Swimming with Tony Abbott

August 23rd, 2014  |  Published in Social justice

tonya4No, I’m not trying out for Team Australia, or Team Abbott, or even Team Tony. There’s no danger of that. But I do need to talk about a disturbance of the peace that arose at my local swimming pool around the time he became prime minister. I reckon there’s some connection.

I’ve been swimming at the same pool for years, and it’s had a feel of community – for most people most of the time. Until this bloke hit the deck. I know he can’t BE Tony Abbott. He’s in the wrong state, doesn’t wear budgie smugglers, or a blue tie, and yet in every way that matters he’s a dead ringer. I’ll call him TonyB.

Sent as a test

I reckon TonyB has been sent to test me. Just like TonyA. That’s what I said to my friend, Steve. And he laughed, and laughed, and said: “Not just you, Joan”. And I know that’s true.

The idea of TonyA being sent as a test was first raised for me by Holly O’Donnell on the 2020socialjustice Facebook page. I liked the idea. It made TonyA (and TonyB for that matter) seem like a challenge. And we can all rise to a challenge when needs must. More optimistic than the wrecking-ball analogy too and, besides, I’ve always been pretty good at tests.

It’s all about give and take

The thing about swimming in a public pool (to get back to TonyB, and his resemblance to TonyA) is that it’s all about give and take. People accommodate to each other. They notice if another swimmer needs to pass. They apologise if they accidentally hit someone with an unwieldy limb. They organise themselves into lanes that work best, even if it doesn’t match the slow, medium, and fast signs at thetonya9 end. They share equipment, and I’ve even know people to lend goggles, towels, and bathers! They notice if another swimmer has cramp, or other difficulties. I once had Michael Long ask if I was okay. (Just saying!)

Interestingly, though, most of this communication happens nonverbally. People are tuned in; they’re aware of each other, and aware that it’s not all about them; they’re in a shared space that works best with cooperation and goodwill.

TonyB doesn’t get any of that. Unlike most others, he always jumps in at the deep end, and chooses his lane regardless of who’s already there and whether they match his pace. If you’re turning at the time, watch your back. He then proceeds to swim up and down, up and down  – at his own pace – without checking to see if he’s holding anyone up (he often is) or if he’s going to run into someone.

He did swim into a friend once and she called him on it. “Shut up,” he said and kept on swimming. Charming, eh! He does the same in the change-room, apparently, when school kids are there making a bit of a racket.

And how do other swimmers react? Mostly, I’m embarrassed to say, by avoiding him. Trying to get out of his lane, finishing before he starts if possible, sometimes even giving up without finishing.

TonyB, in other words, is an Operator who gets what he wants by bad behaviour. He’s an arrogant, inconsiderate, uncooperative, selfish bully with an inflated sense of entitlement and gets a lane to himself on his merits. TonyA would probably approve, unless of course he was in the same lane.

What to do?

I’d like to be able to deal better with the swimming pool thing, and would be happy to take advice. But, at the end of the day it’s not that important. The pool’s about relaxation and exercise. There’s no sheep station at stake.

TonyA is another thing, though. What he’s doing, and not doing, does matter. We can’t deal with it by avoidance or escape. I reckon he’s exactly the same sort of Operator as TonyB, and has been on the game for a very long time. Can’t you just see him in the swimming pool? Back in primary school?

We need to keep thinking about how to deal with this dominating, entitled, arrogant, self-serving power-monger who doesn’t feel the need to listen and lacks motivation to change.

That’s the challenge. Someone’s gotta give the Tonys swimming lessons or the rest of us are gunna drown.

All offers warmly welcomed.

Yours in solidarity (rather than ‘teamship’) Joan Beckwith.

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5 comments on “Swimming with Tony Abbott”

  1. JennyR says:

    Joan, well put!

    I know Type Tony B! I don’t get why HE (THEY) doesn’t get the opportunities he’s missing.

    As a long-term swimmer, I’m so appreciative of the benefits swimming up and down each morning provides. In particular, ‘lappies’ provide a context for learning – about myself, others, and ‘us’. They help me orient to the world I am about to face, sort through how I’m feeling, work through frustrations, and arrive at my workplace with more grace, humanity. and purpose. They help me reflect on the world, my place in it, and my relationship with others who share this world.

    I can even find peace and learn to be more peaceful.

    Keep swimming Joan.

    That’s the intrinsic value of swimming for me

    • Totally agree about the benefits of swimming, JennyR, and that’s probably why I find the TonyB’s so disconcerting. They are just plain distracting in ways that most swimmers are not. I will definitely keep swimming, though, with or without them. Thanks for your comments…Joan Beckwith.

  2. Lorraine harrison says:

    I found the Tony A and Tony B and the swimming pool poor etiquette story brought a smile or two to my face.

    I think the use of humour to get across an important message is a good strategy.

    I will certainly avoid any swimming holes where I see men standing in their budgie smuggles with ‘ Team Australia’ emblazoned on the buttocks.

    cheers Lorraine

    • Thanks for your comments, Lorraine. It was fun to write as well, although it has also always seemed to me that the way people behave in swimming pools is pretty instructive in quite meaningful ways, which is what makes the analogy useful. I think your precautions are wise, and would only add that you should probably watch out for those blue ties as well. Tonys may not wear their ties in the water, but you can often tell from the tilt of their heads I believe…Joan Beckwith.

  3. Here are links to a couple of articles critiquing the “Team Australia” concept.
    One from Anne Summers in the Sydney Morning Herald, arguing it entrenches inequality (SMH):
    And the other from Malcolm Fraser in ABC News, discussing its divisiveness:

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