In the past week, the Fairfax press has revealed that Australian swimming champion Mack Horton was apparently going to have a swimming pool named after him at his old school, Caulfield Grammar, but that this plan was quietly shelved due to his public criticism of convicted drug cheat Sun Yang, in order to protect the school’s commercial interests.
One of the stories is here:
Many people have already criticised the school for this cowardice, such that even though the school claims that there were no such abandoned plans, it is now actively considering repairing its damage by actually doing what was rumoured and honouring Mack Horton in this way.
It would be apt to do so. Mack Horton is an Olympic gold medalist, something which, in our wealthy and sporting mad nation, makes him a great hero in itself (I say that with a bit of irony – when I commented on a reigning Brownlow medalist being a hero at age 12, a teacher archly observed what about heart surgeons and others who save lives). But that he has been outspoken in his disdain and lack of tolerance for known and blatant cheating in his sport does elevate Mack Horton above other Australian swimmers, as he appears to represent an ideal of fair play which is increasingly disregarded and sidelined in modern sport in place of the expedience of winning.
The alleged behaviour of Caulfield Grammar is a case in point. The accusation is that they were so afraid of offending the government of Communist China, which allows many fee paying students to come to Australia and attend that school, that they were unwilling to honour one of their visibly successful old boys, who not only has succeeded as a swimmer, but who embodies fair play. Commercial interests are far more important, supposedly, than fair play,
What message is Caulfield Grammar sending to the families of Australians who send their sons there? That standing up for what is right is actually wrong, and that cheating should be tolerated? That is the sort of message which seems to be embedded into our export education system right now, and it obviously is starting to have an impact in the rest of the education system in its entirety.
Civil society and Australian democracy is under threat from various sources. One of those sources is the growing alienation from society and disillusionment in the political processes which many feel – the apathy, anger and anomie which are probably a result of our increasingly online lives and news cycles. But one of the other threats to civil society and democracy is the increasing economic dependence on Communist China, and the growing tolerance of the intentional interference which its representatives are exercising onshore in our society – or the fear of speaking out against it.
That Mack Horton has become, before this swimming pool issue came up, a poster boy for fair play is one thing. The alleged behaviour of Caulfield Grammar has propelled him to a greater status – he is now a symbol for what is going wrong in our civil society and democracy, the fear and greed which is propelling blindness to the motives of a tyrannical communist government which is trying to extend its tentacles into indirect control of our nation.
The best thing which Caulfield Grammar could now do for our nation and to honour Mack Horton, given the obvious contempt that I now feel for its leadership, is to name its swimming pool after Sun Yang. That would graphically and vocally illustrate to the public that there is a threat of us becoming, through our apathy, fear, and greed, a client state to Communist China,.