Control Systems: Spectator Sport

3k. Spectator Sport

The narratives of oppositionalism extend also to sport. Right from School Sports Day we are taught that competition is a good thing, that winning is better than helping. The ‘us and them’ of football teams, the nationalism of being ‘proud to be English’, accepting stories about black or white, local or newcomer, tory or labour, democrat or republican, us or them – creates a world divided. TV programs where individuals or teams are set against each other all endorse ‘winning’ as the prime goal, even with cooking or pottery! Some sports like tennis are clearly gladiatorial, one opponent pitted against another in an Romanesque ampitheatre. Many of our Olympic Games are based on military practices for men.

When we set people against each other in competitions or contests, we ask them to confuse excellence with winning, as if the only way to do something well is to out-do the others. We encourage them to measure their own value in terms of how many people they have beaten, which is not exactly a path to mental health and a life of kindness.

They see their fellow competitors not as potential friends or collaborators but as obstacles to their own success. It leads people to regard whatever they are doing as a means to an end. It prevents us from finding and recognising excellence for its own value. It devalues what we do when we set out to ‘win’. Once you get caught-up in the idea that ‘winning’ is the point, you risk losing decency, integrity, fairness, compassion and humility. This is the competitive environment fostered by corporate capitalism and the basis on which both the UK and the US chooses its national leaders.

Just forget the fact that the military basis of the Olympic sports are contrived to exclude women from fair competition with men. There is no gender parity here and only in a very few of the sports are men and women included together. Make no mistake, more women in the Olympics is a step forward, but this is physical competition in a man’s terms.

One wonders, if Olympic sports were something that changed with the times, what could be included that might promote gender parity. Perhaps games that include strategy, cunning, cooperation like working together at solving problems, like how to deal with a corporate patriarchy.

The Olympics are a tribute to the sponsorship and shameless promotion of corporate power in general. What on earth do Coca Cola, McDonalds and many of the other fifty or so partners, supporters, suppliers and providers have to do with the tradition of human excellence in sport? Coca Cola are the longest continuous sponsor of the Olympic movement. They see their role as official soft drinks provider enables them to showcase the range of drinks they offer and sell these at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Their sugar or chemical-filled drinks have obviously not helped many of the sports people attain their brilliance, along with McDonalds who have obviously (not) fed them all to nutritional peaks of achievement. Is it just me feeling uneasy that these two companies are major ‘partners’ in the Olympics? Is it with some sense of irony that they have become sponsors?

In addition to its promotion of corporate power as something acceptable and unquestionable, the Olympic Games promote a concept of privilege that is central to the class system in the United Kingdom. The Class system is an archaic system based on status and rewards which, like parliament is well past its ‘best by’ date. The whole method of purchasing and distribution of tickets serves to promote ‘prestige’ and fictions about ‘reward’ so prevalent to driving consumer capitalism.

As for petty nationalism, please do not include me. Although I live in the UK, I am a Citizen of the World and dislike the whole ‘us and them’ scenario promoted by these games, because, in the end, there is only us, there is no them. “We beat Brazil,” you claim. “Not me mate. I did nothing and it seems to me that your part in it was pretty infinitesimal because you give every appearance of somebody sitting on the sofa making sports noises.”

And there’s another thing. Why do we have to be endlessly patronized by sports commentators shouting at us as if they are excited children on a sugar hit? Is it compulsory for them to drink the sugary drinks provided by sponsors so that they can ‘go off into one’? The whole hyped-up way of talking over-excitedly when there is clearly very little actually happening is just sensory pollution of the worst kind. Its like trying to appreciate a glass of wine by drinking somebody else’s puke.

The Olympics do provide a great spectacle and distraction from the latest War in Syria, the Great Eurozone Sham, Brexit, the Global Debt Crisis, terrorism, Brexit, Covid-19 and our Environment Spiralling into Chaos because we were all watching sport on the telly. But petty nationalism through sport is a form of denial and a means to continue to ignore Climate Chaos, the Genocide of Amazonians and all the other things we don’t want to think about.

The original meaning of the word ‘competition’ means ‘striving together’. Somewhere in the mists of time this has been lost and the Olympics provide a spectacle of nations striving against each other to win – what? Big, Fat Gold Coins, a symbol of ‘money’, the very problem at the heart of our downfall.

Darwinian fictions about ‘survival of the fittest’ drive the competitions. Where do we have nations striving together to achieve something beyond beating their opponents? Where are we shown that ‘co-operation’ between individuals or teams is the most desirable trait of a lead species? Although some nature programs now show the value of co-operation, it would certainly not seem to be in the Olympics, a tale of victory, winning, nationalism and a massive corporate lie. Mind you I did quite enjoy the Curling!

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