MILK-BLOODED sockhead Malcolm Knox, prompted by a sportsman who said something bad, denounces Australia as racist, anti-intellectual, and culturally immature. Naturally, The Guardian laps up Knox's condemnation of his homeland:
Lehmann's misfortune is that he is the man who got caught revealing the unwitting racism that infuses not only Australian cricketing culture but mainstream Australia.
Our secret is out! Curse you, Lehmann!
We're not yet at a stage of cultural maturity where we even know what racism is.
Is it something to do with horsism?
Racism in Australia is insidious, unadmitted. We have few proud racists. There is no open Klan or National Front here. Our white supremacist fringe - the 10% of voters represented in the late 1990s by Pauline Hanson but who, in the 2001 election, swung back into step with Howard's dance of Arab-phobia - do not admit to racism.
Many of Hanson’s supporters were motivated less by her opinions on race than by her protectionist economic policies – policies shared, by the way, by "progressive" parties like the Democrats.
When [Prime Minister] Howard talks of pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in Asia, and of de-democratising the rights of non-white asylum seekers, his favourite phrasing is "ordinary Australians think...".
Given Howard's popularity (elected three times, currently way high in the polls) he's probably qualified to venture opinions on behalf of ordinary Australians. Better qualified than Knox, at any rate.
Three years ago, when India toured Australia, I interviewed Indian-Australians who were supporting India … fathers resented the exclusion of their sons from local and school teams. Every family I interviewed had a story of a boy who had been shut out of the "in" group because of his race, or his teetotalism, or some other cultural difference.
Has any father anywhere ever accepted that his son might just be a poor player?
Lest this be taken as paranoia, one need only look at the make-up of Australian cricket teams at senior levels. The most common name in the Sydney phone book is Lee - and they're not relatives of Brett - yet all our teams can boast is the occasional Kasprowicz or Di Venuto. If you want a cultural snapshot of Australia in the 1950s, look no further than our cricket.
Let's ignore Knox’s advice and look a little further. Look at Richard Chee Quee, who played for New South Wales. Look at Test fast bowler Jason Gillespie, who is part-Aboriginal. Lennie Pascoe was born Leonard Durtanovich. Mike Veletta represented Australia in the '80s and is now coach of Western Australia. Dav Whatmore came to Australia from Sri Lanka. Joe Scuderi has played for Queensland and Italy.
Australian triumphalism masks the fact that we lag a generation behind England in resolving the race debate. While English sporting clubs struggle to harmonise different cultures, Australian clubs fix the problem by leaving non-whites out.
The reason we've never heard of Polly Farmer, Barry Cable, Michael Long, Phil and Jim Krakoeur, Derek Kickett, Nicky Winmar, Che Cockatoo-Collins and Gavin Wanganeen is because Aboriginal footballers are always left out.
On a tour to India, I heard two Australian cricketers call the locals "niggers". I saw Australian cricketers coming across Indians sleeping on a railway platform in Jamshedpur and nudging them awake with their feet in order to take a happy snap.
As isolated incidents, appalling. As indications of anything broader, probably meaningless. Pro sportsmen tend not to display behaviour typical of the wider community. Does every black American eat ears?
No malice was intended, and if you can understand that the cricketers involved were both "good blokes" and yet-to-be-reconstructed racists, then you go a long way to comprehending the incoherence amid which most Australians live.
We live amid incoherence? Well, I guess Knox's readers do. The poor, dumb bastards.