Tag Archives: pride

Why The Olympics Suck

“Nationalism is an infantile disease; it is the measles of mankind.”
-Albert Einstein

My Friends,
   Forgive me if I blaspheme by denouncing that most highly-esteemed of international sporting events, but this has been a long time coming.  The Olympics are a sad statement of where we are at as a species, and fraught with hypocrisy, divisiveness and tribalism.  Before I begin, I wish to make clear that I don’t take issue with sport itself.  Quite the contrary; athleticism and physical performance are virtues to me and those who achieve great feats deserve recognition.
   No, my qualm is with all the bullshit which the Olympics, but also other international sporting events such as the World Cup, heap onto the pure competition of sport.  This criticism extends also to a lesser extent to professional, intra-national sport, such as NFL, NHL, NBA, etc.  All of these sporting events help to make up what is referred to as The Spectacle, a concept explained by Guy Debord and The Situationist International during the 1950s and 60s, which I have alluded to in previous entries but which merits re-defining here.  Quite simply:

The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.
—Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Clear? No? Okay, well it is a complicated concept but it has to do with the reification of illusion and how that illusion is taken as superior to reality.  Allow me to explain to you what the spectacle means to me aka MY OWN PERSONAL TAKE.
   Aside from the practical concern of how the spectacular images we see in mainstream media everyday serve to distract us from the real doings of the powerful behind closed doors, there are more, let’s say abstract concerns when the public puts its stock into illusion instead of reality.  And while these latter, abstract concerns might indeed be of a less pressing nature in the short-term, over a longer time-span they have a sublime influence on our disposition and lives.

Let me break this into examples.

Practical Outcome of the Spectacle:
   Everyone has at least a cursory familiarity with the sensationalized deaths of Whitney Houston, Trayvon Martin, MIchael Jackson, etc.  Furthermore they are appalled by various scandals like ORNGE and others where many thousands or sometimes millions of dollars are embezzled or otherwise misappropriated.
   Yet at the same time, perhaps because of such spectacular distractions, few are aware that the Canadian taxpayers alone pay $160 million per day to cover the interest of borrowing all of our money into existence from commercial banks.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but very little of your tax dollars goes toward infrastructure.

To me, this is us being blinded by the spectacle of corruption while being uninterested in the reality of corruption
In contrast:
Abstract Outcomes of the Spectacle:
   We are made to identify with and become rabidly defensive of certain manufactured notions and images.  Often this is presented as duality (i.e. Republican vs. Democrats) but for the purposes of this post it can be related to organized sport.  In this realm, there are not two, but many manufactured sides, factions and alignments to choose from.  On the intra-national level there’s stupidity…
…like this…

…which is actually indoctrinated and fomented from a very young age.***

Silly inter-city rivalries are just that, silly.  But when you take into account that some of the most bitter rivalries are between two teams from the same city (i.e. Inter-MIlan vs AC Milan) you start to wonder why cities are going to war with themselves.
   Once you take things international however, as in the case of the World Cup or Euro Cup, things get proper retarded.  I don’t know about you but I hate seeing this shit come World Cup/Euro Cup:


This sort of mindless devotion to a nation-state and its pride/honour brings me to the Olympics, the subject of this post.  Why do we feel the need to heap so much extra shit on the competition of Olympic athletes?  Why do I need a tale of the tape to amp up my emotions so that I can properly appreciate some long-shot athlete from whereverthefuck-istan’s performance in some obscure so-called sport which actually evolved from primitive tribal rituals?
   Well probably because I wouldn’t give a fuck about that sport, athlete and country if the network didn’t appeal to my emotions.  In fact, if the competition in question was not so inextricably intertwined with my emotions (and really, the outcome of my life) due to the heart-wrenching five-minute TV-spot on this athlete’s courage and dedication which I just endured, I might realize that its just a sport and not terribly important to me.
   Well we can’t have people just tuning out otherwise advertisers wouldn’t pay for air-time.  So we’re gonna make you care about these countries the same way we make you want to go to war with them during the lulls between Olympiads, by appealing to the honour neurosis.
   It is really easy to do this.

1. Isolate some sort of widely-held group identity touchstone.  (Nationality in the case of the Olympics)
2. Show lots of people running around with flags having a good time interspersed with footage of athletic excellence
3. Have some monotonous, unsexy voice spout some SUPERSRSLY (sic.) drivel about national pride, “this time we’re giving our all,” showing our pride, etc…
4. MAKE IT EXPLICITLY CLEAR THAT WE ARE RALLYING FOR PEACE AND NOT WAR….this time.  This can be done by saying some contradiction like, “We are all united by our mutual competition and irreconcilable differences.”  It doesn’t make any logical sense but it allows the poison of nationalism to be administered while still sounding ostensibly peaceful.
5. Have a word or slogan which can be (SPECTACLE ALERT) reified into something more real and tangible in spite of the term’s inherent ambiguity

I’ll just leave this here…

6. ????
7. PROFIT!!

   Now watch how this plays out in teh real world…

CTV ain’t no fool.  If you watch carefully they checked all the boxes:
1. Canada
2. Entire Video
3. Entire Video
4. 0:46
5. Entire Video

Believe.  That’s some heavy shit right there.  Belief in general is like a sacred burial ground in most people’s minds which you better not disturb.  Specifically, it is the burial ground where rational thought is laid to rest.
Belief in fact makes a virtue of not thinking, so I can see the appeal of this promotion.  For the record, I’m no different.  I remember getting caught up in another company’s (far superior) “believe” campaign a few years back:
London 2012 ain’t shit when it comes to heartstring manipulation

Halo 3’s “Believe” campaign was masterful in my opinion, every bit as good as the game itself.  Particularly heart-wrenching were the faux-interviews with veterans of the Human-Covenant war where they recounted the horrors they experienced.  It actually got me misty-eyed more than once.
   Now you might think that its stupid of me to get so emotionally caught up in a video game and at the same time criticize the emotion heaped onto the Olympics, but lets examine that shall we?  I at no point mistake the Halo 3 campaign for real life.  There is a rich back-story to the game and these TV spots play with my emotions the same way a piece of literature might.  But its fiction, it knows its fiction, I know its fiction, it does not masquerade as real life and it makes no apologies for being fiction.
   When you look at the CTV Olympiad fucktardation in contrast, you see that a fiction is being created and passed off as real life.  There is nothing “real” about the Olympics beyond athletic competition.  All of the national pride, honour and posturing is filler and I would argue that its damaging because it leads to needless rivalries and resentment between so-called nation-states which are nothing more than arbitrary lines drawn on a map and rarely reflective of actual regional affinities in the broadest sense.
   Look at Afghanistan for example: Afghan nationalism is a bad joke because there is no Afghan nation, just ethnic groups with varying degrees of power and size, more or less shoe-horned into a weirdly shaped bit of geography in South Central Asia.  The most dominant ethnic group, the Pashto could conceivably become their own nation if they wanted but I remember being emphatically told not to use the term Pashtunistan (“land of the Pashto”) in front of Afghan people because it would incite fierce nationalistic emotions and opinions which the invented nationality (Afghan) simply could not.
   Are we immune to this kind of fabricated nationality in North America?  Absolutely not.  Say there was an Olympic competition between an American from Buffalo, NY (108 km from me) and a Canadian from Whitehorse, Yukon (5218 km from me), I could, as a nationalistic Canadian, be reasonably expected to cheer for the guy from the Yukon even though I have never been there and share no regional affiliation with him, rather than the guy who lives a life more or less like mine an hour away.  Such is the “logic” of nationalistic fervour.  
   If you want more proof of how contrived and pointless national affiliations are, ask Xerxes about how his million-strong, multi-ethnic Persian army fared against a couple of Spartans.
On second thought, don’t ask, don’t tell…ZING!

   I think we should recognize the Olympics for what it is; a necessary evil.  It is so far one of the few stages for excellent athletes to test their skills against their peers across the globe without paying out of their own pocket to facilitate these meet-ups.  Unfortunately we must deal with all the other bullshit that goes along with it if we are to enjoy the athleticism of pure sport.  By other bullshit I mean primarily advertisements from sponsors looking to bolster their market-share, and advertisements from the home nation’s government trying to reinforce its sovereignty by piggy-backing on the achievements of the athletes who live under its fictional jurisdiction.
“LOOK!! A guy who resides in the artificial construct known as ‘Canada’ just won a gold medal, the highest award in a similarly artificial construct known as ‘The Olympics.’  By virtue of his achievement you are now proud to be Canadian.”
…And we all were

No thanks.
   The next time you see a spectacular Olympic performance from a so-called “rival country” and you are forced to grudgingly admit that they deserve the medal, remember a few things:
1. The country does not deserve the medal, the athlete(s) does
2. You personally have no rivals in a sport you are not competing in.  You are a spectator.
3. You are not giving up your respect to a member of a rival nation, but to a fellow human being.  
Enjoy your spectacle!
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
***I purposefully abstained from mentioning the riots in Vancouver after the Canucks lost the cup to the Bruins because to simply view that as a sports riot is reductive.  But that is a story for another day.

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The Story So Far…

One day maybe…

My Friends,
   Most of you know that “blog” is short for “web log,” and the word “log,” to me, implies two things: First, a regularity in entries, and Second, a personal aspect, or subject matter dealing with the writer’s own life.  My blog has been somewhat deficient in both of these regards as of late.  Here’s why…
   With regard to regularity and the recording of my daily life events, I find that little has happened as of late which merits a full blog entry.  To be sure, there have been certain notable occurrences as of late, but none which can’t be adequately summarized and explored in a twitter post or two (@dreguan).  Other than these chance occurrences, all I have been up to lately is submitting (lamentably) the past few months to wage-slavery.  This sort of base existence does not really lend itself to anecdotes worthy of relating, but its a necessary evil for the time being.  The irony is that while I was travelling I had all the stories in the world to tell and often no computer.  Now I have all the internets I could want and a rather uneventful existence.  Such is life.
   Another reason I have not been reporting on my own life actually springs out of my wage-slavery circumstance: faced with the abominable boredom of doing work fit for automation for 8 hours a day, I have turned to listening to documentaries while I work to both educate and entertain myself while I pass the time.  This has had something of a re-honing effect on my (justifiably) grim outlook on the world, which took a turn for the rosier when I was traipsing about the world meeting all sorts of wonderful people and fellow kindred spirits.  Learning more about the inherent problems with our system while at the same time once again faced with the reality that every hour I was travelling took several hours of work to finance, I can’t help but be a little bitter about how the world works and hanker for some real change.  I feel this has influenced my recent writing to the extent that it has moved the focus away from me and more to the problems I see in the world and their manifestation in my life.
   However, there is one aspect of my life which is developing slowly and also warrants mention here.  It is my potential transfer to the air force.  Family and friends are constantly asking me about the progress of said transfer and it is an uncomfortable topic for me because there are only so many inventive ways I can say “no answer yet.”  But I will set the record straight no because it is something I am loathe to discuss and that in itself makes it worth discussing.
   I first applied to transfer from the army reserve to the air force as a pilot back in June 2010.  I was anticipating a quick process where I would go and be tested for suitability, receive either a positive or negative answer, and go from there, knowing that even if I didn’t get in at least I made the attempt to achieve something I had been thinking about for years.  From the beginning it got complicated as I was soon told that I would have to wait until the following April (2011) when the next transfer intake started because I had missed the 2010 intake.  Patiently I waited.
   Come April 2011 I waited a week.  Then 2.  Then 4.  Then 6.  At this point I finally started sending emails and realized with dismay that my point of contact no longer held his position and that someone else had taken over.  After getting in touch with this person I was informed that my application had not been picked up for the 2011 intake and that I would have to wait until the following April (2012) to see if I got picked up then.  I should remind you that at this point I still wasn’t even waiting for a position as a pilot, but simply for a chance to go in for a 3-day selection process to see if they would start training me as a pilot or not (a training process which I could still ultimately fail out of).
   I took this news on the chin for two reasons: One, I had, from the beginning (June 2010) prepared myself for a potentially long wait; years if need be.  Second, it occurred to me that the transfer centre, with their constant suggestions that they could cancel my application if I wished whenever I emailed them impatiently about the status of my transfer, might drag this process out on purpose for the sake of weeding out those candidates for selection who were not serious about the commitment.

   So I began the process of waiting another year.  In that time, I started this blog, had an awesome summer and did some globe-trotting in the fall/winter.  Fortunately, I arrived back from my travels scant weeks before receiving an email in mid-January saying that I should make sure all of my annual fitness-testing for the military was up-to-date, as I should expect an opportunity to attend selection during the 2012 intake cycle.  I diligently set forth setting appointments and booking interviews.  I did my fitness test in Hamilton in late February then later that week went to the brigade clinic in London for my initial medical assessment + hearing test and basic vision test.  The following week (early March) I went to Orangeville (a pain in the ass with no car) to do my blood work, electro-cardiogram and chest x-ray.  I also had to do a pulmonary function (PFT) test, but since that was by appointment only I made plans to come back into Orangeville for that on March 24th. 

   Leading up to March 24th I completed both my comprehensive vision test with an opthamologist and my interview (it is an employment transfer after all).  With the successful passing of the PFT on the 24th of March, I figured nothing really sat between me and the selection I had waited for for so long.
   Wrong again.
   Since I had been so on top of my game and had finished all of my preliminary testing before April 1st  I informed the transfer centre that they could expect the results of all my testing within a week or two and waited, content that I would get an answer soon.  When I finally did hear from anyone, it was a Captain Taylor who had received my file and was waiting for the flight surgeon to sign off on my medical results before scheduling me for a selection serial.  I got in touch with the physician’s assistant in London who had done my physical exam and asked if he had received my medical results from my family doctor and passed them on to the flight surgeon.  He had received them and they hadn’t yet been passed on.  I was told to keep waiting.  Sometime not too long thereafter he got back to me informing me that the rules had changed as of March 4th, and the initial medical assessment he had performed with me was now supposed to be done by the clinic in Toronto not London.  He said that since I had done mine before the regulation had changed he would see if he could get my results validated.
   I waited a week and called back.  He was still looking into it.  8 days later (last Tuesday) I decided that it made better sense to just redo the portion that was no longer valid rather than waiting for an exception that may never come.  I informed the physician’s assistant about this and he suggested a doctor.
   I went to to look for this doctor in the Toronto base directory and couldn’t find him.  So I emailed the PA back asking for more information on how to contact him.  The PA simply responded that I should call the London clinic as that’s where the doctor worked out of.  This seemed weird to me as the PA had earlier told me that the testing now had to be done in Toronto.  That was Wednesday, and I called several times that afternoon, and throughout the day on Thursday trying to get a hold of either the PA or the doctor in question, but neither were diligent about returning calls.  Finally, this past Friday morning I got a hold of an Officer Cadet who informed me that the actual new instruction was that all medical assessments for potential pilots had to be performed by contracted doctors, not PA’s which explained why the PA had referred me to a Dr. in his clinic in London.
   That all sorted out, I asked the OCDT to schedule me in for a re-assessment ASAP.  The earliest date she had was 25 July 2012.  Unacceptable.  And I let her know as much.  Politely.
   My problem with this date was not so much waiting 2 and a half more months, but losing any priority I might have for selection this year and having to wait until the following intake year to go for selection.  She understood my plight and said that if she didn’t call me back later that day to call her Monday morning.
   Come Monday (yesterday for those keeping track) she called me and said the doctor could squeeze me in that day at 13:00.  Now it was 9:30, I was in Oakville at work and I didn’t have a car.  I had no idea what Via and Greyhound schedules were like and plus I was ya know, at work.  I told her I would call her back.  After an abortive attempt to borrow a friend’s car I reasoned that since I was trying to get there on army business I was justified to use an army vehicle.  I called the quartermaster who controls the vehicles for the regiment to see if I could borrow a truck.  She was not around.  Then I called my friend Lloyd (who works with the QM) on his cell phone to see if he could issue me a truck.  As it rang I remembered that his wife was a couple of days overdue with her baby and that he might be at home celebrating the birth of his new boy or girl, and totally uninterested in my never-ending missions to get a chance to fail selection for the air force.  I thought I heard someone pick up the phone then the line went dead.  If he had hung up on me it was probably deserved, after all it was 9:30 am, he was on leave (which I found out later) and I could have woken up the baby.  On trying the quartermaster again I got a hold of the private who works for her and who was the only person manning the office that day.  Rather serendipitously, he had just learned how to issue a vehicle for the day.  What a co-inky-dink; I needed a vehicle for the day.  After checking my credentials via computer database he agreed to set me up with a truck.. I promptly left work and took the train to Hamilton where I picked up the truck and started heading to London.
   I made it there at 12:40 (20 Minutes early) and then waited an hour and a half before the doctor was ready to see me.  But then, waiting an hour beats waiting til July 25th so I really couldn’t complain.  We redid the portion which had to be redone by a doctor (motor skills, eye and ear check, strength test, etc…) and I was struck by how much less comprehensive these exams were than the ones initially done by the PA.
   During the appt. the doctor asked me if I had had a urine test.  I wasn’t sure if I had.  Certainly my family doctor’s office would have performed that test when they were doing my blood work, right?  Wrong.  In fact the necessary urine test had never been requisitioned and was now outstanding.  As well doctor informed me that I needed an ECG.  With relief I told him that I had already done that test.  He informed me that I had done an Electro Cardiogram, not an Echo Cardiogram, which I still required.
   So that’s kind of where I stand now, waiting to do two more tests that I should have been made aware of back in January/February.  The piss test is a walk-in, but seeing as I am going to have to miss work to do the Echo Cardiogram I might as well see when the military schedules it and do the piss test the same day.  You know, get two birds stoned at once.
   If this seems like a long read, imagine how I feel having to basically recite this same series of events every time someone asks me innocuously, “Hey, what’s going on with the air force?”  Its actually kind of fucking with me because I feel like people have been asking me that for years now and I never have an answer which shows much progress, and it seems (to me at least) that this betrays some sort of lack of diligence on my part.
   Ultimately, I can’t let what I think people’s expectations of me are mess with my head, but there is also a more practical inconvenience to all of this waiting: For the last few months since I have returned I have felt somewhat in limbo; Do I set out in earnest applying for the advertising jobs I want knowing that I could be gone if I get picked up by the air force, or do I wait and see how it pans out during selection before I take any definitive action in that regard?  As much as I gripe on work in general, I am glad that I have a long-term employer in the mean-time who can accommodate my unpredictable schedule and who keeps me on staff knowing I might be gone in the middle of busy season.
   The most troubling aspect about the limbo I find myself in right now is that I do have a relationship which the possible acceptance into the air force has large implications for.  In winter/spring 2011 we had discussed moving in together and were both really into the idea but I decided against it because I wanted to see where I was with my air force transfer (if I got picked up I would be heading out west and I didn’t want her to be alone).  Obviously the transfer didn’t pan out that year.  So this year, even after the military contacted me in January telling me to get ready to be called for selection, we decided to get a place together (which we just moved into last week) and deal with whatever my transfer might mean for us as it comes.  At this point, whether I got picked up or not I mostly want an answer so I can know whether or not to get too comfortable where I’m at.
   It seems I have little difficulty recounting stories of my triumphs, and even my losses become fair game for recounting after the initial sting has worn off.  But I find it difficult to deal with obstacles I currently face and continue to face because the possibility of failure, or conversely the lack of any progress whatsoever bothers me so.  It feels good to be able to get this off my chest.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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