This one is about selective morality and sinners who seem to be able to cast a stone whenever they like. You know . . . hypocrisy.
The year is 1985 and my Easter exams are just about done. The registrar has stamped my J-1 for a third-level student working visa in the United States.
I was sitting in the college restaurant minding my own business when my law lecturer sought me out. A word please. "What are you doing this summer?"
"Going away to work for the holidays."
"I hear you might be going to South Africa."
As it happens, I did have an option to go to South Africa but it was less than a one per cent chance because I would have been on my own.
"If you go to South Africa I will fail you."
Now, I was doing so little work at that stage I would have been quite capable of failing business law all of my own volition. The man's demeanour convinced me he wasn't messing.
"No student of mine will go and support apartheid."
I took out my freshly-stamped J-1 application and showed it to him.
"What is the difference between the apartheid in South Africa and that of the USA?" I asked.
Apart from the constitutional element, he was hard pressed to tell me what differences there were.
"There is apartheid everywhere. Hop in your car and drive 70 miles up to the border and you will get as much apartheid as you will see anywhere in the world."
* * * * *
I recently watched Louis Myles' excellent documentary Stop The Tour on BT Sport. It really did capture the essence of the times. It is required viewing for every generation.
Stop The Tour centres on Peter Hain, the Labour MP for Neath, who had to leave South Africa in his teens with his family because his parents' lives were at risk due to their opposition to the apartheid regime in that country.
Hain had, at the tender age of 19, found himself at the forefront of the anti-apartheid protest movement and he proved himself to be an articulate and redoubtable adversary to the Springbok rugby and cricket tours.
Myles' documentary tracked the dreadful subjugation of the black population from the implementation of the apartheid laws in 1948, not that they hadn't existed in reality before being enshrined in the constitution, right up to these tours in the 1970s.
Hain, finding himself in the vanguard of the protest, attracted a large degree of opprobrium and admiration from all sides but you have to admire the Enfant Terrible's pluck. There were letter bombs and a concerted secret service attempt to discredit him. There was no deviation.
The Springbok tours to this part of the world were hugely divisive and the demonstrators outside grounds and on the pitch regularly got the main headlines in the news. Direct action of continuous pitch invasions to sit-ins at hotels meant the travelling Springboks never got a break.
Some of the interventions were priceless. In London a "good-looking woman" (Hain's words) got up to the team floor and applied a solidifying agent to the door locks, leaving the players locked in their rooms. On another occasion a "smart dressed man in a business suit" walked onto the Springbok team bus and told the driver that the team management wanted him inside. As soon as the driver got out the protester drove the bus off and then handcuffed himself to the steering wheel. This was an hour or two before the Springboks were due to play England in a Test match. Puerile but effective.
In this country, too, there was a huge debate between rugby people who objected to the Springboks coming here and rugby people who didn't object. The same applied to people who had no connection to rugby at all; should these teams be allowed in? It played on the conscience primarily because the issue was so much bigger than sport.
One of the things that irks me about the whole episode is that sport once again was the soft target here. It was on the frontline of the protest when it should have been first reserve. Yes, it is right to protest against white-only teams but only, in my view, after economic sanctions have failed.
Look at all of the powerhouse nations across the globe, and not one of them implemented meaningful trading or economic sanctions against South Africa. There were plenty of UN resolutions, ratifications and condemnations but if they were serious about calling a halt to apartheid all it took was a collective will.
John Major, who was Margaret Thatcher's Foreign Minister, reckoned that sanctions would "feed white consciences outside South Africa not black bellies within it."
South Africa, with its enormous mineral wealth, traded away with anyone it wanted to - including the United States. The other African economies needed South Africa more than it needed them and any boycotts caused minimal harm. Quite often, the economic damage to those other African states caused more harm to themselves.
Sport was really the only leverage the right-thinking world had on South Africa. There did not seem to be an ounce of shame or recognition from the political or economic world about the lack of action.
Here in Ireland some dedicated trade unionists took a stand on the sale of South African oranges in Dunnes Stores. Is that it, folks?
Meanwhile, tennis, golf and Formula One went on unimpeded literally until near the very end of the apartheid era.
Rugby, though, because of its exalted place within the white South African way of life, kept on getting the brunt of the attention.
In 1976, the All Blacks toured South Africa and it proved to be a bitterly divisive tour with a lot of New Zealanders unhappy that their rugby team was travelling to South Africa. As a consequence, 28 African states, led by Tanzania, declared that if New Zealand was not barred from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal then they would boycott the event. Sport gets f****d again!
On the flip side, I wonder how many of those nations could justifiably point a finger.
In 1972/'73 Uganda forcibly expelled over 80,000 Ugandan citizens from the country purely because they were of Indian or Asian descent. Most but not all got out alive. How was it that Uganda could take any high moral ground here. Is there only one form of racism?
At the start of the 1970s Nigeria concluded a bitter Civil War which was purely the product of ethnic division and racism. Three million people were butchered in the war and four-and-a-half million displaced as one ethnic atrocity was followed by another.
Yet two years after this genocide Nigeria could send a team to the 1972 Olympics. Then, in 1976, they could tell the world that it was objecting to the fact that New Zealand played a rugby tour in South Africa. Long before ISIS came about, and in the 15 years leading up to 1976, there was the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Syria where the population shrank from two-and-a-half million to 500,000.
In the majority of those boycotting states there was genocide and murderous racism of one form or another in play at the time. How in all good conscience can they point a finger? All of these states were good with the microscope but not so good with the mirror. The West grants special dispensation, making it complicit and compliant in conveniently forgetting about all these atrocities. Which is worse, apartheid or genocide? Selective morality?
In 1964, the International Olympic Council banned South Africa from the Tokyo summer games because of their "segregationist policies". At the same time the USA was in the process of enacting the Civil Rights Act which prohibited unequal application of voter registration and racial segregation in schools, employment and public accommodation. This signals that up to that point in time there was, in reality, racial discrimination and segregation in law in the United States.
In 1960, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) won an Olympic gold in the light heavyweight division in Rome. He was justifiably very proud of his achievement to the point that he wore the medal everywhere he went.
Ali went to a restaurant in Louisville but they refused to serve him, not because he was causing trouble but because black people were not allowed in.
Ali went to the second street bridge and threw his medal in the Ohio River. What value did this medal hold if he won it for his country and yet the people he represents don't allow him to eat in the same restaurants as them?
It is true that the American team was multi-racial and that the team South Africa proposed to send was all white but nevertheless segregation is segregation and it was in force in law in the USA up to and including the year 1964. How do you reconcile that?
We have plenty of black people in our Olympic team but when they go home they are not allowed to go to the same schools, bar, restaurants, public buildings, beaches, universities or ride on the same bus as their white teammates. Even when the civil rights vote came in the House of Representatives and the Senate the 11 confederate states voted over 95 per cent against the bill on both parties.
I have been to Soweto and Cape Flats. I have been to Harlem, Watts and the South Side of Chicago and I am still waiting for somebody to tell me what the difference is between them.
I admire the valour and persistence of the protesters in the '60s and '70s who took up stout resistance against the tours, but the question has to be asked: why only South Africa? Surely everyone could see what was happening in America and other countries with appalling human rights violations and state-sponsored subjugation. Why was there not protests against these countries?
Apartheid is gone. South Africa have won the Rugby World Cup with a multi-racial team and a black captain. The world, however, is far from convinced that the hatred has gone too. We look at America, which is a multi-racial mirror image with huge fault lines, and all it takes is a spark and the barely disguised divisions open up again. This could be South Africa's fate too. The next ten years will tell a tale.
The issue is that sport or lack of it may not have any leverage left to be able to bridge any divisions. I just wonder how much real progress is made by taking a knee?
Sunday Indo Sport