Sunday, July 24, 2005

Chapter 28 from: J.J. Ray (Ed.) "Conservatism as Heresy". Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co., 1974

Sport and the Anti-apartheid Movement


KEEPING SOUTH AFRICAN cricketers out of Australia and forbidding them to practise their art because of what they believe is as tryannous as keeping Cassius Clay out of the boxing ring and forbidding him to practise his art because of what he believed.

It's as tryannous as sending Daniel and Sinyaevsky to Siberia and forbidding them to practise their art, because their views were different from the views of their party, or blacklisting Dalton Trumbo and forbidding him to practise his art because he may or may not have been a Communist.

On what grounds do you think Bradman or Trumper should have been prevented from playing international cricket, or Rosewall or Laver from playing international tennis? Can there be any? Is there anything Robert Graves could say that could justify the confiscation of his pen, or anything that Malcolm Muggeridge could preach that could justify the cutting off of his broadcasts? Is there any political movement that Godard could support that would justify the confiscation of his camera?

Yet this is what the evangelists for freedom of expression propose to do with the South African cricketers-two or three of whom are as great as artists in their chosen field as any of the above-to prevent them from practising their art.

And what is the reason? Not that, like Cassius Clay, they actually believe in racial separatism--it seems that a great number of them are actually opposed to it -- but that their government believes in racial separatism and practises it.

This, of course, is as ludicrous as banning the works of Solzhenitsyn because his government believes in anti-semitisrn though he himself does not. It is the equivalent of banning the works of Arthur Miller because his government believed in McCarthyism though he himself did not. It is the equivalent of banning the performance of the music of Theodorakis because his government believed in censoring Socrates, though he himself did not.

It is as idiotic as banning M.A.S.H. from the country on the grounds that it came from America, and the American government believes in bombing Vietnam, though the film itself opposes it. It is as lunatic as banning the Russian Olympic team from the country because it does not contain any card-carrying capitalists, or banning the American Olympic team from the country because it does not contain any card-carrying Communists. It is as farcical as preventing Sir Robert Helpmann from dancing until McMahon repeals the White Australia policy.

When will the addled evangelists of the left-wing learn that their business is to promote the maximum of human happiness rather than the maximum of futile spite?

What good will it do if the best cricket team in the world is prevented from coming here? Thousands of cricket lovers will be deprived of a summer's pleasure, and will vote Liberal. Thousands of white South Africans will feel the more persecuted and will vote Vorster. Thousands of black South Africans will be warned off their local cricket fields, lest they should prove a political nuisance. Thousands of left-wing liberals will feel they have done their bit, conveniently forgetting that the only way they will change South Africa is by going to war with it.

And millions of Australian voters, their views about the riotous pinkoes confirmed, will high-tail it for the Liberal Party, and stay there. The Liberal Party will reign for a generation, and five million young Australians will grow up under what amounts to a one-party police state.

And what will be gained? The easing of a few of the aggressive drives of a few people who, having defeated every purpose they could possibly have stood for, are now feeling proud of themselves.

But of course, to the idealistic left, none of this matters. Human happiness and its furtherance doesn't matter a damn. All that matters is that you take a stand. All that matters is that you poke an ugly face at what you happen to believe is tyranny, even if that brings a worse tyranny in its wake.

They wouldn't dream of boycotting Australian cricket because of the way we treat our Aborigines, though our Aborigines are far worse off than most Bantu. Oh, no. Evil is always somewhere else, far enough away for them not to have to actually deal with it face to face.

Supposing the South African team actually came here. Supposing they were invited to speak at an anti-apartheid rally. Supposing they spoke. Supposing even one of them spoke. Oh, what a reverberation was there. And how their masters would tremble.

Supposing that happened, and tell me why it would not, would it do more to bring down apartheid, or would it do less? But no. Forget I suggested it. Throw out the baby with the bathwater. That's what you're here for. Take your stand on principle. That's the name of the game. Let civilisation wash away in the wake of your principles. That's the point of the exercise. Let the niggers go hang. Let the right of the artist to practise his art unhindered go hang. You've got to look at yourself in the mirror. That's what really counts.

You've got to live with your conscience. You've got to make the kind of stand that doesn't actually endanger you. That's what the little left liberal is made of. And in front of that resolve, the happiness of the whole damn world can go to blazes.

This chapter originally appeared as an article in "The Sunday Review" (later "The Nation Review"), 16 April 1971, p. 788.

Post-publication note

Bob Ellis is a well-known loose cannon in Australian political journalism but he has his lucid moments. The above was one of them.