The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

Crossposted fromMY LEFT WING

I watched One Day in September a few weeks ago on HBO, despite my almost pathological aversion to films about painful historical events.

(Which is not to say I don't eventually get around to watching them; I just procrastinate. It took me two years to watch "Hotel Rwanda", a year to see "Blood Diamond." I did manage to see "Schindler's List" while it was still in the theatre, but only because my friend dragged me. And I've still never seen "The Sorrow and the Pity," but please, it's sixteen years longer than the war.)

Yes, I've buried the lede.

Anyway, the point is, One Day in September, which documents the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics, wherein 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, also presents several interviews with international athletes about their decisions to continue in the competitions -- or not.

Watching the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in China last night, I remembered my viewing of One Day in September and thought of the various calls to boycott either those ceremonies or the Games themselves -- or both. And I began an internal debate:

To boycott such an event or not to boycott it... that is the question.

Whether 'tis nobler in this world to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous politics,
or to take arms against a sea of human rights violations,
and by opposing end them?
To sit out: to refuse to participate; to lose,
and by to refuse to participate I say we end the pain
and the thousand natural shocks that the people of the world
suffer at the hands of the tyrants of world inflict upon them --
an end devoutly to be wished.

Okay, I've pretty much killed whatever chance I had of making that work.

Especially since the answer I've reached is... No.

You see, as I watched that extraordinary opening ceremony, and watched in particular the beautiful faces of the people participating in it, I came to believe that there will never, ever be an end to the suffering perpetrated upon the peoples of this world by the governments of those peoples. If we are very lucky, and we evolve and mature as a race, that suffering will lessen, and those governments will evolve and mature as well. But let us not lie to ourselves: we've been stuck on this planet for a long, long time and our evolution has been relatively glacial. It stands to reason we're not going to see light speed in terms of reaching world peace and universal harmony, no matter what the storybooks say.

So there will always be a myriad of causes that cry out for a boycott. Every four years, the nations of the world see fit to come together in the spirit of... well, coming together -- and, yes, showing off and commerce and a whole bunch of not-very-altruistic and not-very-spiritual reasons. But they come together. And if we gather up all the very reasonable and rational and politically correct (and no, I'm not mocking that phrase, they are correct) reasons to take a stand and say, "Hey, wait a minute, a lot of these nations are led by Very Bad Men, shouldn't we tell them so?" and demand they get their collective act together or we won't play, then we will never come together, ever. For any reason, good, bad or ugly. Well, no, we just might get together for ugly reasons, just as we have always got together for ugly reasons.

And I, for one, am sick unto my death of getting together for only the ugly reasons. I thought China, for all its human rights grotesques, put on one helluva beautiful show last night. And if a little positive reinforcement might, just might give China a reason to tighten up its environmental standards and loosen up its civil rights butt cheeks, then what the hell. Once every four years, I'll put down my placard and wave a sparkler.

Tags: boycott, history, Olympics, protest (all tags)



The Hamlet Bit...

A Bit... Too Far?

< cringe >

by Maryscott OConnor 2008-08-09 09:20AM | 0 recs
Good, but not quite as good as

Hamlet the Musical

My favorite number is still "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

by Dumbo 2008-08-09 11:28PM | 0 recs
Here is my answer

from last night...

At MyDD: /05108

and at Dkos: 2318/91870/289/565157

More blind people at Dkos.

Yes I am boycotting these Olympics!

by kevin22262 2008-08-09 09:32AM | 0 recs
I respect your thoughtful decision.

by Maryscott OConnor 2008-08-09 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Here is my answer

That there are those who choose to watch does not make them blind any more than your choice to boycott makes you blind....

It's a personal decision that will have little impact either way... the Olympics are going on as we speak in China... whether we watch or not does nothing to change that.

by JenKinFLA 2008-08-09 09:44AM | 0 recs

I guess we could use that same logic towards the abuses of the bush regime or corporations like wal-mart. Right?


by kevin22262 2008-08-09 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Well...

When I'm watching the olympics, it's either on broadcast TV (and I'm not a Nielsen family) or in a bar (and I doubt NBC or the Chinese government are getting any money from my beer). The only people who profit from my olympic-watching are the owners of the pub... and let's be honest, they'd profit from me anyway, Olympics or no.

So tell me exactly how that's like shopping at Wal-Mart?

by mistersite 2008-08-09 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Well...

So, keeping the last 8 years in mind (not to mention Chile, Guatamala, the Congo, Cambodia, etc.), should people outside the US boycott:

--American movies

--Bruce Springsteen

--Stephen King




We have political prisoners, we pollute more than China, we sponsor violent crime around the world.

But we also create splendid beauty that people continue to turn to for hope and inspiration.

Should we and all others stop supporting the later because of the former?

by vadasz 2008-08-10 02:31AM | 0 recs
Re: The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

I'm watching...  I always watch.

I understand the reasons behind boycotting, but what is done is done... even if viewership is down, China will still have hosted the Olympics.

We also don't have too many legs to stand on in our outrage about China's environmental and human rights policies anyway.... something about casting stones... how can we criticize that which we are also guilty of?

Watched the U.S. take gold, silver, and bronze in fencing today... That was great.

by JenKinFLA 2008-08-09 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: We have a few legs to stand on

We don't have too much to stand on if you start to look at some of the brutal repressive governments we've supported.

During the Cold War we were okay with supporting governments that were horrible because they weren't communist. How did we get to do that while condemning their brutal repressive communist counterparts?

by pomology 2008-08-09 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: In China people are disappeared

Of course we should still stand up for human rights. And I know I'm far better off in terms of human rights in the U.S. than China. I know I'm better off than I would be in most places in the world.

But I'm just saying that I wouldn't blame the world for ignoring our hypocrisy.

by pomology 2008-08-09 10:03AM | 0 recs
I hadn't heard that.

But I wouldn't be surprised.  If he were executed, it was probably because he was taking bribes.  

The head of the China FDA was executed last spring because he took bribes and allowed dangerous drugs to be sold on the market.  One of those drugs killed at least 11 people.  His case was covered widely in the Chinese media and he was swiftly executed after his conviction.  

The Chinese have a saying for this:  Kill the chicken to scare the monkey.  He was executed to scare other people from acting dangerously.  That may have been the case with the trade commissioner.  I would be interested in reading about that.  Do you have a link to the story?

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 05:11PM | 0 recs
I wasn't actually speaking of we, the viewers,

So much as attendees or sponsors or athletes or politicians and dignitaries and such.

But I suppose viewers contribute to the bottom line, so there's a case to be made for that, too.

by Maryscott OConnor 2008-08-09 09:59AM | 0 recs
i kinda agree but then you see this...


by canadian gal 2008-08-09 10:01AM | 0 recs
Thank you for posting this!

I wonder were these people were led off to and how they were treated?

They might be treated OK now, but if this had been done without the world watching, they would probably be treated as "spies".

by kevin22262 2008-08-09 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you for posting this!

the report says that they were being 'deported.'

by canadian gal 2008-08-09 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you for posting this!

I couldn't see the video for some reason.  Are these the four idiots who held a "Free Tibet" protest at Tiananmen?  Foreigners who do things like this are usually just deported.  

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 05:14PM | 0 recs

then they got swarmed by a group of locals.

by canadian gal 2008-08-09 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: yep.

The swarming is scary, but harmless.  Whenever anything exciting/sad/weird/interesting happens, Chinese people flock to it.  Argument, car accident, illness, protest, anything.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

My roommate is a politcal refugee from Tibet. He is, at this very moment, bicycling through SF with a sign that says "human rights are not a game" as part of a local protest.  His family is suffering greatly back home.

I understand other views on this subject, and I found the spectacle beautiful (it was playing where I work), but I want no part of it.  I wish our idiot president would have stayed home (Mr. Freedom, indeed).

(I have no problem with the athletes going, however.)

by mikeinsf 2008-08-09 10:57AM | 0 recs
Re: The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

I watched/am watching too.

It does Tibet, Taiwan, Sinkiang and other non-Han regions no good to wish China, as presently composed, ill.  Backwardness and ignominy, feudal era thinking- the whole agrarian age, Empire based frame of mind- needs to become obsolete.  At present it has started to get a bit wobbly for the first time.

I have no doubt that there will be at least a partial breakup of China eventually- perhaps not into nation-states, but into much more truly autonomous parts.  That takes enough aggregate economic and political power that it perforce deconcentrates, that some amount cannot be prevented from diffusing to the people of those regions.  When that amount passes some threshold, events will begin to occur and China will have to focus ever more on resolving its internal social disputes.  The material basis and local/regional elites to do that are coming into existence.

These are relatively peaceful times in East Asia.  I don't think a strong parallel to Sarajevo is warranted, of grotesque and barbaric massive violence.  But as in Yugoslavia then, in contemporary China much injustice and problem residues of the past are latent in the hinterlands, in the slums, and the crummy offices of corrupt powerful men.  Who have grudges and venality and memories of suffering.

So, I enjoy the pictures I see of Yao Min hoping for a more Modern, egalitarian, China with decency in its civil life.  I like the effort made in the Opening Ceremonies to project China as a more humane place of intelligent and decent striving than ever before, as interested in wonder and attaining the selfconfidence that permits humility and grace.

It's a beginning.  Perhaps the true struggle has not even yet begun.  But it seems to me that the direction and measure of aspiration, the sense that pride must be coupled with grace and measure, is an excellent development.

The undertone of a logic of humiliation/arrogation and having to counter and defeat it forcefully that seemed everywhere in official Chinese actions well into the Nineties was almost completely absent in the Opening Ceremony.  That's a demon I'm glad to see go.

by killjoy 2008-08-09 12:02PM | 0 recs
Re: The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

Didn't watch it..

Was it cooler than this? lk

by nogo postal 2008-08-09 12:39PM | 0 recs
Re: The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

Im supporting the Olympics because it's the Olympics is not for the government but for the Chinese people and they deserve it.  

by YankeesforObama 2008-08-09 02:37PM | 0 recs
Re: The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

I've had mixed feelings on this issue, since the moment that I was made aware of the concept.

I'm still torn, honestly.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.  I'll probably make up my mind right before the closing ceremonies.  ;-)

by snark adam excuse 2008-08-09 05:19PM | 0 recs


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