Surely when someone achieves world-class excellence at a sport this someone must have demonstrated a galaxy of qualities bound to make them an adornment of any parliament.
He's just a footballer! I heard an angry woman shrill one morning earlier this week during a spirited exchange of views about independent Senate candidate David Pocock.
The spirited exchange happened at and around a sidewalk coffee area at my local shops. The power of this political shrill was so strong that it caused a great accelerated shedding of the autumn leaves of the sidewalks trees, creating a pleasing blizzard of colours.
A Pocock supporter in the same mini-melee became similarly agitated (although the deeper, softer pitch of his male voice lacked leaf-stripping qualities) and in his agitation he even rasped out an f-word, instantly apologising for it. But it was too late. The hair-raising word hung in the air of the usually polite place, as palpable as a winking neon sign.
It was exhilarating to see everyday Australians being impassioned about their democracy. But this storm in a coffee cup soon passed, and I foxtrotted on to eavesdrop on other conversations elsewhere.
Yet the familiar anti-Pocock accusation that he is just a footballer stayed with me. In part this was because, considering voting for him, the same criticism of him had occurred to me.
None of us is ever just a single thing but if we pretend for a moment that David Pocock is just a footballer and nothing else then perhaps it explains something of why some of us have found him an attractive candidate.
Football in its several codes is so important to some of us that to dismiss someone as just a footballer leaves us temporarily bewildered. For how can one be dismissed as just an exponent of a human activity, like football, that is vital to human culture and civilisation?
Do we mock Pavarotti for what he might have done with his life if he hadn't so narrowly concentrated on being just an opera singer?
Do we criticise Shakespeare by thinking what worthwhile and character-rounding sorts of work he might have done if he hadn't focused so narrowly on just writing plays? Why, he could have had multiple experiences as a cordwainer, a muckraker, a scullion, a swineherd, a molecatcher, a piss-prophet, a sweeper up of bear dung at bear-baiting arenas. What a waste he made of his life!
Surely when someone achieves world-class excellence at a sport this someone must have demonstrated a galaxy of qualities (dedication, perseverance, self-denial of life's trivial temptations and distractions, brawn of body and of character) bound to make them an adornment of any parliament.
This is why most of us, dismissing as airy persiflage the idea that she is just a tennis player, would leap to vote for Ashleigh Barty. One feels sure the Liberal Party, knowing this and keen to cash in on her magic popularity, made its loathsome overtures to her ahead of this election. One imagines Scomo himself, bulldozing and wheedling, will have called her up, promising her his very own captain's-pick pre-selection for a cushy seat and lightning promotions into cabinet when with her help the Coalition wins the election.
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Typically for Ash, for she is an ethical giant, she seems to have rejected this sleaziness. Good on her. But perhaps down the track a little the wholesome Australian Republican Movement can, on behalf of all of us who share the republican dream, beseech her to become our first president.
Meanwhile, while it is certainly not contemptible for someone to be just a footballer or playwright, or star of tennis or of opera, perhaps it is contemptible for someone, including the senator that Pocock is trying to exorcise from the parliament, to be just a career Liberal, just a career politician.
One of the many regrettable things about John Howard was that, his parents signing him up for the Young Liberals while he was still in the womb, for all of his political career including the interminable epoch of his prime ministership seemed to be just a creature of the unpleasant Liberal Party. He was never anything else.
But here and to be fair to besieged and maligned Scott Morrison (for this column strives for fair-minded impartiality) we must record that he is not just a Liberal politician.
No, to his credit he is also a failed advertising man, in 2006 and for yet-to-be-explained reasons (was he perhaps too much of a bulldozer?) sacked as managing director of Tourism Australia with a year left to run on his contract.
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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