Notoriously, the very brief tenure as Liberal Party leader of Alexander Downer came to a shuddering halt in January 1995 following an unfortunate and, even in those days long ago, politically incorrect, attempt at humour.
According to Wiki, ‘a damaging incident emerged from a formal dinner attended by Downer. While promoting the Liberal slogan The Things That Matter, in a reference to abusing husbands, Downer quipped that the party’s domestic violence policy would accordingly be named The Things That Batter’.
Downer was duly replaced by a resurrected John Howard and the rest, as they say, is history. Downer’s sudden exit was a win-win for the Liberals and for the nation.
Nearly thirty years on, the word ‘batter’ is again stalking the land, with the replacement of ‘batsman’ with ‘batter’ everywhere you look in the noble sport of cricket.
Some context here is important.
This is a time where the urge not to give offence to identified victim groups has achieved a ubiquity and loudness scarcely thought possible in the 1990s. And it isn’t just a matter of not giving offence. Institutions go out of their way to proclaim solidarity with the ‘diverse’, often without anyone asking them.
Whether it is a premier plonking the Aboriginal flag atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL donning rainbow footy jumpers for the sake of ‘pride’, endless welcome to country ceremonies, the so-called voiceless demanding an even louder and more official form of ‘recognition’, corporations bullying workers into virute-signalling signature blocks in their emails, politicians not being able to define the word ‘woman’, or Logie winners of dubious journalistic merit potentially jeopardising the legal process – the real voiceless across the land are copping an absolute pounding from the megaphoned class.
The public square is awash with people clambering to not give offence, to not risk being thought of as, well, offensive. The reality is the description of political correctness provided by the late George Carlin. It is fascism pretending to be manners.
The rape of the English language has assumed a key role in the brave new world of virtue-signalling. It is both a sad outcome and purposeful strategy. The arbiters of corporatist-linguistic-chic, mostly lurking with intent in HR departments across the globe, have determined that they will take no prisoners in the politically correct re-orientation of language and simply bludgeon it into a whole new shape. Language has been, in effect, re-purposed to benefit the ideology of the age.
Sporting bodies are especially prone to this affliction.
Spineless, corporatist sports administrators have been at the forefront of forelock-tugging in the age of gendered-neutral language. Endlessly ahead of the misogyny-racism-homophobia curve. Time after time, they have proven that there is no hurdle they will not jump.
In an attempt not to give offence to those who I am sure have never been asked whether words like ‘batsman’ actually do give offence, Woke cricket administrators have deemed that from now on, everyone in and near the great game is mandated to say ‘batter’. After all, if not even David Hume is safe from cancellation at the University of Edinburgh, what chance has the humble batsman got? It is a truly awful development.
Cricket, even in this age of numbered backs, big bashes, pop music, coloured clothes, relentless commercialism, wall-to-wall fixtures and calendars, multiple formats, white balls and red balls, hugely inflated player salaries, bureaucracies running the game, sledging, and all the rest, a few of us (of a certain age) still regard the game as an oasis of history and tradition in the barren and ugly cultural desert of modern life. Until recently, that is. Cricket has always had two things to keep tragics (like John Howard, famously) enthralled. Apart from the on-field action – its fascination with records and statistics, and also its sublime literature.
Writings on the game have exuded beauty and grace from its very beginnings. And they still do. From the days of the incomparable Neville Cardus, RC Robertson-Glasgow (universally known as ‘Crusoe’), and Alan Ross (a poet), through Australia’s own David Frith (founding editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly), and all the way down to the elegant and prolific Gideon Haigh today, it is a constant joy for cricket buffs to contemplate great games, series, performances, and careers through often peerless wordsmiths. (This is despite the unfortunate incursions of players and ex-players into the literature of the game, often through tour diaries which mostly do not provide the quality of writing achieved by the greats.) It is as if the beauty of the game, seen through the artistry of Trumper, McCabe, Greg Chappell, Mark Waugh, Gower, Holding, Lillee, and Warne, demanded its equivalent in penmanship.
And then along came feminism and the wanton destruction of the language, the latter was demanded without negotiation or debate in the cause of equality. Its fruits, if that is what they should be termed, can be seen all around us. In Church, liturgies keep saying ‘God’ over and over to avoid saying ‘He’, in journalism it is the abhorrent singular ‘they’. Elegance in speech is neither valued nor prioritised in a brutalist and ideological age that has rejected truth, goodness, and beauty.
The re-shaping of language is critical to the ongoing cultural revolution. As the Christian apologist Peter Kreeft has argued, ‘Control language and you control thought; control thought and you control action; control action and you control the world.’ George Orwell developed this theme famously and powerfully in 1984. And, of course, one of the markers of Orwell’s Oceania police state was its absence of beauty.
This brings us back to ‘batters’.
If it all seems to have happened suddenly, well, that’s because it has. In a move that was both without notice and ruthless, the spiritual controller-in-chief of all things cricket, the Marylebone Cricket Club, made its move.
Effective immediately, according to a statement published by the MCC on Wednesday, the term batsman and/or batsmen will officially be replaced by the gender-neutral term batter. The terms batsman/batsmen have been in use since 1744, according to The Times.
So that was it. I assume that any writer in any publication that disobeys this command will be warned not to do it again, and then probably dismissed. According to one of the MCC’s many boffins, ‘The use of the term “batter” is a natural evolution in our shared cricketing language and the terminology has already been adopted by many of those involved in the sport.’
A natural evolution? A natural evolution it is not. A jarring, nasty, displeasing evisceration of the language? More like it. I cannot even begin to imagine Neville Cardus describing Don Bradman as a batter.
For the Editor of Cricinfo (one Sambit Bal), writing even before the MCC pronouncement, ‘every little bit helps in the movement towards gender neutrality’. He continued:
‘Tradition is the biggest enforcer of subconscious biases, and the role of language here is profound. Language is a carrier of beliefs, values, cultural and political ideologies, and it reflects the perceived social order.’
Now we have cricket as ideology. At least he is unintentionally honest about the direction of travel.
It is telling that this sort of rhetoric sees tradition not as the wisdom of accumulated learning down the ages, but as an enforcer of cultural bias. Chillingly, Bal added: ‘Gender equality as an ideal is an objective that we will struggle for generations to achieve, but gender neutrality in language is easily achievable.’
Attempts to corrupt language in this way is evil stuff. Sanctimonious. Bullying. Utilitarian. Certain of its own correctness. Thoroughly arrogant. And utterly Marxist, of course. Reading Cricinfo used to be an unalloyed pleasure. Now, with the endless references to ‘batters’, it is a pleasure no more. There is something especially gauche about this word, even by the standards of the late twentieth century, feminist, linguistic ugliness.
Where did this come from? Was there even a campaign to get rid of batsmen? Not that I am aware of. Is the term batsman offensive? Who on earth would it offend, I wonder? If women cricketers object to batsman and so feel excluded, let them be called something else. This grating, linguistic abomination must trigger millions of voiceless tragics every single day.
It seems to be assumed that it is only designated victim identity groups that are ever triggered by offensive words and actions. Why this should be so is not clear. There is a whole class of people who are offended by relentless wokedom, every day of their lives. There is a never-ending diet of progressive propaganda and a constant barrage of advertising, all of it driven by messaging and agendas that are, now, all too familiar.
A game of beauty – Robert Menzies regarded cricket as ‘art’ rather than just a game – doesn’t deserve this ugliness, yet now there is inescapable ugliness all around us.
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