Friday, August 8, 2008

Does it matter?

Egocentricity: the state of being self-centered. And who isn't? How can you not view the world, and experience it, through your own eyes, filter it through your own experience, make sense of it through what you understand?

Did you watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games in Beijing? Look at China shine! Did your heart not recognize China's pride? Were their ceremonies not magnificent? Did you see the precision, the care, the unity, represented in each presentation? I was so impressed and moved. But I see this event, I understand it, as if it were staged in the USA and paid for by private donations. It's not.

At what expense-- at whose expense-- am I seeing this grander-than-ever introduction to an event that hearkens back to the ancient Athenians? An event performed in far simpler venues, for simpler reasons. Or were they?

Does what dazzles my eye, and impresses through technology-- a history lesson delivered via pyrotechnics-- also impress those who were hurt by the very country that stages the event that captures my imagination? This is a nation's pride on display for all the world to see. But what of the individual citizens? Are they dazzled?

At what expense to her own people did China display her glory? Halfway through the event a nagging voice said . . . be not deceived. This comes at great expense to many. And still I watch . . . one eye amazed and applauding, and the other spilling a tear. There was Tiananmen; there is Tibet.

And yet . . . we have our human rights violations, our horrors, in our brief 232-year history. Shameful ones. Have we risen above them yet? How much harder might it be for an ancient country like China, one bound in traditions for millennia the way its girls' feet were once bound? Might they need a longer time to unwrap the bindings?

Do you not see the beauty of the young athletes? Do their proud excited smiles not capture your heart? Skin colors from coal to cream. Does it matter? A language for every color-- some with alphabets, some without-- the words sound different, but they say the same thing. Does it matter? Do you see the symbols in the ceremonies? Peace, unity, harmony, togetherness, love . . . Do we not all want this?

What matters most? Our differences, or similarities? What matters most? Power, or understanding? What matters most? But it isn't this simple, is it? It isn't this simple at all.

It should be, but we just don't know how to make it work . . . yet. I'm not turning a blind eye to civil right violations. None of us should, in our country or any other. The love for our fellow man has to burn like the flame in the Olympic torch, and be carried from place to place until it burns in every heart.

It seems a distant hope, but I'd like to think it's possible.
The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that's wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us.~John Williams


Wanda said...

Oh sweet Ruth ~~~ what an amazing post, your words reached deep into my inner soul, and I had to shed a tear too.

I'd like to think it's possible. It takes each and everyone of us to take the responsibility personally and live it out each day.

Thank you for sharing you heart and soul in this one. I wish everyone could read this.

Love and Hugs

Amy said...

Right on! I am protesting the Olympics. OK, not really because I hadn't planned on watching them anyway. But I think your post is wonderful and so true. My friend was telling me about some of the horrible things that go on in China (he lives and works there), and I was like, this is where we're having the Olympics...really?

Ruth D~ said...

Wanda~ Thank you. I wrote this with my laptop on my knees while I watched. You're right, it is from my heart. I certainly hadn't planned to write about this. Who knows what my brain will write when I let it speak.

Amy~ There is a lot to protest in China, and in many of the countries whose athletes participate. Protests in China are met with force; the government wants a strong unified national front at the expense of the individual. The Olympics, being such an international event, will always be a stage for protest, and thankfully we have that right to do so. The biggest form of protest would have been if our athletes didn't attend, but the show would have gone on without us.

Tere said...

I too watched with the same feelings. As the fireworks went of in spectacular fashion, I turned to my son and commented that most of the people living in the area around the stadium might not have enough to eat but their government is showing the world their power and pageantry. We joked, in bad taste of course, that the reason so few dancers messed up was that they were afraid they would go to jail. So sad. But I feel the athletes of the world will rise above where they are competing and bring attention to what the games are about and the spirit of what China professes to stand for.

RiverPoet said...

This is a wonderful post, Ruth. I firmly believe that our goal as human beings should be to find that sweet spot of harmony. The Olympics are a great way to see a tiny slice of what it could be like. Though I have serious heartburn with China's human rights violations (and their continuing occupation of Tibet), I believe that the only way to change the world is to be the change you want to see in the world.

Which is why I always sign off...Peace - D

Ross Eldridge said...

Hi there, Ruth,

I couldn't bring myself to watch the opening ceremony at the Beijing Games ... these things are just TOO excessive. Sometimes ... to use the cliche ... less really is more.

So far, the Radio Times (media guide) hasn't indicated anything much that I'd want to watch. I'm hoping to catch the gymnastics, diving and swimming finals. But ... from what I've noticed ... British TV is showing British athletes and not much else.

At least, back in the coverage of the 1996 Atlanta Games, which I watched on NBC out of the USA, I did get to see, for example, the gymnast Aleksei Nemov and other athletes that were not American.

It's a shame the people taking part in the Olympics must carry the flag, wear it on their sleeves and stand to national anthems. And what a shame to hear the updates on the number of medals "our country has won". No ... OUR COUNTRY shouldn't have won them, an exceptional athlete earned each one.

We won't be one world so long as we march as national groups. At the closing ceremony, I believe the athletes ... usually the rump ... mix it up. I'll hope to see that.

A Scottish chap on our telly said: "The only people who actually watch the Olympics are those who are too ****ing lazy to reach for the remote." It's a good joke, but, here at least, it may be true. He also said: "And the only people who watch gymnastics are closet paedophiles." And I take umbrage at that. I would, I kind of like gymnastics. Something about kids running around with ribbons on sticks.

I suppose our Gordon Brown, and George Bush, rather hoped the Olympics would distract people from the collapsing economy. Certainly they injected politics into their pre-games rhetoric about China, even though they promised not to.

And then this business in Georgia. Happens, a good deal of Europe's oil flows through pipelines across Georgia.

I say let the Russians do what the UK and USA did in Afghanistan and Iraq ... invade a sovereign nation to protect their people and interests and security.

So ... more flags!

Imagine those early Olympics in "Ancient" Greece. The participants were naked. No flags, no national colours, no designer uniforms, no advertising patches. When you mentioned "Nike" back then, you weren't talking about sneakers!

Do we have a lot to learn FROM the Games now on TV? I think not. But I'd sure like to see people get together and have some fun. I really HOPE the lasses and lads in China ARE having down time, making friends. But are WE ... back at home?

How many English girls and boys have clipped a photo of some African or Asian distance runner and attached it to their mirrors simply because she is a brilliant athlete?

Okay. Time to hit the showers!

Ruth, afore I go, I love the style of your writing in this piece. Gold medal for you!



Brian Hayes said...


"The love for our fellow man has to burn like the flame in the Olympic torch, and be carried from place to place until it burns in every heart."

We feel it. Much to be done. We'll do it.

Ross Eldridge said...

I see some of the TV "live pictures" of the Opening Ceremony have turned out to be computer animation, not real fireworks!

Isn't this cheating?

Hard to love cheaters!

Is the flame real?

Ross Eldridge said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carter said...

When bread is scarce, circuses often do the job--for a while. But when the stadium closes, and the lights go dark, we can hope that people will think then.

You're thinking now.

Jen said...

Oh Ruth...I thought too of the gluttony while I watched it. It was magnificent and horrible all at once. Have you heard about this?

They used a pretty girl for the singing because the real singer apparently didn't have the stage presence or 'beauty' that China wanted to portray.

How do you tell your kids about that?

Barbara said...

I hear millions of flowers were planted in Tiananmen Square to try to mask the memories the world has of what happened there.