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Why don't we honour the most worthy?


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Why is it that we describe sports people as great? Are they? Aren't scientists, teachers and police great?

We have just observed ANZAC Day and honoured those who fought for this country in war. These men and women most certainly earned our honour, respect, gratitude and much, much more.

We continue to worship the wrong heroes, favouring celebrity and sporting prowess over bravery and achievement.

We continue to worship the wrong heroes, favouring celebrity and sporting prowess over bravery and achievement. Picture: iStock

On this same ANZAC Day, I heard a football commentator calling the game of the day describing a footballer as a ‘great man’. This led me to ask what made this sportsman ‘great’ and, on the day that we honour people who have given their life for their country, whether that's even appropriate.

While I enjoy watching football and respect the amazing talent of many of those on the field, I can see nothing ‘great’ about the players of today, or indeed, the players of yesterday. They are nothing more or less than sportsmen, just as their female equivalents are nothing more or less than sportswomen.

How can we reasonably compare athletes with young men and women who have given their lives for their country? For that matter, can we reasonably compare these athletes with the men and women working in laboratories around the world seeking cures for diseases, the climate scientists tolerating extreme conditions to help humanity better understand climate change, or teachers who devote their lives on relatively low incomes to giving children a great start in life?

We are so good at honouring high-paid sportsmen and women, along with high-paid actors and even higher-paid celebrities, famous for nothing more than being famous. We honour the high-profile instead of the true contributors, the opinionated ahead of the humble thinkers, the rich ahead of the contributing, the good looking ahead of the intelligent and the fast ahead of the methodical.

What is wrong with us?

Teachers contribute more to children’s lives than any actor contributes in a movie. Scientists contribute more to keeping us healthy than any sportsman or woman will ever contribute while running fast or jumping high. Policemen and women contribute more to our safety than any celebrity ever contributed to just about anything. While there are some inherent generalisations here, I believe the point is absolutely clear.

We pay sports people obscene amounts while our government cuts funding to the CSIRO. We pay movie stars obscene amounts while teachers have to beg for small pay rises, while education spending increases rarely keep pace with inflation. We facilitate celebrities like Kim Karsashian (a waste of space if there ever was one) earning millions of dollars, while our police beg for the additional funding required to keep us safe.

When there is a flood or bush fire, we laud the popstar or movie star holding a charity concert, while leaving it to politicians to thank those who risk their lives to keep us safe or save us from disaster. While we are getting better at thanking emergency personnel, we continue to pay them poorly and then laud the wealthy popstar or celebrity giving a little of their time for a concert or event.

I have no problem with the popstar doing what they do. I have no problem with the movie star, sports star or celebrity doing what they do. That is their job. My problem is with the population that so readily honours these people and accepts the payments they receive so readily. We need to get our priorities right.

Let’s honour people who earn it.

  • Read more from Subversive Sam: ANZAC Day is no time to celebrate
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