No more victimhood
29th November 2012
In the following, from the Courier Mail, I argue that Tennyson's poem Ulysses shows the benefits of being heroic instead of playing the victim.
WHAT do the latest James Bond movie, `Skyfall', and Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's longest-serving prime minister, have in common? If you say, no idea - then that's understandable.
If, on the other hand, you answer Tennyson's poem Ulysses, then you win the prize.
In the latest Bond movie, M, facing a parliamentary inquiry into her failures as head of MI6, recites the final lines from Tennyson's poem, which supposedly was a favourite of the founder of the Liberal Party.
In the poem the ancient Greek hero Ulysses, though old and soon to confront death, longs for one last chance to prove his valour and strength and to embark on another perilous journey.
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
The sentiment is one of overcoming adversity, not giving in to suffering, and battling against all odds to demonstrate one's bravery and heroism. Pain, suffering and loss have always been with us and are an inevitable part of being human. The challenge, though, is how best to overcome adversity.
For Sir Robert Menzies' generation, who experienced two world wars and the Great Depression, the belief was that individuals, although often with the help others, had to rely on their own bravery, resilience and the conviction that after the tempest, still waters would prevail.
The welfare state, with its insatiable desire to intervene and comfort all, had yet to take control and individuals and their families still relied on one another and local networks to meet their needs.
Welfare payments were few and far between, unemployment relief was meagre and universal health care had yet to be introduced.
An essential part of Australia's bush ethos and the ANZAC legend was to fight against adversity and face a harsh future stoically. Stories such as Henry Lawson's The Drover's Wife epitomised the ability to survive in a hostile environment and to do what was necessary to raise a family.
In modern-day tragedies such as Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires and last year's floods in Queensland, we saw again this spirit of resilience and bravery when ordinary people achieve heroic feats.
Tennyson's poem and Lawson's short story embody a romantic notion of the hero and one increasingly lacking today when the common cry is one of victimhood.
Read the papers, watch or listen to the news or surf the net and it's clear we are surrounded by those seeking redress and government action for what has been or is being suffered.
As Joe Hockey said in a speech earlier this year, we live in a time characterised as the age of entitlement.
Many succumb to drugs and alcohol and, instead of taking responsibility, argue it's because of the sins of others and they must get government support.
Some are the victims of violence and abuse and, instead of breaking free, bemoan their fate, trapped in the past.
Even in education, the victim mentality is now rife with working class, migrant and indigenous students told that only positive discrimination will turn failure into success.
Supposedly, performance at school is not a matter of ability or effort, but the result of home background.
Instead of working harder, at-risk students are told it's not their fault that they underachieve. Today's generations are wrapped in cotton wool and expect that all they have to do is to complain and things will work out in the end.
Worse still, the victim mentality drains individuals of their ability to stand on their own two feet, confront and overcome problems and get on with life with a positive attitude.
While there's no denying that those experiencing pain, loss and disadvantage need help and support, maybe, just maybe, things would be better if, like Ulysses, instead of victimhood, the cry was one of: To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
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29th November 2012
In the following, from the Courier Mail, I argue that Tennyson's poem Ulysses shows the benefits of being heroic instead of playing the victim.WHAT do the latest James Bond movie, `Skyfall', and Sir...
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