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Being Indifferent to Difference

By Dr Stewart Hase

Humans are not particularly adept at accepting difference. I suspect that we are hard wired to at least be wary of others who are not the same as us. In fact, research studies have shown that there is a genetic influence in racism and in other areas such as political attitudes. There may well be an intolerance gene.

An aspect of wisdom or at least being civilised, you’d think, would be the ability to rise above impulse and to bring cognition into play. Sadly, there has been little of this lately. First, we had the unbelievable decision to upgrade Margaret Court’s gong. She received the original for her tennis achievements. Fair enough, she was able to repeatedly smash a tennis ball where she wanted to and made Australia look good on the world stage. But if you’re an observer from anywhere other than the awards committee, you can only conclude that her upgrade was for the homophobic bile she manages to spit out, using her position to influence the more feeble-minded that agree with her. Her rationale: that god’s word is the TV guide for life.

In the same vein, we then witness the leadership, if you want to call it that, at the St George Rugby League Club make the mind-numbing decision to negotiate with Israel Folau to return to Australia to play. Difficult to imagine what kind of logic that went into that idea. Luckily, the fear of losing sponsors and a backlash from fans slayed that dragon, but the fact they even thought about it was breathtaking.

Then we have the Collingwood scandal that exposed systemic racism at the club over many years, and the ugly reality that this is not an isolated case. This weekend, racism was called out again in football in the UK, albeit on social media by lunatic fans. Back here in Oz, Eddie Maguire managed to put his foot in his mouth again as he declared the release of the report on racism at Collingwood to be an historic and proud day.

Given his gaffe over Adam Goodes, does Eddie have a problem with language or is he inherently racist? I think the latter, given he was completely blind to what was happening at his club. The buck stops with him. I’m amazed that they are waiting until the end of the year for him to step down as chairman. Why was he not sacked last week?

We need to be careful to not assume that these high-profile cases are exceptions. They are the tip of the iceberg. I hear racist, homophobic and other slurs around difference at my local golf club and in other places where people mix, on a regular basis. And so do you. We damn the different, no matter what the form. We don’t value diversity, only diversity that makes others more the same as us, in other words, assimilation. We want migrants to be Australians, as long as they cook their authentic national dishes.

Sadly, we are not as civilised as we would like to think ourselves to be. I think we are getting better at calling out prejudice when we see it but we still need much more leadership from politicians and institutions such as those that support the events I’ve described above.

The quip of the week goes to Deborah Devine who talked about her son Dan Levy, the star of Schitt’s Creek, who is gay. She had a message to Dan’s bullies at a school camp when he was a boy: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Dan was hosting the prestigious program, a measure of his enormous success.


Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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  1. Kangaroo Jack

    Likewise, Stewart though not referred to was the death of the young woman in Townsville who was hit by a car being driven by three vigilantes out trying to run down and kill three aboriginal boys aged 14 to 17 as I understand it. It’s interesting how deftly the mainstream media avoids tagging the whole process as racist by simply referring to them as juveniles but being based in Townsville they are going to automatically be aboriginal. The three guys in the car, adults with an agenda, had taken the law into their own hands and I have no doubt that if they had caught up with those kids the kids would be either dead or badly damaged. In fact, our racism as a nation, knows no bounds. It starts in schools with white kids pointing at black kids, and Asian kids and Muslim kids and in pointing out their difference, make their lives completely miserable simply because young children don’t realise that they are different. One day the fathers and mothers who cause this crap will be dead. But their heavily indoctrinated children won’t be which means it won’t ever stop until we realise that without difference we aren’t even a nation in our own right.

    Just to add insult to injury, I have found this on the Queensland government petition site which makes interesting reading


  2. Michael Taylor

    Almost without fail it is those that boast Australia is not a racist country … are the racists themselves.

  3. Jo.

    The article proceeds on the claim that – research studies have shown that there is a genetic influence in racism and in other areas such as political attitudes but doesn’t go beyond the limits of a particular conceptual framework. A pity because there are other explanatory possibilities that go beyond genetic explanations.

    But that’s the nature of so much psychological investigation. Becomes a type of self-fulfilling prophecy.

  4. Kerri

    If you look deep into Eddie Maguire’s eyes you will not see racism!
    You will merely see the back of his head.
    Eddie is Dunning Kruger for both intellect and racism.
    While the football fans, started by a poorly coached teenage girl, sought to grind Adam Goodes down to “his rightful place” Eddie spurred them on by making a joke of Goodes race. Too faking stupid to even comprehend the effect of his thoughtless BS.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Add to the list a $40,000 grant to Johannes Leak, Bill Leak’s son, to do Tony Abbott’s official portrait. As far as I am aware, he only does cartoons, just like his dad. Onya Tone, I’m sure the Indigenous community appreciate your choice.

  6. wam

    Babies and pre-schoolers suggest racism is a learned trait and therefore can be unlearned. Congratulations, Charlie King, your quiet anger on offsiders aimed squarely at eddie has been heard by collingwood and the prime culprit in the social culture of collingwood seems to have recognised his part in maintaining the racist nature of the football club. A culture that was demonstrated so tragically for Adam Goodes but denied by the AFL but shown to be a culture in all clubs. So, to clear the air, the collingwood internal investigation should be extended to all clubs.

  7. Andrew J. Smith

    Too easy for Australians in pretending to be not racist….visitors notice the grotty narratives in media and social discourse that have become normalised in Oz, and the extremes e.g. the Christchurch shooter also citing the ‘great repalcement theory’. Meanwhile we never see positive stories in media about ‘immigrants’, ‘workers’ or ‘unions’ suggesting a crossover between racism and economic libertarian ideology.

    It’s still the phenomenon that hath no name in Australia, the white Australia policy has been gone for two+ generations but we have a well deserved honour of being described as ‘shallow and racist’ confirmed by our elites in media and politics constantly ‘dog whistling’ indigenous, (post ’70s) immigrants, refugees, ‘population growth’, Islam, Indians, international students etc.

    Evidenced by how an academic referred to by media as an expert in immigration (in past on govt. migration committees too), let’s say Dr. X, becomes known as ‘I’m not against immigrants but…(Then goes on to denigrate immigrants)’ or Dr. X ‘has never seen an immigrant he liked’ (according to a libertarian conservative Sinclair Davidson, very droll) and accused of misrepresenting data/research; evidence of much ‘white’ exceptionalism that has been promoted amongst the elites, and many boofheads, via media and supposed ‘experts’.

    Further, the previous are obvious manifestations of racism, we see Thomas Malthus being directly channelled after influencing the eugenics movement of Galton (also a relative of Darwin) in ‘science of eugenics and racial hygiene’, later to become popular in the US via Madison Grant, segregationists, slavers etc. and the American Eugenics Society (then later in Germany, Nazis etc….). Incidentally, Malthus also inspired the libertarians’ pin up boy Adam Smith and the radical right libertarian socio-economic ideas and policies, although not clear if Smith would agree as he did support state health, education etc..

    Racism is encouraged and used as part of politics and power i.e. a pecking order in society joined at the hip with e.g. the 0.1% or various ‘top people’ who can influence and have their own views promoted in the real world e.g. the long standing promotion of the supposed -ve dynamic between workers and immigrants, or like a mining magnate who inherited a fortune, complain that as opposed to Oz, workers in other nations accept $2 per hour…….

    Modern racism in Oz is channelled through proxy issues to avoid accusations of racism by replicating (directly) US tactics after their immigration system became non discriminatory in the sixties e.g. how often do we hear ‘top people’ and media types complaining of ‘population growth’ and ‘immigration’ for environmental degradation, while Australians do little if anything to rein in fossil fuels and emissions?

    Most central example within the ‘eco-system’ was ZPG Zero Population Growth, astro turfing environmental issues, supported by fossil fuel and auto oligarchs’ foundations (Rockefeller Bros. and Ford), including always wrong ‘Malthusian’ enthusiast Paul ‘Population Bomb’ Ehrlich and his long time (now deceased) colleague white nationalist anti-semite John ‘passive eugenics’ Tanton; both have visited Australia (to help set up first ZPG to become SPA Sustainable Population Australia), Tanton expressed admiration of the white Australia policy and Ehrlich pops up everywhere in media e.g. Q&A, ABC RN etc. masquerading as ‘left’ or ‘progressive’.

    There is also Population Matters UK (with Ehrlich along with Attenborough, Lionel Shriver, Jane Goodall, et al. as patrons plus a QLD ag scientist from SPA Sustainable Population Australia as consultant) focusing upon environment and blaming population growth in developing world (have not noticed long term decline in fertility but seem bothered by improved education, health and longevity?), while Tanton appears to have focused upon a linked group (via CIS), Migration Watch UK. Migration Watch focuses upon all the negatives of immigrants and recommending policies e.g. ‘hostile environment’ to govt. committees, Tory MPs and tabloid media, while Oz has SPA, many other proxies abound e.g. bi-partisan obsessions with refugees, immigrants, the ‘nebulous’ NOM and population growth, while desperately doing nothing about robust environmental policies.

    The US? The Trump White House policy on refugees, Moslems, Latinos, immigration, environment and fossil fuels with Tanton’s ideas being promoted by Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller and Kelly-Anne Conway with FAIR, CIS and Numbers USA; maybe peak influence with Biden rolling back legislation as we speak.

    All parties in Oz need to be aware of racist and/or libertarian traps presented as ‘oven ready’ solutions (not meant to be a tasteless pun) by encouraging voters to focus upon non issues like race or immigration while serious existential fossil fuel/environmental, governance, corruption, taxation, social security etc. issues are avoided.

    As the Cafe con leche Republicans warned years ago about Tanton’s quiet influence in the background on GOP tactics and strategy (including false claims that ‘immigrants’ vote left), this is attacking their own future middle class constituents whose diversity will emerge in the above median age voter. Personally I know Liberal, National and Labor voters/members, who are good people, in Victoria who are embarrassed at the behaviour of their ‘peers’ in media and aghast at how much slack is cut for bigots, both inside and outside of the tent; is this bigotry simply a political tactic in changing demographics or ideology?

    Waiting for the day in about a generation that QLD’er Bill Hayden predicted in the ’80s when most or the average Australian will have light coffee coloured skin, and we will be the most beautiful people in the world; I doubt any MP would have the guts to say that nowadays due to predictable kick back from legacy media, where have we go to? Mealy mouthed platitudes about being ‘the most successful multicultural nation in the world’ but refuse to address negative racist behaviour in society and amongst their peers….

  8. Consume Less

    Well said Dr Wilson. It sure does seem we have such a long way to go re this hatred of difference. The IPA lamenting the diminishing of Australian values really gets my goat. IMHO the whole Australian value thing is such a crock of shite. I would rather adhere to values that apply to all humanity, like empathy, compassion, fairness and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes type stuff.

  9. Consume Less

    Just need to add one more value to my list ….Truth.

  10. Kangaroo Jack

    The IPA lamenting the diminishing of Australian values

    LOL. Can someone please explain to me what “Australian Values” are, because after 65 years I’m hard pressed to see evidence of such a thing..

  11. wam

    dear, kangaroo Jack,
    Loved the link – “,,,to defend truth” beggars the questions ‘who’s truth…?’
    The aboriginal people of NZ are Maori? Ours are afforded the proper noun status, so what country were your “…three aboriginal boys” from?

  12. Phil Pryor

    This Leak Jnr. should be able to scribble up a cartoon version of simian Abbott, the Manly Masturbator and living example of pro-consul’s existence. Yes, this is a racist place, always was.., I recall the rudeness and evil, done in “fun”, of a fine indigenous lad at school, a bit ahead of me, but I’ve not forgotten it. Perhaps it is a grand expansion or inflation of tribalism, and we have always had sub tribal groups striving for a temporary success of supremacy, with football in districts a feature. Sydney has had sufferers of contempt, e g, Loo-ites, “Cross” creatures, all westies, reffos in ghettos, etc. No doubt our indigenous could have given an intelligence test, culturally based of course, to the rest of the world, long, long ago, and the rest of the world would have done poorly, leaving the locals alone as easily superior. As we have one race, Homo Sapiens (and that part is doubtful) we should try harder to be civil and agree…

  13. Kangaroo Jack


    The aboriginal people of NZ are Maori? Ours are afforded the proper noun status, so what country were your “…three aboriginal boys” from?

    I’m not clear on the question “what country were MY?” three aboriginal boys from? Which bit of Townsville was unclear?

  14. Kangaroo Jack

    Oh Lord. Apologies WAM. Just realised. Have been a bit busy with sTuff.

    I inadvertently did not capitalise the “A” word which I rarely use. I usually refer to First Nations. Mea Culpa, mea culpa. .

    I can promise this was a spelling oversight, not a racist shot at lowering the importance of our First Nations.

    I have booked myself in for a 72 minute flogging with chains and small pieces of brick tied to leather thongs, in the hands of a Terminator look alike posing as an Inglish Boys Public School pedant at 2:18 PM this afternoon. He is supposed to wear a cap and gown to reinforce the issue of my setting levels of importance without considering others in the doing of It.

    Apparently we are then having high Tea.

    Care to watch?

  15. leefe

    “Add to the list a $40,000 grant to Johannes Leak, Bill Leak’s son, to do Tony Abbott’s official portrait. As far as I am aware, he only does cartoons, just like his dad. Onya Tone, I’m sure the Indigenous community appreciate your choice.”

    Bill was a serious portraitist and had numerous entries in the Archibald. As for Johannes, he copies his father’s cartooning style; maybe he does the same when attempting serious portraiture?

  16. wam

    haha kangaroo jack apology accepted. Sadly, it is a normal occurrence because the spell check’s red line appears if you write ‘maori’, or any other aboriginal peoples, but not for the Australian Aborigine. That example of septic ignorance, has trapped many a naive writer. But I am glad you have realise a pitfall of your ‘inadvertent’
    So no matter proof reading is not my strong point either eg you seem to have ignored the red line for sTuff.

  17. Kangaroo Jack

    Hi Wam

    It was completely deliberate as it demonstrated clearly that a) I have a sense of humour and b) I have a mis-apportioned sense of the changeable values of the importance of typographical perfection. Or s0mething like that.

    Also, I wasn’t sure of the accepted management technique for Wam which also has a rather deliciously disapproving red line beneath and it’s wriggly, which I adore. Matches my hat.

  18. Kangaroo Jack


    I don’t think a portrait of that mad monk could ever be serious, cartoon or not.

  19. wam

    thanks macropodidae the point of the exercise is that search engines, most of the media and all rabbottians, also fail to give our Aborigines the respect of a proper noun.
    As for the dEliberate it couldn’t have been more obvious to a pedAnt.
    Happily such errors, as yours, deliberate or through carelessness should not go unnoticed.
    ps nice namesakes on facebook hard to pick just one??

  20. Geoff Andrews

    The delicious irony of wam (s/he whose caps lock only works occasionally) lecturing us on the use of capital letters.
    I approach the Master in trepidation with the following clarifying questions: Would the statement: “The kangaroo is an aborigine of Australia” get the juices of righteous pedantry pumping?
    Does the capitalized word “Aborigine” only refer to the aborigines of Australia?

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