“All I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football,” Albert Camus said. But I wonder how the great man might have adapted that famous line for the Masters. As a lover of the sporting life, no doubt Camus would have ring-fenced the four days this week at Augusta National, as an important ritual — yes, even an obligation. Yet I suspect that he would reach the same verdict about the golf as he did about football, except to add the words… “but not in a good way.”
The golf and the track are beautiful, all that fine stuff about morality and obligations are honoured in the actual playing of the game — something that was demonstrated in a sublime gesture last year when Shota Hayafuji, the caddie of the winner Hideki Matsuyama, replaced the flag on the 18th green and bowed as a mark of respect in the general direction of the course they had just negotiated.
At which point Camus would agree to share that sentiment, but probably to add that underneath all that exquisite greenery, what you’re looking at there, may be Heaven — but it is the White Man’s Heaven. Still, even in the 2020s, Augusta National can exude these ancient vibes of the Old South, and not in a good way.
It is all the more insidious because it is so exquisitely done — the infrastructure of racism on which this whole way of life stands is emerging again in America in the form of the fascist movement known as Maga . And it is an infrastructure that does not take long to reveal itself.
Only last week — LAST WEEK — Joe Biden made lynching a federal hate crime. And we are aware of that, but we’ll keep watching the Masters anyway. Because all that we know most surely about morality and obligations is that we are prepared to forget about all that stuff while we’re watching them teeing it up on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday. And on the front nine too, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Indeed all we know most surely about the corporate culture that rules much of this earth can be found in the realm of high-class professional golf in general. There’s the sick joke whereby the CEO of the sponsor of a tournament on the PGA Tour is invited by the TV presenter to talk about all the money the tournament is raising for charity — and here’s the funny part, as I imagine it: when the CEO has described all the children’s hospitals they are building, and the generous donations to “the community”, the presenter puts it to him that this exemplifies all that is wrong with Corporate America, how they are allowed to pay a pittance in tax, encouraged instead to engage in “charity” to ensure no form of “socialised medicine” can infect the healthcare sector.
Yes, that would be a joke all right — and it would also be completely true. But the point that nobody would dream of saying it to such a representative of Corporate America, and certainly not on the Golf Channel, shows just how complete is the triumph of that culture. Funnyman Noel Casler was talking about America, but he could be talking about a lot of countries when he reminded us that “there’s a difference between a nation of laws and a corporation that happens to own some prisons”.
These encounters are profoundly political, as surely as the good ol’ boys who have always run Augusta are profoundly political — yet in such a form that to challenge it in any meaningful way seems absurd. Hell, it’s just a round of golf; enjoy your game.
The DP World corporation enjoys the game so much they’re paying about $200m a year to sponsor the European Tour. They are the parent company of P&O Ferries, which recently did the executive dog on it altogether by sacking 800 workers who were on low pay, and replacing them with workers on even lower pay — and doing it by Zoom.
Yes, there are winners and losers — trouble is there are just too many losers now, and they are getting increasingly angry. As the multitudes across the western world are left with nothing but this rage, many of them will find their way into Maga and other like-minded outfits.
Battered by incessant propaganda on social media, they will see the enemy everywhere except in the place that it lives: in the apparently unchallengeable power of the corporations. They will feel overwhelmed not by a culture that sacks 800 people by Zoom, but by the “threat” of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The lads in the executive lounges always had a way of getting the poor to act against their own best interests, to blame some “other” crowd — no, there won’t be many of those “others” inside or outside the ropes at the Masters, and again I can hear the voice of Camus: all that we know most surely about morality and obligations is that these are to be avoided at all costs.
In other golf news, Donald Trump had a hole-in-one last week — or at least he declared in a long statement that he had it, which is a very different thing.
There are at least four good reasons why this would be a lie — a short film of the incident shows the ball in the cup but, oddly enough, not the actual shot that allegedly put it there; his playing partners included four-time major winner Ernie Els and three other top professionals, yet none of their balls seem to have reached the green; moreover there is some mild high-fiving but you can tell that they are not “feeling it”; there is not the spontaneous jubilation that usually comes with an ace, the kind that Shane Lowry recently displayed. But the most compelling evidence it is a lie is Trump is saying it is the truth.
In other Trump news, he relaxed after his “hole-in-one” by asking Vladimir Putin to take time out from his mass murdering to supply his old partner Donald with some dirt on Hunter Biden — “partner” is not my description, but that of a Russian state TV host who referred to “our partner” Trump.
This would all be an astounding way for any well-known American to be carrying on at a time like this, but from this past and possibly future president… it was just Tuesday.
I think of the words of Joe Biden about his exchanges with China’s President Xi who, incidentally, is not his “partner”. “I think we’re at an inflection point in history…it occurs every several generations. I think we’re in a genuine struggle between autocracies and democracies … (Xi) does not believe that democracies can be sustained in the 21st century. Because things move so rapidly, technology is changing so much, democracies don’t have time to achieve consensus. That’s why autocracies will succeed (Xi believes)”.
They may also succeed because, unlike the democracy which Trump is determined to destroy in cahoots with his “partner”, if Trump had tried a similar caper in an autocracy he wouldn’t be out there having fake hole-in-ones. He’d most likely be awaiting execution — though some of the autocracies might favour the firing squad, some the lethal injection, others the electric chair.
They can’t “achieve consensus” on everything, you know.
Social media is massively accelerating the rise of fascism — yet sometimes this is not how it works.
Twitter is the only form of social media I do, and I gotta tell you something: my experience has been almost wholly positive. And I’m not just talking about the day I saw the words: “Van Morrison followed you.”
Twitterati with whom I interact are usually friendly. The few who abuse me, I ignore — which may be the key to happiness in this domain. Clearly I’m doing it all wrong.