No black ‘tall poppies’ allowed

Traditionally, (at least, in the 1950s and thereabouts) Australians (about 85% were deemed to be of the working class) tended to cut down ‘tall poppies.’ So I was told. Why should this have been so? Here are possible explanations.

Australia was initially populated by the ‘lower orders’ of Britain. When North America was no longer available for taking the output of Britain’s program of cultural cleansing, Australia was the next best alternative depository. Then there evolved a policy that Australia would be ‘a white man’s paradise,’ in which no man would ‘reject any kind of work’ (so I read). The White Australia policy necessarily followed. The associated ethos of a ‘fair-go’ approach – equal opportunity, at least for white men – was in evidence when I entered the country in the late 1940s. Employees claimed equal status with their bosses.

I noted, with approbation, the stand-tall stance of the Australian worker. This was confirmed when I was a tram conductor, and worked in factories, for short periods. He would make an excellent role model in those rich Asian nations exploiting the lower orders. Strangely, as I was told by a veteran of the trenches of World War 1, it was the immigrant British communist union leaders who had achieved the rights of the Australian workers.

In the resulting relatively classless society which offers social mobility, any tall poppies may tend to keep a low profile. If anyone is attacked publicly, it would most likely be by the fog-horn using media which would be responsible. Its notables are paid richly to (apparently) stir up the lower ranks of the hoi polloi. I am not sure whether anyone else cares.

But, let a coloured (sorry, ‘black’) person become a notable, he will be torn down by many. A socially-integrated and exceptionally-gifted Aboriginal football player, and a multi-skilled Australian Muslim (broadcaster, academic, writer and musician) have drawn the ire of obviously supremacist whites.

What I hear is this. ‘Why should a ‘black,’ especially a Muslim, dare to be prominent in our society?’ ‘Be like us, but not above us!’ There may be other learned explanations (eg. the lack of ethnic diversity in the media; or an increasing tendency for some ‘commoners’ to be ‘outraged’ all the time); but these are not convincing.

Colour or religious prejudice, laid upon ignorance, provide a persuasive explanation for cutting down black ‘tall poppies.’  An additional explanation may be this: a shallow morality!

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