‘Optimistic’ Waleed Aly tells Freo crowd we’re a ‘congregation of the confused’

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“The problem I think we’re facing is that the more outrageous and outraged you are, the more you are rewarded,” Waleed Aly says. Photo: Penny StephensWho do we think we are?
Nanjing Night Net

Well according to TV host, broadcaster and academic Waleed Aly we are a nation with an identity crisis.

The Australian “church” might be broad, but Aly argues we all now fundamentally belong to the “congregation of the confused”.

Our identity has become muddled, because the internet has given us all the infinite capacity to subdivide who we are, then subdivide some more.

Thanks to an age of hyper-diversity, we are stumbling in the dark searching for a national identity.

Bugger right? Not really.

Despite Aly at times painting a bleak and dark picture to the audience of 500-plus people at the Fremantle Town Hall on Saturday, he is optimistic we can find our identity.

The co-host of Channel Ten’s The Project, who was a keynote speak as part of the Fremantle Festival, claims that because our identity is malleable we can still update it with relative ease.

But here is the kicker. And it isn’t pleasant.

Minority groups like white supremacists, which normally existed on the fringes on society and where unable to flourish due to geographical restrictions, have gained momentum due to the virtual space.

Minority groups have become majority groups.

Marginal identities that were once considered outside the social norm, can flourish like never before. Global movements are created thanks to a click of mouse.

People who were too frightened to reveal their “identity” in public can now do so behind the comfort of their keyboards.

There isn’t anything earth-shattering about Aly’s gospel, but it is his ability to deliver it that makes what he is saying, though-provoking, evocative and downright bloody scary.

There is no denying Aly is an intellectual powerhouse.

The lecturer in politics at Monash University is alluring, intoxicating and dare I say it, sexy.

He doesn’t minding “dropping” some big ideas and I got the feeling there were moments when he was testing out his latest thesis on us, the audience

But he punctuates his ideas with enough hubris and humour to keep the audience from Googling his theoretical theories.

There was also the odd awkward moment when Aly seemed disinterested and disengaged with the audience. It felt like the crowd of hipsters and hippies were on a gigantic Tinder date with Aly and at any moment he was going to excuse himself, then climb out a bathroom window.

Maybe he was thinking of a previous audience while talking to us?

For the majority of the night, Aly was warm, entertaining and engaging.

Given Aly is off to the US on Monday to cover the presidental election, he could have easily spent the afternoon dining out on the dysfunctional happenings of Donald Trump to get the cheap laughs, but he resisted.

Aly had bigger fish to fry.

And he left with the audience pondering the biggest existential question of all: Who the bloody hell are we?

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