HEAR that cheering — that soundtrack of our shame — as Schapelle Corby is released from a Bali jail? See media outlets wave as much as $3 million at the convicted drug smuggler for her story, to add to the $270,000 her family earned from her autobiography?
See Corby, the heroine of last night’s Channel 9 biopic, whose writer sighs she feels “very much for Schapelle” and “I carry that compassion before being worried about legal things”.
See Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, shamelessly tell the mob “I don’t know all the ins and outs of what she has done” but he, too, wants “that woman back in Australia as soon as possible” because “that’s what matters to me”?
So I don’t blame Indonesia’s Justice Minister, Amir Syamsuddin, for that curl to his lip when he announced on Friday that he’d granted Corby early parole, not through “generosity” but “the laws of the land”.
You see, he said, “we are a dignified nation”. Unlike ... Australia?
I love this country, but then a Corby opens a jail cell and lets out a fetid blast of our convict culture — that deep, feral resentment of the mob of any check to its licence.
How that mob has trashed our reputation in the name of “our” Schapelle, the big-eyed formerbar hostess at the mercy of those brown foreigners.
Yet the case against Corby was damning from the moment 10 years ago that customs officials in Bali opened the bag carrying her boogie board and found 4.1kg of high-quality marijuana. (“No!” she’d gasped, reaching out to stop them.)
Already one of Corby’s half-brothers — among her mother’s six children by three men — had been convicted of drug possession and jailed for other crimes.
Later the half-brother travelling with her was also jailed over a drug-related home invasion, and last year fined for possessing cocaine. Even her father had a minor conviction for possessing marijuana.
No, a woman isn’t guilty just because her brothers are rotten. But Indonesia had arrested a representative of Australia’s bogan culture, and her tribe reacted in fury at their impertinence.
Newspapers attacked Indonesia’s courts as corrupt and their jails as temples of “gloating sadism” where there was “little sympathy for foreigners, for which you may perhaps read Christians”.
Radio hosts insisted then prime minister John Howard make Indonesia’s president fix the court decision, and one even raged the judges were “straight out of the trees”.
Indonesian diplomats here were sent death threats, white powder in the mail and two bullets with a warning: “Go home you animals”.
The Salvation Army, out collecting for its Red Shield Appeal, even had to promise not to send Indonesia any of the donations, while actor Russell Crowe warned Indonesia to remember we gave money for its tsunami victims, as if we’d only given so our drug smugglers could walk free.
Crowe also demanded Howard “deal with it”, asking: “What if it was your daughter?”
Speak for your own family, Russell. Howard’s, like mine, would never dream of smuggling a sack of weed. This isn’t “our” Schapelle.
If only this sanctification of the bogan criminal stopped with Corby. But we made a national hero of a thieving murderer called Kelly, and we’ve only got worse.
Killer Mark “Chopper” Read had leading journalists make him so famous with books of his alleged exploits that a movie was made of his life.
The natural moral order was inverted so completely that Read, a killer of four men, was used as a spokesman in TV commercials against domestic violence.
Then came the Underbelly books and television series that made cheap crooks and their molls household names, dusting even the dead ones with the bright dust of fast money and faster women that so impresses losers and fools.
The notoriety proved useful for underworld figure Mick Gatto, whose work includes persuading people in the construction industry to do what they’d much rather not, or else ... seen Underbelly?
And how often was this convicted criminal presented as a role model? A giver of charity?
Even the state-funded Melbourne University Press pitched in, idiotically commissioning Gatto to write his autobiography, and telling a restaurant full of men with black shirts and gold teeth how “proud and delighted” it was to launch these whitewashing memoirs.
How much has all this corrupted us? Is this why bikie gangs burst with recruits? Why police report a lack of respect for their authority?
And now Corby is coming out of her cell. What feral spirit is freed with her?