March 27, 2014

Guest contributions

So you’ve just turned on the TV. You aren’t really looking for anything in particular but the screen flickers to life and WHAM. Your eyes and ears are immediately assaulted with screams and cries and 36 huge burly figures throwing themselves at each other in a berserker frenzy. Is it some awful traumatising horror movie? Nah, it’s just the footy, on like it is almost every other Saturday night of the year. It’s a tough, brutal sport that creates tension in families and rifts between community members; which puts young boys on a pedestal and tries to mould them to fit society’s expectations; that creates an increasingly violent culture that isn’t tempered by, but rather is reflected in the attitudes and actions of many of these boys’ parents.

And don’t we just love it?

See, the worst thing about this sport (and most other sports across the country) is that our government seems to love it, too. At least, they must do, or else why would they invest so much money in it? It has to be worth something to them if they choose to put so much into its funding when that money could be going towards the education of our children, the homeless on our streets, the overflowing hospitals. Hospitals, mind you, that are the reason many AFL players can take a beating and still recover and play the sport they have been taught to love. You see a huge number of commercials on the telly announcing the upcoming “game of the season” (every week, somehow) and yet the long line of sick and injured people waiting for treatment goes unnoticed, unadvertised. Hospitals are struggling to get even the patients in their emergency departments into a bed, let alone the treatment they need – over 2012/13, only WA met their emergency access targets, while NSW, Victoria and NT fell far behind.  There always seems to be enough ad space for trivial matters, including the latest all-new ultra-fabulous hair product, the newest deep-fried 100% delicious treat from your nearest take-away store, and – even though you may not agree on it being trivial – the adrenaline-charged “get-outta-my-way” sport that is the footy. Nobody wants to hear about some small-town school going under because they can’t keep enough teachers to staff the entire establishment. Bo-ring. Watching sickly people plead for your help would be disgusting. And those homeless people would look just awful on the big screen.                 

The facts are, the Australian government spends $120 million a year on sports, and since 2000 have paid or have set aside over $2 billion for the construction of sporting stadiums alone. Yes, it also spends $64.6 billion annually on public health, but it is falling behind on its commitments to hospital funding, making it increasingly difficult for these hospitals to provide their vital services – and apparently this situation is only going to get worse, with the current Federal Government now planning to spend about $400 million less on public hospitals*.  Australia spends 13.3 percent of its budget on education and only 9.3 per cent of the GDP on health, whereas countries such as Canada – our North American equivalent if you will – spend over 12 per cent*. But hey, when it comes to our sport, do we really care?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have created ourselves a monster. It’s huge, it’s violent, it gets what it wants and it wants action. It pushes the smaller, more insignificant matters to the side as it strides through life, revelling in the pain and drama around it. This is how it was taught to live by its predecessors, and over the ages its kind has just been getting bigger, stronger, more bloodthirsty. But this isn’t some wild beast or fantastical creature.

It’s us.

We have become a savage monstrosity, developed over generations, always hungering, thirsting for more drama, more chaos, more excitement. As long as it’s on the TV, of course. Despair and destruction are excellent sources of entertainment but if it gets to be too much – we just switch it off

Maybe this is why we don’t care so much that the government spends so little money on the real miseries and real woes being suffered by real people. Maybe we think it’s all made up, an idea born in somebody’s head. That the patients, the teachers, the homeless are all actors, paid to pretend to suffer. But then again, if they actually got paid to act out these fake lives, we wouldn’t have a problem.

– Kelson Hunter

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