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Jul 3, 2014

Razer's Class Warfare: pissing in one's mouth is a traditional value

We should quit expecting the unlikely convergence of great talent with great moral courage. Plus, what's so wrong with bubbling?

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Well. Slap my arse with a papal tiara and call me Francis, a rugby league footballer has brought “the game into disrepute”. Who’d have thought a young five-eighth would behave like a young five-eighth? Not officials of the nation’s most indelicate code, who have made like the board of a lawn bowls club who’d just seen a senior player take a dump on the green.

Two things.

First, and briefly, fuck off, Lord Muck.

Ours is an unseemly nation, and yours is an unseemly game. I know this as (a) we are transgressive twits largely descended from criminals, and (b) I grew up in Raiders territory and at my League-mad school, the sight of men, and some women, playing with their metabolic waste was hardly uncommon. I can make no argument in support of sport like Soggy Sao, but I do know that this and other ritualised excretion occur across classes and codes in Australia. Later, the rectors of colleges at my university were powerless, or possibly unwilling, to stop the time-honoured spoodge-play of their rugby union-playing undergrads.

I am unlikely to be the first this week to suggest such pastimes are traditional. In fact, I recall the acolytes of Saints Andrew and Paul at Sydney University making the case years ago for custom. We’ve always done it, therefore we should continue to do it. This, of course, is no defence for vulgar, if victimless, acts, but it is evidence they occur — are often applauded and sometimes demanded of powerful men.

The NRL can put on the dog all it wants about its “respectable” game, but anybody who went to a bad high school or a good university or ever saw a hulking front row knows that weeing on oneself is neither a mark nor a disavowal of respectability. It’s just something gross some blokes do.

To chastise a footballer for a private, victimless act at the trough when it is just this sort of ritual that emboldens him to play like a bull on the public paddock is a hypocrisy we can no longer even call piss-weak. The pearl-clutching of the NRL and others is a farce.

“Any nation that pretends to look to sporting heroes for ‘role models’ is surely pissing in its own mouth.”

Second, less briefly, fuck off with the “role model” argument.

Why should footballers be considered role models or models for any behaviour other than that executed on field? That they serve as an example to Australians outside the scrum is, in any case, in doubt. Any nation that pretends to look to sporting heroes for “role models” is surely pissing in its own mouth.

Yesterday’s dreary editorial in The Sydney Morning Herald half gets this idea about our poor cultural nutrition. We must appoint better role models, says the storied newspaper. Apparently, we should aspire to be more like an astrophysicist or possibly Patrick White. Patrick White? Sure, he was one of the greatest exponents of tedious modernism in English language fiction, but he’s no role model. White was a cranky, high-born tool who championed political conservatism for the first 60 years of his life. And, if Twitter had been around in his lifetime, we can be sure there would many more flaws in the glass than the great writer ever chose to make tastefully evident.

Perhaps the point is not to select better role models than a footballer but to abandon the notion altogether, and possibly to accept that public identities were never as forcefully influential as they have lately become thanks to a media class that demands them. At the very least, we should certainly quit expecting the unlikely convergence of great talent with great moral courage. Einstein was a prick. Come on. The work or the feats we admire are not necessarily accomplished by admirable people, and to demand that an artist or scientist be as good as his output is hopeful at best.

At worst, it is dangerous. While Daring to Dream is now an accepted pastime, it is also an Oprahfied false consciousness. Like everything else “aspirational”, the Dream propels us into a nightmare of paralysis. If we all Believe We Can Achieve, we tend not to challenge those broad social circumstances that will actively prevent our achievement. You know. Sometimes the only thing holding you back is not you.

But that’s just my university Marxism talking. The real concern today is the disingenuous turd crapped out by the NRL on “values and standards” and “positive outcomes”, which reveals our national delusion not only that a fundamentally brutal game can, or should, be sprayed with a corporate Air Wick, but that we and our children are so horribly stupid that we look to footballers, or modernist authors, for “inspiration”.

Sport has its inspiring moments, of course. Nicky Winmar gesturing to the skin beneath his St Kilda jumper. The 1968 Olympics Black Power salute. Cathy Freeman marking victory with the Aboriginal flag. Billy Jean King trouncing that old fuck Bobby Riggs at the Battle of the Sexes tennis match. But these incidents serve to illustrate a moment of cultural synthesis. These moments serve history, not the reputation of the athlete. Freeman made her reputation on the track. This self-effacing woman could have enjoyed being a “role model” in the bloated Bradman style, but instead went on to provide practical assistance to the children of Palm Island. Why settle for inspiration when you can actively improve literacy to disadvantaged students?

But the media class has done a bang-up job of convincing itself and the rest of us that “inspiration” counts for a lot, that lives are transformed by good behaviour and ruined by a bad bubbling. In fact, the only life that has been demeaned by the Piss Carney portrait is Carney’s, and the only lives improved are those of idiots writing stupid editorials about how we should all read Voss.

Perhaps the writer has forgotten the postcolonial novel that gives us a clueless white foreigner bumbling around a nation from which he is so pompously alienated, it kills him. If Voss had actually looked, he might have learned something about the persistent darkness of a wantonly ahistorical country that deludes itself it is illuminated. In this case, by the light of its “role models”.

But Voss, who never stopped to drink his own piss, died in the desert. And personally, I can’t wait for a deluded national conversation that has “role models” at its centre instead of courageous exploration of the unmapped darkness to meet the same fate.

Helen Razer — Writer and Broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and Broadcaster

Helen Razer is a writer and broadcaster whose work has appeared in The Saturday Paper, SBS Online, The Big Issue, and Frankie. She has previously worked as a columnist for The Age and The Australian.

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27 comments

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27 thoughts on “Razer’s Class Warfare: pissing in one’s mouth is a traditional value

  1. Grumpy Typewriter

    For the record, this incident – while disgusting but hey, whatever floats your boat – has absolutely zero affect on me, or as Helen points out, anyone else for that matter. The fact is I don’t consider it newsworthy and it shouldn’t have been reported in the first place.

    I have long had a problem with the media holding up celebrities from any genre as role models, and holding them to a higher moral code than the rest of us. Frankly, they’re not that special, they’re just people. Even as a kid I didn’t have, nor really seek out role models as such – I could never see the point. There were bands and musicians I liked but I never went as far as to call them role models.

    As for today’s celebrities/role models be they sporting, acting, or media-whoring-socialites (the worst of all), I like them best when I don’t know anything else about them except for what they originally known for. They are adults living in our westernised society. Frankly, I would be more surprised if they didn’t go out, get drunk and try and to pull a root at a nightclub, but that doesn’t mean I have to, or want to know about it. And it shouldn’t diminish what they are originally (apparently) lauded for. If pre-celebrity, these previously regular people liked to go out on the piss with their mates, why is this behaviour suddenly open to public scrutiny? [I know, in a world like this paparazzi and the industry they serve would cease to exist – it’s never going to happen.] While I’m at it, I’m not saying they’re exempt from obeying the law like the rest of us either, they’re not. It’s all about equality.

    And on a related point, larrikinism as we knew it is dying or already dead, which as a country was something we previously loved and identified with. I blame the meteoric rise of social media (we don’t need to instantly know *everything*), along with the stupid large sums of money paid to people for “skills” which I frequently wouldn’t say are worthy of such obscene financial reward. It shits me that this means everything is becoming so politically correct for fear of offending, which invariably is then linked back to protecting their ridiculously large income. I almost pity people who will look back to the early 2000s as the good ol’ days because they’ll be so heavily sanitised.

    The real shame of the Carney story is twofold: that the public saw it in the first place – sure, it was stupid behaviour but it didn’t actually affect anyone else; but the biggest shame is being betrayed by his mate who leaked the photo. Not cool.

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