I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the fascination with Anthony Mundine. I don’t have a problem with Mundine, but something about him rubs me the wrong way. A lot of people say that, but then many people like him as well and consider him a good representative for Aboriginal and Islamic society. Now there’s been talk of Mundine going into politics in a few years, and that’s what I’m uncertain about; if that happens, it could prove very divisive.
Mundine is obviously a talented sportsman. You don’t make a successful jump from league to boxing without a lot of skill, and probably a heap of determination and focus to go with it. But it’s his language I’m getting tired of. There’s no trace of humility in anything he says and it’s like public opinion has no weight with him. Just the other week, after beating Soliman, he seemed to disregard the spectators who’d paid to watch him by saying “I’m a two-time world champion – you all can’t say shit.” (The Sun Herald, March 11)
He’s cocky and that’s the persona we expect, but it’s only a minor example. There have also been the occasions when Mundine has said that the United States brought on itself the 9/11 attacks; when he’s called league selectors racist, and called John Howard a coward. He’s said that Aborigines suffered a Holocaust and that Australia should learn from how Germany re-established itself after the Holocaust. And that’s not even mentioning his refusal to wear the Australian flag, or the burning of the Union Jack and photos of PM Howard for his music video for Platinum Ryder. Plus his lyrics, which are just as inflammatory.
His language is obnoxious and attention-seeking, catering to the lowest denominator. Mundine shocks, causing outrage to elicit a reaction: it’s the language of the mob. What’s dangerous is that, like with any mob, he can’t always control the reaction.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion; the problem is that these are important issues Mundine is talking about and he comes across (to me at least) as sounding ignorant. From someone who might enter politics in the future, that’s not a good combination. Even if your views differ from the mainstream, it’s important to be able to express those views intelligently so people can consider your viewpoint. I’m not sure that’s a quality Mundine possesses.
And yet, I do respect Anthony Mundine. Whatever he says, he backs up. Much of his boxing rhetoric is pure showmanship, sure, but he still wins, so it’s hard to disprove. He brings in thousands of people to watch his fights. But more importantly he’s a big donor to various charities, sets a good example for children by neither drinking or smoking. He genuinely cares. He’s one of the few people who lives by what he says, and in these times that’s a rare thing.
So what should we make of Anthony Mundine? He’s become such a polarising figure in the public, should we just ignore his rhetoric? My feeling is no, because he does represent a portion of society which feels the same way – it’s important to be aware of their point of view. That doesn’t mean we should take Mundine too seriously, though, either; rather it’s part of his persona and should be taken that way. If he does run for politics later, that’ll be different; but for now I think it’s all part of the show.