Tuesday, August 12, 2008


2 Minutes for Abuse of Orwell

"The Olympics reflect the human condition -- though not in the sunny way we pretend. We have inherited from our primate ancestors an inborn, evolutionarily learned desire to segregate ourselves into tribes, now known as nations. And since most of us are too fat and lazy to participate in tribal warfare (even of the mimic variety) ourselves, we have outsourced the job to those few physically spectacular national champions fit enough to enter the ring." -- Jonathan Kay, National Post, today

"Violent ground acquisition games such as football are in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war" -- Derek Lutz (Robert Downey Jr.), Back to School (1986)

Every time the Olympics come around, a bunch of columnists burp out a lame-ass piece like Kay's today. The common bond is that the columnist either fails to appreciate, or pretends not to, why the people who actually like the Olympics like the Olympics. It's a sub-genre of what generally speaking is the absolute lamest genre of opinion pieces:

"I don't understand why so many people like X. Here are some reasons why I think people like X. I'm not sure if they're true, because again, I don't understand it, but I'm using them because they're the easiest reasons to mock and rebut. Although 'easy' is a relative term; I still have to cherry-pick my anecdotes, facts, and statistics to make my argument. Which I'm not really sure why I'm making, because as a purported conservative, I ought not to rail against what harmless things people enjoy in their spare time, and did I mention I don't understand it. Anyway, X sucks!"

I like sports, most of them anyway. I like them even better when they're being played by the best of the best. Even better when the stakes are high for the competitors. I think it's inspiring to see (mostly) young people who have worked harder and sacrificed more than most of us competing at the highest level, and it makes me kinda proud to see them achieve their goals.

No, I haven't watched swimming in 4 years, or women's soccer ever. So what? Does that mean I just imagined the enjoyment I experienced over the past several days? I also root for the Canadians, but it is not, as Kay believes, out of "just a crude sense of tribal loyalty", and certainly not because I have outsourced my desire for tribal warfare.

I share things in common with most of these kids. We have the same kind of money in our pockets. We learned about the same things in school, and chose from the same kinds of cereal for breakfast. And now, I've learned who they are and how they got there -- yes, Jon, there are human beings under that "laundry"! There's a connection there, which is why I'm especially proud when a Canadian athlete succeeds. Maybe that is crude tribal loyalty, but if so, it begs the question of when (if ever) is it acceptable to be proud of the accomplishments of others. Only if you had a direct hand in it? Only if you've been following their progress for several years? Only if you're independently interested in the field where they reached their accomplishments? What?

This is the first half of Kay's concluding paragraph:
All societies need circuses. And this Big Top event will continue on the strength of the eternal human appetite. But let us not pretend it is anything more than that.

Indeed, Mr. Kay, let's not. I'll start by spiking the post I had planned calling the Olympics a "giant exercise in petty nationalism" and a way "to stir up nationalistic blood lust without actually going through the bother of military combat". What are your plans?

Coda: no really crappy column is complete without a laughable disservice to the reader involving numbers, and naturally, Kay's has (at least) one.
Other nations -- China, most notably -- have frog-marched thousands of athletes into sports that are unpopular and obscure at home, but which seem a safe bet for a massive medal tally. According to a recent New York Times article, Beijing's cynical effort in this regard is called "the 119 Project" -- named after the number of medals available to be won in particularly event-heavy sports -- such as rowing and kayaking and sailing.

We'll leave aside the issue of how various inner Mongolians were induced to become national team rowers; while I'm quite certain that neither death threats nor actual frog marching were involved, there may be room to debate the ethics of whatever carrots and sticks were used. We'll also leave aside the question of whether it's possible for a country to spend its way into "a safe bet for a massive medal tally" in any sport. Here is the New York Times article in question, italics mine:
Eight years ago, as China was vying to win its bid for the Olympics, officials like Cui began a government-financed effort called the 119 Project. Its purpose was to improve performances in the medal-heavy sports — track and field, swimming, rowing, canoe/kayak and sailing — in which the Chinese have been weak. The plan was named after the 119 gold medals awarded in those sports at that time.

Oh my, how cynical! Not only was the host of the Summer Games attempting to torque their medal count (gasp), but they were focusing on (A) the sports where all the medals are (B) in which they weren't already dominant! Including the unpopular and obscure disciplines of swimming and running! As it happens, there are now 41 medal events between rowing, canoe/kayak, and sailing; there are 81 between swimming and track & field. Not to say that Kay neglected to mention those sports because they didn't suit his argument though! I'm sure it was space considerations.

**Tonight's event to watch: the men's 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay. I really like our chances of a silver or bronze medal; this Hayden fellow seems to be peaking at the right time. Go Canada.


Wouldn't it be great if nations did work out their tribal hostilities by seeing who is better at soccer, or kayaking, or trampoline, rather than, you know, actually bombing one another.

By virtue of its 119 medals, China will now govern Tibet, Yakutsk and Kamchatka. For failing to win a medal, Canada will cede the Northwest Territories to Russia.

That'd certainly change the meaning of Own The Podium, Art.

It's the same old hand wringing year after year when it comes to the Games. You can almost script what'll be said and written long before it ever is.

Wouldn't it be great if nations did work out their tribal hostilities by seeing who is better...

... at beach volleyball? Just saw the Georgian women beat the Russian women, and wow, wow, wow.

And we all know that once you own Kamchatka, North America's a piece of cake.

Do they have some factory in China dedicated to churning out lanky, wild-pitching southpaws? I'm watching Canada - China and they keep running out this huge lefties who throw behind guys. It's surreal.

Risky statement, bill needle.

Looks like the Chinese are going to have to close the pool for a while to clean it, because Despatie and Miranda just blew their brains out. God, that was pathetic.

We've sure come a long way from loving those Saturday afternoons in Georgia, haven't we?

I don't honestly think that the Olympics have much meaning anymore. Not in the sense of pure competition, anyway.

I'm not usually very vocal about politics, but when China, with all of its current social travesties and strong-arm treatment of its surrounding neighbours, gets to host an event which is supposed to be a globally inclusive, friendly celebration of athleticism...I'm kind of glad I don't watch TV in the Summer.

At least with pro sports it's a debate between integrity and money, without the nationalistic posturing and phony brotherhood. The cited columnists may go a little far on the analogy, but I bet more than a few people around the world are looking at these games, shrugging, and thinking "big deal."

I bet more than a few people around the world are looking at these games, shrugging, and thinking "big deal."

/raise hand

Of course, I've never given a flying crap about the Summer Olympics, anyway. Now, the Winter Olympics, I might just stay home from school for two weeks to watch, but that's just because those sports actually interest me, figure skating notwithstanding.

I bet more than a few people around the world are looking at these games, shrugging, and thinking "big deal."

So you're saying the Olympics are just like absolutely everything else that has ever happened. So noted!

I watched part of that Russia-Georgia women's beach volleyball game too.

The Russians had an early lead in the third set, until the Georgians came back. At one point the announcer said, without a hint of irony, "at first it looked like the Russians were going to blow away the Georgians".

It also occurs to me that the phrase, "the human condition," has always bugged me. It sounds like we're a fucking disease or something.

(法新社倫敦四日電) 英國情色大亨芮孟的a片下載公司昨天AV片說,芮孟日成人影片前去成人網站世,sex享壽八十二歲;色情這位身av價上億的房地產開發情色電影商,曾經在倫敦推成人網站出第一場脫衣舞表av演。






Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?