Humour in the face of heart ache
Alessandra Solomon explains how the global adoration of Egg Boy and 21st century larrikinism can help defeat racism.
In the weeks since the shocking March 15 attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, two figures have been globally praised for their composure, bravery and empathy in the face of racism and terror. One of these individuals is of course New Zealand prime minister, Jacinta Ardern, the second is Will Connolly, more widely known under the alias, #eggboy.
The violent murder of 50 Muslim worshippers during their Friday prayers has since been referred to by Ardern as, “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and has triggered a range of responses from citizens and leaders across the world.
As we now all know, one of the most vitriolic of these responses came from Australian senator Fraser Anning, who, just hours after the tragedy stated that, “while Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators … and just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.”
In a fitting response, 17-year-old Will Connolly smashed his now famous egg onto Anning’s head during a political meeting in Melbourne, was then punched in the head by the senator and tackled to the ground by said senator’s supporters.
In the week and a half since, news outlets, celebrities, politicians and ordinary people across the world have been charmed by his eggy tenacity in the fight against global terror and have quickly lauded him a hero. At the time of writing, a GoFundMe account that initially started as a meme has raised over $80,000 that Connolly has pledged to donate to the surviving victims and family members of the 50 killed.
However, while considering Egg Boy’s popularity and the global banding together over his humorous antics, the question of how such a seemingly progressive national culture allowed mass murderers and racist politicians to flourish, remains. Thankfully, in the face of such a troublingly unanswerable question, the events of the past few weeks suggest that we are moving towards a more accepting future.
Egg Boy and the global support he has received has become the catalyst for lasting good. Firstly, the incident has brought Senator Anning’s questionable past and despicable racism to the forefront of national news and within hours of the egging, a Change.org petition calling for his removal from parliament was created. The petition has since reached over 1.4 million signatures - the largest number of any Australian petition to date. Ultimately, under such a bright spotlight, Anning’s insidious, white nationalistic campaign and career have effectively ground to a halt.
Additionally, newly elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison has condemned the actions of Anning, as well as intolerance as a whole, despite once being guilty of urging his peers to capitalise on concerns over, “Muslim immigration” and the “inability” of Muslims to integrate in Australia.
In 2012 researchers from the Association of Psychological Science examined the relationship between humour and tragedy, finding that perceived closeness to the event (both distance and time) directly impacts the level of humour in response. When a tragedy is recent, nearby or impacts those with whom we identify, the level of threat facilitates an emotional disconnect that enables laughter.
With this in mind, it is logical to conclude our irreverent, egg based humour and its ability to transcend cultural, religious and social spheres, indicates a national identity rooted in the recognition of a united humanity.
Moreover, it explains how, as a multicultural nation ourselves, we have gained the ability to personally identify with members of one of New Zealand’s minority religions, with immigrants from other countries and with the pain caused by this atrocity.
In the words of Connolly himself, “this egg has united people” who, in turn have demonstrated Australia’s desire to foster tolerance and forge an inclusive international community through shared values and our uniquely Australian positivity, and for that, we should be incredibly proud.
Alessandra Solomon is currently in her fourth year of a Communications degree majoring in Social and Political Science, and Creative Writing. She is a fan of eggs and all egg based activism.