Among the reams of commentary on the cricket cheating scandal, one of the most common probes has revolved around the question of what this reveals about our national character.
Certainly, it’s produced more scrutiny than has arisen from any other major issue in recent memory.
But why should we be surprised at this event and the resultant commentary? The unrelenting and widespread promotion of self-interest and success at all costs which has become part of our national culture must almost inevitably be revealed also in the sporting arena.
Perhaps though, we did not think it possible that it could touch our sacred cow of cricket – even if parliament, big business, religious and social institutions could play with the truth, could equivocate, could sledge their opponents as much as they liked, even if the community has remained largely apathetic, even treating major injustices as banal and expectable.
But not our sport, and please not our cricket – the symbol of those values, long ago lost across other arenas of Australian life – of fair play, respect, concern for the underdog, and mateship.
The scratching of a small red ball has become the final symbol of our abandonment of these long-claimed Australian values and the belief that we could win without resorting to the now established national sport of self-gain, regardless of the price.
Using cricket as the scapegoat for the self-absorption, indeed the ‘selfitis’ we that has emerged across the political, business and other arenas seems to have aroused all the self-righteous condemnation of which we are capable.
It has been ironically amusing to observe the responses of political leaders to this ‘crisis’. We’ve watched in recent months while political leaders have deliberately misinterpreted the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and rejected it out of hand; as they’ve minimised the urgent crisis of climate change; while they’ve continued to use the plight of refugees as tools for their own political advantage; as they’ve used sleight of hand to push for corporate tax breaks; and as they now consider yet another reduction to our already paltry foreign aid budget.
But now, in horrified tones, they are ‘shocked and bitterly disappointed’, speaking of this ‘dark day’, of the ‘terrible disgrace’ of the cricket exposé, of a situation ‘right out of control’.
Business leaders have also joined the chorus and their response is similarly diverting. In recent months, they have rejected any proposed tax reform that might challenge escalating profits or their own huge salaries; they’ve ignored the crippling effects of the accelerating gap between rich and poor; argued, against all findings, that lowering corporate tax will lead to increases in the current stagnant wage growth; spent time calculating ways to get the better of their rivals. And yet, in this crisis, they are ‘full of righteous dismay’, concerned that cheating in cricket is ‘inconsistent with our values’.
In a very real way, the current ‘crisis’ calls us to reflect on our own values, and the way we are part of this developing culture. It reflects our consistent scapegoating tendencies, and the fragility in each of us, each community, every institution, and indeed all of humanity. Maybe it is a call to compassion, to healing, to transformation. Those suffering because of the loss of values will always need someone to go in to ‘bat’ for them and perhaps this is a moment for us all.
Jan Barnett rsj