The Judge RANTS!
Well thank fuck that's over with.
Trying to avoid the O*y*p*c* (*) has been like trying to get away from that tiresome hyperactive four-year-old who insists on following you around when you visit their parents insisting that you take an inordinate interest in their collection of dead spiders.
Every day of this festival of corporate corruption and misplaced effort and money, the lead items on the websites of the BBC, the (B)independent and the Gurniad have been about not just the O*y*p*c*, but about the roaring success of some multi-headed and multi-legged creature known as 'Team Geeee Beeee'. There may have been massacres in Africa and South-west Asia, devastating floods in other parts of the Third World (e.g. Louisiana) and the irresponsible ramping up of sabre-rattling rhetoric towards one of the world's major powers; but all this is considered to be of little consequence compared to the truly epic and global historical significance of someone running around the outside of a field looking like a multi-coloured sausage or riding a bike around a similar venue encased in a whole-body condom.
The stench of desperate triumphalism surrounding even the most recondite event in which a member of 'Team Geeee Beeee' might get him-, her- or (for all we know) itself on the podium could probably be detected by the Hubble Telescope if it were to be turned around to look back whence it came; it would most likely take the form of a mephitic cloud oozing its way through the upper atmosphere of poor old Earth and being slowly pulled into the heart of the Sun, which would for a brief period turn a sort of greeny-browny-grey colour.
In short, the whole absurd rah-rah which has suffused 'the country' since the catastrophic referendum of a few weeks ago has been expanded to fill a literally global arena. It's all there: the hype, the hysteria, the vaunting arrogance impregnated with a no-longer-hidden sense of entitlement (as Good Old Blighty™ regains its rightful place in the world). And the overpowering message, pumped out from every media orifice, that This Is How It Must Be; a variant on the Manifest Destiny delusion which has informed the actions of the United States Government and its corporate owners since time was. It would be funny (albeit in a somewhat tasteless way) were it not so pathetic when viewed through an objective lens.
As with dead princesses and other such consoling fantasies, to murmur even the slightest demurral in the face of such a rampant carnival of the absurd is to invite, if not outright hostility, then certainly variations on the theme of 'snide': "Oh, you're such a killjoy" (this is often used by the sort of people who, in all other circumstances, would like people not like themselves to be locked up for daring to amuse themselves in a manner they disapprove of); "It's so good for the economy!" (a statement which is always likely to go down well with the inhabitants of cities still trying to pay off the debt of staging the Games a couple of decades later, or who have been kicked out of their homes and businesses in order that accomodation can be built which will then be handed over on the cheap to 'friends of friends' for their own pleasure and profit, with no hope of the original inhabitants ever being allowed to return); and - particularly this year after what we've already been through - "Why can't you celebrate Our Country's success? Why can't you be proud of Our Country?", which is usually followed by a rhetorical device of long-standing use under various names, but which is currently known as the North Korea Gambit.
Well, let it be known that I would like to be proud of 'Our Country' - at least once it has been confirmed to me precisely which country is being referred to and - as Tonto might once have said - "Who's this 'Our', paleface?".
(I digress slightly for a moment if I may to convey to you my laugh-out-loud-with-derision moment of the last three weeks. It came when reading the Wales News section of the BBC website where an un-bylined hack went into raptures about how someone had won "Wales' first medal at the Rio Olympics!" (†). Get this, you servile wretches: Wales did not win any medals in Rio, nor in any previous O*y*p*c*s either, because Wales wasn't fucking competing! It never has competed, and it never will until you muster some collective backbone and some self-respect and stop claiming every minor triumph achieved under the flag of your masters as being your own).
Sorry, where was I? Ah, yes.
I would like to have a country (however delineated or defined) to be proud of. The trouble is that the one I'm sitting in definitely isn't it. I see - and all the more so in the last year or so - a country which is utterly ill-at-ease with itself; a country in which whole sections of society can be successfully 'otherised' and - thus recategorised as being less than human - be used as the focus for the fuzzy prejudices and inchoate frustrations of the rest; a country where even the most basic notions of solidarity and compassion have either been eroded into impotence or else dismissed as 'unrealistic', 'unfeasible' or even 'extreme'; and a country which has now - with a large degree of undisguised and atavistic glee - started truly to believe the mythology which has (for all the claims that 'Political Correctness' had wiped it out) long been peddled - if subliminally - in the schools and press, in television shows and in suitable imagery. It's getting more and more like those United States of America whose worst (or at least, most jarring and tacky) features we seem determined to adopt as our own, in order to 'punch above our weight on the world stage'. Or, at the very least, to make it seem if only to ourselves that 'Our Country' still matters a pitcher of piss to the rest of the population of this planet.
I could be proud of the country I'm living in if, for example:
- it was a just one, which it definitely is not;
- it was an economically fair one, which it most emphatically is not;
- it was a socially cohesive one, where people looked out for each other and sought at all times to defend the vulnerable, which it used to be to a far greater extent than it probably ever will be again;
- it was one where those whom fortune (or even Fortune) had favoured saw it as a matter of honour and humanity that they play their fair part in helping those who had not been so lucky, instead of simply piling their loot up in full public (if tax-efficient) view in order to gloat and thinking that they deserve beatification for it.
Until most or all of these conditions are met, then I'm sorry but the sight of someone attired in a red-white-and-blue leotard jumping a fence will remain meaningless to me as any sort of peg on which to hang anything as important as 'pride'.
It all depends on what you think matters, doesn't it? I mean, if you think that 'games' are of wider economic and social importance than the way that all too many of our fellow human beings have to live out their existence in - as we are always being told - one of the richest countries in the world, then I can see how you could get off on the sight of someone doing flip-flops on a synthetic carpet. But those of us who see it all as merely another branch of the entertainment biz - to be placed in the company of jugglers, auto-tuned vocalists and faux-radical comedians - are left utterly cold by the sight.
But we are in the minority, and a tiny one at that. And that, m'dears, is what those who have power over us can depend upon and use for their own benefit. Because what the O*y*p*c* - like all other forms of entertainment - are about in our time is distraction. The outward show may change from age to age but the intent is the same, from panem et circenses via public executions to I Used To Be Famous, Get Me Back On Television! and Strictly Ruptured Achilles Tendon. It is to distract the mass of the population (which must also be kept sufficiently uneducated to fall for it every time, but not so undereducated that they are unable to fulfil their required economic function), to point and shout out, "Look over there! A squirrel!", so that they won't notice that their society is being deliberately and determinedly dismantled from around them.
And it keeps on working, too. It must do, otherwise those with the power over our lives wouldn't keep doing it. We are already being told that the success of 'Team Geeee Beeee' (and it's worth pointing out that it's far, far easier to finish second - or third - in the medals table when half the Russian team has been kicked out) will be a huge boost to 'our' economy. It's difficult to see how, though. Will the fact that Donna Farnsbarns managed to contort herself into the shape of a pretzel more efficiently than her Uzbek rival, or that Jamil Okupato-Smith succeeded in leaping over hurdles quicker than someone from Nairobi, really mean that, for instance, 350 people who were about to lose their jobs in somewhere like Middlesbrough because of a deliberately-engineered recession in the engineering sector will now not only keep their posts but be given five per cent pay rises as well? Does it really mean that the hundreds of thousands of disabled people who are about to have their essential cars grabbed back by the government will now not only hold on to them, but will also be upgraded to the latest top-of-the-range Merc? Does it really mean that the number of children being brought up in officially-defined poverty will be halved in the next four years?
Of course it won't. And yet enough people will be suffused with that warm glow of appliquéd patriotism that those who have designed and steered 'our' society and economy into its current state will be able to carry out 'business as usual' safe in the knowledge that - in the same way that the average Jo(e) America can easily be cajoled into accepting the mass-murder of black kids by white cops from sea to shining sea just by waving Old Glory in his/her/its face and putting your hand ostentatiously over your heart - so here, waving that gaudy old rag and yelling Land Of Hope And Glory out of every screen and front page will ensure that, four years from now, we will be here again, our world unimproved.
They can all take a running jump.
(*) (I use the asterisks partly to take the piss out of the International Oligarch Conspiracy (IOC) - a body which, as the American journalist Dave Zirin once pointed out, contains so many fascists and fascist sympathisers that photos of its meetings look like out-takes from the Nürnberg Trials - and its protection-racket-like behaviour regarding that word, but also because I wouldn't want to offend my reader with unnecessarily coarse vocabulary).
(†) (Yes I know what I said before, but I'm quoting)