The Commonwoke Games

Woke scolds are ruining everything. Even sport.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Identity Politics Sport UK

Can the woke scolds not leave us alone for five minutes? Judging from last night’s opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games, the answer to that question is a firm No. The ceremony was a big fat finger-wag at the nation, an am-dram lecture to the masses on the right way to think about race, colonialism, gender, blah blah blah. It was like being beaten around the head with a copy of the Guardian for three hours. What ought to have been a sparkling celebration of Blighty ahead of a two-week sporting festival that is exactly the pick-me-up this troubled nation needs was turned by the Beeb and the Birmingham glitterati into yet another opportunity to hector Joe Public about ‘ishoos’. Millions must have switched off.

To borrow woke parlance, it’s all so exhausting. There’s no escape from the right-on nags. Go to your bank and you’ll be smothered in Pride flags and swarmed by staff wearing the sacred icons of the new religion: pronoun badges. ‘Be You!’, they cry, unless ‘you’ is a gender-critical feminist or a lesbian who doesn’t want to have sex with women with penises, in which case definitely don’t be you. Pop into Sainsbury’s for a loaf of bread and you’ll be invited to ‘Talk About Race!’. I’d rather not? Go to work and you could be beckoned into a meeting room at any minute to confront the white privilege you never knew you had. And forget trying to seek sweet, temporary respite from all this browbeating by sitting down to watch a sporting spectacle like the Commonwealth Games, for there will be Clare Balding and Tom bloody Daley ready to chide you some more about your wrongthink.

We should have seen it coming. On Wednesday the Guardian published the most Guardian article ever, aptly written by someone called Andy Bull, calling on the Commonwealth Games to confront its ‘sportswashing past’. Bull said the Games should be prefaced by ‘one of those warnings about outdated attitudes’, like: ‘These Games were predicated on the mistreatment of people and cultures.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually did something like that, I thought to myself. And lo, they did. The BBC kicked it all off with a poem about the past evils of the Commonwealth. Seriously.

Casey Bailey, an urban poet in Birmingham, where the Games are being held, rhymed and moaned about the Commonwealth’s dark past. Millions of people around the world were ‘held under’ by the Commonwealth banner, he said. They were lectured about democracy and equality but they ‘didn’t always get to see [these things]’ because Britain is a bit shit. Cue footage of the UK in the Sixties and Seventies with National Front marches and swastika graffiti. What a racist hellhole you live in, the Beeb was essentially saying to the people who tuned in. We steal stuff, too. Our museums are full of the loot of pillaged nations. ‘Check the galleries and palaces for evidence of wrongdoing’, Bailey said. Imagine the queen watching this, in one of her palaces, thinking she’s going to hear some nice words about the Commonwealth but instead basically being told she’s a thief. I bet she switched off, too.

Look, I’m all in favour of having a political discussion about the Commonwealth. But at the Commonwealth Games? A sporting spectacle? No, we don’t want this. Leave us alone, for a couple of hours, please. That the BBC, along with officialdom in Birmingham, is happy to do a primetime broadcast about Britain’s shady, racist, plundering past confirms how fashionable self-hate has become among the woke elites. ‘England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality’, Orwell famously said. It’s not just intellectuals anymore, George. From the top of the Beeb down to so-called street culture, they’re all at it – we’re a morally stained nation that must atone for the rest of time for the crimes of empire, etc etc etc. Do they ever tire of always looking on the dark side of life?

It got worse after the poem. The ceremony itself had a few inspirational moments (few being the operative word) but it was generally a school-assembly level lecture about DIVERSITY. Yes, there were tributes to some of Birmingham’s great historical figures, though why they made Samuel Johnson look like Jabba the Hutt and gave Elgar nose hairs that turned into trumpets, we will never know. Yes, there were flying houses, BMX stunts, and shards of light representing the debris of an exploding star or something. But mostly it was about DIVERSITY. In capital letters. They shouted that D-word constantly. ‘We’re diverse!’ Okay, we get it. What else have you got?

It was the politics of identity on steroids. Proof that the cult of diversity is now the key ruling-class ideology. Absent a cohering national vision, lacking a narrative that might bind people together into a solid sense of Britishness, all the elites can bleat about is difference. Celebrating difference becomes the sticking plaster over the wound where shared values should be. The effect is distinctly soulless. So in Birmingham last night we had a lecture about our horrible history, shade cast on the Commonwealth, some platitudes about self-belief, and the constantly drummed message that we don’t have much in common but that’s fine. We’re encouraged to feel estranged from our history, and from each other, and to act instead as a lonely crowd, plonked at home listening to worthy poets and urban dance troupes scream ‘DIVERSITY’ for three hours. Dispiriting doesn’t cover it.

It was only a matter of time before the dreaded Pride flag made an appearance. On came Tom Daley with that inescapable banner of woke. He was followed by 35 other Pride flag bearers, intended to represent – get this – the 35 countries of the Commonwealth where homosexuality is still a crime. The irony was too much to take. The ceremony started with a lecture about how nasty Britain used to boss around the ‘lesser’ nations of the Commonwealth and then ended with Daley and Co telling off the ‘lesser’ nations of the Commonwealth! Out with the old colonialism, in with the new. We’ve gone from the White Man’s Burden to the Woke Man’s Burden. Lecturing African countries while standing beneath the Union flag would be a big no no these days, but doing so while draped in the Pride standard is fine and fabulous. Pride is the flag of moral conquest now, the symbol of Woke Britain’s superiority over the uncivilised nations.

Of course the vast majority of Brits think it’s wrong to criminalise homosexuality. But here’s the thing. A British celeb famous for diving and knitting is not going to deliver progress to African countries that outlaw gay sex. The people in those countries need to do that for themselves. What’s more, that flag Daley and the others were waving is not a gay-liberation flag anymore. It has now been defaced with the colours of the trans ideology, and according to the trans ideology, same-sex attraction is a species of prejudice. How dare lesbians with vaginas reject ‘lesbians with penises’? That is ‘sexual racism’, apparently. What good is that flag to people in foreign countries who are persecuted for being attracted to the same sex? None. It’s a hindrance. Its message is that these people’s sexual preferences are a kind of bigotry. Rip it up.

Woke fundamentally represents the politicisation of everything. Culture, education, entertainment, sport – nothing can exist for its own sake anymore; everything must be in service of the indoctrination of moral correctness into the people. And there’s more to come: the BBC excitedly reports that, ‘unlike at the Olympics’, athletes at the Commonwealth Games ‘can use their platform to protest against social injustice’. So we can expect more knee-taking and Pride-boasting – state-sanctioned expressions of approved opinion dressed up as protest. Enough. In Australia, seven players for the Manly Sea Eagles rugby team are refusing to play in the team’s new jersey because it has the Pride colours on it. Mainly of Polynesian Christian heritage, the players say the Pride ideology goes against their cultural and personal beliefs. We need more of this kind of thing, more kickbacks against identitarian conformism. Commonwealth athletes, get off your knees, put down the Pride flags, and for heaven’s sake just do some sport.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Sport UK


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