Either hate him or love him, Eddie McGuire has the ability to stir up discussion.
His comments about Western Sydney being the 'land of the felafel' albeit inaccurate has really brought a lot of politically correct mutliculturalist commentators jumping onto the bandwagon. This is healthy and a discussion that we need to have.
There are two issues here:
i) Stereotyping people of Mid-Eastern backgrounds
ii) Multiculturalism in general
Well firstly, it must be said that Western Sydney is a very large geographical area with a diverse number of cultures. In fact, many people get South Western Sydney mixed up with Western Sydney, you have to be clear on that because we are talking the difference between Hommos and Chicken Tikka. If we are talking south west, this takes up suburbs like Lakemba, Bankstown and Liverpool, with large populations of Lebanese and other felafel eating cultures. But if we go further west, towards Parramatta and Blacktown, there is undoubtedly a lot of Felafel producing households but probably not as there are curry and pappadum ones, spaghetti and ravioli, dim sims and fried rice, kava and roast pig, and kangaroo and damper...well theoretically that is.
In Western Sydney, with its heart being Blacktown and Rooty Hill (great name dont you think), there are large Aboriginal populations. There are also a good number of Pacific Islander communities in the area. There is a recently growing Indian population, hence the explosion of Indian restaurants in Parramatta and Harris Park. Also Western Sydney is home to one of the largest Maltese communities, large pockets of Italians, Chinese and Turks and now new emerging African communities mainly Sudanese. But only a relatively small Middle Eastern population who are mostly Christian.
But this is really about linking Middle Eastern people to the felafel with a derogatory overtone. McGuire has implied that after a couple of years of living in a place with lots of Arabs, the players will get sick of it and leave. While we can all have a joke and take the mickey out of a particular suburb or community, the Middle Eastern community have born the brunt of growing phobic attitudes and have been subject to a lot of racism, discrimination and vilification. Theoretically, McGuire's comments have breached the Racial Discrimination Act of 1974. But I don't think anyone is thinking of taking it to that extreme.
But in bringing up his comments, he has really exposed himself, as a closet-felafel addict. There is speculation that McGuire although of Scottish heritage was orginally from Lebanon, who changed his name, it was originally, Mahgir, meaning migrant. But that's another story. The real issue that he is raising is that the Western Sydney Giants have scored a new secret weapon, hitherto unknown. That is THE FARTING FELAFEL and its wind-increasing qualities. Felafel made up of chickpeas and beans are known for causing flatulence. The Giants, according to laboratory tests, will kick, jump and run, 10% faster than the average AFL player. Dipping your hands in hommos before the game will also make the ball stick better to taking high-flying marks and possibly kicking goals from the half way point.
The second issue is that of multiculturalism and this is a topic which will never go away. As it stands we have two schools of thought; the multiculturalism is real and working and the other, there is no such thing as multiculturalism in Australia (its just a con).
Well, the recent debate has been around integration and belonging amongst Muslim and African Australians. There are many who believe that Burqa clad, felafel loving Muslim women should shed their sheets and become full-blooded equality loving Aussies and go skinny-dipping in Bondi. There are many who have argued that Muslims cannot integrate. Commentators the likes of Andrew Bolt, Fred Nile and Brownwyn Bishop to name just a few. Many people believe that Multiculturalism has failed and that in fact we have a society of different cultures all living side by side, with disparate values and ideologies and allegiances that are antithetical to traditional Australian values.
I believe that this is really just a part of the evolution of Australian identity and values. It is a sign of our identity passing over from a tradtional one to that of a civic one (similar to America) and in due course, we will shed the baggage of our English and Irish ancestors and start embracing universal values of justice, friendship, generosity and compassion. This will make it much simpler for new Australians to embrace Australianness. Afterall, Africans, Arabs and Asians find it very hard to relate to blonde and blue eyed surf life savers and the beer-bellied, zinc-creamed bloke behind the barbie, with a can of VB in his can holder.
I think the Multiculturalism debate will go on for a long time yet, but we have to thank Eddie once again for putting his foot in his mouth or should I say putting the felafel in it.
Finally, with all of this sensation, I think its time to go the next step and change the name of the league to the Australian Felafel League and bring the vegetarians back into the fold!
Good luck the mighty Giants! I hope you flog Collingwood when you meet. And I'll be at the ground too (you will recognize me, I'll be the one sitting in the A. B. Felafel stand).