One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Scapegoat
May 10 2003 Cartoons by Nicholson

The Governor General should resign. His position is untenable. Following Sir William Dean was always a big ask, but his personal history now leaves Hollingworth looking tawdry. Can we afford a Governor General who so clearly epitomises the almost wilful blindness toward sexual and child abuse which has been an evil undertow in our society for many decades? He not only failed to act, (reporting has been mandatory in some states for many years) but also only most reluctantly admitted his error.

However this is not my main interest in this issue. I am more interested in the response of the nation to Bishop Hollingworth. It worries me to be wanting the same outcomes as those baying on commercial radio talkback! What is driving the howls for his resignation? Are these calls for some kind of justice, or are we softening up another sacrificial scapegoat to soothe our own uneasy national conscience?

As someone who had seen dingoes in action I had no problem believing a dingo would take a baby. Neither did the aboriginal people I was living with. Only a fool, or a whitefella, would ever leave a baby in a tent! But Lindy Chamberlain offered us a wonderful opportunity. We could vent all our rage about children, and all our guilt, on this woman who was telling such an "unlikely" story. She was the ideal candidate for a scapegoat: female, not showing enough grief, a member of a strange religious group. We could safely tip all our hatred, prejudice and anger on her- as journalist, police, or the ever expert general public. These days dingo attacks are apparently common place. Even minor ones get reported- a kind of guilty penance so we won't forget what we did to her.

Hollingworth is an even better target. Unlike Lindy Chamberlain, there is no question about his guilt- the church report itself strongly criticises him. He is a bishop in a country where pulling sanctimonious hypocrites down to size is almost the national sport. What better tall poppy to lop than a religious one caught out in something with a whiff of sex about it! Not some odd sect, or feral Catholic this one, but a member of those toffy bloody Anglicans! You couldn't ask for better. The unfortunate bishop is being used as a corporate Solvol for our national conscience. A million dirty little secrets are being heaped on him so we can feel justified. The only good thing for Hollingworth is that Yarralumla does not have the mystique of Uluru and he is so plainly a lame duck compared to the inner strength and integrity that so enraged people about Lindy. It will soon be over.

The problem with scapegoats is that they let people feel better for a little while but they don't actually fix the problem. Scapegoating just shifts the responsibility from where it belongs: us! So as much as Hollingworth should be removed as a national statement that we will not tolerate sexual abuse, this should be only a beginning. Otherwise, his will be a truly empty sacrifice.

Since I began writing this article it has come out that Hollingworth is facing a civil rape charge. It's notable that the Anglican hierarchy, which found his previous foolishness indefensible, have suddenly been loud in his defence. They clearly see the claims as unsustainable and clearly contrary to the available evidence. It's understandable given what has been reported in the media. Anyone can see it. The calls for resignation, however seem only to be increasing. The media and public's response to this civil claim is quite different to the feel of the almost muted and restrained reporting of exactly the same charges against ATSIC chair Geoff Clarke. Clarke may or may not be guilty- and his case will be reported- but Hollingworth is a scapegoat, guilty or not.

The real doing of justice in this whole issue will have virtually nothing to do with whether Hollingworth resigns. Justice will depend on how the Brisbane Anglicans treat the victims. But for the nation the real test is how we follow up Hollingworth. Will he prove just to be a scapegoat, or will history show this to have been a step forward in the protection of the weak and vulnerable?


Use of Nicholson's cartoons is free in a nonprofit situation.  Please see his website for details.

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics