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  • Ian Cohen

Before we trash the handshake, let's fill the bin with garbage we can really lose!

Do you know where the tradition of the handshake originated?

Its genesis is eons old, with various incarnations but always a constant theme – some argue it dates back to the 5th century BC when the ancient Greeks used it as a show of peace that no one involved in the greeting was carrying a knife.

In Rome it became more of a forearm grab to signal the pair had nothing adverse hidden in their tunics, and the medieval knights used the clasp in a similar way to ensure they didn’t even hide an ace up the sleeve.

The handshake’s been universal for so long that if someone had suggested we abandon it for any reason pre-COVID-19 they would’ve been howled down ferociously. It’s always been a test of ‘manly-ness’. Football legend EJ Whitten was famous for his bone crunching grip! Every Grandfather engrained into his grandson the importance of a firm handshake. These days both men and women engage freely, but now in the interest of saving lives, the custom may be gone.

We’ve simply, easily and with great purpose dispensed with thousands of years of tradition to keep us all safe. It was difficult to overcome natural tendencies to extend the hand in the formative days of the pandemic, but now the motion is simply not part of life, replaced by elbows, smiles and foot knocks.

My point - if the age-old reliable handshake can be binned, surely, we can shed from our lives some toxic notions that are certainly not 5000 years old, and some of them not even 5 years old.

How about we start with binning the mentality of entitlement that makes one of Victoria’s senior medical officers send out a tweet trying to compare COVID-19 with Captain Cook’s charting of Australia. The ignorant analogy is amazingly stupid on so many levels – historical, political, medical, but what is more concerning is she saw fit to completely take her eye off the ball (the fight against CV-19) to promote a culture war when we should all be pulling together. Not a sackable offence as everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I do now have concerns about her fitness for the job if her judgement as a government official is clouded by a desperation for cheap point scoring over an historical event.

I’m calling out the media (or what is left of it) to make this happen, to help us all relegate the non-essential bullshit sense of entitlement, cancel-culture, peripheral celebrity and PC thuggery that has slowly ganged up on us, to the finest of small print in our daily lives.

The pandemic has forced us to re-assess who some of our genuine heroes should be. I haven’t seen the billionaire Kardashian’s or Kanye and his $1200 shoes come up with a cure yet, nor any of the incessant talking heads who have an entitled running commentary on breakfast TV - but I have seen teachers, police, nurses, truck drivers, supermarket workers, emergency workers, hotel staff and others go well above and beyond, sometimes even costing them their own lives to try to help other humans. Where are our Instagram celebrities now, the ones who demand column inches and photos in the paper, fat pay-checks and brand cash? Their relevance has evaporated.

Let’s get rid of the empty drums who bang on and make the most noise. Let’s throw out the ever-diminishing circles that have become the ‘woke’ politically correct police and the fringe-dwellers unable to handle a difference of opinion.

Some folks barrack for Carlton, some Richmond, some support local footy and some couldn’t give a toss about the Sherrin. We don’t hold protest marches about that or try to indoctrinate others to our way of thinking, we just accept people have different histories and make different choices. We need to apply that sort of mentality to a lot of the other misrepresentative peripheral outrage – band with those that wear your colours, don’t take criticism of your choice personally and have a laugh and celebrate our differences.

Surely this is a time to adjust the social indexing radar from the shallow self-absorbed to those who have stepped up and continue to step up in our moments of need. Let’s be pouring more money into the quietly spoken medical teams, schools and law enforcement and maybe a little less into the very vocal fringes of society. And it’s the media’s role to find those people who have been the heroes, not just those with the loudest voices, lessen the profiles of the vacuous influencers and those famous for just being famous

We should demand our news cycle not give these now forgettable postulators the oxygen they desperately crave and the relevance they do not deserve. The ever-increasing pace with which the ‘tail has wagged the dog’ over the last decade has been justifiably put on the furthest back burner possible as we all look to pull together, not apart, in a bid to beat COVID-19

Let’s bin the sort of ‘virtue-signalling’ (and let’s ditch a few of these words as well!) that sees a rugby union Christian fanatic run out of town for citing a book that the majority of this country thinks is a good basis for faith. While that sports major sponsor (who exerted the strong arm) gleefully flies to locations where homosexuals and adulterers, sometimes just women who looked the wrong way are stoned to death. I don’t agree with silly Issy, but he broke his own contract, not the law.

Our news cycle, and the newsworthiness of vitriol, hatred, blame, the permanently offended and others who seek to divide us or maintain peripheral campaigns has been shifted - thrown out like the handshake - and let’s hope we don’t see a return to the days of click-bait and caring about what influencers think of the latest trend, where the news is generated by the ones who scream loudest about inclusiveness, while forcing a divide of special exemptions because they are ‘different’.

We must re-assess what is actually news. Headlines and constant updates screaming about the rights or wrongs of Brexit pale in comparison to that countries PM actually facing his own mortality. If the Brits are going, then let them just get on with it. Who cares about a row over ‘fluid sexuality’ when we collectively face an opponent that strikes not only at every letter in the LBGTQI acronym, but also at those in the vast majority, who are not listed by letters. Let’s be the One race – the human race, call yourself what you want and get on with it. Banner headlines about whether Harry needs to remain a royal seem trifling when his father was sent into isolation. Nit-picking and politicking on the public purse have all but ceased as our leaders get a grip on this new enemy (although the point-scoring is just starting to re-emerge as those in opposition can’t quite control their need to sling mud). And no one really cares about what some wannabe social media jerk had for breakfast or whether Julian Assange had three square meals a day or if some sports star or WAG has cancelled an event or bought a new car that the average person cannot afford anyway. It’s now about authenticity and everyday heroes, let’s keep it that way.

Can our lives, and our media organisations, live without giving so much weight to Hollywood actors berating us for choices, preaching from on high upon a confected pedestal. Or actually providing a platform to those that wish to disrupt everyday society with such distractions as non-binary pronouns, or ‘quotas’ of people who are in roles due to anything but merit, or those that are involved in the BS of ‘social constructs’! Grandstanding when we should be uniting, over-catering to the edges when the masses voice is subjugated.

It’s galling when these over-hyped millionaire celebrities talk of the struggles of ‘iso’ in a palatial 8-bedroom residence, while everyday Mums and Dads are juggling home schooling in a three-bedroom brick veneer while clinging to hope that they will have a job to return to. Absolutely tone-deaf social media postings abound, but I suppose if you follow them for their ‘insights’ then that is about what you deserve. Get on with your life and let us get on with ours.

Bin all this social angst about political correctness, normal people being fearful of offering a comment because they are scared of offending some minority they don’t even know about, or contrived discrimination - suddenly that doesn’t seem anywhere near as important anymore, trash it!

We are all different, and generally, like the animals most prefer to hang with their own types – those they feel most comfortable with. If Muslim women need some special time to swim alone in a pool because they just want to be by themselves and not sighted by others, that’s OK, it takes an hour a week, just get on with it. And if a bunch of crusty old Anglo men want to get together to talk the stock market or footy that’s OK too, or a group of Chinese prefer to gather in Chinatown, or those with differing sexuality want a parade, or some kids want a concert, or some punters want a horse race, or some people want the pokies, or a group want to do something that is not your cup of tea, it’s probably still OK.

Please accept we are all similar but all different (yes, everyone is different from each other and that makes us interesting and unique!), and lets throw-out the ‘cancel culture’ before we dispense with the handshake – if you don’t like something don’t go, don’t follow, don’t engage – go do your own thing. It’s like watching TV, if you don’t like what’s on the channel then just change it, don’t smash the whole TV so no-one can watch it.

Not everything and every act is racist, sexist, xenophobic, ‘shaming’, ageist, white-privilege or any other label – it may just be a difference of opinion, so just get on with what you are doing. I may prefer person A’s company over person B because that’s the way it is, he/she makes me laugh, whatever – not because they are tall, short, red-headed, blonde, black, white, old, young, gay, straight, Buddhist, Muslim, fat, skinny etc.!

It’s amazing as humans how we can be so caught up in being aggrieved over being aggrieved – and now that an actual real ‘life and death scenario’ is facing us as a planet all those other manufactured outrage news stories and social justifications have been shifted off the front pages and relegated to minor roles as we take on the most contagious threat that we have ever faced.

The climate is still changing, but now people have a more formidable foe that is killing more swiftly right now than any futuristic enemy.

It’s inevitable that the news cycles will eventually drift back towards moral outrage over trivial matters, but for the moment we can, as an overall statement, say that we are all in this together and most people are doing the right thing.

This is life and death and it really shines a light on how minuscule all this faux-offence-taking and divisive manufactured aggrievement really is. Old mate COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate who it infects and who it takes, doesn’t care what ‘label’ you have on your clothing or yourself – and sadly we are losing many of our frontline heroes.

We have been forced to understand a little of what the third world deals with daily – not everything available all the time, shelves that lay bare, bastards that tried to monopolise goods, a touch of ‘siege mentality’

Even the terrorists, who only exist for mass coverage have been hit hard, with no opportunistic attacks on ‘the west’ and no ongoing coverage about bombings in the middle east. No doubt shocking atrocities are continuing, but their story is now one of trying to have their people survive, while some token fighting has continued.

This is a social levelling virus, it has struck princes and paupers and it is making us focus on what is really important, not just what we can get offended about because we live in an affluent society. I am fearful of the true numbers to come out of the third world, especially Africa, but I can guarantee you that much of the world has never, and certainly does not now, care whether a drag queen has a right to read books to kids in a library.

In the self-righteous opinionated push for everyone to be formed into some sort of vanilla equal mass, people overlook the fact that it makes no difference if you call it AFL or AFLM (to some-how match the new AFLW) if you can’t play any games at all. Now we are all faced with actually just getting on with life, and letting some things just ‘be’ as we are all different. Things start at various points to get to where we are now, I’m over the constant calls to re-write history. Embrace and improve what we have now.

As we dash back towards normality, those in the media (and those that thrive on media reports) have a responsibility to decide which parts of the old normal we want to rush back to. We know the abhorrence of Pell and the sadness of police grief will always cut through, but the fourth estate has worked hard to find hidden and reluctant heroes, to cover genuine positive news and feel good stories and generate wonderful narratives, numbers and coverage in the most dynamic and multi-layered event we have encountered in peace-time.

So, if we can ditch five millenniums of handshaking overnight, let’s ditch this recently confected outrage that is always searching for a home, this light-weight cult of celebrity, the constant looking for reasons to apply guilt to the vast majority, and those like our Victorian Assistant chief medical officer desperately wanting to re-write history. The media needs to lead and we all need to ensure the real heroes are celebrated - and that we recognise and celebrate the fact that while we are all different we can all be united when it actually counts.

CV-19 is teaching us what is important, paring back all the BS - get on with your life and let others get on with theirs.

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