Code war: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing
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What gets you out of bed in the morning? Which cause motivates you, kick-starts your heart and churns your belly juices?
Which issue would you take to the streets to demand change? What is it that you would rather avoid talking about with your friends over too many drinks for fear that it could end badly?
For those of us lucky enough to live in these divided states of Australia, late-night political and religious discussions aren’t likely to end in bloodshed or long grudges.
Even so most of us choose not to ‘go there’. It’s just not polite and worst of all, it’s boring.
However there is one topic that sets a certain type of mind to steely resolve and certitude, a certain type of tongue to shrill and heated insult, a certain type of eye to red-misted misperception and a certain finger to raise and point resolutely skyward.
Code wars, apparently.
League versus union; NRL versus AFL, AFL versus soccer, marbles versus tiddlywinks, sliding down a slippery slide on your bum versus on your tummy.
Certain words should never be allowed to go to seed. War should not be so easily diluted.
War used to encapsulate mass death, senseless or noble struggle, the ugly contest of political ideas and religions, the overthrow or ascension of tyrants and the ultimate futility of historical lessons ignored.
Now, it’s just another word for whenever any kind of disagreement or contest is afoot: ‘war on drugs’, ‘Queensland v NSW – It’s War!’, ‘warring factions’ and most pitifully of all, this alleged ‘code war’.
A code ‘war’, is it? On which actual war should we model this entirely media-driven sideshow?
Reading and listening to the vested Sydney types, their code war is of the outgunned and microbiologically vulnerable Aztecs, lying innocent and beautiful, while greedy, alien Conquistadors from over the border seek to lay them waste and reduce the NRL to the status of a minor in their own lands.
Self-styled, they are the brave British during the Blitz, staying stiff-upper-lipped and staunch while predatory AFL bombers darken the skies above.
Choose a stance for an article. Do you want to characterize AFL’s forays northwards as a massive wasted effort which will one day be repaid in kind, like Hannibal’s trip over the mountains?
Or perhaps you’ll borrow the mocking tone of those who weren’t convinced at Bush Jr’s 2003 appearance on the USS Abraham Lincoln, prematurely declaring “mission accomplished”.
You could try to capture the essence of Churchill’s “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches”. Are there beaches in Western Sydney?
Looking the other way, perception still utterly vanquished by the fog of this phony war, we are sometimes led to believe that the NRL is a feral old enemy on its last legs ready to be brought to heel by the righteous.
The Holy Land that is Australia’s most populous city is ready to be opened up once again to missionaries of the true faith. This, finally, is a crusade that can and will be won!
Sometimes the NRL is painted as a stoic and implacable foe, inferior in every way but ultimately unconquerable.
The many failed invasions of Afghanistan convey the same image. More optimistic pieces sneer at the feeble, imported game; somehow this brings to mind the Falklands.
The NRL pathetically launches its Steedens at the AFL’s fleet, parked miles out of range, which in turn mercilessly pounds the NRL’s coast with deadly-accurate Sherrins.
More likely, the NRL is almost completely ignored in the southern media and it is thus starved of the oxygen of publicity.
One might compare such an information black hole to both sides’ use of propaganda during the Cold War.
Best of all is the image I get when soccer-aligned scribes fire up and write as though the round-ball code has an A-Bomb they’ll drop and wipe out all the other codes any minute… wait for it… any minute now…
If you think all of the above is complete nonsense I applaud your good sense.
These unit-shifting screeds we see every day demand that we pick a side in a wholly manufactured ‘war’.
Left to their own devices, followers of any code are happy enough to decide for themselves what they’d like to be a part of.
This simply will not do. Those who claim to be fans of multiple codes are denounced as traitors by all when in fact they are more like refugees.
It’s the fans who are most blameworthy. So eager are we to march behind the banner of our preferred variation of football.
The papers are the pipers, the fans are the goose-stepping troops – stepping along blindly in time with the tune. Every day we all grow a little angrier and more entrenched in our hatred of the Other.
We repeat lines fed to us by a predatory media as though these printed opinions were smart bombs of unerring accuracy and infinite potency and as though any of it matters.
It’s all completely contrived; it’s a waste of valuable energy and it can be fun.
I’m as guilty of getting caught up in it as anyone. In fact I sometimes suspect it’s the fans who provide the grist for this particular mill.
Rather than our parroting the media’s opinion of the Other, is it possible that the brokers of this ‘code war’ trawl our forums and blogs, gauge the mood, steal the best lines and feed it all back to us?
As the Doug Anthony All-Stars sang, “Extra! Extra! Read all about shit!”.
What can one do about it except write pompous, long articles?
This weekend I’ll be watching every NRL match and making absolutely sure I don’t accidentally flick to the AFL, for fear of giving them a head to count in the ratings “war”.
I am a good soldier.
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