As a badger-baiting industrialist, it’s not often I have the pleasure of cheering “Jolly good show, old boy!” at a Marxist. But pluck my peafowl if Crikey’s writer-at-large, Guy Rundle, hasn’t gone and done it, with this lovely little think piece on the Melbourne Cup.

The article is one of the longer translations of “I wish the thought-policing self-loathing leftard vegan PC brigade would just sod off. YOLO” — but still a proudly anthropocentric defence of the sport of kings, and our God-given right to destructive hedonism.

Rundle rebuffs animal-loving do-gooders with real panache. Says Gerard Henderson’s favourite comedian:

“On the totem of cruelty to animals [the Melbourne Cup is] a long way down, and its importance and pleasure as a cultural activity far outweighs that demerit. The degree to which it is disdained by an ever-larger section of a certain class is pure cultural snobbery.”

He sees the Cup as a visceral and grounded cultural ritual. It exemplifies the “collective and the naturally joyful” and, as such, is beyond political or ethical reproach. And quite right, too.

I must say, however, I am disappointed he did not realise this sooner; that he wasn’t, for example, able to see the utilitarian case for collective and natural joy trumping relatively small-scale suffering when he wrote about the Adam Goodes “booing” nontroversy. He didn’t celebrate the mob, accusing punters of “nasty, sad, depressing attacks”.

But what was the “booing” of Goodes if not the ritualistic sublimation of a good old-fashioned lynching, the most visceral of collective cultural events? (As an aside, I’m still not sure why the lynch mob, in its original form, needed “civilising”, as Freud would have it. Perhaps Guy can clear this up for me?)

Writes Rundle:

“Personally I don’t think horse racing is cruel. Horses run in packs spontaneously, they have no reflective self-consciousness or knowledge of death, so the pain of whipping is purely physiological.”

Be still my beating pacemaker! This is lovely stuff. I recall Fox News anchor and good friend Bill O’Reilly using a wonderful piece of statistical sophistry to “prove” (wink, wink) that 78% of allegedly poor Americans aren’t really poor. How’s that? Because they own DVD players! Abracadabra, by the power of Pulp Fiction’s special features, you are no longer destitute! Haha. You should’ve seen Bernie Sanders’ face.

I’d say Guy’s is less a magic act and more a feat of semantic acrobatics: watch him dive, watch him spin, watch him twirl and contort his way into a cunning bit of casuistry, such that the running of a horse to death for entertainment can no longer be defined as cruel. How’s that? Because horses only feel pain with their bodies, which doesn’t count!

Throw in a nod to the skillfully evasive, categorically unfallacious argument of relative privation (what about the “10 million African and Asian children dying annually of easily preventable diseases”?) and Guy makes himself a very real prospect for a member’s nomination at the Mt. Rah Rah Country Club and Putting Green, of which I am the treasurer.

Bravo, Guy Rundle, your prose is as a song; sweet chamber music to my hirsute ears; an ode to res publica (brought to you by Emirates).

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey