You won't have to look far when you leave your abode each day to find some form of inexplicable unprincipled deceitfulness. I, like you, live in an intriguing world; in a phase in which we shall look back upon and wonder why were we so pompously self-obsessed and vindictively keen to do whatever it takes to get ahead.
Social media entitles us to change the way we act, look and are perceived. We alter our personality to align with what is 'so hot right now'. We speak in jargon and moronic slang to fit a mould. Every day, we lie and cheat what is truly us. What has happened? Are we simply engrained to take the easy option and just pretend?
I awoke to the world today to a beautiful partner and one seriously energetic though gorgeous baby. Then, like most days, I check in with the latest from my technological sports' desk. Today was not only heinous, for what had unravelled over the previous twenty-four hours to greet my eyes from half way across the world in South Africa, it, at a deeper look is nothing more than to be expected from us really. Our culture is extremely public in disclosing disgruntled opinions and when things go wrong or get a little hard, we cover it up, we lie or we take short cuts. These are the necessary means in which to once more sit upon a throne of importance. So it is of no real surprise, our drama-laden Australian national cricket team is at it again - they are after all just a small sampling of our very own society, albeit polarised into the eye of, you know... a few billion people across the globe. So, whilst we digest what has happened with this cricket team over the weekend, let's understand why and more importantly, what should take course from the fallout.
For those whom have been living under a rock or simply gag at the thought of test cricket (many of us do), bear with me here, because there is a vital lesson for all Australians, young and old to learn from this. Accusations of an alleged plot by the Australian captain, good guy, Steve Smith and his leadership team have taken place to not only tamper with the ball in an effort to produce more bowler friendly outcomes and steer their team towards an unlikely victory, they have done so in front of over thirty cameras and most imperatively, whilst wearing our proud and iconic baggy green. These men have admitted their crime, but the question remains as whether they will do their time? On surface value, this is an ugly tainting of Australian cricket and those within the inner sanctum of the great sport, but delving deeper, it is not too dissimilar to the common folk of this great land and our day to day practice.
Sure, the ramifications of this hideous event will be and should be extensive but it also offers us a chance to reflect on what we've become as a society and the accepted culture in this bogan, ocker and sometimes narrow-minded 'land down under'. Although it's rare to see the donning of blue bondsies and mullets nowadays. We have become more accustomed to a clean-cut, well-manicured and precious, almost robotic personality. But, on quick roll-call, it's easy to see: that insensitive, backward thinking dickhead is still ever present. 'Why is this relevant to anything in the grand scheme?', you ask? Let us treat ourselves to a lesson in narcissistic nuisance.
In a world where cheating knowledge, qualification and looks is child's play, you don't have search long to see the obvious evidence of a society riddled with miniscule morals and 'whatever it takes' attitude to get the most by doing the least. Think about what the mining boom and bust has caused the past decade. The average slacker could assume his own throne within a huge mansion, look across million-dollar views and basically patronise others instead of planning for the future, working for a dollar and living the real Australian dream. These people had cash to blow, they had reputations to create and they had… kids. Kids that believe that life should be easy; their parents did it, so surely it can be inherited. To do minimal and gain maximal. Life is tough but in this little bubble, it wasn't. We spoke our mind because we had power and we were better than those who actually worked for their worth. And if we didn't have the best, we'd cheat. That gadget, that look, that life. Things are hard to attain and so they should be but, in this time, people rorted the system; the moralistic ecosystem was collapsing before our eyes. Then something gave. The bubble burst and things levelled out. Those who worked hard remained the best off and those who got lucky left the field of four-leaved clovers. But something didn't quite plateau back to normality: our willingness to do anything it takes to get to the top; the easy way. The saying goes, 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going', but, unfortunately, we had passed down some terrible traits and hence we assume a predicament. We cheat.
As an Aussie, I love a good underdog story. We all do. But underdogs weaken when things aren't done right. They feel the burden of moral courage (the ability to do the right thing all the time) when no-one else is showing it, weighing them down. So how do we solve this issue? Easy. We set standards, high standards. And if things don't work out, and when cheating has been used in the past and the thought crosses our think tank of 'where to next?', we set precedents. We make an example of what not to do. Sure, this is harder, but necessary.
In classrooms or work places I have known in my time, it is not uncommon to come across these such issues. In fact, it happens all the time, hence the aforementioned information about the culture of cheating. I see it daily, in many facets of my life. For cricket fans, we worry about the future and integrity of the game in our country, and rightly so. But think about it like a classroom with Steve Smith and his merry men, the students. We could quite easily let it slide with a slap on the wrist because we need this great man, he has learned his lesson, right? No. A student once openly said to me, "we know our boundaries and if we don't get into the trouble which was just, we just get worse". Same thing applies here. Same applies in life. If consequences, both positive and negative, are not achieved as a result of our actions a cancer (even if small) starts to spread. If not rectified immediately, like cancer, the toxicity develops.
In our society, far too often we accept shortcuts, the quick fix. In football clubs, we pass when given the chance to start a fresh and build culture; quick fix: recruit. Does this work? Short term, sometimes. Long term, no way, the same issues begin to rear its head over and over again. In workplaces, we see dodgy worksites, procedures and lack of accountability; quick fix: make over. Make the office or space look pretty to divert the real, deep seeded issues of competency and toxicity. When in friendship groups; youth or adults, there are always issues; quick fix: blame the other. It's laughable but so true. We walk away and continue finding the same issues with each and every friend we ever attain. Solution to all scenarios, change the root of the problem.
In light of the weekend's outrageous and unceremonious capitulation of our heroes' reputations, are we really at all surprised? I for one am certainly not. The real test is now for our general public to rebuild a trust and ensure the right thing is done here. Then followed through. In the past and present, we, as a culture, have swept these things under the carpet, turned a blind eye or blamed others. We took the easy route, we cheated. Don't agree? Take a look at the Sydney v West Coast game at the weekend. Sydney was too good, mainly thanks to one Buddy Franklin but that's not what was heard as the fans left the stadium on Sunday evening. It was the umpires' fault. We are all passionate and love winning, love getting ahead but the cost has become too much. It's not good enough, it never was!
There is a way back from this for Steve Smith. One cricket fan can look not too far into the past and remember Brendan McCullum; master blaster and all-round nice guy cricketer; a New Zealand captain and role model. He world loves him as a player, entertainer and as a person. Fact check. He, like Smith, took the competitive, 'win at all cost' mentality too far once upon a time also. Sri Lankan great and number eleven batsman, Muttiah Muralitharan naturally bowled like a magician but batted like a fifth-grade child. It was a dramatic and tense test match in Christchurch, New Zealand and this particular day, Murali starred with the willow. He blocked out over fifty balls to stay alongside his mate, champion, Kumar Sangakkara, who eventually hit a single to bring up a testing ton. The whole issue in this fairy tale story was that Brendon McCullum had retrieved the ball from an outfielder and, whilst the Sri Lankan batsmen went to celebrate Sangakara's feat mid-pitch, Brendan removed the bails and appealed. Technically, the ball was still in play and the umpires adjudged it out, runout. There was huge uproar; not because the wicket wasn't correct, but because McCullum, Kiwi hero had tampered with the spirit of the game. He resights ten years on, asking to turn back time. "Nearly ten years later I still regret this and hope I can be forgiven for breaking the code of ethics of the game. I hope I am a better person after what I have done". From then on, he led his team with a culture of tact, fairness and care. They played with a competitive edge and strong morale, they had principle. He set a precedent of his own poor decision and, for that, he was once more, if not more, loved. By all.
Steve Smith, on the surface, has done an unspeakable act, on the world stage. But at a deeper look, was he just doing what we all do as Australians? The game was slipping away from the Australian captain, something had to be done. He bent the rules. He didn't think about the consequences. He cheated. Winning and being the best is just so important to us, any measure seems reasonable in the heat of the moment. We now need to support the process and learn from these monumental mistakes.
This episode of horror on the international stage should offer us all an opportunity to reflect on how we act in our everyday lives. What do we want from our children when confronted by their very own Steve Smith moment? We've all been cheating for far too long. It's time to make a tough call people.