Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The doctor is in, but perhaps not Ng

ANDREW Bolt is justifiably upset today at being verballed by Peter Gebhardt in an opinion article published in the Fairfax press. The column cites the former judge's protege, Ryen Diggle, as lamenting, on the strength of an annoying but innocuous  conversation with a random idiot, that "people only see me as an Aboriginal." While his account of that waiting-room encounter speaks of his interlocutor's garrulousness, there seems to have been nothing pejorative about it. Yet Dr Diggle finds being identified as "an Aboriginal with whatever negative connotations that may bring in their minds" is hurtful and racist and, well, you name a grievance and the Indigenous intern can probably be counted upon to find it amongst the various chips piled up on both shoulders.

Well here is the funny thing: Dr Diggle has done quite nicely out of being seen as Indigenous, with Gebhardt swearing he is "very Aboriginal in his physiognomy". Indeed, had he been a member of some other oppressed minority, he might not have made it into the school of medicine at Melbourne University, where entry requirements are very tough. The 2013 ATAR score for biomed is 98.8 and it would not have been that much different in 2006, when Diggle graduated from Darwin High School. Here are the Territory's top 20 young scholars from that year, with several of his classmates figuring prominently. We can assume Diggle's score was less than 92, the lowest of 2006's listed best.

He is mentioned in the NT Education Department's end-of -year summary, but only as his school's leading Indigenous student (one hopes he would not take offence at "only").

Now here is the thing: If his Darwin HS classmate Winnie Chen, who scored a remarkable 100, had been out of sorts at one or several exams, would the Parkville Asylum have slipped her into that year's intake under, say, a Menstrual Issues Rectification Scheme or a Bad Case Of The Flu clause? The answer is probably no, which all means that Diggle, for all his bristling at "the negative" of being seen as Aboriginal,  is quite happy to be regarded in no other light when there is an advantage to be seized.


  1. He's not that bright if he's basing his opinion on the words of the strange stranger sitting opposite him in the local Accident and Emergency department.

  2. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.May 28, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Recognising that someone looks or seems different to oneself is just a fact of life. We are all different, in many ways. How (and if) we comment on observed differences depends on circumstances, our sensitivity to how others might react, and quite often merely on how well-mannered we are. Some people walk on eggshells because they can see them ahead and others trudge right through them without noticing, and this happens with regard to all manner of differences that those observed may have strong feelings about (for instance, weight or age or accent or wealth or gender), not just skin colour or place of origin. In today's fractured and rather precious environment of offense-taking, racism is often played as a card when no such thing was ever intended. It seems to me that quite possibly in this case someone sitting in a waiting room was trying, in an awkward manner, to be sociable.

    If Christian scriptures are to be brought into the equation, as the Fairfax writer brings in the 'wolf in sheep's clothing' metaphor with regard to Tony Abbott's friendship with aboriginal people, then perhaps the Christian message of 'turn the other cheek' could also be employed by this writer with regard to the aboriginal person who was offended by a stranger's certainly inept but possibly well-meant enquiry.

    A polite word back, along the lines of 'thanks for your interest, I'm aboriginal, and a proud Australian', plus a smile, would have immediately demonstrated who of the two held the upper hand in the encounter. In this way attitudes can change, not by fiat or by offended reactions, but by a smile and goodwill and a gentle correction.

    If the AFL footballer Goodes had responded to a thirteen year-old girl's call of "ya big Ape" with a wave and a smile, (or even if he had just momentarily and obviously covered his ears) he would not have destroyed half of the Nation's goodwill towards him, which as far as I can see (not from media comment which is all so PC but from people on the street) is now down the plughole for him after people have seen him, a big grown man, pointing out a little girl for carting away, severe interrogation, public humiliation and then 're-education' when she meant no harm. He could then have spoken to the media about possibly hurtful comments and how best to respond to them, and would have garnered considerable respect for how he actually did. Instead, he has garnered the opposite, no matter what the PC press says.

    1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.May 29, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Correction: she said 'you're an ape'.

      In the meantime, on posts further up, our Good Prof has noted some upcoming publicity for the show King Kong. Take it away, Eddie.

  3. Goodness me a "Melting Snowflake" !

    "Hey you you f***** white c*** !" was heard often enough in ER to not rate a mention when I worked there. (RPH SCGH mid 80s)

  4. As one who has had the misfortune to have met the pompous Gebhardt on a number of occasions, the accusations of colour-blindness are well founded.
    Others think so too.
    Just Google "Judge Peter Gebhardt, Observation Deck, Taban Gaby".
    An interesting tale of a (recidivist) pissed black guy behind the wheel of a car having the good fortune to meet an activist judge.
    At least it is some relief that he only writes prose and poetry for telephone box audiences and is no longer on the bench.

    The Irish Lion