Urban life - Darcus Howe includes the Aussies

The Australians should have been at the parade: they lost, but they were not vanquished

I made the pilgrimage to the city centre, there to witness the crowd's near-hysterical response to England's splendid victory in the Ashes series. I tend to recoil from these gigantic expressions of nationalism, mainly for what they conceal.

And what did the celebrations conceal? This was not a one-sided contest. The Australian team contributed equally to the grand spectacle; they lost, in the end, but were not vanquished. Their absence thus concealed the fact that both teams, together, have lifted the game from the doldrums. Imagine the Aussies riding through the streets with thousands of Australians in support. All London would have been lifted; all Pakistan, India, the Caribbean and South Africa would have responded to this generous approach. Instead, the victory parade reinforced the old, tired slogan of "winner takes all".

The winner-takes-all attitude is promoted, above all, by the press. Commentators have elevated this English team to one of the greatest to have played the game. This is a fallacy, and induces the young players of the future to have expectations which cannot be met. This is an ordinary English Test team by any standards, and so is Australia's. But that does not detract from an enjoyable series, and merely confirms that the Australians should have been present at the parade, which would have been an honest reflection of a historical moment.

This, in essence, is what multiculturalism is about. Inclusiveness is everything in a society increasingly divided along racial lines and by national sentiment. A different parade from the one we witnessed would have signalled to us, the minorities, that a new era had begun and that celebrations of victory do not preclude respect for the contributions of others. A great opportunity has been missed.

By the way, I was pleased to read of the special commendations given to the four fast bowlers who led the England attack. This is quite the opposite of what was said about the four-pronged West Indian pace attack only a few years ago.

Darcus Howe is an outspoken writer, broadcaster and social commentator. His TV work includes ‘White Tribe’ in which he put Anglo-Saxon Britain under the spotlight. He also fronted a series called Devil’s Advocate.

This article first appeared in the 19 September 2005 issue of the New Statesman, The gathering storm