There’s a particularly Australian kind of bully – male, laconic,* infinitely entitled. The media’s full of them. Workplaces and schools, too. Berating them doesn’t work, and neither does reason, because it’s in their interests to remain as stupid as possible.
We have the traits of an island nation founded on dispossession and forced labour. We think we’re entitled to whatever we have, because if we aren’t entitled to it, then maybe we shouldn’t have it, and that’s not something we want to think about. Our loathing for authoritarianism runs so deep, we’ll call a man a hero who takes a pot shot at a person of any formal status whatsoever – even if his comments are moronic, and even if that person’s status was hard won, and conferred by us in the first place. At the same time, we have the parvenu’s habit of kicking down. We police our much-vaunted ‘equality’ with unsettling procrustean verve – so if you stand out from the mean in any way, you’re right to be nervous.
Our hero is the charismatic man of no particular talent or distinction. Of a distinguished undistinction, an indistinctness, a genial blur. In his younger iteration, he wins Big Brother every year. In middle age he is the curdled patriarch; the liquid-lunching boss; the smarmy politico who trades in hate; the radio shock jock. By popular fiat, he runs the place. He has every reason to remain unconquerably dim.
The bullies of Australian public culture will stop belittling women and other minorities when they stop being rewarded for it. Let their fawning straightwomen giggle into the void. Let their flunkies’ sputterings about common sense go unrecorded. We need to coordinate blank stares. We need to starve these men of the only status they have, and the only kind they want us to respect – their social currency as charismatic, laconic, infinitely-entitled dickheads.
*Our brand of ‘laconic’ doesn’t demand actual concision; only that every sentence be a conversation-jamming, near-contentless aphorism. You can string together as many of these as your audience will tolerate – like the faintly silly piling up of chords at the close of an overripe symphony.