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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Commensality: who will be invited to table with John Howard

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Australia has been euphoric this week because of the rescue of two Tasmanian miners. Miss Eagle has not posted on this, dear Reader, because there has been so much coverage elsewhere. But on the same day as the two Tasmanians were rescued and the media were all a-jostle with chequebook journalism, at the very tip of Australia three Torres Strait Islanders were rescued without the fanfare of the press or any sort of Winnebago village as Beaconsfield experienced. The three men from Mer (Murray Island - the island of Eddie (Koiki) Mabo) showed great endurance and resourcefulness. The two Tasmanians were underground for two weeks, blown off course by Cyclone Monica. The men from Mer were lost for three weeks. They lived on raw squid. They formed jerry cans into paddles to work their way back into signal distance for their mobile phones to be useful in calling for help.

Hours prior to the rescue of the men from Mer, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced that there would be a Canberra reception for the Tasmanians and there would be an ex gratia payment for the third miner, who did not survive. Miss Eagle, dear Reader, was concerned at this announcement. What happens with the next survival story? What happens with the next workplace fatality? What will be available from the Prime Minister's largesse for those who come after? Then within a very short space of time there is an outstanding story of survival in a very remote part of Australia involving three black men.

John Howard calls himself a cricket tragic. He turns up at all sorts of sporting events and basks in the glory of national sporting teams. Miss Eagle thinks that John Howard is nothing less than a celebrity tragic and wants to surround himself - without it being too obvious of course - with those in the public eye. Of course, if there is a good cover story so he does not appear too crass that's great. This time compassion, concern for the miners and the town of Beaconsfield, will be the story. And the men from Mer who live within a very basic economy, who are not close to the facilities of a major town, who frequently take their lives in their hands as they cross the Torres Strait from island to island - this time to pick up a sporting team - what of them? Will they - in true Christian tradition - be invited to the banquet?

Now is a time for discernment. Now is the time to assess the values of modern Australian society. Do we only identify with what comes under the lens of a television camera? Do we only get concerned or emotionally involved when the media mediate the event? Do we think that an event has no importance if there is no media attention? Can we judge for ourselves the worth of an invent without the media telling us what to look at, what to think, what to feel?

Australia it is up to you.

Do the men from Mer turn up in Canberra with the terrific Tasmanians?

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