A highly-paid athletics coach publicly criticises a highly paid athlete, in the midst of our wealthy country’s medal spree at the Commonwealth Game.
Massive media space is devoted to expressions of outrage and an attempt to understand how this could happen.
The coach, Eric Hollingsworth, is ‘stripped’ of his Commonwealth Games credentials and stood down from his role which is now described as untenable. The athlete, champion hurdler Sally Pearson, has received widespread support and will continue to compete at the Games.
No one was oppressed, no one lost their home, no one was killed, although Hollingsworth is being sent home in disgrace so must be feeling life is pretty bleak.
At the end of the day, it is a sporting drama which serves to distract us from the more chilling public shaming and marking occurring in the Middle East, in particular in the major Iraqi city of Mosul.
‘N’ for Nasrani
Some may think it is outrageous to link these seemingly unrelated events – Commonwealth Games spat and terrorist genocide – and yet the issues have jostled with each other for public attention, sharing page space and news feeds and pubic interest. They share the common theme, although of different scale, of those in power publicly ‘marking’ others in their charge and this is enough of a parallel for me.
In Mosul, Christian communities that have been in place continually for 1600 years are now being decimated, their houses marked by the new ‘Islamic State’ with the equivalent of N for Nasrani or Nassarah, the local word for Christian.
The ABC reports:
‘Islamic State militants gave the Christians until July 18 to convert to Islam, pay a special tax, leave, or, in the words of a statement by the extremists, they would have “nothing but the sword”.
Then on July 18 they changed their mind. All Christians were told by loudspeaker that they all had to leave by the next day – or be killed.
They spray-painted the doors of Christian homes with a red Arabic letter ‘N’, which stands for ‘Nassarah’, meaning Christian.’
And a Mosul Christian writes:
‘I can’t believe what’s happening now. And it’s all happening all so fast. 2,000 years of Christian history and presence is being destroyed. I am confused and sad.’
Australians are a peaceful people, by and large, and one reason for this is that we know how to enjoy ourselves, to be passionate about sport, family and the great outdoors and otherwise to live and let live. We have been used to being a long way from the ancient feuds (or conveniently ignore those on our doorstep) that today are still wreaking havoc and destroying lives not unlike our own.
The people in Mosul or Gaza or Israel or Libya or Sudan or Ukraine would no doubt prefer to join us in complaining about the performance of their coaches and sporting teams instead of fleeing for their lives or taking up arms
Let’s hope we can maintain our national good will towards one another while being realistic and effective in our interactions on the world stage. Let’s talk until we are blue in the face about our favourite football team but also pray and act for good in the world.
And let us hold fast to gratefulness and a sense of responsibility to be a good neighbour – where ever that might be.
Oh, and let’s all think before we speak. Good one, Eric…