I was chatting to one of my friends recently when the topic of the Olympics came up. He clearly wasn’t interested, and disdainfully referred to the whole thing as a form of jingoism.
I’d heard of the term, but didn’t know what it meant, so I looked it up. Among other things, it means to have a sense of superiority regarding one’s own race.
Now, my friend is a pretty alternative lifestyle kind of guy – kind of anti most establishment things. He’s a muso, just like me, and whilst we have lots of things in common (we love similar movies, shows, and artists) we have our own points of departure on things. And that’s okay.
And its fine, of course, if you’re just not into sports, or just not into the Olympics. Could be that it bores you to sobs, and that you’d rather watch paint dry, or for some other reason its just not your thing. But when my friend said it was jingoistic, that was a judgement call on the event itself. And it made me ponder…
I think I understand where he’s coming from. A lot of flag waving zealots taking pride in trouncing anyone else who is different from them. And there would be some people like that, for sure. But is that typical? And obviously patriotism also has a field day with the Olympics (he’s no fan of patriotism either, and if by that he means a similar form of extremism, I would agree). But does the Olympics have to be that? Is it so wrong to take some pride in our country, and can you do it without being a bigoted racist?
There’s been no shortage of humorous put-downs of the Olympics. I saw a video on Facebook by a guy who’s very good at taking the mickey out of things, and he was having a field day taking aim at the Olympics. I thought he was pretty clever and that he also had a few good ideas as well (no better way to tell a truth than disguise it with comedy). One of his points I really agreed with – whilst I love to see athletic excellence, I do sometimes worry about the lengths that people will go to, and what they will do to their bodies in order to excel. Is perfection worth anything, at any cost? I have mental pictures of them in older age proudly displaying their medals while gazing at them from a wheelchair.
It seems that it’s cool to mock the Olympics. I’m not super cool, but I’d like to think I’m a little bit cool(!) and I don’t buy everything about the Olympics either. But if you set your mind to disliking it, you simply won’t see anything good whether it exists or not. My mate, I reckon, has set up a ‘straw man’ about the Olympics because he thinks it’s not cool and is looking for an excuse. I don’t buy it.
When I’ve looked at the Olympics events in the last few days, I’ve searched for anything that could be regarded as jingoistic, but for the most part I just haven’t seen it. About the only thing that comes to mind is the retort that Mack Horton, one of our swimmers, gave to Sun Yang, a Chinese swimmer, labelling him a drug cheat. And even then I put that down to intimidation tactics rather than an attempt to prove racial superiority (it turns out that although I and many others were unimpressed with Mack’s comments, there may have been more to it, and he may not have been quite so callous as we think).
The Chinese response to Mack Horton could also possibly be viewed as jingoistic, as they mercilessly attacked him online and in any way they could. But, at the risk of sounding racist, I would have to say “That’s China for you”. And by the way, I still don’t see it as jingoistic – rather a defensive response from a nation that is extremely sensitive about how it is perceived.
From a national pride perspective, I enjoy the wins that our athletes achieve, for sure. But I also take joy in seeing superb athleticism and certainly don’t begrudge other nations winning their gold medals, even at our expense. In fact, if they have won in a particularly amazing manner, I am just thrilled to have been able to see it. And I’ve noticed that our own commentators are similarly exhilarated when they see an amazing win from another country.
So what do you think? Am I missing something? If we ignore the fringe dwellers (those who use any excuse to go nuts and big note themselves, their team, their country) is the Olympics something to be proud of, and to watch with respect?
I’m going to enjoy it. I’m not going to get sucked into any saccharine form (or angry raging form) of patriotism, I’m not going to pour scorn on other nations, and I’m also going to have a life while the Olympics is on. But I fully intend to oooh and aaahh when I see something that really blows me away, and take pleasure in the wins that our young men and women achieve on behalf of Australia.
Life’s too short. Let’s enjoy what we can.