They say the very least you can do is
A boycott usually achieves even less than that.
In practical terms, nothing is exactly what you do during a boycott, while still presenting yourself and your (in)action as principled and praiseworthy. The act of boycotting then becomes a symbol of status, since only the powerful can afford to boycott. The rest can only compromise and look the other way.
So we won’t say Outside the Line has been boycotting the Olympics (or the India v. Sri Lanka one-day series) because that might give the impression that we are seeking commendation for our actions.
The Olympics were not ignored due to any overriding ideological differences, or great moral convictions. Even though it’s fun to scoff as big, bloated, corporate megaevents, I'm still reminded that as a geeky sports-obsessed kid, I used to love IT every time the Olympics came around. Ideally, it's easy to see the appeal of such an event -- to reward athletic achievements inclusively and comprehensively, expose the viewing public to still frames of an ever changing world and its inhabitants, and to highlight excellence in one of the only facets of life where it can be objectively measured.
Too bad it degenerates into a UN-styled version of a midnight parking lot dick-measuring contest.
This year’s Olympics were billed as China’s
coming out party, the belated release of decades of collective humiliation and
shame, manifesting itself in the most intricate Opening Ceremony in Olympic history.
What did they give us? A spectacle, no doubt, but one with distinct mid 20th-Century overtones to it. Militaristic nationalism rising to inflate the collective ego and threaten competing egos in the vicinity. Triumph of the Will aesthetics and layer upon layer of airbrushed symbolism. (Oh, and a little girl who was not cute enough to protect the "national interest".)
That doesn’t really impress us. In the 21st
century, what the hell does the ability to control and mobilise a vast array of
people prove? What, is China planning to invade Mongolia? Russia? (The Party functionaries are probably too busy working out how to stay in power to bother with useless, costly exercises like war.)
You know what would’ve been impressive? If they used the Olympics as an opportunity to embrace technological development and innovation, and shown us a glimpse of a bright, interconnected future, one where China is at the forefront of thought and development.
Imagine if they had set up a state-of-the-art online interface, allied to a great website (launched on 08/08/08) loaded with data, providing access worldwide, with streaming feeds of every event, available to be picked and chosen by the individual anywhere in the globe, with clear guides for times and locations. (These feeds could’ve also been interspersed with tourism ads and short pieces about Chinese history and culture, or something along those lines.)
But no, they’re still too busy trying to censor Wikipedia, so a working model for free access and coverage is just too much to ask at this point. All we get instead is the typical jingoistic coverage of local providers. In New Zealand (thanks to the worthless cockmonkeys at TV One) that meant ignoring every single men’s basketball game (including the US v China group match, arguably the most watched sports event in history) up to the gold medal game, and then only showing 40% of that final, on delay.
And you know what? That's cool. It’s not a dig on New Zealand as such. I know every country does it, every time. And they probably do it because that's what the populace demands. And that, right there, is where the problem lies.
The fact that we’re still treating the nation-state as some irreducible unit of identity. That we still have these pesky, annoying lines drawn on the dirt generations ago serving to define us, and control us, and keep us docile and atomised. (Self-determination may be the rallying cry, but who defines the self?) That conception of the world has little to do with me, or this blog, and anyone involved with. It’s backward looking and willfully ignorant.
I don’t give a shit about how Kiwi athletes do. (Or American athletes, or Chinese athletes, or athletes from Burkina Faso, for that matter. Flags, uniforms and anthems are mere branding tools, no more or less legitimate than the logos and team songs of the New York Yankees, Red Star Belgrade, or the Kolkata Knight Riders.)
I care about great athletes, and terrible athletes, and interesting athletes. Because I'm a sports fan.
I don’t, however, take any pride in their accomplishments -- I wouldn't feel entitled to, having done nothing to assist them -- and I don’t feel like they represent me in any way.
no “we” in sports following. We didn’t come 4th or 7th
or 89th in the medal tally. We didn't exceed pre-Games expectations. We didn’t beat the Russians in gymnastics.
We are merely gawkers at the sight of someone else’s excellence.
If we wish to celebrate that excellence, our praises should be targeted at the individuals, at the teams, and at the coaches. Not at ourselves or the symbols of our imagined communities.
[As for the one-day series between India and Sri Lanka, that was ignored for much simpler reasons… it’s a rerun. Those same teams played just last month, in the same format, and Sri Lanka won. Case closed. Much like Gareth Keenan, we don't do sloppy seconds.]