Noble lies

Didn't the Olympics dismantle one of our favourite national myths - that our "selfless" athletes "do it for Australia"?

The selflessness actually comes from their families who sacrifice precious energy, time, money and fossil fuel on a group who are some of the most ambitious, single-minded and selfish people this country produces.

They have to be.

Meals, sleep, training, competition, medical treatment, rehab ... everything revolves around them, yet we're served the fantasy "they do it for little or no reward".

Please. How many people get the taxpayer-funded opportunity to put their adult life on hold, cocooned in a state of arrested development while they fly around the world to meets, chasing a dream?

Attend an Olympic opening ceremony?

Compete in a final?

Win a medal?


This myth then feeds others such as "plucky little Australia punches above its weight internationally" and "we're a nation of battlers" - as if to be born in Brookvale or Bendigo ensures your sinews are made of sterner stuff than a kid raised on the snooty streets of Darfur or Baghdad.

I love my country and wouldn't want to live anywhere else but, as a citizen, I often feel condescended to by the relentless mouthing of mistruths, and we in the media are complicit.

Plato, 2500 years ago, wrote of the necessity of "noble lies", constructed and voiced by a state's elite to maintain social harmony and cohesion. As a nation, we're special at manufacturing and swallowing absolute beauties, such as:

We're egalitarian: Despite the vertiginous gap between rich and poor, the most highly concentrated media ownership on the planet, and the fact we're home to the richest woman on earth and still think she deserves a widdle tax break.

We're sports mad: Opposition fans aren't segregated at our sporting venues. No one gets stabbed or commits suicide. Fans don't throw banana skins when black players go near the ball. We don't get 100,000 fans to college football games.

We're laid back: Yet we work the longest hours of any nation in the developed world.

We thumb our noses at authority: But live in one of the greatest nanny states on earth. I recently saw two Germans laughing at how pathetic the "Alcohol Free Zone" at my local beach was as they photographed it. We live in a country where you can't fly kites or play ball games on some beaches, or unleash dogs some in parks. Rebels!

We're bronzed Aussies: Yet 61 per cent of Australians are either overweight or obese and we're ranked the fifth fattest nation in the world.

We have an affinity with the bush: But I'd wager more Poms have been to Uluru than Aussies. Most of us are about as home Out Back as those schoolgirls in Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Mateship is uniquely Australian: We somehow think we invented the concept of friendship by renaming it. Reckon they might also have an idea of mateship in Syria or Sarajevo?

We believe in a fair go: Except if you're a 13-year-old Afghani boat person. Or you're a gay couple who want to get married. Or you're disabled. Or Aboriginal. Or Muslim.

We just get on with it: And don't complain, yet perpetuate one of the most vexatious, self-centred talkback cultures in the Western world.

We've heard plenty of prescriptions about what our athletes need to do to improve their lot in the next Olympics and I think the first step is not much different than it is for the rest of this country: cop it on the chin.

Apparently, we're meant to be world's best at that as well.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.