Dr Stewart Hase - Psychologically Speaking

A society for sale

Its true, Im a bit of a golf tragic. Watching the US Masters this weekend was a delight. Some of the thrill is watching the professionals playing what is a quite different game to the rest of us mere mortals. When they hit the ball it even sounds different, let alone where it ends up. Part of the fascination is created by my own imagination as I identify with their golfing feats. I see myself walking the fairways with that confident air and making the perfect swing.

While all the drama was unfolding I couldnt help but reflect on the amount of money these golfing professionals make. And then there are tennis players, soccer stars and so on across the spectrum of sports. Its all about advertising of course. Consumerism at its very best. The fascination that people have with sport means that they buy the products the sports stars use so we can join their elite group. Its quite clever really how powerful this psychological mechanism of association can be and it is used in all sorts of advertising.

The amount of money these guys get for hitting a small white ball around beautifully manicured paddocks is actually obscene if you think about it for more than a nanosecond. Im not blaming the players here but a set of societal values that support it, that make it happen. I wonder, as I often do, whether we really have lost the ethical plot.

This was brought into sharp focus for me this week with two events. The first of these was talking to a group of people who spend their lives caring for their disabled sons, daughters and parents. We talked about all sorts of things to do with the stress and problems associated with being a carer. Although we talked about problems it was stunning to feel the stoicism in the room. It was as if in the face of tremendous sacrifice, there was no other sensible decision to be made but to care. It made me think about the number of unsung heroes there are in the community doing all sorts of amazing things. Unnoticed. With nothing to sell to attract business dollars and few votes to attract government dollars.

The second event that made me think about values was listening to the 2005 Massey lectures on Radio National. They are about the tragedy that is Africa. It is hard not to feel a lump come to the throat listening to the stories about what is happening there. But this too goes unnoticed for the same reasons. It doesnt easily make the media and it certainly doesnt sell anything. Even wheat!


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