Are you comfortably numb?

Friday, June 30, 2006

There was a Portugueseman, a Dutchman and a Referee...

During the repercussions of the sordid affair that was Portugal vs Holland in the last 16 of the World Cup, I have been struck by the general reaction and verdict over who is most to blame for the debacle.

The number of opinion pieces or general water-cooler discussions that have held the referee as the main culprit in what turned into be more of a pub brawl than a football match has far outnumbered those that identify the players as being more culpable. Most people have reached the conclusion that the referee lost control, dishing out far more cards than he needed to and basically causing the players to act in the way they did. In fact, there has been little to no mention of the players' irresponsibility, far less a denouncement of their violent behaviour. This is disturbing for a number of reasons.

1) It implies that the notion that footballers do not have to act like responsible members of society has been concretised. The whole scenario can be likened to a group of toddlers presided over by just one carer, amongst whom they run riot. The toddlers would not be held 'responsible' in the situation; it would just be acknowledged that small children behave in such a way, and that there should be more carers looking after them and disciplining them. This is exactly the kind of attitude that has been aired in response to the P-H game.

2) It sets a terrible example for small children themselves. When I worked with 4-7 year olds in one of our church's weekly activity clubs, I often organised football games in the hall for the boys (and whichever daring girls wanted to play). They frequently did 'foul' each other, and even occasionally dived, attempting to emulate their sporting heroes. When I told one boy to apologise after he'd kicked another, he replied 'Why? Footballers don't!' What a fantastic example of how scenes on our television screens can, and are, easily translated to scenes in real life.

3) A less important issue is that the referee has been criticised as being an example of the poor refereeing during this World Cup. I believe, however, that he was actually one of the referees who has been least at fault. In almost every other match there has been card upon card given out for what are minor incidents. In this match, every card was (de)merited. In the case of Figo, he didn't even get what he deserved. The reason for this is again that the behaviour of the footballers has been nigh on ignored.

A group of men who displayed violent and threatening behaviour to each other in front of an audience of millions have barely been chastised for not only treating each other abominably, embarrassing themselves, their nations, their clubs and whoever else, but for setting an incredibly bad example to the next generation of footballers.

Spoilt brats? I think so.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Response to John's comment...

Thought it would be easier to do it this way. Btw John, I didn't think it was particularly bad so no hard feelings.

1) The first point about Bush and Blair's post as PM. I think given the context (that of there being an ongoing discussion about when Blair should step down, of which Mr Bush would have had to do a very good job of ignoring to not be conscious of it), and Bush's position, he was very likely, if not certain, to have been referring to Blair's position as Prime Minister. Obviously he cannot directly influence when Mr Blair steps down, but to use his position as possibly the most influential foreign 'diplomat' in world affairs on the subject is, I think, not a sign of integrity nor respect for the British political system (whether it deserves respect is another issue).

2) On reading into things, and my words 'basically code for'. I believe that if you re-read my post it should become clear, I hope, that I was using the second quote to interpret the first one. My assertion that Blair was going to use 'values-based interventionism' to justify similar wars to Iraq was not speculation but based on the subsequent quote:

"The prime minister would present the US-British invasion and occupation of Iraq, another source said, not as an aberration but as "the natural core of a values-based interventionist foreign policy."

So when I said that I thought 'values-based interventionism' was, it was not a stab in the dark on my part that was made in order to humour my biases, but a logical assertion based on what had been said by the source itself. Mr Blair was going to state that the invasion of Iraq was the 'natural core of a values-based interventionist foreign policy'. Obviously my statement that such wars were for financial gain in the name of democracy and human rights is my own interpretation, but it is not reading into things to state what a values-based interventionist foreign policy is. I may post again on this topic, as I studied a module on Human Rights in International Relations this year.

3) On the subject of Germany not yet being a permanent member of the UN security council. John argues that this could be because of the differences in foreign and economic policy between the US/UK and Germany. I put this to you: the current permanent members of the UNSC are China, Russia, France, US and UK.

China are one of the most diametrically opposed country to the US in terms of foreign, domestic and economic policy. They are communist, which as we all know the US hates. They have extremely dubious human rights policies, including the persecution of Christians, no religious tolerance and the unofficial sanction of genocide of baby girls. The reason they are a permanent member of the SC? Because they are extraordinarily rich and powerful in world terms.

France. Basically similar to Germany in terms of foreign/economic policy, especially in regard to the Iraq war etc. In fact, Germany are probably more similar to the US, or have been in the last few years, because France is traditionally more to the left. It baffles me why Germany is still excluded from such a position when France has been a member for ages. The reason, I am pretty sure, does hark back to the days when the UN was first set up and when Germany was still the big bad bogey monster because of the wars.

Russia. Well everyone knows that Russia and the US have never seen eye to eye. But Russia have been a superpower as well, especially in terms of nuclear power. There's your reason.

4) Re: the comments about being the editor of a newspaper. I have to say again that what I wrote was by no means a reporting article. It was a comment piece of opinion. Furthermore, it was not meant to be published in a newspaper setting. It was a rambling thought that I jotted down and posted on my blog. Just because I am involved in a uni newspaper does not mean that everything I write has to be unbiased and objective. Furthermore, I contend that there is no such thing as being 100% unbiased and objective, even when it comes to journalistic reporting. This is why people choose to read the newspapers they choose to read. They want to read reports that are written from a slant they agree with.

Your comment has also raised an interesting discussion though. The reason I disagree with nearly everything Bush, and to some extent, Blair says, is because the paradigm under which they are operating is to me, wrong. This is not just about separate issues, all of which I happen to disagree with. This is about their neo-liberal agenda. Neo-liberalism is now the dominant paradigm over all Western political systems, even though individual governments implement neo-liberal policies to different extents and with different levels of reluctance or enthusiasm. Bush and Blair hold to a core set of beliefs which value the free market, libertarianism and privatisation. These are all things I fundamentally disagree with. This is why I tend to always disagree with them on different issues. Also, when it comes to foreign policy they do hold a paradigm which is now described as 'values-based interventionism'. I disagree strongly with much of this paradigm. Hopefully, I will remember to write a post about this in the future.

So it may seem as though I have just decided to disagree with Bush and Blair in a very biased way. I do agree with certain policies Bush and Blair implement, although they are far and few between. But I do not believe that I don't allow them to state their case before 'throwing them to the dogs'. It is just that whenever they state their case it is either full of holes or I just plain disagree with it. It's not that I can't see their point. It's that most of the time, their point is going to be immediately opposed to my point because they are neo-liberals and I am something along the lines of a democratic socialist. The fact is that in politics, things often are as black and white as people see them. And they are normally clear-cut along the lines of money, money and money. The fact that our indirectly censored media does not report things that back this up is evidence of this very issue.

Finally, re: the anon comment. No I don't edit comments before they are published. And I could have deleted it but I chose not to, because I agree with the sentiment.