A tall poppy is often loathed because of their persona not achievements, writes Greg Cary.
When Anthony Mundine was beaten in a unanimous points verdict by Joshua Clottey recently there was a certain level of joy expressed by many of those who have little time for “The Man”.
Some of his supporters said such a reaction was typical of Australia’s love of chopping down tall poppies.
Did they stop, I wonder, to consider the possibility that, with good reason, a lot of people just can’t stand Mundine?
People love to talk about the Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS), particularly tall poppies who are in strife for one reason or another.
It was once said that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels – well, the TPS can’t be far behind.
My challenge has always been to name one - just one – Australian who has been attacked or vilified simply because they have grown above the pack, rather than because of how they have dealt with their success.
I’m a huge fan, for instance, of Greg Norman but don’t always agree with things he’s said and done.
Any criticism is not based on his success but on his actions, which obviously receive much more publicity because of his celebrity.
The origins of the TPS are interesting and date back to the 7th century B.C.
Historian Herodotus writes of the tyrant Thrasybulus walking through a wheat field, lopping the tallest ears as advice to Periander of Corinth on how to stay in charge: get rid of those who get too powerful and threaten your position… a strategy of tyrants ever since.
So what began as a military and political tactic in ancient Greece and Rome is now some kind of uniquely Australian trait reflecting a desire to destroy those who have done well. I don’t buy it.
I’ve met and chatted with Anthony Mundine several times and have found him modest, courteous and considered.
They are values once so nobly displayed by his father, Tony, who would’ve worked hard to instil them in his talented son.
That Anthony presents so differently in public is a choice he made so as to manufacture controversy and publicity in order to promote causes close to his heart and to create a product (him) that would become valuable.
Fair enough, but neither he nor his associates can then say he is being attacked because of his achievements.
He is loathed in such large numbers because of the public persona he created. Not because he was successful.
Australians have a rich history of praising their champions in all areas of endeavour.
I could name a thousand eminent Australians in sport, business and the arts against whom there has never been a harsh word and there are others who are criticised because of something they have said or done with which people disagree. Not because they are successful.
Anthony Mundine has too often displayed a confidence and arrogance that only ignorance allows. He has nonetheless been a fine athlete whose career – in the ring and out – has been (sadly) defined by a tendency to fight beyond his depth.