The Ali Fahour incident and sport's unseen violence

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(Screen shot via @morningshowon7)

The tolerance of violence in sport is a symptom of a far greater malaise involving a largely unseeing society, writes John Passant.

WE LIVE in a violent society.  

We are, by and large, blind to that violence.

Sport is but one example. Many of you will have seen the video of now former Australian Football League (AFL) diversity officer Ali Fahour hitting another player in a suburban Aussie Rules game. Ali was banned from the game – effectively for life – and resigned his job.

Police have now charged him with intentionally causing injury, recklessly causing injury and unlawful assault. It is a rare occurrence indeed when football players are charged with assault. It is even rarer if they are elite footballers.

An ABC article ‘Why don’t police usually charge footballers for on-field violence?’, includes a video of Melbourne footballer Tom Bugg flooring the Swans' Callum Mills and of Richmond's Bachar Houli hitting out at Carlton's Jed Lamb.

The article cited Monash University’s Dr Eric Windholz as saying ' ... it was his view that Bugg's punch on Sydney's Callum Mills constituted a criminal offence.'

According to Windholz, the police don’t prosecute because they tend 'to respect the autonomy of sporting bodies'. That is true. But a closer examination reveals the illogic of this position. Could it be true that police don’t press criminal charges against a player merely because the governing body has suspended him from the game for six weeks? Seriously? It appears to be so.

The incident in which Houli struck Lamb via @9NewsMelb.

What sort of society do we live in when a criminal assault is ignored because an overseeing body has addressed the issue in-house? It was just a bit of a dust-up, a misunderstanding, between two members of the same criminal gang, officer. We have handled it. Who expects that, since it has been dealt with by the criminal gang, everything is okay and there will be no charges laid by police?

Police don’t normally intervene in football assaults because professional football and its elite players are a key part of the system of capitalism. Elite sport and our worship of it, its teams and players, are, to paraphrase Marx on religion:

‘…at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. [They are] the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. [They are] the opium of the people.’

The opium of elite sport dulls the pain of capitalism and immobilises us from seeking cures for the disease. The very act of team against team reinforces the competitive drive that is the apparent essence of capitalism. Our support for one team above all others normalises competition and the winner takes all attitudes that are the bedrock of the way many of us see our current economic system working.

It is not just elite sport that performs this vital ideological role. Organised religion does so too. Until recently, the Australian state, including the police, ignored the sexual abuse of children by religious orders. It allowed the churches to "deal" with these matters themselves. The results have been catastrophic for children abused — for example, by priests moved on from one diocese to another.

As a result of constant pushing, prodding and protest by victims, this situation has changed. Now we have Cardinal Pell, the most senior Catholic priest from Australia, charged with the alleged sexual abuse of children.

Heterosexual relationships are a key element in the reproduction of the capitalist system. They produce and train the next generation of workers. Yet, as Jane Gilmour points out in 'Domestic violence half-yearly update: The numbers we need to know', the most dangerous place for a woman is Saturday night at home with her partner.

She says:

‘Two women or girls [are] killed each week by someone who claimed to love them.’

How many die each year because of domestic violence in Australia?

According to Gilmour:

158 people were murdered by a partner or family member in 2015 (excluding Tasmania and ACT). 103 were female, 32 were children.’

Compare that to the number in Australia who have died at the hands of terrorists — six in the last 20 years, three of them the terrorists themselves.

Imagine if the government responded to the threat of domestic violence with the same amount of money and hype it spends on counter-terrorism. Imagine if the media developed the same level of hysteria about domestic violence that it does about terrorism.

It is not only sport, religion and domestic violence that runs off the rails under the perverted system we survive in.

Politicians can evidently set up systems that imprison Australians on the mistaken belief they are overstaying their visas. I merely ask at this stage why locking up Australian citizens is not false imprisonment? Why have those involved, from the people who carried it out, to the minister who revoked the visas, to the head of the Department running this nightmare, not been charged?

The Australian state is a warmonger. It glorifies war; well, to be more specific, it glorifies its own wars of aggression in conjunction with the dominant power of the time — the UK before World War II and the U.S. after. It not only glorifies war, it undertakes war to pursue economic, expansionist and global positioning goals. 

That is why the Australian propaganda machine, including the state and the mainstream media, with a few exceptions, ignore the frontier wars and the massacres. Australian capitalism is founded on the genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The genocide continues today.

To recognise its violent past might undermine Australian capitalism today. Hence the silence.

Deaths and injuries in sport; the church and the family; false imprisonment; the genocide of the original inhabitants and locking up innocent people. Welcome to the land of the unseeing. In response, our first task should be to Fred Hollows Society and help the scales fall from our eyes. 

Our task must be to create a new society where violence, hate and genocide are things of the past and where we all can live full and healthy lives and be well fed, housed and educated and not, as now, being pawns in the merchants of profits’ games of war, brutality and destruction.

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassant.

Signed copies of John Passant’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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