“Remember the boys’ code: We protect each other at all costs.”
The Code. It's one that I've become more familiar with emerging from the 'eshay' world of the povo Western Sydney suburbs, to work in media and the law, navigating the booming over-confidence of trust fund kids.
It's The Code of: jobs for mates, very helpful parents, and social circles of parties with the costumes. (Can someone tell me why white people refuse to dress up formally for a wedding but will dress to the nines for a 80s obscure rock band theme party?)
It's where people don't talk about money, but it's implicit in everything.
To bring you up to speed - the #shoreschoolscandal revolved around leaked 'muck up' day 'challenges' a group of young men from the school devised that were almost hilariously satirical. Young masters of the world challenged to spit on the homeless, harass young women and racially abuse Western Sydney kids (to prepare for their future vocations?).
'Muck up' day is an Australian tradition where high school grads do a harmless stunt on their last day of school, like fill the water bubblers with shaving cream or soap. It's generally aimed to provoke a smile from the 'pranked'.
But the Shore boys just took it to a weird, other level.
It's easy to get angry about the gross toxic masculinity, white privilege and criminality that the Shore Boys' antics reeks of. We wonder why our politics, media and business cultures are so toxic, so white, so unrepresentative of Australia and this is why. These are the young men who will become our future leaders.
There are already moves to ameliorate and hush up the behaviour. We are told: "These boys are an anomaly, kids being kids, the teen brain, you know." It's in stark contrast to the adultification and criminalisation of men of colour. We know these excuses would not be extended if the 'boys' were young Muslim men from Punchbowl. Or to a campaign seeking to raise the criminal age of responsibility from 10 to 14 that could reduce incarceration rates of black youth in Australia.
Privileged white men are always 'boys' - innocent, always given the benefit of the doubt. They know they can always rely on the system to hide their sins and fail forward. It breeds a kind of dangerous narcissism and immunity from accountability we can see in politics, where a billionaire who paid $750 in taxes is the leader of the western world. The disease starts in these schools, where students can glamourise colonialism in a dress-up or allow a frat boy culture of harassment. The $30,000-a-year-plus astronomical fees of these schools are not for the education - it's to gain, wield and exercise an exclusive passport to power.
It's not an anomaly. It's the pointy end of a culture of entitlement that seeps through the entire system. It's why #metoo and #blacklivesmatter has exploded. It's another example of the institutional inequalities that are embedded in our societies and hidden from view - inequalities that link class, race, gender and most importantly power.
Scarily, these boys were abetted by #ProudShoremums, a hashtag that emerged to defend them. It was an almost textbook example of the failures of white feminism. These are women, probably from the sister school. Women who married Shore boys and raised them too, and may be uncomfortable with the status quo but also benefit from their proximity to power.
Keeping up with the Joneses', high expectations, the pressure to be a Master of the Universe and all it entails is frankly deadening, as Rob Sturrock notes. Loads of good men and white people want to escape the noose and sore hands of cracking this whip. But it does come with perks. Perks like money and connections, and the luxury to be ordinary and have position that far outstrips talent, ability or originality.
"The western suburbs of Blacktown, Bankstown and Mount Druitt were all singled out by the students, who said those areas contained 'druggos' and 'lame thugs' and 'eshays'," said one article.
Look, I wish I was a thug or an 'eshay', but I was just a nerdy second-generation migrant girl from Western Sydney who admittedly wore too much Adidas.
My world comes with its own set of dysfunctions, but it also required a kind of nimbleness, adaptability, a self-awareness that I'm finding can be useful. It's one I bristled against for a long time, but I wouldn't swap it for anything.
Sarah Malik is a Walkley-award winning journalist and SBS Voices senior writer and video presenter. You can follow her on Twitter @sarahbmalik, Facebook or Instagram. Her work covers migration, feminism, domestic violence, representation and cultural diversity. To contact her for engagements, see her website.