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How our judgement and criticism of others harms and hides us

About an hour after posting a message on the Coles Facebook page in support of their decision to withdraw advertising on 2GB radio, I received a phone call from a private number. The unidentified voice told me they had seen my post and I needed ‘to shove a sock down my throat’. 

The message I received and that broadcast by 2GB recently concern me greatly. But not for the reasons frequently articulated in our media. 

We are social beings. Like it or not what is broadcast in our media shapes us as individuals and as a society. It concerns me greatly that 2GB allows such angry vitriolic abuse to be vomited across our airwaves. This model of behaviour, whether you call it a form of masculinity or something else, is damaging to our families, our relationships, our children, our mental health and wellbeing.

We might think the comments broadcast in our media are benign, a joke, having a laugh, freedom of speech, or that we are entitled to our opinions. But they are so much more. They speak to us as people, the way we are in the world, and how we expect ourselves and others to be. 

Our Australian social and political discourse tells us we’ve got to be tough and strong. That it’s ok to be judgemental and critical of others and if they are upset by something you have to say, then that is their problem, not yours. In other words, it is ok to minimise, downplay or outright dismiss another’s concerns in an uncaring judgemental and savage way.  

We avoid our own discomfort by labelling others as emotional, weak, wimps, a pussy, soft cocks, or butterballs. Our humanity and vulnerability are diminished in those moments. We objectify and dehumanise the people in our life whether that is our wife, lover, colleague, friend, neighbour or fellow Australian. 

When we behave this way, otherness unfolds in every domain of our life. It doesn’t just show up in our racism, misogyny, homophobia, shaming of difference, or bullying that hurts others in our world. The same pattern of behaviour starts to hurt us closer to home, in our own relationships and wellbeing.

Our nation is in pain. Each year in Australia more than 3000 people suicide. Seventy-five percent are men. A further 65,000 people attempt to take their own life. We need to re-think who we are and how we want to be in the world if this is going to change.  

It is socially acceptable to hide our vulnerability by being critical, complaining, raging in an angry way or having a laugh to make light of difficult and painful situations. It is even considered ok in many circles to numb our emotional pain by knocking back a few at the local or in the privacy of your own home - brews, cones, lines, - name your poison. 

If that’s the best we can do, it’s no wonder so many feel there is no-where to turn when they are suffering and in distress. There is no soft place to land. No compassionate, understanding voice. To long for that is shameful for many. So, what are your mates to do? 

We all need love and belonging. With almost 50,000 divorces in our country each year, the prevalence of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and children that experience violence we struggle to develop, maintain and nurture relationships. 

The science of adult attachment and relationships are clear - we all need a safe haven to buffer us from the stressors and challenges in the landscape of life. We need to know how to embrace our vulnerability, emotional interactions that feel safe and help us connect with ourselves and our significant others is fundamental to healthy relationships and our wellbeing. This is important at home, in our workplaces and communities.  

Yet, the behaviours that play out on our national airwaves and other media each day, harsh criticism, anger, judgment, minimising, blaming, shaming, vitriolic abuse and defensiveness, are the very behaviours that tear our lives and our nation apart. 

We need to change the conversation. We need to recognise our own and each other’s humanity. We need a compassionate, friendly voice, a safe place to land in all areas of our life. We need to develop emotional courage.

It’s time our media broadcasters were responsible and accountable for how they shape the wellbeing and relationships of our nation.  That means a respectful dialogue that values diversity and inclusion and demonstrates this through the behaviours that are modelled. Our country’s biggest employers get it and they are letting it be known through their advertising dollars.

I was surprised the Coles Troll went to so much effort to stalk me online and find my number. I was not surprised by the intimidating, threatening tone or what he said. Alan Jones had already said it. The question is why does 2GB allow him to continue to do so?

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