The average day in an office, for the most part, sucks shit. When your day is full of deliveries or photocopying, breaks in the work day to celebrate Brenda’s birthday or Julie from accounting’s maternity leave are a salvation. There is only one such afternoon break in Australia that’s officially sanctioned, and that’s the Melbourne Cup. So it unsurprisingly doesn’t land well for many workers when progressives condemn the Cup as animal cruelty and sensationalised gambling.
It perhaps wouldn’t read so poorly if it wasn’t often clearly just an aesthetic criticism. Many anti-Cup Facebook posts simply make fun of the annual race-day photos of drunk blondes carrying their heels, or coked-up blokes in Tarocash suits vomiting into bins. It’s hard to see how that’s consistent with a leftist condemnation of criminalising public drunkenness or cruelly judging people’s appearances. It reads as what it is: an ugly culture war attack.
The substantive critiques — that it celebrates gambling and that the killing of horses in the Cup (and more generally in racing) is cruel — obviously have some merit. But they are but a drop in the ocean of those problems.
For people who don’t gamble with any regularity, the Cup seems like an aberration. But betting on a horse race in the office pool hardly constitutes a central part of Australian gambling culture. Go to any TAB and you will see that you can bet on horse (and greyhound) races every 5 minutes, any day of the year. If criticism of the gambling and racing was serious, progressives would take real issue with the industry all year round (you could for example, support the Alliance for Gambling Reform).
The optics are made all the worse when upper-middle-class progressives, who largely don’t gamble anyway, condemn a pastime far more common amongst low-income earners. Even conceding that the Cup is in many ways “problematic”, I’m not convinced that it’s worth alienating a group we need onside for far more important struggles.
So, for the non-gamblers out there, perhaps think twice about who exactly you’re persuading when you post “Say Nup to the Cup” this year. It’s certainly not gamblers, I’d bet.
Honi’s Race Day Picks:
2. Man trapped in body of horse
3. Too Hot to (be a) Trot(skyist)