You have to break a few Eggboys to make an omelette
Ella Robinson on our love affair with Eggboy.
For whatever things young Australians lack – affordable housing, job prospects, comfort that action on climate change will enable us a reasonable stable and prosperous future – they all have a surprising amount of sway in how the broader public comes to understand news events. In a world of 24 hour media, ‘fake news’, and the legitimacy of a ‘listicle’ as a form of journalism, the way news is framed for public consumption, and the ways in which we all consume it, are constantly evolving. The internet has become a legitimate foundation of up-to-date news media of varying levels of accuracy: Twitter gives us short bursts of up to the minute breaking news; the Daily Mail, should you require voyeuristic paparazzi shots of Married At First Sight contestants from two years ago; hell, even Mammamia provides information to the masses, albeit always opening with Mia Freedman’s favourite qualifier, “AS A MOTHER…”
Curiously, while allegedly lazy millennials and students are the bane of this nation’s existence, and the backbone of call-in topics for talkback radio announcers, recent events suggest a far greater influence in the translation of news media to the general public than anyone would like to admit. Where people want up-to-the-second information on what is occurring around the world, they inevitably seek a means of consuming such information which does not require a significant amount of time or cognitive effort. Though their pronunciation continues to be disputed, Memes have become a key vehicle for delivering information to the masses quickly and effectively.
Much like the ironic mullet, or wearing really chunky, expensive sneakers which look like shoes you’d buy from a chemist, memes are the result of students and young people seeking to pave their own way in the world. These images, phrases, or short pieces of text have become a universal language amongst those under the age of 30, and can convey a piece of information, a joke, or a whole socio-cultural realm of knowledge in an effective, efficient, and easily shareable fell swoop. In their immediacy, memes have become the frozen Lean Cuisine of news and information – quick, easy, and occasionally better than you expected. Nowhere has this been more readily devoured than in the sparking microwave that is Australia’s media outlets.
Last month’s hideous terror attacks in two Christchurch mosques were the worst massacres in New Zealand’s history. These attacks again remind the Muslim community that their safety is somehow not a right, but a privilege. The perpetrator, an Australian man more than familiar with the goings-on of the modern incarnation of the political right – known on the interwebs as the Alt(ernative)-Right, served as a grotesque reminder that Australia has, in more recent times, become an incubator of bigotry, racism and entitlement which pervades much of mainstream, white society.
In case people weren’t totally sure about this, two lone braincells smashing into each other at speed, also known as Queensland Senator Fraser Anning, did not hesitate to suggest to the Australian and broader international community, still reeling from the shock of this event, that perhaps it was in fact the Muslim community who brought this upon themselves.
And in the spirit of democracy, Anning’s recent appearance at an event in the Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin was met with members of the public exercising their right to free speech and action, and a teenage boy wielding the most deceptive of weapons… an egg. What came first, the chicken, the egg, or the Eggboy?
Eggboy gets more print, television, and radio media coverage than you could ever believe. Rarely, I suppose, does a seventeen-year-old do anything which members of the public may approve of. Its these lazy millennials and students who have no get-up-and-go in them, who just while away the days hoping someone else will solve their probl– sorry, I think I’ve just been possessed by the spirit of Andrew Bolt.
So Eggboy becomes a symbol of political engagement and hands-on activism amongst Australia’s youth and students, who are simply doing the right thing with minimal fuss. A celebration of Australia’s version of democracy, where if you behave like a dickhead in the public eye, you’ll end up with egg on your face! Eggboy is ultimately the result of young people and students recognising and supporting one of their own through the power of countless social media efforts.
Meanwhile countless families, a school, and a religious community continue to grieve their lost loved ones. Their lives taken by a man, born and bred in the very same country as Eggboy, who believed he had the power and the right to cause such destruction.
Eggboy is the result of young people engaging with social media and shifting the limelight to keep the badness – the killers, the hatred, the things we cannot even begin to understand nor let alone grieve or repent for, out of sight and in the dark. When we as a nation, and even more so as a generation of young Australians cannot begin to address or atone for the hatred, bigotry, and violence this country can clearly incubate, we look for something more digestible on which to keep our focus. We find the silver lining of every cloud, even when it means we refuse to admit that it is raining.
When we grieve – i.e. a person, a pet, a significant life change – it’s not uncommon to latch onto something we can funnel our attention into. My last break-up saw me doing Pilates. When my dog died, I went for big, long walks to avoid being in a house where he no longer slept in the doorways. When we experience this emotional and psychological disequilibrium, we grab onto something we can make sense of immediately, staying afloat on the broken door while the waves of sadness, confusion and anger wash over us.
When an Australian man goes into a religious sanctuary, and takes the lives of men women and children at their most vulnerable, presenting themselves to their faith in a moment of prayer, and believes he is doing the right thing, the country – and in particular the young people at the forefront of this new, interconnected realm of global news media – turn their focus towards the actions of a teenager who hit a grown man with an egg. We find the stability – the memes, the news reports, the interviews – so we can walk away from the instability.
This country has built itself on its landscape, a wide brown land of extraordinary, unique deserts, and the opportunity such environments provide us for sticking our head in the sand. No one discusses Australian history in educational or cultural realms because to do so would be an admission of guilt, and a recognition of a crippling avoidance complex which encompasses the national psyche.
Eggboy shows that young people and students have influence and power, whether we like it or not. But just because we celebrate a political fool getting perhaps a fraction of what he truly deserves does not mean we are revoking power from the terrorist who committed this atrocity in the first place. It is one thing to realise we have power, it is an entirely different thing to understand how and why we need to use it to make change, rather than enabling the status quo.