The cancel culture is here

I played tennis from the time I was six until the day in 2018 when I hurt my back during a game and discovered I had multiple myeloma and a compression fracture on T8, which spelled the end of my tennis. I followed my favourite players, men and women, until I was too old to care. My favourites were Ken Rosewall, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras. I was once a ball boy for a doubles match between John Bromwich-Adrian Quist and Mervyn Rose-Ken McGregor. Only the oldies will know whom I’m talking about. I used to wonder why we didn’t have really good women players as well, and then Margaret Smith arrived. She was, and remains, phenomenal. Let Wikipedia summarise (slight edit):

Court won more than half of the Grand Slam singles tournaments she played (24 of 47). She won 192 singles titles before and after the Open Era, an all-time record. Her career singles win-loss record was 1,177-106, for a winning percentage of 91.74 per cent on all surfaces (hard, clay, grass, carpet), is also an all-time record. She won at least 100 singles matches in 1965 (113-8), 1968 (107-12), 1969 (104-6), 1970 (110-6), and 1973 (108-6). She won more than 80 per cent of her singles matches against top 10 players (297-73) and was the year-end top ranked player seven times.

I hope Wiki is right about the all-time records. There is no one in women’s tennis to surpass her, and she stopped competing, as Margaret Court, in the mid 1970s, almost half a century ago. She is a few years younger than me, and it may be that the powers that be in the Gong System decided that she should be elevated while she was alive. I don’t know, and I don’t care. She deserves it more than those, like State Governors, High Court appointees and some Vice-Chancellors, who become Companions of the Order of Australia because of their office, rather than because of their achievements.

But there are those who do care, and they hate it, because Margaret Court, a Pentecostal minister, has denounced aspects of the gay community. Now it may be also that most reverends have learned to be quiet about all this, or have scrabbled to find something in the Bible that would allow them to sit easily with gays as parishioners or even clergy. But two of the LGBTQI collection have handed back their own gongs in protest, and Kerry O’Brien, renowned ABC presenter, and an old friend of mine, has refused to accept one for the same reason. That of course is up to them. My interest is in the underlying assumptions about honours.

There is no perfect means of handing out honours in a way that everyone will be happy with the outcome. The system is run in a representative way, so that it’s not all dominated by men, or whites or professionals. Women are still under-represented, but the ratio is improving. Likewise for the ‘indigenous’. But the notion that this group or that can decide whether or not someone of another entity ought not to be honoured strikes me, frankly, as fatuous. People are honoured for what they have achieved for themselves and for our country, not because of what they have said or written, unless it was over a very long time. Okay, you like the award so little that you’ll hand yours back. What are the rest of us supposed to do about that? Shrug their shoulders, in my case. Then, sit down and write a piece like this.

I see this protest as a form of ‘cancel culture’, or ‘political correctness’. I dislike it. About Margaret Court’s own statements I am easy, though they are not my sentiments. We should be able to say what we think. That’s what freedom of speech is all about. If you don’t like what someone has said and feel offended by it, then you can go down the path of saying so through available means. That may work if what the person wrote or said is not covered by its being academic work, or something of that kind. It happened to me, and was expensive when my assailant pulled out of the action, at no cost that I could see to him.

I am not fussed about the LGBTQI collective, partly because it is not at all a true band. The alphabetics don’t mean anything much, other than those so identifying with one of them have little to do with the rest other than they are not ‘straight’, heterosexual, whatever, and may feel discriminated against. My general sense of Australian collective opinion is that most of the rest of us don’t really care any more what they get up to, but I doubt they’d feel that Margaret Court should be so victimised.

Let’s prune the protest to its core. It would go something like this.

We are Xers, and if you say something offensive about Xers you should not be honoured at all.

 I think that’s a fair summary. Why are Xers so important? How far could it go? If  Xers were, say, returned servicemen, and someone said or wrote something denigrating about such people, but was honoured for something else they had done, would these Xers act in the same way? I doubt it, because returned servicemen are not part of the politically correct Mafia. But say something negative about indigenous Aboriginal people and the cancel-culture people will be on you at once. If there is such a principle, it should apply to everyone, not just to those you don’t like.

What should we do about this insidious attack on ‘people we don’t like’? Let us agree that we should be proud of our multi-ethnic and diverse people, all of them, and their origins as well, without elevating any of them to a lofty state, and without suggesting that any of them are beyond the pale.

We are in danger of doing the first with the sudden usage of ‘First Nations’ for Indigenous and Aboriginal people. This is a borrowing from Canada and is meaningless here. I’m not sure it was much more meaningful there. What we had were family and clan-like groups who wandered over what they saw as their ‘country’, along routes that took advantage of the presence of food and water over the year. The maps that purport to show such ‘nations’ are based on linguistic usage, not political boundaries. Certainly the family and clan groups met one another, for trading and wife selection, and to take advantage of an annual great abundance in food. But that’s it. We are going to hear much more about First Nations and their role in finding an acceptable wording of the Constitution, acceptable, that is, to those that want such an outcome.

 

I’m not one of them. Our Constitution and the legal amendments to it provide that all Australians are the same under law. I would like to keep it that way.

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Boxer says:

    While I am not a participant in any religion, I have spent some time in the company of people who are devout believers. My take on what Margaret Court has said is that as she takes the Bible literally and she is duty bound, to God, to hold certain opinions. She is also bound to show compassion to all, and her work in her church includes charitable support to all comers, including those in the LGBT etc group. So for her to accept fully the morals of others has limits and qualifications, but she is simultaneously obliged to accept others for what they are.

    It’s complex, like being a political, misandrist Green, but as one of the human species, and hence bringing about the destruction of the planet (apparently), you have failed to kill yourself. We all live with inner conflict, and the more fundamentalist Christians can only fully accept “immoral” behaviour by simultaneously committing a sin. So they don’t accept the behaviour, and a church minister is obliged to speak as they believe, but they accept the people who behave in immoral (from the Church’s perpective) ways. Israel Folau is another example.

    Those who seek to cancel Court are less tolerant then she is, even though I think she is wrong.

  • J says:

    IIRC when the fuss was made about Court it was becaase she expressed concern about children with same sex parents. To me her concerns were quite reasonable. What is the psychological impact on such children of having two role models for one sex and none for the other. It does seem to be recognised that children are better with strong role models of both sexes unless one is abusive to the other, but is the difference under same sex parents minor or major?

    As you might gather, I have no problem with her expressing her thoughts. In fact I have no problem with anyone expressing their thoughts about anything. Maybe they’ll make a valid point and maybe they won’t. Maybe their statements will be refuted by good evidence and logical argument. I know that’s expecting them to take note of the evidence and logic against what they say, but I’m optimistic that they’ll do that.

    I’m more optimistic that anyone else who has heard their comments will listen to rational and civil argument that either supports or refutes what’s been said. Perhaps my optimism is misplaced, after all critical thinking is no longer taught in schools and the skills in evaluating evidence and logic might not be as widespread as they used to be.

  • Karabar says:

    There are many very viable reasons that Margaret Court should be recognised with a reward. An AO is appropriate given her achievements.
    In fact, her activities within the community in Perth should provide double reasons for the “gong”.
    Whether one disagrees with things she says is simply announcing that one does not agree with God.
    That should have nothing to do with recognition of Margaret Court’s achievements. It has everything to do with one’s reconciliation with their maker.
    I was impressed with Catherine MacGregor the other day on television when he (she?) said that Court’s ideas hurt her (his?) feelings, but that should have nothing whatever influence on Court’s standing within the community.
    If this man wants to pretend that he is a woman it has absolutely no effect on me. I admire his (her?) intellectual commentary and I believe that MacGregor deserves the utmost credit for providing some much-needed knowledgeable commentary on television. If he is comfortable thinking, he is female that is just fine with me.
    Why on Earth people that pretend that they are something other than the being God made, or whether or not they find no embarrassment in disobedience of His Word is their business and not mine. It does become my business when they insist on imposing their ideology and behaviour on the rest of us.
    The citizens of this country need to put a stop to the irrational “cancel culture” before it is too late.

    • dlb says:

      I remember a bit over a year ago the ABC had her as a panelist on Q&A, hoping she would embarrass the socially conservative Jordan Peterson, who was another panelist. Unfortunately for the ABC this ploy backfired with McGregor siding with Peterson. From memory McGregor basically indicated she only wanted respect for her self as a person, and did not consider “Trans” people worthy of special treatment. I think she called the the “Trans” people a phone booth minority i.e. small in number.

      I too was impressed with her practical view on life, unlike the victim mentality of the social justice brigade.

  • Neville says:

    Once again I agree with most of Don’s essay and I’m not religious and certainly not a fundamentalist Christian.
    BUT I have a number of friends who are practicing Christians and most are very tolerant , but they would probably agree with Margaret Court.
    This cancel culture extremism is vile and so much of it today seems to want to inflict real hurt and financial penalty against someone for merely having a different opinion on whatever subject they choose.
    These xers are a mostly political mob and seem to want to find offense at anything they don’t agree with. And if they can display a chunk of virtue signalling into their argument I’m sure most would feel that was also a distinct advantage.

  • Peter Ridd says:

    Agree whole heartedly with this. Up to now this political correctness has just been annoying, but it is manifesting itself in real ways that are causing major problems for the country. The idea of introducing into our constitution anything that is based upon peoples DNA is horrific. But who will be brave enough to argue against it? Cancellation will be the inevitable result.

  • Peter E says:

    These cancellers seem to believe that they are calling out bigotry. To find a bigot they should look in the mirror.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    As I understand it, potential recipients of awards are asked whether they will accept them. Not whether their acceptance is conditional on awards not being given to people they dislike. To accept and then refuse is just chicanery.

  • Boambee John says:

    Don

    The more I look at the various award systems, the more I think that drastic reform is needed.

    Far too many, particularly the higher grades (AO, AC), go to people for doing a job for which they were well remunerated. Think of politicians, senior public servants and service personnel, and “captains” of industry. Other awards, such as Australian of the Year, are too often given for cringeworthy reasons.

    Perhaps awards should go only to those who devote significant time, their own time, not their employer’s, to community service in the true sense of the phrase? That might remove the risk of “cancel culture” at least in that area.

    • Boambee John says:

      To add a bit more detail., the only awards for civilians should be for bravery (eg, rescuing people in dangerous circumstances) or voluntary service to the community. Military awards should only be for bravery on the battlefield (or other service equivalent) or recognition for service in specific military campaigns.

      Just some thoughts.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Defunding the ABC would be a great start to cancelling the cancellers:

    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/media/2021/01/the-joke-is-on-all-of-us-obliged-to-fund-the-abc/

    • Boxer says:

      I don’t know Kerry O’B, but it seems he and and the other cancellers are saying they are too good for the honours list. Is it possible that their departure raises the standard of the remaining group a little?

      Perhaps we need to cast a little wider. If the cancellers are too good for the best Australians, they must be way too good for the rest of us. They could always leave.

  • The enlightened midde-aged says:

    It’s all in the timing…..

    Don, I appreciate your post and the contribution to the current debate it embodies. My lived experience of the struggles faced by the LGBTQI community for acceptance, and the myriad mental health challenges this involves, colours my response here.

    I am all for free speech, except when it denigrates a particular segment of society – when that segment of society is not harming anyone.

    The majority of our younger Australians have grown up in a far more accepting era in terms of those who do not fit the historical ‘heterosexual-norm’. These days, youth are educated in schools far better equipped and able to cater for our growing diversity than we parents, or indeed the older generation, ever were. An iterative mainstreaming of acceptance per se.

    The issue with comments made by Margaret Court is that they were unashamedly, purposefully (?) public, made by an ‘historic icon’ – an icon whose ‘revered achievements’ are attributable to long-past endeavours.

    Why honour those historic endeavours now?

    Why honour those historic endeavours at this moment, in the face of such ill-considered & inflammatory rhetoric from a once revered figure? Endeavours which are long forgotten by the engaged youth of today, but bring to light the stark differences of today’s enlightened and accepting youth, and yesteryear, seemingly out-of-touch heroes.

  • Doug Hurst says:

    Where I grew up in country Victoria in the 1940s and 50s the majority was what we would now call fundamentalist Christians. They were largely friendly, decent, hardworking folk who I agreed with on most things except their Old Testament views I came to realise were mainly the imaginings, superstitions and customs of very ignorant desert dwellers more than 2000 years ago. Modern knowledge has confirmed these conclusions for me.

    But I only thought them wrong, not bad, which they weren’t – indeed, quite the opposite for most. The same is true for Margaret Court. She would fit in perfectly with these folk, who would probably volunteer to help with her extensive charity work that is usually overlooked by her detractors.

    As for cancel culture, it is so against everything we have held dear for so long I believe it caught us by surprise, not initially understanding that those who practice it do not value civil, reasoned discussion, but are so arrogant and ignorant they think they alone are moral and rational – when we now know them to be neither, but just another misguided gaggle of muddle headed lefties with greatly exaggerated grievances, a strong authoritarian streak and a clever way with words.

  • The enlightened midde-aged says:

    It’s all in the timing…..

    Don, I appreciate your post and the contribution to the current debate it embodies. My lived experience of the struggles faced by the LGBTQI community for acceptance, and the myriad mental health challenges this involves, colours my response here.

    I am all for free speech, except when it denigrates a particular segment of society – when that segment of society is not doing any harm.

    The majority of our younger Australians have grown up in a far more accepting era in terms of those who do not fit the historical ‘heterosexual-norm’. These days, youth are educated in schools far better equipped and able to cater for our growing diversity than we parents, or indeed the older generation, ever were. An iterative mainstreaming of acceptance per se.

    The issue with comments made by Margaret Court is that they were unashamedly, purposefully (?) public, made by an ‘historic icon’ – an icon whose ‘revered achievements’ are attributable to long-past endeavours.

    Why honour those historic endeavours now? Why honour those historic endeavours at this moment, in the face of such ill-considered & inflammatory rhetoric from a once revered figure? Endeavours which are long forgotten by the engaged youth of today, but bring to light the stark differences of today’s enlightened and accepting youth, and yesteryear, seemingly out-of-touch, heroes.

  • Neville says:

    I don’t know how you properly reply to the above silly comment but here goes.
    Margaret Court was the best female tennis player in the world for a very long period and TODAY uses her time and energy, influence etc to help the poor and homeless because she is a committed Christian.
    I couldn’t care less what she thinks about other issues, but I’m sure she is entitled to voice her opinion on any subject she chooses.
    BTW you’ll never find that Margaret Court sends any messages of hate, unlike the vile hatred we see on FB , twitter etc every day of the week and so much of this comes from extreme left wing groups and journalists etc.

  • Boambee John says:

    Just to clarify my point above about restricting civilian awards to bravery and (purely) volunteer service, if the idols of cancel culture have no awards, the incentive to cancel others doesn’t exist, at least for awards.

  • Peter S says:

    As usual a sensible considered essay on what has become a curly topic.

    I suspect social media has made it too easy for the cancel culture to operate with impunity. The big Techs boast about their “community standards” but in the main they are monitored by algorithms. I had a recent experience where facebook deemed the word “furphy” to be harassing and not conforming to the community standards. It was used in a post to a thread created by retired academic, a cognitive psychologist, who frequently posts on the imminent disaster of “climate change” by googling to find papers that support his fears and cuts and pastes from them to create his post without acknowledging the source. Now I would have thought plagiarism, especially by an academic, requires censure ahead of the use of “furphy”!

  • spangled drongo says:

    I wonder how long the culture cancellers can seriously go on predicting doom before the rest of us convince them just how silly they are.

    The problem is, they get all the highly subsidised new jobs and the rationalists lose the many more jobs that disappear.

    Interesting times ahead:

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/01/29/friday-funny-another-last-chance-to-save-the-world-from-climate-change/

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