Sports and Jingoism

Fair warning. This is one of those posts that will make me seem like one of those people who just can’t enjoy anything. “He always has to over-think stuff, doesn’t he?” That’s what you may say to yourself as you read this. Well, that may be true, but I am right about this…and Noam Choksky is right…so just give me a few minutes of your time.

In the mid 1990s, my wife and I saw the film Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. It was cool to be in grad school in Austin in those days. You could see stuff like this at the theater there on the drag. It was before Austin was so blown-out. The final days of the Slacker era. Now it’s a big Crate & Barrel. But I digress…

So we were watching this film, and I can’t remember if my friend Rich was with us, or if we were discussing this latter, but Rich is a big sports fan. He’s also smart person – into literature, writing, and thinking smart thoughts. When we brought up Chomsky’s ideas about the function of sports in our society (and I include all of Western culture here), Rich chuckled and said “he’s right”. Man, I love Rich. Dude is just one of the best.  Here’s a clip from the film…the part we were discussing.

Which brings us to the World Cup.

If “regular” professional sports are, as Chomsky claims, a distraction, then the World Cup has to be the Numero Uno Worldwide Distraction Grande. Soccer is international. If you throw in all the Americans who are into it, it becomes even more international. And if you then throw in all the Americans who enjoy pretending to be into it, it is really really international.

“So where are you going with this, Bob?”, you are probably asking yourself. Well, I’ll tell you.

This morning my wife found and posted this link, regarding the so-called “oil reforms” in Mexico – Fooling Mexican Fans.

In case you don’t want to read this article, here is my summary: The Mexican oil industry is not private. It is owned by the state. Big filthy money men in our country and theirs want to privatize it. They are of course making the argument that in private hands it will benefit the Mexican people more. If you look at, ohhhhh, the entire history of privatization of natural resources in Latin America, you will find  this claim highly suspect. It has been used over and over, always resulting in natural wealth being sucked OUT of a country, usually into US Banks and the accounts of a few powerful locals.

So this is all being debated (pushed) while Mexicans are distracted by the World Cup.

Somewhere in Houston, men smoking big cigars and drinking brandy in darkly lit wood-paneled rooms are experiencing massive Petro-Boners as they thank the God of Joel Osteen for the existence of soccer.

Now, besides providing a distraction to keep the great unwashed masses’ brain cells occupied, Chomsky of course makes the point that sports provide training in what he calls “irrational jingoism.” This opinion is echoed by the late Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, as discussed in this article from New Republic. In case you are too busy watching a World Cup game to read this short article, or too drunk, or both, Borges says essentially the same thing as Chomsky — that soccer’s role is to train people in Nationalism and mold the psyche into one that can accept mass movements and nationalism as Virtuous with a capital V. 

Oh God, I feel myself being drawn toward an Orwell tangent. Must – not – go -there.

So, is there anything I like about the World Cup? Yes. Here is my favorite thing about it.

I like it that there is a place on the world stage where a smaller, less powerful country has the potential to kick the shit out of big powerful mean countries. However, I dislike that fact that anyone thinks this actually means anything.




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