Sam de Brito: the death of an influence.

I recall reading an article a few years ago. It was honest, it was funny and it struck a chord. What more can you ask for out of something you’ve read in the Saturday paper? The writer? Sam de Brito. The more I read of the man, the more I came to appreciate him for who he was. He didn’t stick to the tracks, he wrote from his heart. It was so refreshingly instinctual and relatable that I smiled and nodded my head countlessly. His blog was actually called ‘All Men are Liars’, a statement that is so simple yet so thoroughly on point. We are. We have to be. Everyone is a liar, but men, sexually active, narcissistic, lads with the lads but gentlemen with the women, fit this frame particularly well. We lie because we want to land a beautiful woman, we lie because we want a particular job, we lie because we want to impress someone, we lie because we have to. It is a necessity in a world that people still treat as black and white even though it is so befuddlingly grey. In de Brito’s first blog for the Sydney Morning Herald, he analyses man’s incessant requirement to lie. ‘We lie about our income, exes, ambitions, how many women we’ve slept with, beers we’ve drunk, our abiding affection for pornography and what the hell that rash is,’ de Brito admits. He continues on to say, ‘What I don’t get, is women, usually university educated, dating guys wearing skivvies, who insist men are different: that there are bad guys who lie and good guys who don’t.’ I know all too well that this is a deeply depressing fact of life, but one that is extremely accurate. I know, I know, he was introducing an idea we all knew existed, in the deepest part of our loins, where the sun don’t shine and we all know the deepest, darkest truths of the human condition. However, it is a point we seem to all forget when it is most convenient.

In saying that, socialisation has seen us create a landscape that is essentially a fairytale. Albeit, a really nice fairytale, however a fairytale nonetheless. One that I love living in. However, I’ve come to terms with the fact that whilst I exist in a world where there are people with all sorts of different mantras, hopes and dreams, I will stretch the truth, I will put on one of those masks to make myself into a more appealing human being. This is exactly what Sam de Brito would have argued. He was a writer with life experience. He had a story to tell. A raw, entertaining and thoroughly human story. That’s why I enjoyed reading his material so much. The reason I write this article/tribute is on account of Sam passing away this morning. He not only illuminated man’s fatal flaw, he also presented an image of the joy of fatherhood, his passions, the hypocrisies of mankind, the events we all needed to celebrate, the ones we needed to mourn and his overwhelming zest for life. I never met the man, but I think I would have loved to share his company. He was a complex, interesting and engaging person in print and I can imagine just as challenging and interesting when he was having a couple of drinks at a pub, as he launched into a passionate defence of veganism, Indigenous Australians in the newsroom and how we have to accept our faux pas’ if we are ever to accept who we truly are.

He had great empathy for the flawed individuals who made errors that were far from grave, but were seen by society as something of a nail in a coffin. People’s marriages breaking down, saying something that people don’t agree with, challenging established institutions. These things don’t make you a bad person, they MAKE you a person. de Brito challenged the contradictions in his dry tone, and you could almost imagine the man writing his article with one eyebrow raised and a smirk on his face. In a recent article, he pointed out the ridiculousness of sportsmen attributing their talents to a higher power, all the while ignoring the hypocrisy of their god blessing them with gifts and ignoring the many, many others who are without such athletic gifts, millions of dollars and a god waiting on their bedside table at all hours of the day.

As de Brito wrote in his blog in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 16th of September on Jarryd Hayne… ‘In one of the more unintentionally hilarious episodes of this preseason, Detroit Lions safety Glover Quin actually said God intended for the Green Bay Packer’s superstar wide receiver Jordy Nelson to tear his ACL. “I hated Jordy got hurt, but in my beliefs, and the way I believe, it was – God meant for Jordy to get hurt,” said Quin, despite Nelson also being a devoted Christian, presumably muttering his own incantations on the sideline.’

Just as compelling was his take on Beau Ryan’s alleged affair with former Hi-5 star Lauren Brant where he said: ‘I try not to judge what other people do in their bedrooms with consenting adults. If Ryan had been my friend and told me what he was (allegedly) up to, I’d have said he was a mug, pointed out he had a lot to lose (mostly his family and the respect of his wife and daughter) and left it at that.’ He continued on to identify Brant’s ex-boyfriend Warren Riley as the real problem that is facing society – a petty, scorned lover who seeks revenge in the most humiliating, dirty way possible – ‘The media loves trotting out the “woman scorned” trope but Riley’s slimy revenge with a women’s magazine, so as to “tell his story”, shows hell does have other furies – such as that emanating from the tear ducts of a fame whore Gold Coast personal trainer burned by the superficiality of the circles he flexes in. After trawling through Brant’s phone and discovering evidence of her infidelity, Riley told the magazine he felt like he’d been punched “in the stomach. I felt completely sick and didn’t know what to do”. That’s inaccurate because, instead of the many dignified, adult reactions a person might have in a situation like his, Riley chose to expose his story to Woman’s Day. This is a guy who lists the karma-porn tear-jerker Pay it Forward as a favourite on his Facebook page.’

Most importantly, de Brito was refreshing because he wouldn’t change who he was or who he thought despite the immense pressure of his industry and the social circles he undoubtedly worked within. On happiness he quotes Israeli writer and professor Yuval Noah Harari: “A person who just won the lottery or found new love and jumps from joy is not really reacting to the money or the lover. She is reacting to various hormones coursing through her bloodstream, and to the storm of electric signals flashing between different parts of her brain.”

On Adam Goodes: ‘We all know what’s going on. It started because Goodes is an “uppity” black who said things white Australia didn’t like hearing.It’s now moved to an expression of power; people who know they can inflict pain without any ramifications to themselves – the very definition of a bully.’

On the Reclaim Australia movement: ‘Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars might make some of our breasts swell with nostalgia but it’s a diminishing number. Australia is far more complex and diverse than advertisers, politicians, Fairfax media or even Jimmy Barnes suspects. Reclaim Australia is a little white island in a big sea of colour. This is what scares the hell out of them. It shouldn’t scare the rest of us.’

On self-entitled good looking beauty and wellness bloggers (I think de Brito would have agreed with such a summation): ‘Beauty tips from Gwyneth, Blake or Mrs Clarke – all of them renowned for their pulchritude – strike me as about as valuable as black and white of footage of Phar Lap would be to racehorse trainers eager to see their charges gallop faster. Advice on frugality from Gina Rinehart also springs to mind. Nature distributes its treasures unequally and our most famous Melbourne Cup winner’s massive heart was as much a result of this as the comely features and physique of the beauty queen formerly known as Kyly Boldy. Confusing good luck with being good at something is best illustrated by the habit of countless high schools that wheel in famous sports stars to tell their students they can be whatever they want to be. This is a fuzzy, comforting sentiment but it’s just not true.’

On why football is important for humanity: ‘If aliens do exist and talk in shorthand about the life forms that inhabit individual worlds, I daresay they call us the “Football Planet” for, at any time of day or night, you’ll find football of some sort being played somewhere on earth. As frustrating and mystifying as this obsession is for people who don’t “do” football, it’s a massive step up on the warfare and killing it has replaced and mimics. The existence of football and the wild popularity of its various forms is one of the great signifiers of humanity’s capacity for growth and refinement – it is the essence of civilisation – that we’ve been able to put down weapons and substitute them with a ball.’

On depression: ‘How often do we see a celebrity or sports star caught being stupid and they throw down the get-out-of-jail-free card of ”depression” and we’re required to murmur solicitously?Whenever I have written about depression previously, readers have sent me emails saying I have ”no idea”. But I have suffered from depression for many years, have a close relative with severe bipolar disorder and have lost friends and blood to depression-related suicide. I’ve been to counsellors, psychologists, analysts and psychiatrists. I’ve been prescribed four different antidepressants. I’ve read books on the subject, written two novels dealing with depression, meditated, given up booze and drugs, gotten fit, done charity work and improved my ”internal dialogue”… With every second person claiming ”I’m depressed” and high-profile wombats citing it as the reason for their idiocy, is it any wonder serious sufferers, seeing their turmoil trivialised, stay silent?’

I know, all I’ve really done is recap a few of de Brito’s articles and become one of those people who summarise a person existence with a few of their highlights without getting to the bottom of who they truly were as a person. The truth is, I didn’t know Sam as a person, I only knew him as a writer. And sometimes that is enough to feel that you really knew someone, particularly when you anoint that said person as a strong influence in your own career, albeit one at a very early and developing stage. He really had an amazing way of expressing himself with the quill, a marvellous gift to share with the world. However, the thing that resonating most with me in regard to de Brito’s writing was his earnestness and candid honesty. He wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade and go against the grain. He knew he would contribute more to his readers’ lives by being honest rather than conforming to what others thought everyone else was thinking. Such decency and integrity is seldom found these days. If I can achieve only one thing in the wake of his tragic death, however it occurred, it is to not be pushed around by the pressure and force of popular opinion which condemns those making divisive arguments and welcomes lukewarm and boring as white bread observations that we have all heard before. Our world is better off for having people like de Brito express their own individual and beautiful humanity in a courageous and challenging way.

Thank you Sam.

Sam de Brito.

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