Not what to think, but how to think

G’day Sportsfans

I must say that the one conclusion I draw with any confidence, from this whole booing affair, is that the past days have not been good for the island continent on which we find ourselves. I feel that public discourse has demonstrated, yet again, that those most qualified to lead us through the complexities of the issue are not necessarily the ones with access to the reach which is required to have an impact.

I am also looking forward to hearing a player’s perspective when we lunch with Luke Ablett tomorrow (July 31). Details here – all welcome.

On this rather complex issue, I’m not even looking for guidance in what to think. I’d like to go back a step and seek help in how to think in relation to this issue.

Like all of us, our Almanac contributors are trying to make sense of it all, and hopefully they have retained the spirit of inquiry, and open, respectful discussion. Geordie McMillan, Damien Little, Jan Courtin, Josh Pinn, David Zita, Lachie Gaylard and others have offered their insights and the comments and conversations which follow their articles are thought-provoking.

I innocently posted a short request about the day’s goings on late the other night, having been caught in the isolation necessary for me to write (apologies if I have been tardy on email and other matters this week). Thanks to those who commented and sent links to that post. I have since looked around various media outlets, and a few minutes listening to talkback callers brings a weight which I don’t like to carry. Imagine what it brings to Adam Goodes and those of you in the Indigenous community.

In attempting to think about this issue I try to segment it – because there are so many lenses through which to look. But before I even approach this as an intellectual challenge, what of the absence of compassion in this, and the absence of the spirit of humility and smallness, and of community?

Here’s a few lenses:

Lens of history
Lens of so-called ‘racial politics’
Lens of the realpolitik faced daily by Indigenous leaders  (and the leaders of other marginalized communities) – what a dilemma realpolitik creates for a justice-seeker
Lens of media commerce (There’s eyeballs in this, and News Ltd is no shrinking violet, but also consider who owns the Age, SMH, Canberra Times and 3AW, 2UE, 4BC, 6PR, and then consider the commercial benefit of a tension established between the two audiences – where is the leadership?)
Lens of media politics and skewed representation – how many of us receive the majority of our information and opinion via NITV or NIRS or even watch The Marngrook Footy Show
Lens of education – what ideologies have we been subjected to over the years and what are the politics of those
Lens of the law
Lens of culture
Lens of culture and law
Lens of human rights
Lens of common decency
Lens of self-interest
Lens of critical thinking – have we learnt how to think outside the dominant paradigm or are we locked into a way of understanding. What do I think? What is my position on a matter? Why do I hold that position? What are the implications of holding that position? Does my understanding bring upset to the world, or sections within it?
And that’s just a few.

Read the history of anti-intellectualism in Australia and weep. Read the history of man’s inhumanity to man in this society and weep.

This is not about the booing. In my view, it’s about the failure of a community to understand itself. It’s also about a media able to exploit that. In a way I am doing that now. The traffic on the Almanac site is up 30-40% across the last few days. The mass (commercial) media wants an Adam Goodes story every day. But, then again, I do send an email every week, and we publish articles every week. Intent has to be a measure.

Anyway, here are some of those articles:

The cricket is on. E. Regnans is leading the charge with some very creative match reporting. Wayne Ball has some first hand info on Trevor Bayliss.

Round 17 has produced more match reports than usual – even before the Goodes issue was ignited. A few of them: Don Meadows on how a Rabbitoh became a Swan: The People’s Elbow responds to Carlton’s record losing margin; Mathilde de Hauteclocque on yoga and Toyotas.

On local footy, King George III reports on Fitzroy, Stephen Marson on Northcote Park and Chris Daley on Red Hill v Pearsedale.

We’ve even got pieces on the World Under 19 Lacrosse Championships (from Andrew Fithall) and on wheelchair tennis (from Henry de Cure, himself a player), and there’s more news on the Ultimate Riverina Wool Team (I met Ross Wells in Bendigo and he turns out to be Dud Probyn’s nephew. Who?)

Finally, I wish you warmth and patience as Chris Rogers makes a 12-hour double century.

Go Cats

To sign on to this weekly(ish) e-newsletter send JTH an email [email protected]

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Excellent JTH – just excellent.

  2. The People's Elbow says
  3. When people are bagging Waleed Ali because they “just don’t like him”, I just…

  4. E.regnans says

    Thanks JTH.
    “think more” is a useful starting point.

  5. Chris Daley says

    Thanks John, may your words be read by many

  6. Critical thinking. That’s the key. Clear and critical.

  7. Thanks for the link to the Stan Grant article. Powerful stuff.

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    ‘There are wheels within wheels, Sir’ – The Crucible

  9. Rick Kane says

    A lot of the discussion and callers on radio seem to be looking at the issue through the lens of fuckwittity.

  10. John Butler says

    Onya JTH

    Compassion is a key word here. The more affluent we become as a community, the more selectively we offer compassion. We seem more judgmental of “deserving” and “undeserving”.

    Many powerful interests pushing us down this path. Is a “leaner” any different from “undeserving”?

  11. Dips

    By clear and critical thinking, I take it you mean there’s absolutely NO clear and critical thinking by the racists mobs harassing Goodes each week? (and I caught some of their work on the AFL fans association facebook page today … astonishing, stupefying stuff. Cheryl Critchley worked manfully to keep them in line, but I think their ignorance and non-sequitur logic wore her down.)

  12. Re Cheryl on FB: That’s a stage you reach….I’ve been on Facebook too, and it doesn’t matter whet ‘new’ argument you put out there, you get the same crap back. Ultimately you just get worn down, because everyone else can speak Stupid and you can’t.

  13. Another word or lens to look at through “ignorance”.
    thanks Harmsie

  14. Rick, after reading that thread I shouted “It’s a madhouse” the way Charlton Heston did in ‘Planet of the Apes.’ And what blares and jars and assaults your senses is their wanton lack of compassion.

  15. Name calling and counter-abuse not helpful. As per another thread earlier today:
    Lachie/Grant/TJ etc. You raise many good points that have been rattling around in my head the last few days, particularly as I continue to have the same exasperating debate with people I generally respect who “don’t like Goodes”. But this is not a problem of logic, that can be resolved by logic. Goodes has (brutally unfairly) become a lightning rod for a lot of deeply felt but unarticulated frustrations/exasperations in Australian (and western world) societies. Some racist, but many not.
    It goes along the lines of the exasperated parent responding to the ungrateful rebellious boy/child (often drug addicted) adolescent – “I gave you everything and this is how you thank me”.
    Many of the people voicing this (and booing Goodes) are the hard working, second generation migrant “we dragged ourselves up by our bootstraps from nothing when dad arrived here with nothing” people. And resentful suddenly unemployed FIFO’s who thought the mining boom was forever.
    The response is unfocused, inarticulate and guttural.
    But Goodes has become (totally unreasonably) the whipping boy for something that Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin in their rat-like hearts know how to dog whistle and exploit.
    The chattering classes and those of us who like to think we are progressive, ignore at our peril.
    Prohibition works about as well for racism as it does for alcohol. The black market (no pun intended) flourishes in unexpected places – hence the illogical and misdirected attacks on Goodes.
    Tony Abbott/Andrew Bolt as Knuckey Thompson (Boardwalk Empire)?
    I tried to touch on this 2 years ago at the time of the original ape/Eddie incident.
    Thanks to all those who have contributed so thoughtfully to thinking this all through on the Almanac site. (May 2013)

  16. Skip of Skipton says

    How many of you righteous heroes have lived in a town with an aboriginal population? How many of you have or have had aboriginal mates/friends/cobbers? None, I’m betting. Stop self congratulating yourselves. Not all Aborigines fit your ‘Cookie cutter’.

  17. John

    As much as I respect your ability to link thinking with the booing, I think you may be misguided.

    Even the booers themselves are unable to connect a thought process with the action.

    My thinking is that rather than thought, their actions are prompted by a feeling.

    They feel inferior. And usually, that’s a feeling they can manage somehow, they have become used to it over a long period of time..

    BUT when the person that they feel inferior to is a person of a race that they are “supposed” to be superior to, they find it particularly galling. It must blow their little minds. And out blurts something that somehow makes them feel better about themselves.

    Perhaps Darwin’s theory of evolution should have been presented as a phased notion. Clearly, we have not all evolved/progressed at the same rate.

    All I can say is thank god for the Footy Almanac……… Refuge in logic and intelligent thought.

  18. Skip – I’m not sure that human decency is a product of where you have lived or whom you have lived among.

  19. Dave Nadel says

    You are making some pretty offensive assumptions yourself, Skip.
    And you don’t really know anything about the people about whom you are making assumptions.

  20. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    So Skip, please enlighten us all about how our opinions on this issue would be different.

  21. The Stan Grant piece is outstanding. The story it tells reminds me of elements of the Renouf family story, and the stories of many Aboriginal people I met while spending time with Steve writing his story. It also reminds me of the stories of some of the Aboriginal people I met through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Studies unit at the University of Queensland.

    So, to respond to you Skip, I suspect there are readers of this site, some of whom have an Aboriginal heritage, some who have interacted with Aboriginal people, and some who have read Aboriginal writers. (But I am not sure what point you are actually making anyway?)

    All I was trying to say when putting together the newsletter, which is now this post, was that I have faith that the search for genuine understanding, which requires an open and willing heart and a capacity to think critically is not only a vital part of a healthy community, it is an end in itself. I think this is an obligation we face. I think the approach applies to all arguments and those who hold them.

    I was moved to write these words because I am trying to work out myself what the hell is going on.

    If I am finding this sad, imagine how many others, whose life experience is closer to that of Adam Goodes, are finding it.

  22. foucauldian discourse analysis lens
    social constructionism lens

    A couple of more relevant lenses through which to develop our understanding

  23. Yes Rick, i think we can skip Marcel Foucalt on this topic.Slavoj Zizek or Alain Badiou might be of use, but Foucalt; no.


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