Saturday, July 28, 2012

thwap Doesn't Catch Olympic Fever

Sigh. So a television set is playing some Canadian Olympics coverage and there's a commercial for some young male Canadian athlete training and endorsing a product (VISA credit cards I think) and at one point he says "I'm doing it for my country."

That struck me as odd. Really odd. All I could think was "Why? Why do you think you're training for your country?" I should remind people that patriotism is not one of my strong suits. I wrote about that in a post entitled "The Extent of My Patriotism."
Once you say "no" to loving any of those things, or any other unappealing aspect of Canada, then you have to admit the fact that "loving" a country is a ridiculous concept. Nation-states are artificial constructs that have been designed to compel our loyalties and devotion, and they expend considerable resources to ensure that we do so. But there is no natural patriotism.

What we do share as Canadians is a heritage that has its good points and its bad points. But we don't share anything so deep as to justify the exclusion of the rest of humanity from our affections.

I am grateful to have been born in Canada, one of the few countries in the world that provides almost all of its people with a tolerable standard of living. I am grateful for the circumstances of history, and for the people who fought to make this a democratic country. I am saddened that we had to usurp this land from its original Aboriginal inhabitants, and I am ashamed of the way we have tried to eradicate those people and deny our debts to them. I am ashamed of our disgraceful imperialism in Haiti, and I am angry about the lies and deceptions of our imperialism in Afghanistan. I am proud of Canada's international reputation. I am proud of the way we tend to peacefully settle our differences. I am angry at the way that true Quebec nationalists were oppressed and brutalized after 1837, but I feel a little proud to think of the efforts of Baldwin and LaFontaine to work together to support each others' efforts to win their political rights.

I also wrote about the whole revolting spectacle of the Olympics and nationalism here:
What I don't do is slather on some red face paint in the approximation of the maple leaf and cheer like some stupid idiot when the Olympic torch is trotted across this land-mass, just because our government gave the biggest bribes to a bunch of fascists and fuckwads on the International Olympic Committee. Especially if some stupid soda-pop vendor wants me to, since it means turning off my brain, which will then make me more receptive to their soda-pop selling schemes.
 So, that guy wasn't exactly preaching to the converted in my case. But it made me want to return to an idea to write a post that would have been great for Canada Day except that I came up with the idea a few days too late.

Basically, this last Canada Day left me completely cold. The vast majority of our political elites are completely out of touch with the "Canadian values" that supposedly mark us as a people. Our politicians, our state institutions, our punditocracy are all complicit in the degradation of the fundamentals of our parliamentary system. We are a violent, stupid, selfish, ignorant, self-righteous, materialist and deluded people. I can't celebrate a country based on the expropriation of First Nations and, worse (to me in the 21st Century) the continued dehumanization of the First Nations and the complete denial that any of this is happening. Our RCMP kills immigrants, lies about it, and gets away with it. Our CF hand over prisoners to a regime of torturers, the government (which put them in that impossible situation) withholds evidence and sweeps it under the rug, and the majority of my fellow Canadians are so disconnected or delusional or lazy with regards to what we are doing and how it constitutes an assault on our soul as a nation that it all dies with a whimper.

Obviously I'm grateful to have been born in Canada. Although I'm of working-class stock and therefore slightly more prone to being fucked-over than many higher up the income ladder, I had a reasonably good shot to have carved a secure life for myself and I'm still living vastly better than the majority of people alive today or the majority of people who ever lived. But the same could be said for my status as a white male. And I'm not exactly proud of being a white male. I'm glad for it, given material realities and all, but celebrating "White Males Day" sounds like something only stupid neo-Nazis would do. I guess the same thing goes for "Canada Day" for now.


Beijing York said...

There are so many things to dislike about the bloated FIFA and Olympic competitions but there is still something pure that is appealing for me. The love of sports and culture, respect for the achievement of athletes and artists, and the goodwill between nations. My favourite part of the opening ceremonies is watching the parade of nations and marveling at how happy so many small, rarely heard of nations are to be there with their teams of 2 to 5 athletes. And when one of those smaller nations achieves an upset like Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov did today, it makes tuning in to some of the events worthwhile.

London 2012 Cycling: Cavendish laments GB strength as gold bid fails

thwap said...

Beijing York,

Oh, I don't really have anything against the actual athletic competition. If it's on I'll watch it and occasionally be impressed.

But the march of athletes of the different countries leaves me gasping with cynicism. I can't stand all this bullshit of playing lip-service to international cooperation.

My post was mainly about the stupid nationalism that elites try to gin-up about the Olympics. Whoever wins, Canadian or not, it's got almost nothing to do with me.