Kicking ‘Em Whether They’re Up or Down – What Israel Folau and Al Gore Have in Common

In the past week, while reading the papers online, a couple of articles jumped out at me.

The first was a story in the Daily Telegraph about NRL footballer, Israel Folau.

It seems that the big news is that he is a decent person (and in the NRL that is big news).

He is a devout Mormon and donates money to his church. He supports his family financially, lives on only a small allowance, doesn’t drink or take drugs, and comes across as decent and well adjusted.

Nothing too scandalous. Until you read the comments.

There is a sizeable minority of readers who manage to find fault. According to them, Folau should not be supporting his family, the Mormon church should not be taking his money, and unlike the real NRL “stars,” he is just plain boring.

Good deeds seem to make some people very uncomfortable.

This can also be seen in a story in the Jerusalem Post by Shmuley Boteach as he takes Al Gore to task for his environmental activism, but not before pondering at length the nature of Gore’s alleged sexual assault of a woman.

Boteach’s main point, after casting aspersions on the woman at the heart of the scandal in a way that would make any rapist’s defence lawyer proud, is that human welfare should come before concern for the environment, and that Gore’s focus on global warming is responsible for a failure to care about the suffering of fellow human beings.

By itself, this point that can be reasonably debated, although it should be acknowledged that lack of concern for human suffering predates Al Gore’s environmental campaign.

This point, however, is a strange one to raise at this time – especially considering the moralising about not destroying a man’s reputation that begins Boteach’s article.

Quite simply, if Boteach cares so deeply about not being distracted from human suffering, why didn’t he argue this several years ago, when An Inconvenient Truth was first released?

It’s hard to avoid the feeling that Botteach’s article was more about jumping on a bandwagon – kicking a guy while he was down.

Al Gore has spent the last few years campaigning for his view of a better world and was for a while the darling of the media. But then he was accused of sexual abuse and lost his cachet.

Buried in the language of morals is a simple calculus: it is safe to crtiticise Gore now.

Such is the nature of humanity and unfortunately a number of elements within Judaism.

It is not enough to simply do good work. That good work must have some direct benefit for some people before it can be acknowledged.

What the Folau’s detractors and Boteach have in common is the ability to find fault with people who do good in an abstract way that does not directly benefit the snipers.

With Folau, this tall poppy syndrome is expressed as generally anonymous criticism from a chorus that holds little real influence. Most other commenters on the article condemned the nay-sayers.

Shmuely Boteach, however, does wield some influence. His very much self-styled role as moral paragon has unfortunately been accepted by numerous people who buy his – some would say highly cynical – books on sex.

That he uses his position to pontificate on Gore’s unfortunate personal circumstances, and then to imply that Gore is singularly responsible for the world not caring about genocides and other human rights abuses around the world scales the heights of self-righteous chutzpah.

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2 Responses to “Kicking ‘Em Whether They’re Up or Down – What Israel Folau and Al Gore Have in Common”

  1. your brother says:

    I hate to add to the detractors (but I will anyway). It’s pretty easy for Folau to be charitable and support his family. After all, he is getting paid millions of dollars to play a sport he has probably never even watched….

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  2. alex fein says:

    Hi “Your Brother”
    Thank you for your comment… and of course we’ll have to agree to disagree. There are many successful people who do not support their families and who do not live as humbly as Folau. Considering the culture of excess among professional players across a number of sports, there must be something positive to say about a man who bucks the trend.

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