“Sport has risen to the level of a world power, an authority that tends to obscure, overhang and infuse all activities in a society ravaged by the disarray of mutilated individuals, without any collective project. Sport has established itself as the spearhead of an army in battle order, which crushes anyone who is stupified by it. The steamroller of decadent modernity, sport flattens everything as it passes and becomes the sole project of a society without projects”. (Marc Perelman, French intellectual, in Barbaric Sport: a Global Plague. Italics are by Perelman).
We are talking about sport. Games. Recreation for young people. What has become of balance and common sense? That the Chairman of the International Olympic Committee can boss, cajole and command national governments shows how stupid the situation has become. Meanwhile, last night we watched a young Korean fencer so distraught at losing her Olympic bout that she just sat there sobbing her heart out and counldn’t be moved. Whatever happened to sportsmanship and the gracious loser? She had worked day in, day out for four solid years for the opportunity, apparently ( a professional, in other words). The Olympics used to be amateur.
People with common sense have to protest and put the over-paid and-powerful organisers back in their box. And reinforce to young people that they are taking part in a game, not something that, if temporarily lost, is the end of their lives. But can we change all this from the paece of our gardens?
Years ago I helped escort a group of schoolchildren to Paris and we enjoyed ourselves flying paper darts off the top of the Tour Eiffel. One landed on the steps of the Ecole Militaire. But then that was Paris, beautiful Paris, a joy to visit, stylish and architectural triumph.
The Arcelor Mittal Orbit sits in the middle of the Olympic village. The idea was to create a structure, like the Eiffel Tower, as a symbol of the nation, loved and much visited and photographed. Well, I have seen this structure up fairly close. A survey showed that 39% of people thought it “beautiful”, fragile”, and “feminine”. The rest thought it ugly, pointless, and expensive (for London, not for Mr. Mittal). Apparently, Parisians had similar reactions when the Tour was erected. Or so they say.
In the age of Tracy Emin’s bed, complete with condoms, it is not at all impossible that the public will take this mess of red iron to its heart and trek out to Stratford, East London, chiefly known as a transport hub, to gaze longingly at it, while ignoring the indifferent architecture around them . Maybe Arcelor Mittal will find room for a restaurant at the top.
“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more, talk less, say more; hate less, love more;
and all good things are yours”.
A Swedish proverb, but could have been written by Epicurus. In ancient Greek, of course.
At least 12 people are dead and another 38 wounded, one three months old, and at the hands of a young American gunman. It is not, police say, a terrorist attack, by which they mean it wasn’t committed by a Moslem (I would call it a terrorist attack, but the media have trained us to connect “terrorism” and Moslem” together in one easy, single thought process).
Along with all the other incidents that occur at roughly 6 month intervals, this will be shrugged off. The National Rifle Association will call for three month old babies to be fully armed with loaded revolvers, but apart from that sales of guns will climb even further, and we can attend movies in peaceful frames of mind, knowing that most of the audience have loaded guns in their pockets as they watch yet another violent movie, where every shooter gets his man and there is no blood on the floor and no distressing aftermath.
Sick world. Sometimes, for all that it was uncomfortable and life short, I wish I could have lived in the time of Epicurus. At least there were philosophers around, capable of logical thought, even if you couldn’t understand them.
My wife and I took our grandson to the Olympic site on an organised walk. We couldn’t actually get in to see the inside of any of the facilities, but the guide was good and we got a good view of the overall setup.
London 2012 has cost 8 billion pounds to stage. There is not the slightest chance of getting this money back, and the citizens of London, who were never consulted, will have to pay for it through taxes. A staff member at our gym was complaining about the “lack of patriotism from the many people who were complaining about the games and were intending to leave town.” Well, there may be people who are and will benefit, but it seems to me that Epicurus, and most of his ancient Greek compatriots would be appalled at the pomp and cost, the drug taking and the exploitation of the games by administrators and hangers-on (and alleged corruption?). He believed that all things should be done with common sense and moderation, including sport.
The PR disaster and the big bone of contention has been the insistence of the international Olympics committee, against the strenuous objection of the British organisers, that many busy streets and traffic lanes have to be closed so that fat cats can cruise in their (UK supplied?) BMWs unimpeded by traffic lights and other vehicles, to their destination. We had a new central heating boiler installed. The installation engineer, who usually takes 45 minutes to get to central London, took over 2 hours the day he came to us, which was two weeks before the games (the British always closing everything off ages before necessary). He was young, an athlete and he had had enough of the Olympics already. This is shaping up to be an economic disaster for London. And then there are the overwhelming crowds………..and 700,000 unsold tickets.
A follower of Epicurus might conclude that this Olympics could teach a lesson about moderation to the over-mighty IOC. Regrettably , I fear it will not.
I finished Redondi’s book on Galileo, possibly the worst written book I have ever encountered. So, for those who are interested, I will try to sum it up in accessible English, and preferably in one paragraph. That will relieve you all from having to read it.
The trouble started in Rome with Galileo’s book ” The Assayer”, published in 1623 . The book was a huge success and enlightened people from the Pope downwards hailed Galileo as a genius. However, the Jesuits and the followers of the old thinking were secretly appalled at Galileo’s support of atomism, although this was only a small part of the book. Transubstantiation had been debated for centuries, and the Jesuits thought that the matter had been settled at the Council of Trent. Galileo’s positive references to atomism once again threatened the teaching on the subject of the Eucharist. Were the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ or were simply they an arrangement of atoms, like water or a cabbage? A secret charge of heresy was made against Galileo. At that moment Galileo was protected by Pope and the establishment, and the charge was suppressed. But later the political situation changed with Protestant successes in the Thirty Years War and the relative power shift in the Vatican towards Spain. The Jesuits then struck. But they wanted to avoid further debate about the eucharist at all costs, so they concentrated on Galileo’s views on the matter of the Earth moving round the sun. It was a no-brainer. Every sensible person could see with their own eyes that the sun went round the Earth. It was thus easy to obtain public support for the heresy charge, which finally silenced the Century’s greatest scientist, and could be said to have effectively ended his life. The subtle attack on the eucharist had been beaten back.
At last Mr. Diamond, CEO of Barclays has resigned. He is an arrogant, greedy bully. Good riddance.
A person I know who works in the financial sector was recently moaning about the way the British government was trying to reform the banking sector. “Wrecking it”, as he put it. “If this goes on everyone in the City of London will decamp to Dubai”, as if this was a threat.
A totally irresponsible decision was made years ago (I won’t name the Prime Minister lest I am accused of venturing into party politics) to the effect that the strategic heights of the British economy should be financial services and tourism. Everything else should come and go as may be. Britain is now suffering the consequences of handing over the the City of London to a bunch of gamblers and unethical nobodies who have added nothing to the national wealth and have caused mayhem.
Let the yobs go to Dubai, with their casinos. Good riddance. Then the British will just have to work out how to re-build the economy with trade-able goods and services. That will mean putting money into research, education and technical training and finding things to do that do not attract flash-harrys.
Epicureans live modestly, without boasting, show or bullying. A decent way of life that should harm no one.
Last night I saw Shakespeare’s “Timon of Athens”, with Simon Russell Beale in the principal role. I quote the man himself: ” It is an important part of our job, as the cast of a great classic play, to lead the audience through a detailed, thought-through argument or series of arguments”. An actor, he continues has to distil the line of thought in a character’s head, and understand the playwright’s words before he utters a word.
Once understood, he also has to communicate the words – all the words (this is a frustrated audience member speaking) .
Even from such a famous Shakespearean actor I did not catch, let alone understand, 40% of his words, and this difficulty got worse as the play went on. When I was an amateur actor we were incessantly told by the director that the audience was paying to hear, not 60% of the words, but all of them, and that clarity and projection were part of our job . With Shakespeare this is particularly important. How many people sit through a Shakespeare play and get only an impression of the plot? In Washington D.C the actors are all too often just chatting among themselves as if the audience didn’t exist. One should expect better of the British National Theatre.
Was Mr. Russell Beale told that the show had to end at 10p.m or there would be overtime due to the stage hands? From the gabbling of all concerned I fear so. This muttering, and inarticulate spitting and word swallowing is prevalent in the US and Britain and particularly in the movies, where the words don’t seem to matter, a relic of French Impressionism.
Who will rid us of this horrible way of communicating with a paying audience? Or are all actors just too wrapped up in themselves to help?
Adjusted for inflation, the median hourly wage in the USA was lower in 2011 than it was a decade earlier. Good benefits are harder to come by, and people are staying longer in jobs they would like to leave, afraid that they won’t find a better job. The USA has moved from once having the most mobile workforce in the world to a situation of dire immobility. There have been three decades of wage stagnation, while the rich have hoovered up wealth as if was going out of style.
Half of the respondents in a recent poll said they expected the next generation of Americans will be worse off than they; only a quarter expected otherwise. Even a college degree is not the answer. While the situation is worse for those without degrees, even reasonably well-educated people are having difficulties finding jobs.
The good news for the advocates of lower taxes for the rich is that the propaganda about job creation (what job creation?) has been so clever and effective that the struggling middle classes still vote for more money for the rich, as if the very rich care about their country of birth. No, their eyes are on China, Brazil and India, on tax loopholes and offshore sanctuaries, and the antics of the other super-millionaires.
Why does this have anything to do with Epicurus? Because Epicurus believed in moderation and cooperation between classes. He thought that a calm and peaceful life could best be created if everyone was reasonably satisfied with their lot. A no-brainer? Of course. But you tell that to the geniuses in the Heritage Foundation and similar think-tanks!
Human beings do best when they work to mutual advantage.
Le premier ministre anglais est plaisant de vouloir accueillir chez lui les riches Francais fuyant l’impot. Ils aideront parait-il a financer les services publics. Il aurait du dire: ce qu’il en reste. Car peut-etre nos fuyards croiseront-ils en route des citoyens britanniques venant vers Paris pour trouver des soins qu’ils n’ont pas chez eux, ou des etudiants en quete d’etudes gratuites. Mais surtout, M. Cameron ferait mieux de regarder chez lui croissance nul, chomage, endettement et deficit considerables malgre (ou a cause) de sa politique tres liberale: exigeant avec les classes non fortunees (salaires, pensions, TVA, fonctionnaires …du classique) et complaisante avec les riches, car il est bien entendu que la richesse des uns entraine celle des autres, lire Adam Smith. Il faut attendre la fin de la guerre pour compter les morts. Mais, malgre le rejet de l’euro et la planche a billets, malgre la gentillesse des marches et des agences de notation, rien n’y fait: ca ne decolle pas. Reste le dumping fiscal car ainsi fonctionne l’Europe de Lisbonne: chacun pour soi, dans une concurrence qui nous dresse les uns contre les autres.
Bernard Delattre, Paris
Letter to Le Monde June 23rd, 2012