“A moral collapse over generations …” That’s the UK’s Prime Minister’s excuse for the recent English riots. David Cameron calls his country a “broken society” and to accentuate what, to him, is essentially a class war, he keeps using the word ‘fight’, as in “We must fight back …”
It’s always the easiest response of somebody of his position. Rather than try and understand, it’s easier to demonise. He couldn’t be further, in every way, from the typical ‘shopping rioter’ he’s so afraid of. It’s also a very easy way to gain support with the other fearful members of the British middle and upper classes. It’s so obvious.
Myself, I find it deeply ironic that while the West trumpeted the Arab Spring and the way it was co-ordinated by Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry messaging, suddenly, in London – Effendi! – the shoe was on the other foot, and the government is now considering ways to limit these social network communications systems.
I found it disturbing but emblematic that England’s politicians were coaxed back with visible reluctance from their luxury holidays abroad to deal with angry looters trapped back home in the summer heat.
It could happen here – the gulf between the haves and have-nots has widened considerably. While cutting benefits and services, at the same time modern life means the spoils of wealth are continually dangled in front of everyone’s eyes. iPods, BMWs, bling, designer clothing … But New Zealand has a Rugby World Cup to distract everyone.
But will it?
I don’t like rugby. At my Auckland school, it was an emblem of the bully culture perpetrated by both students and staff. Then the 1981 Springbok Tour sealed a profound dislike of the game and all that it signifies in New Zealand culture.
In England, they differentiate the two codes, soccer and rugby, as ‘a sport of thugs, played by gentlemen and the sport of gentleman’, played by thugs.’ In New Zealand, it’s just a thugs’ game played by thugs. And the game here is run by thugs.
It’s the same old story, though: the wealthy making money out of working class pursuits, in the process becoming so greedy as to make those pursuits unaffordable. At the same time, it represents an escape to a very tiny proportion of the underclass – a path to glory and money, however temporary, as a rugby star.
After decades of corporate sponsorship, monster salaries and Rugby Union greed, no one should be surprised at rorts on tickets, hotel prices going up dramatically, pubs charging admission for the duration, the crazy prices of supporter shirts – and wait till you hear of the profits made in some quarters from Rugby World Cup-related construction and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the country will most likely post a considerable loss.
Will it be good for the country? Almost definitely not – that’s not the experience of other countries, anyway, hosting similar events. But a win might make National’s race to govern with a full majority an even stronger possibility. Shudder.
In England, some working people even take out mortgages to pay for their soccer season tickets. All the profits go to the super rich, who have the fans literally by the balls (pun exercised in full cognisance).
Here in New Zealand, we could be heading for the same situation as England – ‘shopping riots’ by the angry dispossessed. Would John Key bother coming back from his luxury pad in Hawaii for that?
Except that support for rugby has been waning for years. It’s just that no one’s admitting it. Even a few years ago, there were 160,000 New Zealanders signed up to play soccer but only 110,000 signed up to play rugby, yet the dumb and virtually single-sex sport is still considered the national game.
By contrast, despite the numbers actually playing, there were three times as many ACC claims for rugby injuries. So it’s already costing the country plenty.
In Auckland, every weekend there is constriction on every soccer field while there are often two or three rugby fields standing empty right beside them. Yet the council still prioritises rugby.
And I’m supposed to appreciate thugs travelling to my city to enjoy their thugs’ game.