the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world
In a world where millions of humans are starving, and our natural wealth is being depleted to the detriment of all life on the planet, sports in general, and the Olympic games in particular, are an unimaginable squandering of resources. All the building, all the training, all the attention ― surely we could dedicate ourselves to a more noble endeavor. To look on the bright side, though, the Olympics do at least offer the United States yet another opportunity to pound the crap out of the entire rest of the world. But I am being serious here. Is there any beauty more wondrous than the unchallenged dominance of the rich and arrogant?
I am perhaps not being entirely serious. But it is a fact that, as much as the rest of the world resents US success in virtually everything and dominance in so many things, the rest of the world is actually feeling hypocritical envy, and is only sorry that it cannot do the same thing. And it delights me to watch those who secretly aspire to dominance receive beating after humiliating beating from the world’s great overdog.
The United States has run away with the medal contest in Athens, as usual. It won the highest number of medals, and the highest number of gold medals, beating Russia and China respectively. (The most impressive performance may belong to the Australians, though, who finished fourth in both categories. Go Anglo-Saxons!) It is particularly satisfying to see the United States surpass both China and Russia. Anything that might give propaganda value to the current Chinese and Russian governments should be denied them, and it is thus a good thing for the world that the US can produce better athletes. In fact, it is astonishing to say, but the US government should provide the 2008 Olympic team all the money it needs, and the reason is clear. China in its present form must not be allowed to win the next Olympics. It was scandalous that Beijing was even awarded the 2008 games; in some ways, it was worse than the staging of the 1936 games in Berlin. No one much pretended to care about human rights in Hitler’s time, so why shouldn’t he throw a grand international fête of Nazism in his capital? But to purposely encourage the inevitable crackdown on dissent that will proceed the Beijing games, and to help China whitewash its image, is not just hypocritical, but unconscionable. Who does not know what sort of place China is?
At least with China, though, we can still assume that the ordinary citizens are innocent of the crimes of the state. They are, in fact, its victims. The ping pong champions and the diving masters are probably just as desirous of change in China as I am, and would say so if they dared. Russian athletes, on the other hand, must statistically be presumed to be ruthless imperialists. Though Russia is not truly an electoral democracy any longer, as its habit of fixing elections in Chechnya and manipulating the media demonstrates, there seems no question that Vladimir Putin has genuine majority support, even of an overwhelming majority. Having been fed lies for so long by the new tsar, the majority have genuinely come to believe that he and his imperialist policies are in their best interests. It would be fine if Russians were proud of winning so many bronze medals, but their nationalist renewal of pride is based instead on their collective ability to hold numerous minority nations in thrall. Chechnya is not alone; the rest of Russia’s unwilling minorities, though, have been cowed by Chechnya’s destruction, which was a large part of the intention of that destruction. This destruction is being retroactively justified by the fact that some Chechens have now been turned into terrorists ― by the Russian destruction of their homeland and murder of their loved ones ― but even the seizure of a school full of children by the most radicalized Chechens will not convince me that Putin was right all along. Putin wants us to believe that he has smoked out the terrorist lurking in the heart of every Chechen. In other words, he had to start killing them to show that they deserved to be killed.
Besides, many “civilized” opponents of the United States believe that the US brought the most atrocious elements of the Iraqi resistance upon itself, and that, even at its worst, the Sadrist, Qaedist, and Baathist resistance in Iraq is a legitimate expression of a native Iraqi desire to be free. I also believe that Iraqis want to be free, but that leads me to the conclusion that they will ultimately recognize the deposition of Saddam by the United States as a necessary thing, and the defeat of the Sadrist, Qaedist, and Baathist resistance by the United States as a necessary thing. Iraqis could not have overthrown Saddam by themselves, and though certainly some Iraqis support Muqtada al-Sadr, al-Qaeda, and the Baath Party, the vast majority do not, and without outside help they would soon be under the tyranny of those groups, as well as being victims of the war among them. There is a virtue to the United States’ capabilities: it can do what others cannot. Though it is not without help in Iraq, it has largely done everything alone. It has a single government, a single military, and a single, integrated economy, and could therefore organize the invasion of Iraq and pay for the reconstruction by itself if necessary.
The French elite obviously intend to use their historical petulance to dominate a united Europe, and to use the strength of a united Europe to dominate the world. Other Europeans are less transparent in the present, but there is much talk of a European way (diametrically opposite the US way) which is the most enlightened course for all of humanity, and in which the Europeans can school the rest of the world. This, of course, comes only half a century from the end of imperial aspirations by even miniscule European states, and there are still European colonies throughout the world, occupied by governments who claim to oppose occupation and colonialism on principle. Even Greece spent the entire games celebrating a greatness that lies millennia in the past (a reverie pathetically indulged by visitors, viewers, and commentators around the world), as if the individuals who happen to live in Greece at the moment have anything in common with the innovators in thought and art who flourished in classical times; modern Greece has, on its tiny scale, an imperialist foreign policy, having less in common with Socrates and more in common with the Delian League.
Let us not be fooled by this multipolar, multilateral rubbish. The plain fact is that China, Russia, and Europe do not dominate the world only because they cannot, and were they ascendant they would be singing a different hymn. As for myself, I do not want anyone to be in charge, but that makes me reluctant to trade one grand hegemony for hundreds of smaller ones, most of which would be less benign than the present US hegemony, however one rates it. Gandalf, the great enemy of dominion, spoke thus of his adversary: “Indeed he is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind.” Alas, the great lords opposing the United States do not have the wisdom of Gandalf; they would take the Ring for themselves.
I want US hegemony in the world to end, but not until I am convinced that a world not dominated by the United States would be better than the present world. The main requirement for this is a lack of new masters to take the place of the United States, and the main requirement for that is a lack of the nationalist desire for greatness. And that, in turn, requires that humans see themselves as humans, not as Chinese, Russians, Americans, French, or Australians. The vision extends beyond an Olympics without flags and anthems, though. There could be no Olympic games at all if humans did not seek their own glory in the defeat of others. All the world wants to win, and those who don’t win will grumble about those who do. I don’t really care if the United States wins in such a silly contest as the Olympics, but I cheer for the US juggernaut because of the ensuing silence of those crushed beneath its wheels. I am a cosmopolitan, not a patriot, and as an outsider, I can say that that the world hates the US because it beats the world at the world’s own game. “You’re not playin’ fair!”, goes the whine. Of course not; where’s the fun in that?
© O.T. FORD
Home of the Stewardship Project
and O.T. Ford