Convict culture: how a mean, authoritarian and shame-based culture works

The 'sledge'

The ‘sledge’

The ‘sledge’: a euphemism for the coward’s punch in language – ‘I’m not serious, mate. Don’t take it personally. Geez, you’re touchy…’. Americans, with honesty, know it as ‘trash-talk’. Identify the person with talent, with the ability to lead, the one who is different, the one who questions, who rejects blind acceptance, who has independent pride in their self (all qualities that are, at least, potential ‘problems’ for those wishing to dominate and control), project your shame and your anger at feeling that shame onto them, and aim to break them with your mouth.

There’s no physical damage (‘So what’s your problem, mate?’), the attempted damage, far more vicious, is entirely psychological. ‘Let’s get down and dirty and work on the brain, boys.’

It is not that the target thinks they ‘stand above’ the sledger (a classic projection justified as the ‘tall poppy’), it is that the sledger is on his knees, before authority and domination, looking up – of which they are aware every minute of the day.

‘Sledging’ is a very powerful ideological tool, the application of which the Australian cricket team so consistently and so aggressively exemplifies. And as true bullies, how they squeal when it is given back to them.

‘Sledging’ is not simply overt racism, those who employ it are ever ready if challenged to immediately hide behind a look of false surprise and the coward’s laugh of denial – ‘Jus’ jokin’ matey.’

I do not deny that this behaviour goes on in other sports and in the sports of other nations, but I point to the Australian cricket team having a long history in its use and being experts at it, to the relentless determination with which they practice and justify it and, above all, to how emblematic their ‘sledging’ is of the ‘sledging’ in Australian culture generally.

Its practice, like that of its close relative, cynicism (the foe of vision), is widely regarded with pride in this country, as though the damage they result in is an achievement – ‘We’re real men here in Australia – we know how the world works.’

Australian culture could never be great with the ‘sledge’ and its relative cynicism retained, justified at its heart. They are convict elements.


Image: The Sun Herald, 04.01.15

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