We’ve seen it all before, countless times. The room is filled with cameras, crammed in from every corner hoping for that perfect shot. As the subject enters the flickers and flashes flutter out of control, a sound and sight that has become synonymous with this unholy ritual.
The fallen hero is led out and is expected to read from the script. We the public demand grovelling, we demand absolute humility, we demand tears… we want to see you cry. We made you, we reserve the right to destroy you.
Our society craves heros, it celebrates celebrity, and we lure our young towards this light with promises of immortality, of a legacy, of being so much better than that which normality has condemned us mere mortals to.
Yet within the small print, after we promise you money, after we promise you glory, we fail to warn you, your soul is ours to distinguish if you ever submit to the most human of qualities, the error of being fallible.
The intricacies of the offence for which Steve Smith is charged has been explored by countless writers whose expertise far surpasses mine on this subject. I know the Captain of the South African team was the last player to be charged with it, I know the great Sachin Tendulkar also shares this guilt, but for us this was irrelevant, this was our boy, we will do as we please.
Affectionately referred to as “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, a term that belies a much darker ugliness that permeates within our culture. We, the angry mob, salivate at the opportunity to destroy the Gods we made. The blood lust that possesses the faceless internet trolls who sanctimoniously judge this God to be not just no longer a God, but perhaps now less than a man.
The problem is, Steve Smith was never a God, he never claimed to be. He bought into the dream we sold him. He dedicated his life to representing this country and only weeks ago we showered him with plaudits and gifts. He brought us joy and pride beyond anything we had experienced for decades, all through the playing of a game. Yet upon the first instance of shame, we turned our back on him. He had failed us for the first and last time.
This will happen again. Any man or woman within our society who dares to aspire to bask in the warmth of our collective praise must recognise the risk of our instant derision. But unlike the sport they play, this is not a game. That for which we dedicate our weekends to watching, has been their life’s work, their entire vocation.
For any person under the age of 45, the leading cause of death is that by our own hands. Yet we presume our synthetic Gods are immune to this evil because they have financial wealth? We as a people too easily bathe in schadenfreude that it is only a matter of time before we push one of these Gods too far.
Like so many Australians, this affair has made me ashamed. I am ashamed at how quickly we abandon our heros. I am ashamed at how fickle our loyalty is to our young men and women when we ask them to represent us to the world. I am ashamed of how many Australians lose their humanity because they feel the man being crucified dared to be revered as a God.
The Irony that this falls on this particular Christian holiday is an irony I am sure that won’t be missed by many.