All My Little Words

I Can’t “We”

Posted in Culcha, Media, sport by nickchristian on August 7, 2012

As nauseating as this film.

The Olympics has been amazing. Every cynical cell I have has, for perhaps just two weeks, taken temporary leave of my body. Every negative position that I had been incubating – about it being overly commercial, about the special “Games Lanes”, even about the relative legitimacy of one event’s inclusion over another – has been aborted. They will return, I’m sure, but this two week has been about people, largely ordinary and all the more extraordinary for that, achieving astonishing sporting successes for which they’ve dreamed and worked their entire lives.

My only remaining hostility in all of this – truthfully, just this one – is to the volume of “we” that gushes forth every time a Briton adds to the total haul of medals.

Team GB are my team, of that there is no question, but I am a supporter of that team, not a member of it. Winning Olympic Gold at London 2012 has not been my dream for the last seven years or longer and I have not dedicated an uncountable number of hours to get me to that point where that dream might possibly come true. Despite having developed an uncharacteristically sunny attitude towards these games, I have made not a single sacrifice that might have contributed to a medalist’s success. I might have once or twice bought a lottery ticket, but I suspect my motives for doing so were not entirely pure.

As delighted as I am that the team I have chosen to support have performed so well, as much pleasure as I am able to take from every gold medal won, the victories of the athletes (or marksmen, or mincing ponies) are still theirs and I cannot allow myself to claim from them even the tiniest slither of credit. Because that to me is what it sounds like someone is doing every time they refer to how well “we” are doing in the Olympics. While there might be a huge quantity of glory to bathe in, that quantity still feels to me to be finite; in claiming some for yourself, by “we”ing rather than “he”ing, “she”ing or “they”ing, you are reducing the amount available to someone else, someone who might actually have earned it.

I actually appreciated the re-branding of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team as “Team GB” because I thought it more firmly separates us, the spectators, the bakers and candlestick makers, from them, the competitors. We can all call ourselves British but only an elite few can call themselves Olympians.

It might be a misplaced comparison but haven’t we all experienced the silently seethed rage when that smug bastard at work suggests, with his use of the first person plural, that this endeavour, this accomplishment of yours, was somehow a joint effort? Over the two years of my recently completed masters – did I mention I was doing a masters? In Human Rights. Yeah, makes me noble as fuck – my flatmates have delivered me countless cups of tea and made me more than a few meals. This has been a massive help to me, freeing up many an hour for studying, but I doubt they would say this entitles them to some credit for my low passing grade. “We”, to me, implies parity between yourself and the medalists. Even if you think you helped, as the North London school teacher who suggested that “Mo’s a bit quick ain’t he?”*, or the guy in the corner shop that once sold Jessica Ennis a Lucozade, you can’t seriously believe that this wouldn’t have happened without you?

This is not to say that we cannot share in the delight of a victory, but that we should do so at one remove. Rare is it that one gets the opportunity to witness an individual’s lifetime of work and effort, crystallised into a single triumphant moment of realisation. So let them have it. Let it be theirs.

*No offence to Alan Watkinson of Isleworth and Syon School.

Resistance is Fertile

Posted in Uncategorized by nickchristian on January 11, 2009

My housemate Mike tells me that by his estimate there were “well over one hundred thousand people” in attendance at yesterday’s march against Israel’s actions in Gaza. In terms of its capacity to change anything I think a protest against Israel is an absolute waste of time; the Jewish state scales the concept of unilateralism almost beyond recognition and has rarely, if ever, heeded the opinion of any external actor – let alone a mob of peaceniks 2000 miles away. There is nothing the Americans can do nor, as we have seen, the United Nations; the only actor with the power to alter the course of this war is Israel.

I think demonstrations can serve a purpose but primarily when the target is the domestic government and not a foreign one. Typically little is achieved – the Iraq march in 2003 would be an example of such futility – but besides the ballot box – and the X Factor voting lines – it is the only outlet for mass expression we have. I myself attended two last year: one against the Chinese genocide in Tibet when the Olympic torch came through London; the other against the genocide in Darfur. The purpose of both was to place pressure on the British government to pay more attention to the human rights issues involved; no-one expected either the Chinese or Sudanese to observe the banner-wielding crowds and suddenly become national sponsors of Amnesty International.

All that being said I do respect the right of the people to express themselves even if it is to no practical end. While I suspect the vast majority of attendees have very little understanding of the complex issues that lie behind and within the Israeli operation in Gaza, I also believe that very few people do and there is no quantity of information that people must reach before they are entitled to an opinion. Having studied it in some depth at university I think I have a better grasp of the history than most but wouldn’t for a second consider myself an authority. I also believe there are certain absolutes at stake, and those alone are worth protesting against.

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