Plugging holes in your self-esteem

Listening to a cover-band in a country town exposes a common type of snobbery - or it did so in me late last year as I watched the inevitably-named 'Voodoo Shuffle' belt out Rolling Stones songs at Young's annual Cherry Festival.

The band lacked it all: a singer wearing a bowler hat and tuxedo tails over a t-shirt and tattoos; members who'd have looked more at home playing World of Warcraft than musical instruments; a set list of decomposing 60s hits and an audience of grandparents and pre-teens in lawn chairs.

I was in town to shoot a promotion for Young's chamber of commerce and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know one of NSW's more picturesque and dynamic rural hubs. However, I'm aware fronting corporate videos is not hosting Top Gear.

Yet, as I walked amongst the crowds and carnival rides with a radio-mic clipped to my rakishly unbuttoned shirt kidding myself I was Jeremy Clarkson, even I had the gall to momentarily peer down my nose at the creative expression of a bunch of rural residents on a temporary stage.

It's an impulse I often check in myself when visiting western suburbs cafes and central coast boutiques with hand-painted signage. Like many other forms of snobbery, it's a person plugging holes in their self-esteem by scoffing at less-'sophisticated' attempts to do the same by others.

You know the little voice in your head: "Why would anybody wear that dress?", "Ricky Ponting actually 'wrote' an autobiography?", "Did they just buy the entire Ikea catalogue when they moved in to this place?"

It's an ugly, pointless habit and I chastised myself as I watched Voodoo Shuffle's lead singer, ummm, shuffle through the crowd, shaking hands with pensioners, even high-fiving a dude in a wheelchair.

Who am I to judge? I thought.

Who's to say four guys throwing down fat hooks, 20,000 kms from Wembley Stadium are not having as much fun, or more, than the jaded superstar musicians they're impersonating?


I said as much to my producer as we headed to our accommodation, a lovely Federation-era rental home, and sipped Scotch watching a Nelson Mandela documentary. The great man had died the day before, so when my producer said "I met him," I assumed the single malt, too, was shuffling.


"He'd just got out of prison. It was his first trip to Australia," he replied.

Mandela had agreed to a single pool interview during the visit, a combined radio and TV affair for which my then-youthful producer was one of two, lowly sound recordists crouching in the shadows of the studio.

The rest of the space was crowded with dignitaries and the preening host yet, when the father of modern South Africa entered, he walked straight to the people he judged lowest on the social totem pole and shook my producer's hand.

"Hello, I'm Nelson Mandela," he said, greeting both sound recordists, then the cameramen, before sitting to be questioned.

Snobbery always tells you more about the shortcomings of the snob than the snubbed. It's instructive a man dragged as low and lifted as high as Mandela refused to be defined by either situation, or to let it inform how he interacted with others.

Something tells me he would have enjoyed Voodoo Shuffle.

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