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…)