Sunday, 4 March 2012

Olympics are sacred

General outrage at Len McClusky's suggestion of civil disobedience against and / or during the Olympics.

The argument against him seems to be: but they're the Olympics.

That might carry weight with those who find competitive athletics interesting or even those who find something ineffably rousing about the Olympics, as happened with Barrenness Warsi on R4 the other night, though she ran out of words and said little more than “but they're the Olympics” from the end of her political vocabulary. (Later, she gave a list of the many uses for numeracy, citing home, work... and then back to home again for #3 using slightly different words.)

Enough of her. The general response is a special plea and an implicit assertion that we are speaking of something sacred and the matter is not up for discussion. Thus, the apparent mindless repetition of an assertion is in fact an advertisement that the speaker means to have their own way because to disagree is a sign of your mindlessness and unacceptability.

When I was about 14, the pope came on tv, a picture of him, probably giving his blessing; and I found him insufferable. To demonstrate this to myself, I muttered “Oh shutup” and snuggled more deeply into the armchair I was occupying.

My father, who had not quite abandoned faith at that point, asked “What did you say? That's the pope!”

He clearly found that a clinching argument and I backed off; but I can't remember it much beyond the realisation that I had drawn fire when I was in the open and argumentatively defenceless from his point of view; and he had all the power. I still sometimes forget that a good argument rarely succeeds with Homo Yahoo, and those, like my father, whom it has subjugated.

One cannot fight that kind of supposedly clinching argument. There was a Mayall and Edmondson, I think, comedy routine in which one won't eat sprouts and the other says “But it's Christmas!”. And that just goes on and on. Spot on; slightly funny.

But strip away the Olympics from it and look at what is said, the equations of argument underneath, and how they might be transposed: then there might be consensus without much outrage if one were to reformulate it. And that is that everyone has a right to their opinion, informed or otherwise, scientific or otherwise. Few dispute that because it's so inane.

In certain strictly-delimited circumstances there is a right to demonstrate and / or strike, as long as it doesn't change anything. Many will agree with that; it's similar to the claimed need for the young unemployed to give them something to do to stop them not getting cross.

It will then be said: “peaceful democratic protest and the right to strike is part of what makes Britain great”. The Barrenness said something of that sort.

It follows therefore that not only these rights but also the injustices which give rise to the necessity to exercise the rights must be preserved at all costs: strikes, protests, ravens at the Tower of London, economic disadvantage and so on. Like Ted Hughes' Crow which is going to “keep things like this”

Len McClusky was proposing that civil disobedience and industrial action should be conducted to win and therefore change things. That is clearly unacceptable. The workers must always lose or Britain just won't be Britain any more.

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