Anyone who knows me, knows what a massive tree-hugger I am—a Level 10 nature poet who acquires a very goofy look of childish wonder when amongst a patch of greenery. So, when photos like the ones of Glenn McGrath sporting fatigues, a rifle, a proud smile, and a discernible hard-on in front of some recently killed exotic animals (including: an elephant, a buffalo and two hyenas) it really does twist a knife in my heart and form yet another white ball of rage in my mind, which I don’t really know what to do with.
The photos, which you’ve no doubt seen by now, were taken in 2008, a short time after the death of McGrath’s wife and this is basically the thin and predictable line he has chosen in his Twitter apology, stating that it was an “extremely difficult time”. In the ordinance of ‘self-destruction under grief’, this definitely seems like a strange reaction and makes me think that Glen probably enjoyed the thrill of killing with or without a dead spouse and that standing alone in the quiet dusk of a golden career makes a whole lot more sense for thrill-seeking behaviour than a deep desperation brought on by mourning.
What makes things difficult in my life is that I feel both united by the public outrage, and also angered by it. A lot of the public are ready to completely right off the Australian hero/ultimate dad/stoic widower Glenn McGrath and cast him out as a despicable brute that relishes the killing of beautiful animals. Right? Not quite. The truth is, although Glenn did something that is totally wrong by our better moral expectations, he didn’t actually do anything illegal, and by comparison to some of our everyday behaviours that swing on the same notion, he really didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. It goes largely unnoticed that moral issues are usually made sense of by either consensus or law. Usually we get it right, sometimes we get it really, really wrong.
We like to think that we forge our own opinions or develop them through critical thought. But history tells a very different story and from petty thievery to genocide, it is often the question of legality and social rationalisation (are enough other people doing the same thing that I won’t be singled out), rather than critical thought and a sense of moral justice that we rely on in order to shape, and make permissible, our behaviours.
What do things like Glenn McGrath’s apparent desire to kill teach me? Simply, that it is possible to hold two conflicting ideas in your mind—to believe yourself a good person and to sometimes act like a shitty one. This is a painful lesson I’ve had to learn over and over. As frail creatures doing our level best not to panic we are irrational and prone to intellectual laziness equally as much as we are capable of an impassioned cri de coeur in the face of injustice.
I’m sure Glenn enjoys seeing his labradoodle skip around like a moron. I’m sure he believes it has feelings and that’s probably why he named it ‘Paul’. I’m sure he enjoys buying free-range eggs as much as he enjoyed killing that elephant (although I have noticed that cartons of caged eggs are often swathed in sponsorship for the McGrath Foundation, so maybe Glenn really doesn’t give a fuck about any other animals except the upright ones who cheered his name on the pitch).
I am not suggesting that you’re are an evil bastard if you eat meat. But your participation and consent is worth consideration—almost everything you take for granted is. If you are morally and emotionally okay with the slaughter of billions of animals and the inherent human error and fuck ups that result in torture, suffering and the unimaginable waste of life then maybe you don’t have as much right to be angry at Glenn McGrath. He insulted your better moral expectations only so far as you have yourself. Everything in you might feel like you have a big gigantic right to be mad, but the Steggles crumbed chicken breast on your plate says you’re full of shit.
No one is going to convict you as an accomplice if it is discovered that the bird you ate had it’s legs and wings broken by a farm hand who decided that its uncooperativeness of being stuffed into a trucking crate might be dissuaded by thrashing it to the ground and stomping on it. No one would even suggest you lose sleep over it. However, if you held a man’s coffee while he beat his dog in the street for not sitting at the traffic lights you might just be frowned upon a teensy bit. Sure, one act is tacitly aware and the other is not, but in the age of information, ignorance does not redeem you of complicity.
Knowing this doesn’t allow for a kind of moral superiority, I just tend to spend more time feeling sad, angry and confused, unable to shake off the feeling that as with the animals, our humanity gets trucked to the abattoirs as well.