The other day the comedian Rory Bremner said: “I give up. You think you’re being satirical but the reality is even more farcical.”
When professional wits acknowledge that everyday life throws up scenarios even they couldn’t make up, we know we are in trouble. My previous article is a case in point.
I was lampooning today’s obsession with woke language, which has stopped being merely absurd to become clinically certifiable. In particular, I feigned apology for my use of words like niggling, niggardly and renege (a friend has since also suggested ‘negate’).
Yet before the proverbial and nonexistent ink dried on my final full stop, the Football Association proved Rory Bremner’s point. It banned the Uruguayan ManU striker Edinson Cavani for three matches and fined him £100,000 for using insulting and improper words. He’ll also have to attend a “face-to-face” education programme, eerily reminiscent of China’s re-education camps in the ’60s.
I wrote about this some time ago, when Cavani was first charged, but by way of a reminder his crime was responding to a friend’s twitted message of congratulations with “gracias negrito”. Whatever the etymological undercurrents, in Cavani’s native River Plate Spanish this sentence merely means “thanks, mate”.
Yet our berserk modernity is running amok. Its FA specimens, who can barely string a grammatical English sentence together, took it upon themselves to police not only their own language, but also other nations’.
Their mastery of their mother tongue was amply demonstrated by the final ruling in Cavani’s case. Writing in their inimitable bureaucratese, they decreed that his post was “insulting and/or abusive and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute”. His “comment constitutes an aggravated breach which included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin”.
I’d suggest that this statement is cretinous and/or ignorant and/or schizophrenic. For Cavani’s post contains no such reference. If it does, then so do words like blackberry, bête noire, blackguard and Nigeria – to say nothing of those I mentioned before.
In the good tradition of China’s Red Guards, Cavani was forced to issue a profuse apology. “It was intended as an affectionate greeting to a friend, thanking him for his congratulations after the game,” he wrote.
“The last thing I wanted to do was cause offence to anyone. I am completely opposed to racism and deleted the message as soon as it was explained that it can be interpreted differently.”
In a desperate attempt to prevent Cavani from incurring an even lengthier ban, his team Manchester United stated: “Despite his honest belief that he was simply sending an affectionate thank you in response to a congratulatory message from a close friend, he chose not to contest the charge out of respect for, and solidarity with, the FA and the fight against racism in football.”
The lunatics aren’t just running the asylum – they’ve extended it to the whole world. On pain of severe punishment, sane people now have to pretend to be as deranged as the lunatics themselves. Solidarity with what exactly?
It’s certainly not with any fight against racism. Rather Cavani and his employers meekly genuflected before tyrannical, psychopathic maniacs trying to impose their disease on the whole of society.
If you think this judgement is too harsh, just consider the BBC comment on the incident: “There is sympathy for the Uruguayan in what was an innocent personal post. However, there is simply no excuse for not being aware of the wider aspect of the society he is living in – and either he should have been aware, or the club should have made him aware of the offence it could cause.”
I used to teach English for a living, but I can’t get my head around the preventive measures the BBC may have in mind. Cavani’s English is, to be charitable, rudimentary — after all, he has only been in the country a few months. So how could he or his club have created the requisite awareness?
Should the club have compiled a list of all potentially offensive morphemes and letter combinations? This task may be feasible in English, just. But, considering that the Premier League attracts players from every corner of the globe, the maniacs would have to do the same job on each of the world’s 6,500 languages.
Even the FA’s resources don’t stretch as far, although modernity does have a vast reservoir of surprises it can spring at any moment. Could it perhaps issue an injunction against players communicating in any language other than woke English?
Yes, perhaps that’s it. Actually, an historical precedent for such a measure exists, although it’s of an earlier provenance than China’s Red Guards.
Many Russian aristocrats took part in the December uprising of 1825 and were imprisoned as a result. Their everyday language was French, even though, since most of them were officers, they knew how to communicate with the rank-and-file in Russian as well.
However, many of their wives found it hard to converse in Russian (a problem satirised by Tolstoy in War and Peace). Hence they talked to their husbands in French on visiting days, which created a problem for the screws, who couldn’t understand a word. The women were consequently banned from using French, and many of them had to take courses in Russian to be able to speak to their men.
Combining the experience of Imperial Russia and Red China, the FA can possibly find a way out of the linguistic conundrum. The rest of us will be watching on from the sidelines with – with horror or, in my case, with mirth.
Satire may have been superseded, but we can still laugh, can’t we? As Seneca put it, “None of this can be helped, but all of it can be despised.”