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Darren Lehmann was Shafted by the ICC

Story by Jon Cocks 23/01/03

In the recesses of each human mind is the truth as they see it. Some of us dare to express our feelings honestly. Increasingly in this intellectually homogenised/sanitised world, the 'correct' view is flagged for us, so we don't embarrass ourselves by expressing something different.

Issues of race are just a small part of this trend, as many people think for themselves less and less, because there's more and more media to do their thinking for them. As this phenomenon continues to expand, so does independent thought and conviction become more and more marginalised.

Australian multi-cultural diversity is celebrated in 'showcase' events at regular intervals and is constantly reinforced in schools and the media in particular. Public education, not to mention the diversity of ethnic restaurants - to name just one physical manifestation of cultural diversity in Australian society - regularly reminds us of the many strands in the Australian societal tapestry. It washes over us like a gentle wave at a suburban beach.

The more enlightened Australian doesn't pay lip service to glibly processed, glossy propaganda. Nevertheless, the inner-city, upper-middle-class demographic often has a multi-cultural circle of friends, is likely to be well-travelled and small 'l' liberal in most attitudes. Many such people would have been appalled at Darren Lehmann's verbal transgression in the SCG dressing rooms in Australia’s recent VB Series One Day International Cricket match in Brisbane against Sri Lanka.

This is not to say that some of the greater body of the Australian public would not have been as appalled as well, but many struggle to comprehend how an apparent momentary lapse could be punished so severely. The silent majority is innately conservative, inwardly focused on work, the mortgage, the family and matters of immediate physical concern. Not everyone is an avowed racist - far from it – but traditional Australian priorities are forever endorsed by the overt preferences of John Howard and concerns about racism are still dirt to be swept under the carpet.

Large-scale immigration of a non-WASP variety has occurred in Australia since the end of WW2 and those who were just kids in traditional white Australian families in the fifties, who saw a bunch of ‘reffos’ – white Europeans in the main - arrive on these shores. The same kids are now the people in power, with that inevitable influence over public attitudes and opinion.

Howard refuses to apologise to the 'Stolen Generation', whose plight was captured brilliantly in the film Rabbit Proof Fence. But he plays to the public gallery when it comes to Gallipoli and the ANZAC legend, which is of course a watershed moment in colonised Australian history. He defers constantly to ‘ordinary Australians’ in any number of justifications for his pronouncements.

This mainstream Australian demographic is moved deeply by the ANZAC legend, often rents videos characterised by gratuitous thrills and/or violence, reads the Murdoch tabloids, wants to shoot the hippies and rabble-rousers who protest over asylum-seekers (who should all be packed off back to where they came from) and loves our sporting champions.

The shamefully high number of Australians who supported Pauline Hanson and her One Nation abomination is one extreme, but there are fairly widespread assumptions that all boat people are queue-jumpers, ethnic gangs should be deported, immigrants take jobs from 'our young people', even urban Aboriginal drunks should be 're-settled'.

Arguably a reaction to long-term discrimination practised against the previous generation of Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants, the tangible down-side of multiculturalism is best illustrated by the widespread and well-documented ethnic violence in Sydney's West, which is largely ignored by ardent proponents of multiculturalism and the WASP leaders of society.

Middle Australia is all-too-aware of that aspect of multiculturalism. The Packer/Murdoch media machine tells us all about it at regular intervals. Most of the current Australian cricket team attended school in the pre-internet 1980s, with commercial TV, family and friends being their prime source of opinion-shaping rhetoric.

Nowadays, Middle Australia and its kids are provided with an ongoing mixed message on multiculturalism. On the one hand, there is glossy, 'shiny-happy-people-holding-hands' propaganda; on the other, there is the endless stream of tabloid media beatups with ratings, advertising profit the bottom line, a situation that has remained unchanged for three decades.

Lehmann waited until he thought he was in private to blow off steam. A combination of thin walls, accidents of socio-cultural background and ill-chosen invective has put his career in jeopardy, just as he was in the cusp of setting his international career in stone.

Coming from an ordinary home Adelaide’s northern suburbs, Lehmann is a decent bloke, without – as his lawyer put it – a racist bone in his body. The Sri Lankan cricketers indicated as much, given their support for Lehmann before and during the hearing in which he copped the five-match ban.

In overseeing this harsh punishment for a guy with a previously squeaky-clean record, the ICC is seeking – belatedly - to atone for widely-perceived past inadequacies in this and other areas in its chequered existence by finding the nearest convenient scapegoat.

But true-blue Aussies cop it on the chin, and Boof did just that. I am partially over the first burning heat of my anger at the five-match suspension, but - in broad reflection of the cultural context in which Boof made his mistake - I can find little comfort.

People who want to throw stones at the glass house that is Australia in this issue need to consider whether the windows to their own national souls remain opaque and guarded against overt breaching.

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