By this I don’t mean that henceforth every tennis shot struck in anger will clip a line. Nor that every serve will land in the box, avoiding the net en route.
I do mean, however, that the All-England Tennis Club has gone nauseatingly, as distinct from revoltingly, woke. The club went revoltingly woke three years ago, when it decided to drop the honorifics ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ before the names of female players when the score was announced after each game.
Now the club has progressed (if that’s the right word) to the emetic variety of wokery by applying the same perversion to the names of the past winners etched on the honours board. The laws of the land have no retroactive power, but the laws of wokery do.
Tennis clubs in England are in general that way inclined. My club, for example, made the papers a couple of months ago when it updated its membership renewal form. Where the members were expected to fill in their sex, the form stated ‘Female (no longer valid).’
It went on to offer the valid options: ‘Female, including trans woman’, ‘Male, including trans man’, ‘Non-binary’ and ‘Other’.
That last option looked a bit too open-ended for me. I should have insisted that all the remaining 70-odd sexes be listed as well. Instead I wrote to the club, telling them I won’t renew my membership next year unless that “foul obscenity”, as I put it, is eliminated.
The club manager bizarrely explained that the board had to comply with the NHS guidelines. And there I was, thinking I belonged to a private club. Yet even supposing that it somehow falls under the aegis of the government, what on earth does the NHS have to do with anything? A tennis club isn’t a hospital, after all. (It’s merely a hospital anteroom, judging by the frequency of my injuries.)
I wonder if members of the Millwall FC supporters’ club have to wrestle with the same problem. I suspect not. Many of their fans come from a social stratum still deemed too low for the wokers to plumb. Tennis, on the other hand, is seen as a ‘posh’ sport.
In fact, the newspaper reports described my club as “upmarket”. Actually, as far as London tennis clubs go, it’s anything but. One doesn’t have to be especially wealthy to manage £25 a month for unlimited playing time, which is what our membership fees are.
I suppose the term transcends purely economic criteria. Rather than a measure of wealth, it implies heightened receptiveness to any faddish orthodoxy touted by such ‘upmarket’ (meaning woke, green and left-wing) media outlets as the BBC and The Guardian.
In a parallel development, the comedian Ricky Gervais is being exposed to hysterical shrieks demanding that he be cancelled. In his Netflix special, Ricky cracked a few funny jokes about one of the categories highlighted on my club’s renewal form, trans women.
He focused his humour on certain appendages that are more naturally found in men’s trousers than under women’s skirts. Since Ricky’s comedy is mostly about delivery, no printed version would do justice to his unprintable remarks. Suffice it to say I laughed out loud.
Yet Mr Gervais doesn’t seem to realise that the newly hatched orthodoxies are no laughing matter. They are stricter in imposing grave seriousness than Jesus Christ was.
He told the multitudes that they were free to mock anything, as long as they left the Holy Ghost alone. (“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.)
In the woke mind, therefore, women with penises enjoy the same sacred status as the Holy Ghost used to do, but no longer does. Mr Gervais and his colleagues tell jokes, often obscene ones, about Biblical characters every chance they get, but our Guardian readers don’t mind.
(Jimmy Carr was asked how come he didn’t mock Muslims the way he mocked Christians. “Because they can kill me,” replied the honest comedian.)
Even the Pope can’t escape the watching eye of the woke brigade. Explaining to the Americans the vital role played by Catholic immigrants, His Holiness said the other day: “The Irish brought you whiskey and the Italians brought you the mafia. Always look at the roots.”
If his message was that, since the roots of America grew out of drunkenness and organised crime then I’m not sure this interpretation tallies with recognised history. It’s also wide of the mark as a claim to the eternal gratitude Americans should feel for the Catholic diaspora.
Neither am I sure that it was the Irish who first graced America with that nectar. Long before a massive Irish migration, some sort of raw whisky had been brewed in America by English and Scottish settlers. But the Italian, or more specifically Sicilian, provenance of the mafia can’t be gainsaid.
Yet no one took issue with the historical accuracy of the Pope’s remarks. Instead, the papers, including Catholic ones, attacked him for what they perceived as his “ethnic slurs”.
True enough, both the Irish and the Italians have enriched their new country with more than just the two things mentioned by His Holiness. Yet his fault is only rhetorical clumsiness, not racism (ethnicism?).
Our woke brigade evokes my fond memory of KGB snitches recording every word one said and then analysing them for any possibility of subversive subtext.
Sticks and stones, chaps, sticks and stones. Leave words, jocular or otherwise, alone – they won’t break your bones (although I might, if pushed over the edge). You don’t want to resemble Orwell’s dystopian fantasies too closely, do you? If you are short of literary models to follow, I could recommend a few better ones.