Friday, 13 April 2012

Not Playing the Game.




It's early days, but I am already planning my escape. I thought it might be necessary to leave the country, and indeed this might still prove to be the case.
Although my son is no longer living in Kazakhstan the idea of a yurt on the Central Asian Plain has distinct appeal.
But for the time being my plan is to stay here, at the bottom of the garden.

Past the lamp-post, over the bridge, through the bamboo thicket and I enter, not Narnia, but a wi-fi, television, telephone and radio-free summer-house. I can hide in here with some good books, a tea-pot and lots of writing and drawing materials. I can't even hear the doorbell unless I try really hard.

Already there are ominous signs. There are Union Jacks and replica medals appearing in shop windows. There are kits to make cup cakes with those interlinked ring symbols on top. There are tee-shirts and other jingoistic rubbish items for sale.
It is worse that last year's Wedding, and that's saying a lot.

It's worse, because it's all about competition, about beating other people, about being the best at the expense of others. Sport on its own is bad enough, but Olympic sport is truly distressing to my mind. However, I think I am quite reasonable really, and I accept and even strongly suspect that others may feel differently. The problem for me is that those who think differently are going to take over this country for most of the summer, and it will be really hard to escape their domination.

It distresses me because for every winner there have to be hundreds who are made to feel that they are losers. The competition is already so ferocious, with hopefuls being eliminated left right and centre, and it can only get worse as the pressure builds. No matter how many quotes are made about it being the taking part that is as significant as the winning, this is not so. It is the winning that matters. Coming second or third is not exactly triumphant, even though it's better than being fourth.

The paralympics are perhaps even more savage, with people pitted against one another in a frantic effort to be the best, physically.
It takes years of training and all hope is dashed in seconds.
At least with things like cricket people can spend a few hours in the sunshine and have a decent tea afterwards.

But I write as one who increasingly dislikes any form of competition, and as one who finds it increasingly hard to avoid witnessing it.
On many evenings you can, if you wish, witness competitive cooking on television, or competitive home improvements, or dining experiences, or bed-and-breakfast catering.
People get very emotional, upset and angry. There are tears and shouting and the occasional tantrum which presumably makes for good viewing.

I write as one who had a brief foray into Britain in Bloom, which is competitive planting on a grand scale, where whole towns are pitted against one another.

Perhaps I should also add that I write as one who spent many games lessons lurking in the shrubbery. That fact may be rather noticeable.

15 comments:

gz said...

I'm just back from our club's weekly training session/club night on the velodrome in Newport.( I do the register, take the money and pay the bill!)
This will be closed for two months because of the Olympics as it is to be used by the GB cycling team.
We understand "for security's sake", but ....

pohanginapete said...

Then there's competitive story-telling, which seems particularly common among groups of blokes. Relate any personal experience and another bloke will have a funnier/more horrible/grosser/etc. story.

Strangely, competitive listening never seems to have taken off.

Nevertheless, I suppose some forms of competition have outcomes that at least have the potential to do good without causing harm. Competitive philanthropy, for example — I'm giving more of the fortune I earned (by exploiting the workers) to noble causes. Sometimes this does actually help, although whether you think it's "good" depends on which ethical theory you choose.

Mrs A said...

I was in London 2 weeks before the wedding, we bought silly jokers hats with the union jacks( see my last post!) and took a photo on westminster bridge! I loved London, and am returning in June, but this time will explore more of your beautiful country. I will probably buy one of those t-shirts!
Im sure the competitors in the olympics have a different view, and dont worry the Aussies will whip their butts in the swimming! Enjoy your retreat!

Zhoen said...

I'm with you, never understood the intense need to win, and beat another. Although, in a good game of "gross out" with other nurses, I usually win, but that has slightly different motivations.

My utter sympathies on the Event to come. I had to deal with that here in 2002, and I can't say I enjoyed it. Courage, it will end in time.

Relatively Retiring said...

gz: that's a good example of domination - the unreasonable dispution of normal life for those not wishing to be involved. Good job there are not Olympic events in pottery!
P.Pete: Oh yes, competitive story-telling is an event open to women, too. I'm with Aristotle on the ethics, and we could perhaps discuss competitive listening in a nice quiet way?
Mrs A: You're going to LOVE London in June. I hope you have a truly memorable time, and I might even be there myself for the Jubilee river procession. I'm not entirely negative, only about the butt whipping!
Zhoen: The sympathy is appreciated and I will take courage.
'Gross out' sounds intriguing - more details, please.

The Elephant's Child said...

And I really, really, really hate the fact that those who win an Olympic gold medal will be lauded as heroes. The term hero means something entirely different to me.
And I spent my games/sport period skulking in the library.

Leslee said...

Ha. Athletic competition doesn't bother me - I think it takes a certain type of person who thrives on it. But in other aspects of life, say in one's coworkers (ugh) or gardening and cooking (aren't they just supposed to be pleasurable?), I avoid competitive types at all costs. But right, there's those who aren't actually the athletes competing but spectators with nothing in the game except their nationality to become competitive about, which is kind of crazy, but human nature.

Maybe it's a group thing. I just recently heard a bit of a radio interview with E.O. Wilson on why humans need a tribe. Anyway, I'm sorry you'll be overrun this summer - the garden house is a wonderful idea of a sanctuary!

Anne said...

A well known saying here in the US (a football coach said it)-- "Winning isn't the main thing. It's the only thing".

I agree with you all the way. I,too, avoided sports when I was in school. Besides the aspect of competition, I disliked being told that I must have "team spirit". I never cared who won, and I didn't want to have to pretend I did care.

Relatively Retiring said...

Elephant's Child: Yes, the hero/heroic thing for running faster/jumping higher than anyone else is ridiculous, but it's going to happen repeatedly.
The library was a much better option than the shrubbery!
Leslee:Thank you so much for the link to the very thought-provoking article.
Anne: That's exactly my attitude to so-called 'team spirit', and I was not happy with myself when I thought I should tell my young sons to be good losers, support the team etc. I wanted to say, 'It doesn't matter in the least.'

Zhoen said...

Well, it's just a matter of grossest things seen, done, experienced, at work. For me, the most disgusting thing I've had to do... well, it involves drool, and my ear. 'nuff said, really. Trauma nurses in particular have bad stories, often involving odors that the public will mercifully never encounter.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen:. As P.Pete has suggested, this could become an officially recognised sport, and I'm impressed (or saddened for you) that you usually win!

Anonymous said...

The Olympics is a world famous event where the finest athletes in the world come together for a glorious display. We personally and as a family will be doing everything in our power to promote and support this wonderful event, and it is negative and damaging to see blogs like this saying such things when so many people have made such efforts. If you cant be positive about such a wonderful time then you should keep your opinions to yourself.

Relatively Retiring said...

Anon: Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I'm sure you will appreciate that I cannot share your view that only those who agree with you may express their thoughts.

Isabelle said...

I'm with you, RR. A friend of mine has volunteered to help at the Os and is very excited about it. I can't think of anything worse... but I didn't say this, of course.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: Quite! People should be free to do what they chose, participating, watching, helping or avoiding. It's going to be very hard to avoid though!