…or an egg, or a pie, or a small replica of Milan’s Cathedral for that matter? The shoe question was famously asked by the fictitious British spy, Austin Powers, after being thrown with a shoe himself by one of his enemies. He stood stunned, wondering why in the world his attacker would choose a shoe as his weapon of choice while clearly agitated by the man’s ungentlemanly conduct. All the other objects mentioned are also actual objects which have been used to throw someone important with. California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Julia Gillard, the newly elected Australian Prime Minister, are just two examples of high flyers who have been belted with eggs before. We’ve all seen the images of shoes being thrown at former US President, George W. Bush, while former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had to deal with both eggs and shoes at one stage. Another protestor favourite is the classic cream pie of which Bill Gates, Mr. Microsoft himself, and many other leaders and celebrities have been victims. We have gotten used to these objects been hurled around but honestly, who throws a replica of Milan’s Cathedral you might still be wondering?
Silvio Berlusconi, the current Italian Prime Minister and billionaire playboy, was the unfortunate man at the receiving end of the Cathedral replica. He was thrown in the face with this plaster object while signing autographs in a square in Milan in 2009. Although it left him with two broken teeth and a nose fracture, there have been questions over whether it was staged to create sympathy for this very controversial leader.
Replica cathedrals aside however, the latest throw-a-shoe-at-a-polly incident occurred during a recent edition of the ABC show Q&A when a member from the audience launched a shoe at studio guest and former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard. Peter Gray attempted to mimic the George W. Bush incident which happened about two years ago when an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at Bush in disgust – in the Iraqi culture throwing ones shoes at another person is apparently, at the very least, similar to giving someone the one finger salute in the West. Gray’s aim was to get the message out internationally that not all Australians support former Prime Minister Howard’s views on and participation in the Iraq war.
Regardless of which one of Howard or Gray is correct in their views, the question is rather whether throwing a person of influence, who happens to be the former leader of your country, with a shoe is the way to go? I would presume that Gray considers himself to be a person who stands for peace and justice. Should I take someone like that serious if he shows absolute disrespect to an elder and generally well-respected member in Australian society? Of course we should be gracious toward Gray and consider the fact that he feels very strong about his view on the matter and is possibly even driven by compassion for the victims of Howard’s policies – an outburst such as this, although totally unaccepted, could then be forgiven. However, Gray has been in trouble before concerning a protest in which he took part as a member of a climate change action group, after he damaged the vehicle which the New South Wales state premier were driving in. So this was possibly not just an once off outburst.
This type of behaviour seems to be prevelant among many so called pro-peace groups and activists. I just can’t see how these people don’t realise that their behaviour is counterproductive to their own cause. They blame leaders for following an ‘end justifies the means’ approach but then act in exactly the same manner to protest against them. It seems they would literally do whatever it takes to have it their way at times.
My advice to them would be to, if you truly are pro-peace and pro-society and don’t just want to push some personal agenda, treat your opponents in a decent manner and be open to meet people half way – at least some of the time. Basically, be tolerant of people who do not share your opinion regarding various matters, act mature and display mannerisms which are considered decent in the culture or company you find yourself in. You will have to move beyond acting on your childish urges in order to create a platform for dialogue between you and your opponents. This is an example of when it is more important to people to get their point across than it is to see the issue discussed in civilised fashion, a trap all of us must aim to avoid.
See actual video footage of the Howard-Gray shoe incident here.