation. I have no doubt she’s seen what was said and I have no doubt she was wounded deeply by it. Who wouldn’t be if you opened Facebook and saw someone ridiculing your darkest, most horrifying moments?
Let me be clear. I don’t care what Melissa George said about Australia. I don’t care if she burned the damned flag while tagging up the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the words ‘BANJO PATTERSON WAS A LOSER’; nobody deserves to go through that and for us to mock it is barbaric. You can’t even play the ‘oh we don’t know if it really happened’ card because everyone who made their own ‘na na that’s what you get’ taunts have accepted that it happened in order to mock it.
The funny thing is that the people scrabbling to defend home and country from an act of high treason from a renegade thespian are themselves sullying and insulting their country. They insult it with their venom and vitriol. When they say ‘I have no empathy for you because you said something bad about Australia’ on the web, they are actively portraying Australia in a bad light to the world. When they say ‘you bit the hand of Home and Away, why should we help you now, sucked in’, they are directly desecrating the values which our nation represents. In their rush of nationalistic fervour, they wound Australia and Australians more than any unflattering actor ever could.
It seems to me that people are quick to wave a flag around as something to rally around and distinguish themselves from others with, but any idiot can do that. To reflect upon the values on which your country was founded; the fair go, boundless plains to share, safety and freedom for all, being ‘the lucky country, and actively working as hard as you can to espouse those values, however?
That’s a much harder task, but in my view, a far, far more admirable one.
Something to reflect upon.