Yesterday, the coverage of Cyclone Debbie was stopped cold by the arrest of Ben Cousins. In that short moment, we got a larger glimpse at what makes us tick, and it’s time for us to grow up.
The momentary closure of the Ben Cousins story yesterday revealed something telling about this country of ours. Not in the general vibe of the Twittersphere, which visited both the polar opposites of castigation and commiseration, and not in the reported stories, each varying from clickbait to honourable writers lending the path of Cousins to that of Grecian gods, loosing metaphor from the pages of ancient text the vast majority (myself included) has barely read.
No, Australia’s Odyssey is something different, and it directly stems from which topic got more attention.
The tropical coast potentially shelled by a volcanic clusterfuckery of water and wind, and the possibilities of homelessness and perhaps death, were pushed aside by one man yesterday. Yes, it’s obvious Ben Cousins needs help, but it could be argued that those who were waiting to administer it had perhaps their intentions usurped by their need for him to strike the floor first. For many, yesterday was a validation of talent wasted. A better full-stop there could not be than the sound of the gaoler’s key. But, that’s not the issue here. The issue seems to be that it was Ben Cousins who stopped Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
Let us strip this down to the most basic of binary. In Australia, the trials of an individual sportsperson are bigger than a cyclone this big:
Yes, Ben Cousins is, to use the collective parlance, a dickhead. But, I question those who say so. Not for their reasoning but rather their number. I realise that Australia is a sporting country, but I’d also like to say we’re bigger than that. I, for one, love sports. I’m a sports guy. I wish death upon my Queensland friends once a year, I experience seasonal disappointment across many forms, and I hurl barbs at those who bag whatever flag, plate or toilet seat we miss out on. I understand sport acts as a route to escape our dour, unfulfilling lives. It’s why we fill the back of our bumpers with stickers purporting membership to support rodents; it’s why we memorise 1940’s fight songs, sung in regaled half-stung gusto when a Swan overcomes Adelaide’s largest commercial zone. It’s fun, and I for one, can’t wait for said this weekend. My problem resides in the rest of the week, and my problem resides with the nation giving the sentencing of Cousins so much currency.
I’m yelling at you, partially to yell at myself. I’ve long subscribed to the theory that the Test Cricket Captain is the second most important job in Australia, and those who represent us in pursuit represent the best of us, worthy indeed of our utmost respect, and a judicial application of complimentary lager if our paths were ever to meet. But no. I feel that we’re now adult enough to shift our loving eyes elsewhere.
The tropical coast potentially shelled by a volcanic clusterfuckery of water and wind, and the possibilities of homelessness and perhaps death, were pushed aside by one man yesterday. It was Ben Cousins who stopped Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
For example, on Saturday, a piece was published which slipped through the cracks and grabbed my attention. It quickly retold the story of Professor Ian Frazer. Yes, I can feel your eyes rolling from here but nevertheless, Frazier is an immunologist, whose discovery of the cervical cancer vaccine was one of hard work and, by his own admission, luck, stating that: “I just happened to be in the right lab in Melbourne, with the right people around me and the right prompt.”
It has been ten years since his discovery, and I hadn’t heard about him. I didn’t know he was an Australian, and I didn’t even know there was a vaccine for cervical cancer. But that, in itself is the issue. I could tell you the performance of the Socceroos over the last decade, but I couldn’t tell you how Frazer’s discovery works.
No, I don’t have a cervix, but many people I love do. And I know who I’d rather share ale with.
So it goes with the unheralded Australian genius, or indeed back to those stuck in the path of a tropical cyclone.
The ease of which our attention is pulled towards figures like Cousins is an equation to be solved, for as it stands, the person who spends this morning in gaol isn’t Ben Cousins, it’s all of us.