Hype Hype Hooray?

I know, I’ve used this graphic before (this one is smaller and a different colour, though).  And I do admit to a little fatigue with the whole ‘keep calm and…’ thing, but hey, when something works…

Is anyone else having a whole lot of trouble getting remotely excited for these Olympic things that are about to start over there in Russia?

Is it just me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as card-carrying and flag-waving a Canadian as you’d ever want to find- and winter is kind of our milieu if you will.  Last time out?  All those Golds- and on home soil/snow/ice?  What was better than that?!  The day the gents won the hockey final turned into an impromptu party that ended with me and a friend up on Yonge Street yelling our fool heads off with the rest of the city.  It was a totally spontaneous expression of happiness and pride.

Even the summer games in London got me pretty psyched- although, in that case, I have to admit that most of my enthusiasm was for the spectacle that went along with the whole shebang.  The UK is the source and home of so very much of the music that I adore and count on to keep me sane and human- so the opening and closing ceremonies were something I am happy to have experienced.  I’m sure some sports events happened in between, but that honestly wasn’t high on my list of must-see television viewing.

This time out?

Seriously couldn’t care less.

Part of it has to do with the constant barrage of criticism (not that criticism isn’t warranted) about Russia- be it due to dangerous political policies and legislation regarding the LGBT community, the outrageous costs and demonstrated evidence of corruption, the fact that Sochi is a summertime resort area (palm trees, anyone?) and therefore not exactly appropriate for the winter games… the list goes on and on.

But really, my cynicism/indifference (the degree of my ennui about the Games depends on the day) stems from some things that I’ve spoken harped about here in the past.

I usually begin my days (weekdays, anyway) with CBC Newsworld’s morning show.  Lets me know what happened overnight, gives me an idea of what newest polar vortex/snow hell seasonally appropriate weather I can expect to experience over the course of the day.  Today I had to change the channel.  It was all Olympics, all the time.  It was more commercial than news program.

And.  I.  Just.  Don’t.  Care.

I appreciate that the athletes work reallyreally hard to take a stab at the podium in the international spectacle that is the Games.  I get that the Olympics has been used, historically, as a means of shoring up national enthusiasms in times when less-than-fun things are happening.  I totes understand that all of that requires a certain amount of money and marketing and such like things.

But the increasingly cynical/exasperated/discouraged me is really feeling like the spectacle and materiality and unbalanced (in every sense of the word) emphasis placed on events like this (with their hyper-emphasis on competition and us vs. them) have become less about ‘bringing the world together’ and more about aiding and abetting the collective numbing of the masses to the realities of our global/national/local situations.

Pessimism?  From me?  I know- not my usual way of approaching things.  But I’m really, well, FED UP is the first descriptor that springs to mind.

Too many things, lately, seem to be little more than constructs meant to distract us from issues of genuine import and things that emphatically need immediate attention.

I mentioned in my last post (which was oh-so-long-ago- and refuses to link.  That whole time thing is getting to me again) that I had a discussion (for want of a better word) with a close friend regarding the inherent and vital importance of education- and Humanities education in particular- that increases with each passing day.  We are increasingly exposed to TOO MUCH information- and SO much of that information is erroneous, biased or politicized to the extreme that it bears no resemblance to anything remotely like rational, examined truth.  (Please don’t let’s start about the relativity of truth right now.  I’m too tired to argue abstracts when I’m attempting to reiterate the point I made about dialectic vs. debate a little while ago).  Too many people don’t have the critical thinking skills to assess the bombardment of information that comes at them constantly.

That my friend seems to think that people are incapable of paying attention to anything long enough to see the value (let alone the necessity) in learning these skills, is quite out of keeping with my usual faith in humanity and our drive to do better and be better- just because it’s possible (and not because we’re looking for a big cash payout).  We have this discussion fairly frequently (he’s a science-type-dude) and he genuinely thinks people are too lazy- by nature- to want to put that much effort into anything that doesn’t have demonstrable and instant personal payback.  I’m unlikely to convince him otherwise, and, honestly, his perspective is frequently supported by the bulk of the evidence.

Distraction.  It’s everywhere.  If you don’t think that you are being actively distracted- at pretty much every single turn- I’d love to hear from you about exactly how you are managing to avoid such things (unless you’re living off the grid in the wilderness somewhere- which would make it unlikely that you’d be reading this to begin with.  And ‘off the grid in the wilderness’ is neither a practical nor attractive option for me at this point).

I admit that I was distracted earlier this week- in part by a brutal cold/flu thing that knocked me off my feet for a few days- but mainly by a couple of books that I picked up a few weeks back.   I used the opportunity of the dumping of snow and total disinterest in the Super Bowl, arrest(s) of Justin Beiber and comparable ‘happenings’ in the world to catch up on some reading.  I might talk about those books later, but in all honesty they still haven’t ‘settled’ enough for me to figure out if I enjoyed them or not.

Getting back to work- and to figuring out just what form my next classroom might take- I’ve been bombarded with reasons (as if more were required) why any classroom in which I choose to participate MUST be one in which the dialectic is permitted to reign.  I’m done with debates (did you see that whole ridiculous debacle between Bill Nye and the Creationist?  And the plethora of follow-up idiocy?  How was that even a thing?  How?!?  And the first ‘mayoral debate’ was held here in TO.  And he’s being talked about on Jon Stewart AGAIN tonight.  Plus ça change…. Sigh).  I will not seek to engage with those who are looking only to ‘win’ as a furtherance of agendas that benefit the very few.

And please don’t take that to mean that I’m agreeing to disagree.  A young woman, captured on the wonderful photoblog site, Humans of New York (look for them on the facebook, if you’re into such things- truly lovely photos and subjects), said something that resonated with my feelings of futility lately: fighting can be useless.  If people want to be stupid, let them stay stupid and move forward (I’m paraphrasing here).

Just as closed minds can’t be forced open, many of those people who are constantly and willingly distracted by the media and the commercial trappings of society are unlikely to be looking to actually learn anything that goes against their already-established beliefs.

Is this a terrifying reality?  Yep.

Is it irreversible?  I hope not.  I’ve lived my life trying to demonstrate that this needn’t be the case.  Laziness- physical or intellectual- is a learned, nurtured behaviour.  If we feel we don’t have to think for ourselves… this is very much to the benefit of those who hold power and control our economies.  This has always been the case, of course.  The institutionalized church is probably the most famous employer of this tactic to keep the masses doing what they oughta and keeping the status quo all status quo-ish.

We are told to pick a side and stick with it.  Moreover, we are told that the ideas behind the side we choose do not need constant re-evaluation or a deeper delve into the origins and the reasons for the perpetuation of these ideas.  Those that express a differing view are the enemy– and to be treated as such.  Polarization is the norm- and anything like a middle ground is seen as wishy-washy or non-committal.

It is a means of social control.  People choose to ignore the fact that they are being controlled by the information that is approved and meted out according to schedules.  We are content to absorb and repeat the information we are fed because thinking about it and coming to our own conclusions take more effort than many of us can handle expending.  The reasons for this are myriad- and some are almost excusable.

But we don’t have to listen- or engage with those who mindlessly spout the nonsense they heard on Fox News on any given day.  We can choose to ignore the rhetoric- and certainly the attempts to influence our actions and decision based in spurious arguments without basis in fact.  We can avoid subscribing to the insidious sleight of hand that politicians, lobbyists and business leaders employ (often through the use of popular media) to keep us distracted.

We also can try to keep from feeling frustrated with those who refuse to acknowledge the manipulation as we decide to change the paradigm.  As we decide to stop with the debates and approach our common issues using reasoned discussion and evaluations of all perspectives- objectively and sincerely- without concern about towing any party lines or protecting our personal assets (such as they may or may not be).

Instead of sitting glued to our television sets/mobile devices watching our athletes demonstrate the power of doing something, we can choose to actively participate in the decisions being made in our names by getting off our collective rumps and thinking for ourselves.  It’s a stretch- but I know we can do it.

Don’t want to be an American idiot
One nation controlled by the media
Information age of hysteria
It’s calling out to idiot America

Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay

Television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue

None of us need be idiots- American or otherwise.

Failing that, we can all decide to just keep on believing that sunsets happen because ‘their (sic) acts of god.’

PS- All that said- best of luck to all Canadian participants in Sochi (and those competing from across the world as well, but hey, I am CANADIAN) and thank you for the positive ways in which you always represent our home and native land.  And while I am on the topic- can someone please explain to me- once and for all- why professional hockey players are permitted to compete in amateur Games?  And also- why is curling a sport?  (ooh- that’ll cause some stir.  Almost as bad as admitting to not caring if the Leafs ever win the cup or holding firm to the opinion that Tim Horton’s coffee suuuuucks.  I’m sure they’ll arrive to revoke my citizenship/passport any day now).  Apparently it actually stipulates in the official rules of curling that the victors of the bonspiel HAVE to buy the vanquished beers post-competition.  IN.  THE.  RULES.  Not sure I get the ‘sport’ aspect of that particular game (although it’s not the only one that keeps me bemused.  Golf is a close second…)

42 comments on “Hype Hype Hooray?

  1. Afraid I have the same flu/cold combo. Rotten bug, that’s for certain.

    What Olympics?

    • colemining says:

      Lol. Nav, I WISH I could say ‘what Olympics?’ EVERY single ‘news’ channel (that Rogers pipes into my house) is talking about nothing else. I think I’ll disconnect the television for the next couple of weeks and catch up on my reading- definitely need to do that anyway!
      Hope you are on the mend- I’m still feeling lousy (which might account for my lack of patience with this latest blatant example of manipulation away from issues of import), but it’s almost the weekend. Thanks for reading!

    • LindaGHill says:

      Feel better – both of you.

  2. Jami says:

    I have been thinking a lot about this topic – of being overwhelmed with the amount of data I am exposed to, but at the same time feeling that there is a very real conversation needs to be happening (that may be happening I a thousand million little snippets online). Our world is in our hands, and it’s going to take effort, hard mind-boggling effort to make a paradigm shift. It will happen, I believe, by sharing in ways like this, but also making those truly tough decisions in our own life to stop buying into the bullshit…literally. I am rambling, but I hope you get the essence of what I am trying to express. ;P Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

    • colemining says:

      Thanks Jami- it IS a decision- and often a difficult one- that requires commitment and its constant renewal. It gets so frustrating– especially as an educator (by vocation, if not by current job)- when access to balanced, accurate information is available and people choose the ‘easy way’ and buy whichever sound bite supports their already-held ideas.
      We’ve become a society of marketers (and their unwitting targets)- with everything reduced to commodity. And we tend to invest in whatever arrives packaged most attractively (as it suits our individual wants/needs) regardless of its legitimacy, sustainability or responsibility.
      I’m not suggesting we need to be on full alert at all times, but collectively we need to be paying closer attention- and doing something before the snake oil salesmen steal our future (with our willing participation).
      Thanks for reading!

  3. quiall says:

    hahah wonderful post! Infotainment indeed.

    • colemining says:

      Thanks for reading! As I drink my coffee (and prepare myself to head out into the extreme cold, yet again- how’s it in Oakville this morning?) it’s everywhere! And only a brief passing mention of the fact that the CRA seems to be targeting charities- especially environmental charities for audit. Harper’s conservatives deny complicity. Of course.
      Happy Friday!

      • quiall says:

        iiiittt’sss ccccold! And I have to go out today!! arrgghh! As for Harper . . .%^&*(! My Mother taught me never to swear out loud. Be warm, be dry, be thinking of spring! hahaha

      • colemining says:

        Yes- I did NOT enjoy the walk to the subway this morning AT ALL! Back at ya- think warm thoughts!

  4. bethbyrnes says:

    Yeah, I’ve blogged about these distractions and being sheeple, too. So I can only comment that I agree with what you have outlined in this post. As for the Olympics, I feel the same about these, even though I usually love anything that exposes me to snow and ice (being so deprived of both here in paradise). What usually puts me off, has done so more acutely this go-round: the sacrifices made by the city that hosts these events in lesser fortunate countries like Russia. The final straw was the report that the security guards are living in tin boxes with inadequate food and being unpaid, as well as the stray dogs in Sochi being culled (shot) by Russian police, so they don’t reveal the fourth-world reality that the city embodies. Nope, I will read instead.

    • colemining says:

      Beth- it’s becoming such an all-inclusive problem. Even friends who I KNOW can think critically and examine issues for themselves are increasingly being lulled into complacency. Like that friend I mentioned in the post. Just because something- like people not wanting to take the time (or, to be fair, having the time to take) to do more than parrot back the garbage we are fed at every turn- has become the norm, doesn’t mean that this isn’t a trajectory that can- and MUST- be diverted. ASAP.
      I left out the part about the dogs- not because it isn’t repulsive, but because Sochi isn’t the only place that has done something comparably heinous before ‘hosting the world’. If we must be forced to bear witness to the spectacle, we should at least acknowledge that it is demonstrative of the extreme disparity between those in the world who have far too much and those who have little to nothing at all. The ‘news’ this morning kept talking about how ‘only’ 80% of the tickets to the opening ceremonies have been sold. Might have something to do with the fact that a ticket costs the equivalent of $1500 Canadian, dontcha think?
      Sigh. Only 9am and already I’m exhausted with all this tilting at windmills…

  5. Hi, yes, I feel the same way about the Olympics this time around. The corruption, the controversy, the collusion. I can’t support something that is so clearly not about what it says it is. I think it’s important to state it out loud so the people who organize the games can hear us…and also protest by not watching (though I find it hard not to take a peek at the opening ceremonies). That said, I have a daughter in elementary school. The school is playing up the Olympics big time. They are having their own ‘mini-Olympics’ for the next 2 weeks. It is a kind of living hell for us as parents. The competition, the tears, the stress of it all if your child is not athletically inclined or competitive by nature — rather smart, kind, sweet and gentle. None of that wanted at the Olympics, of course. Your thoughts, kind sir?

    • And Harper: Changes to elections act. Very troubling. But rates a smidgen of attention compared to Socci on the news last night.

      • colemining says:

        Oh. My. Freakin. Gods. Don’t even get me started on that (although I have already started a draft post about that- I’m not sure if that or the CRA audit of the environmental charities is making me MOST angry). We HAVE to stop letting this happen- right under our freakin noses (unwilling though we seem to be to acknowledge that it’s going on).
        And the fact that the drummer in ‘his band’ was charged with sexual assault (of a student) got more (yet still not much) press than the changes to the elections act… Jebus. Uphill battle, Booksy. But someone has to fight the good fight. I’m glad there are others paying attention.

    • colemining says:

      Booksy! I think Sochi is just the latest- and clearest- example of the culture of corruption and collusion that is, apparently, completely acceptable these days. I can only imagine what will continue to come out here- as we move toward the PanAm games- controversies happening already…
      I’m not a parent, myself, but I can empathize with what you’re feeling. Again, I can- and do- appreciate the fact that events like the Olympics can be used as teaching tools- about things like history, and sportsmanship, and the importance of physical activity in a fully-balanced life- but the culture-wide focus on competition- and the extremity of the elevation of (some) athletes- is extremely problematic, as far as I’m concerned. Our priorities are ridiculously skewed- and it saddens me a great deal to see that young children are getting caught up in the hype.
      Courage, mon amie It’s only two weeks, right?

      • And then, this happened to remind us of the good in the world: Ottawa Mayor, Jim Watson, has chosen to fly the gay pride flag at City Hall until the end of the Olympics! Yeah! Here is a photo — beautiful!!

      • colemining says:

        I’ve always liked Jim. Can we trade mayors? Don’t bother- I know the answer to that question. My friend in Calgary won’t give up their mayor, either.
        The Google doodle is pretty cool today, too.

  6. LindaGHill says:

    The Leafs AND Tim Horton’s? UGH!!! I’m speechless!

    Five minutes later, after having relieved my head of all its hair

    You ask how it’s possible to keep oneself from being distracted – don’t watch the news. I have far too much going on in my life to worry about what everyone else is doing. I don’t watch tv, I don’t look at the news online. I DO read the paper however. It’s much easier to flip past things that don’t concern me than it is to wait for the latest celebrity gossip to finish before they get to what may actually affect my life.

    I study people who have no opinion of their own, and use them occasionally as characters in fiction. They fascinate me, as do people who are steadfastly set in their beliefs and won’t listen to anything beyond. After all, there’s no use trying to change their minds, right?

    …plus c’est la meme chose.

    Puts wig back on


    • colemining says:

      Lol. Sorry to make you tear out your hair so early in the morning (pre-Tim Hortons, even…)

      I have as many (if not more) issues with print ‘journalism’ these days (I’m kind of a hyper-editor, and can’t help catching the mistakes/poor grammar) which also seems to be mostly about the celebrity and the nonsensical. That’s not to say there aren’t some great journos out there- but the great ones too often get lost as the crap rises to the surface.

      I tend to gravitate more to the radio (CBC) but in the mornings I tend to like the visuals as I putter about getting ready for work, so this is why I’m becoming increasingly frustrated.

      I also find myself distracted it I DON’T check in on what’s happening in the city/province/country/world on a regular basis (when I was home sick earlier this week I barely touched the television/radio/internets) I feel too disconnected- and tv news has become sort of a default to get that quick fix. Although that might have to change.

      Enjoy your weekend, Linda. Stay warm!

      I NEED to hope that people can be shocked out the easy way out- i.e. picking a belief/opinion and sticking to it without bothering to analyse it in any way shape or form- although I do concede that it will require a significant paradigm shift to accomplish. Looking for ways to help this shift along, but I agree that it ain’t going to be easy. Or pretty.

  7. lennymaysay says:

    I’m with you on Sochi. Watched the debate because I do love comedy, and Ken Ham is a hoot. Ans Green Day is da bomb – not so much their later stuff.

  8. Ste J says:

    One wag has suggested turning Putin into a gay icon…that made me laugh more than a penguin falling over.

    • colemining says:

      Well he does like making appearances shirtless… And now I’m picturing a penguin falling over. Thanks for the chuckle, Ste. J. Definitely needed one today. Especially since our ‘mayor’ suggested this: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/rob-ford-wanted-rainbow-flag-removed-from-toronto-city-hall-1.2527565

      • Ste J says:

        he just keeps going that guy, it would be great to see him meet the mayor of London Boris Johnson..it’s be a wonderful sitcom http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/london-mayor-election/mayor-of-london/8095693/Boris-Johnsons-verbal-gaffes.html

      • colemining says:

        Holy jumpin’, Ste. J. I had no idea! They should have their own show! Although the Brothers Ford are about to start their new YouTube show shortly, so Robbie might not have the time. Especially since he has to go and personally inspect insect complaints at Toronto Public Housing. Rather than fire his cronies at Toronto Public Housing and stop the cuts to funding. As Jon Stewart said last night, if that’s what keep people thinking that he has some sort of value, then elect him town caretaker/superintendent and let him get rid of the bugs and shovel the snow. And then we can elect someone competent to actually act as Chief Magistrate and oversee the responsible running of the city.

      • Ste J says:

        Ah the wheels of government, we elect them and they just ruin everything and then they complain about voter apathy. Ancient Athens had it right. I don’t know where they find these guys but I think we are guaranteed more embarrassing headlines. At least now you know you aren’t the only country with a national embarrassment of monumental proportions.

      • colemining says:

        I suppose there is some small level of comfort in our misery having company, but I really just want this guy out of office. Like really really. Badly. Hoping the YouTube show will provide the forum for him to hammer those last couple of nails into his own coffin of excess, denial and complete self-absorption.

      • Ste J says:

        It seems likely, he just can’t help himself. Oddly people like that though so expect him to garner a bunch of votes if he dare stand again. It worked for Boris and Bush!

      • colemining says:

        Yes, there are all kinds of ‘explanations’ for why people insist upon supporting the guy, but I don’t really buy any of them. I’m sincerely hopeful that we end up with a candidate who can garner enough enthusiasm and who can promote enough positive change and evidenced competency that even those who stupidly stubbornly insist upon supporting the train wreck will see some sense.

      • Ste J says:

        Stranger things have happened.

  9. Did you see this? It seems these environmental groups were targetted for audits because of their position on the oil sands/

    • colemining says:

      I know, Booksy. I mentioned it in a comment, in passing. Just trying to wrap my head around writing more about it, but I’m also so pissed about the Elections Act thing, I’m having issues stringing the words together.

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    Just popping in from the shadows to tell you that this was a great post. I missed your writing while I was “off”. 🙂

  11. […] of the important shit going down in the world- I won’t reiterate my discouragement yet again.  It’s clearly posted any number of times for those who choose to have a […]

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