I’ve only been away from England for a month, which admittedly is too short a time to expect that the country’s acute mental disorder would be cured in the interim.
Yet hope, though it may not spring eternal, hasn’t yet been declared illegal. So I hoped that my country’s madness would slip into remission at least. Yet that hope, like so many others, has proved forlorn on my return.
And if you think I may be misdiagnosing the condition, judge for yourself.
The Liverpool Brazilian footballer Roberto Firmino was running full pelt trying to retrieve a ball going into touch. It was a lost cause: no man using only his two legs for locomotion would have caught up with that ball.
But the Everton defender Mason Holgate did catch up with Firmino and assisted his momentum by pushing him in the back as hard as he could with both hands. That turned Firmino into a good imitation of a stone flying out of a slingshot.
The pitch was surrounded by a concrete wall, about four feet high, serving as a hoarding for advertising posters. It was that barrier towards which Firmino flew uncontrollably, head first.
The great athlete that the Brazilian is, he somehow managed to somersault over the wall, landing among the spectators in the front three rows. But what if he hadn’t, as you or I wouldn’t be able to do?
In all likelihood Firmino’s career, and possibly his life, would have ended: running headlong into a wall at 30-odd miles an hour has been known to produce that effect. Holgate, in other words, attempted murder or at least GBH.
Years ago, another Everton player, Duncan Ferguson, proudly became the first footballer in history to go to prison for something he did on the pitch. But Ferguson only ‘nutted’ an opponent and, though a head butt could break a man’s nose, it’s unlikely to kill.
Holgate’s life-threatening assault was much worse and, understandably, Firmino was incensed. No sooner had he extricated himself from the crowd than he rushed towards his assailer screaming invective.
One of the words he shouted, after inquiring in Portuguese whether Holbate was crazy, was an Anglophone racial insult. I don’t know if the referee heard it, but he had certainly seen the assault – and yet took no action.
That means the Football Association won’t punish the attempted murder either – its rules say that, if a referee sees a transgression but chooses to ignore it, the culprit gets off scot-free. However, if, as Holbate claims, Firmino used the N-word, the FA can and will act.
The Brazilian will probably be banned for many games and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s criminally prosecuted. Hence my worst fears have been realised: England hasn’t become any saner in my absence.
What happened to sticks and stones, one wonders, those that, according to the popular ditty, can break one’s bones, whereas words can’t? Well, you see, that proverb was made up at a sane time, when a sense of proportion hadn’t yet disappeared, and society was at one with man.
They’ve now gone their separate ways, with most people retaining their sanity, while society has gone bonkers. Breaking a man’s bones, even fatally, is now a crime against that man only, which society may not condone but won’t treat as too big a deal.
However, uttering the N-word or even its faux cognates and vague homophones, such as ‘niggardly’, goes way beyond that. It’s a slap in the face of the modern ethos that has ruled that ‘racism’ is a crime worse than most others, possibly including murder.
Trying to break a man’s neck by hurling him towards a concrete wall offends no one but the victim. A cross word uttered in response commits a crime against our civilisation, or rather the bogus caricature of one that now rules supreme.
This is the message of the article written by Martin Samuel, one of our best sports writers but a paid-up modern man. Here’s what Mr Samuel wrote to call for a sensible balance:
“However angry he [Firmino] may have been, there are plenty of epithets he could have used to express his feelings without mentioning race. He does not get a free pass, no matter the provocation.
“And, yes, racism has been responsible for extremes of misery and suffering through the centuries and must be addressed. But mindless acts of violence are no lesser crime.”
Quite. Firmino should have picked himself up, dusted himself off and remonstrated in a gentlemanly fashion, by saying “A jolly bad show, old boy, what? One is aggrieved at this display of ill will, isn’t one?”
If this is Samuels’s protest against injustice, the hack doth protest too little, methinks. For one thing, in common with all modern cretins, even those who write for a living, he doesn’t use words precisely – especially words that convey modernity’s opprobrium at whatever peeves it.
‘No lesser’ means about equal. So attempted murder is as bad a crime as using an ill-advised word, and I suppose we must thank Mr Samuel for recognising this – many wouldn’t.
However, since the context he himself has outlined includes no mention of things like slavery or genocide, the “extremes of misery” he has in mind must have been caused by verbal insults. Surely that can’t be as extreme as all that?
Call me a crypto-racist insensitive to human suffering, including my own, but I’d rather someone called me every name in the unabridged dictionary than tried to kill me. But it’s not about me, you or any other person, is it? It’s about the modern ethos, today’s surrogate god.
And that god punishes blasphemy as surely, if not yet as severely, as blasphemy against the real God has ever been punished. Word has become graver than deed.
We ought to be thankful that guardians of modern probity haven’t yet learned to read thoughts, for otherwise we’d all be in trouble. Then again, one may interpret this whole mess as another proof of the primacy of the word.
Or else one may interpret it, with better justification, as the world turning into a madhouse. The frightening thought is that Britain may not even be the most violent nutcase.