By SweeAnn Koh
There has been a lot of commentary surrounding The Final Quarter, the documentary on Adam Goodes that had its free-to-air premiere on 18 July, but one comment in particular jumped out at me.
Cherrie Frail-Green, an Indigenous woman who lives on the Central Coast, said the treatment of Goodes, the former Brownlow medallist and 2014 Australian Of The Year, affected more than “just one person”.
“It affected a whole culture – it affected Indigenous Australians, whether you like AFL or not,” she said.
It reminded me of Eddie McGuire’s infamous “King Kong” comments in 2013 and his subsequent attempts at an apology. He said it was a slip of the tongue and made a virtue of the fact that, about 20 seconds later, he did an on-air check and immediately apologised to Goodes.
On our computer or television screens, millions of colours are created by mixing three primary colours: red, green and blue. In a similar way, anthropologists say every culture can be evaluated through a mix of three worldviews: guilt/innocence, honour/shame and power/fear.
These form the basic beliefs and assumptions underlying behaviour and culture. People take in the world and make decisions on how to act through these filters. Importantly, they can also become our cultural biases.
In western civilisation, most of our intercultural encounters are superficial (focused largely on music, dance and food) because we fail to engage and understand different worldviews.
This is “the missing bit”. McGuire’s response should not have come as a surprise because he operates from a guilt/innocence perspective. In this worldview, people focus on deductive reasoning, cause and effect, good questions, and process.
Issues are often seen as black and white, written contracts are paramount and communication is direct and sometimes blunt.
To McGuire, he apologised to Goodes, who accepted his apology, so we should all move on.
But what about “the missing bit”? As an Indigenous person, Goodes comes from an honour/shame worldview. When you dishonour a person from this culture you dishonour the whole community. That’s why Cherrie’s comment was so insightful.
What McGuire should have done was apologise to Goodes, his family and his community because they were shamed and dishonoured, too.
Despite the fact we live in a multicultural society, Australians often overlook the fact there is more than one worldview operating at the same time. Of course, the notions about honour and shame exist in virtually all cultures, but in Australia these terms too often play a minor role in shaping social values.
Seeing things primarily through a guilt/innocence lens, what is “honourable” is often whatever follows the letter and spirit of the law.
As a society, we need to find “the missing bit” so all cultures are recognised and cared for.
Rev SweeAnn Koh is Intercultural Community Development Advocate, equipping Leadership for Mission