Thursday, 6 February 2014

Missing Link in the Chain

Are you excited about the upcoming Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia? Well, I'm not. I am going to avoid watch the Olympics this year. Why? Well, let me tell you a story.
My girlfriend once told me that, in school, she tried to sign up to do wrestling as the mandatory sport, because she wanted to know how to fight. She's quite petite and wanted to be strong and know how to defend herself; however, she wasn't allowed to join the team. It turns out that, despite the sign-up sheet asking for volunteers - come one come all - they forgot to nail up the banner that said "No Girls Allowed"; as they didn't offer the sport for girls.

Now, I sort of have mixed feelings about all of this. I know a lot of girls don't bother to consider wrestling a viable sport and I would never want to watch a mixed-sex wrestling match. However, this is an issue of representation. This wasn't "the boy's wrestling team", it was just "the wrestling team", promoting an outward visage of inclusivity, while in reality it was actually kind of sexist.
Why am I talking about all of this? Well, because I believe that this kind of thing is a microcosm of the real issue at the core of my own disgust towards the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Allow me to explain. The Word of the Day is: 'WRESTLING'.

Wrestling /resling/ n. 1. An exercise or sport in which two people struggle hand to hand, each trying to throw or force the other to the ground. 2. The act of someone who wrestles.

Besides my Beloved's wrestling story, I chose the word "wrestling" because I think it's kind of ironic. In the Ancient Olympics, after a century or two of Olympics involving footraces, they included the sport of "Pále", now more commonly known as Greek Wrestling, where competitors, exclusively men, used to get naked, slather themselves in oil and grapple one another; and if they broke any of the rules, the disobedient party would be whipped by the referee. Although it was painful and competitive, it can be understood why I would call such an activity homoerotic. And considering that Ancient Greeks openly accepted the idea of a young man and an older man entering into a sexual relationship, it's fair to say that, originally, the olympics were not homophobic. That was in the year 708 B.C.

Yet, here In 2014 A.D. - More than two-and-a-half millennia later - Russia is refusing to acknowledge the rights of non-heteronormative persons in the lead-up to the Winter Olympic Games, which Sochi is hosting.
Yes, we're going there again. I am boycotting the Olympics because of Russia's Anti-Gay Laws.

Now, some of the people I have told about my "Boycott Sochi" plan have disagreed with my methods. Not because they are homophobic or anything like that, but rather because they are cynical of its potential, they say:
- "This is more likely to hurt the contestants than Russian politicians."
"This is political, not economic; You can't boycott a country."
- "Not watching the Olympics isn't going to reverse the laws."
To this I say . . . yeah, perhaps not. I am not going to tell anyone that this is a brilliant plan, because it's not. The only way this will work is if the majority of people also boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics and I know that's not going to happen, there are other elements at play here. Sports people will watch it anyway, and there are a lot of other countries involved here, it's hard to reach out to all of them.
However, that being said, I stand steadfastly by my boycotting decision, for a simple reason.

My views are unconditional. I will not cease being pro-love, or an ally of the LGBTI community just because my efforts are ineffective. And yeah, this probably won't work. But I'm not doing it "to change the laws" [although that would be lovely]. I'm doing this because I don't have to put up with Russia's bullshit. This is about principle and precedent.
If I don't stand for what I believe in now then why should I later? And I honestly believe that whether or not my inclusion in the Olympics affects anything, I do not believe that Russia deserves my attention. I don't believe that the Russian government deserves the revenue it will inevitably receive from tourism and international promotion. I don't believe Russia deserves my respect, while they salute their own greatness during the inevitable, self-congratulatory Opening Ceremony.
Not while they continue to oppress, suppress and disenfranchise innocent people.

[Now, keep in mind, I don't hate Russians. Do not dare consider this some excuse to be racist or anti-Russian. I am not promoting hatred towards Russia or its people; when I say "Russia" I really mean "The Russian Government", not "The Russian People. An awful lot of Russians are fighting the good fight as well, this isn't something that the people decided, it was their government. My goal is not to have anyone being prejudiced towards anyone else; I just want more people to be on the side of equal rights for everyone.]

The Olympics is supposed to be inclusive. Yes, once, only the Freemen of Greece could compete; but we've evolved passed that. We've progressed towards the future, and now everyone has the potential to compete. Not only is it now an international tournament that promotes global unity, but with the inclusion of the Paralympics & the Youth Olympics, it is more inclusive then ever. Yet, here we are and I can't help but feel that this is the same as my Beloved's wrestling story; it all seemed inclusive until she looked behind the curtain. Just as the Olympics say they include everyone, but so long as Sochi is hosting these games, that's just a façade. It is a mere veneer of inclusivity that hides the truth . . .

Ever since they have enacted these laws, Non-heterosexual Russians are not allowed to talk about their sexuality, promote activism and equal rights or display non-heteronormative affections in a public places.
While silence may not seem cruel, it is promoting a culture of homophobia and anti-gay violence, which some say has already increased the number of gay-bashings in Russia and instances of homophobic attacks, including torture [warning: linked article is disgusting]. But, violence aside, this is not the way a civilized society should treat innocent people.

Now, if you want to ignore all that and watch some professional athletes play around in the snow, go right ahead, I can't stop you. As I've said before, I'm a narrator, not a dictator.
But I personally, cannot ignore the fact that, at the end of the day, people are suffering. Unless and until they change their ways, I will boycott the Sochi Olympics; Russia & anyone else who, in this day and age, does not support equality in all its colours and creeds.

Do you know why the Olympics is represented by 5 interlocking rings
, colored blue, yellow, black, green, and red? It's because the six colours of the flag (including the white background) represent the colours of every flag; all of the countries that competed in the olympics at the time, all linked together.
  "the six colors thus combined reproduce the colors of all the nations, with no exception […] Here is truly an international symbol."
- Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the flag's designer.
But I feel like there's a missing link in the chain. There's one flag that feels left out . . . the Rainbow Flag. Sure, it has a few of its colours, but I think we need to remind people that this is supposed to be a symbol of unity. Not just for all countries, but all people.
I'm not suggesting we change the actual flag. But so long as this discrimination exists, I will salute a new symbol of international equality: OOOOOO
Until next time, I'm the Absurd Nerd, and I want to leave you with this quote we could, perhaps, all live by; from a famous pro wrestler and six-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion:
  "I fear no man, no beast or evil, brother."
- Terry Gene Bollea (Hulk Hogan)

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that this very topic came up on the radio today, at university. People were debating if a boycott would really help fight homophobia, especially with the Olympic athletes who worked hard to get where they were.
    For the athletes who support gay rights, it's a huge question: are my values worth giving up the opportunity of a lifetime? Even worse, Russia has shown strong athletics, especially in regards to figure-skating. So the people in sports have a huge dilemma about which to worry.

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