Thursday, July 10, 2008

Should Team Sports Be Banned From The Olympics?

The proposal has been around since modern revival of the Games started in 1896 about team sports should be eliminated. The rational being is that it is tantamount to simulated war games. Is this the Olympic Ideal in extremis?

By: Vanessa Uy

The proposed idea of banning team sports from the Olympic Games has perennially manifested in and out of discussion whenever we reexamine if our current Games are “keeping the faith” of the original Olympic Ideal. Compared to the amateurism versus professionalism debates of the past, which inevitably resulted in the creation of the American “Dream Team” wrecking havoc in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic basketball competition, the rational behind banning team sports from the Olympic events is by no means just a mere political demagoguery and anti-war rhetoric. After all, the two World Wars of the previous century have resulted in the cancellation of the continuity of the Modern Olympiad three times, as opposed in ancient Greece where it was on going wars and conflicts – not the Olympic Games – that gets suspended. Plus the recent widespread global criticisms on the Beijing Government’s questionable Foreign Policy decision to sell arms and provide technical support to the incumbent Sudanese government that’s responsible for the on going conflict in Darfur is a case in point. War is indeed seen by all as the worst anathema to the Olympic Ideal.

But if both team spirit and cooperation an (supposed?) integral part of the Olympic Ideal; wouldn’t it be bunkum to criticize on this? After all Mikhail Bakunin – famed anarchist and student of the “Human Condition” – have cited that humanity is very cooperative and creative when it comes to destroying his or her fellow human beings. Not to mention that the Olympic Games might become a tad bit boring if soccer / European football and basketball were removed because these “interesting” sports are for all intents and purposes signify simulated war games.

Has our argument now devolving into some philosophical “crepuscular zone” reminiscent of the former US Supreme Court Chief Justice Potter Stewart’s inability to define obscenity? Will commercial sponsors now be fleeing in droves because the Olympic Games had become boring and people lost interest in it because the probably two main crowd-drawers of the Olympics - namely European football / soccer and basketball are banned just because they "vaguely" resemble simulated war games to the powers-that-be. Thus creating a situation that compromises the Games’ ability to “pay its way”?

The good news is that team sports will still be an integral part of the Olympic Games for the foreseeable future – maybe for thousands of years hence. So for now, those in favor of banning team sports from the Olympic Games may just as well sit back, relax, and enjoy the Games. After all, many of us are still busy formulating “politically correct” ways to show our disdain against the Beijing Government’s stance on Tibet (or is “unlawful annexation of a sovereign territory” even defined as war anymore), His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Darfur without burdening the ordinary working class Chinese. I’m welcome to any suggestions.

Should There Be A Permanent Site For The Olympic Games?

With growing global concerns over the Beijing Government’s less-than-stellar Human Rights and Foreign Policy track record, is it high time for the International Olympic Committee to consider a permanent site for the Olympic Games?

By: Vanessa Uy

During the dawn of Western Civilization, the Olympic Games were originally part and parcel of ancient Greece’s theology and belief system. The games were held in honor of Zeus for nearly 12 centuries with almost no intrusion by politics. Back then, the Olympic Games were more than a display showcase of athletic prowess. Contests of dance and choral poetry are held together with the games on the plain of Olympia. The Olympic Celebration was of paramount importance to the ancient Greeks, even wars were interrupted to assure that the quadrennial (every four years) celebrations would take place.

But isn’t it high time for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider a permanent site or venue for the Olympic Games – preferably in Olympia, Greece. After all, the Olympics have been cancelled three times since the Games’ modern revival in 1896 because of the two World Wars. Never mind the constant plague of nationalistic political rivalries, plus the newer threats of “commercialism” that had turned the beloved “Hallowed Ground” of the Olympics into just another backdrop for advertising. Plus the constant threat of boycott every time the nation who won the coveted IOC bid still needs a lot of progress. Especially when it comes to Human Rights, the right to habeas corpus, or just the plain basic ethics that we in the “Enlightened Christian West” seems to take for granted on an alarmingly daily basis that this inevitably created “Gitmo” and Abu Ghraib.

Under our current agreement, the IOC chooses sites for the summer and winter Games several years in advance. Once the host countries are selected, it is the responsibility of the governments – and their respective local business entities - of these selected countries to provide all the facilities and the bulk of the financing for the Games. But these requirements have shown a track record of constantly reverting to excessive displays of nationalism by the host countries. Not to mention the construction of extremely expensive facilities which are seldom utilized after the said country’s duration to host the Olympic Games ends.

A permanent site for both summer and winter Olympic Games would be helpful in turning our present Olympics into a much stronger institution. Currently, the Olympics are seen as nothing more than a short-lived spectacle that’s vulnerable to political and commercial exploitation by their temporary host’s country. Given that the proposal for a permanent Greek site has a rational that the region is relatively stable politically both at present and in the foreseeable future. Plus, there could be an added bonus that the Games could acquire an identity of their own just like the celebrations of old.

In addition of a permanent site for the Olympics, it could also be a big help if the duration of the Games were extended from two weeks to, maybe, two to three months. In my opinion, this would allow the Olympic participants / athletes an opportunity to better know one another and also allows them to share experiences that are generally impossible in our current politically-charged competitive setting.

During my research: I’ve found out that thirty years ago the government of Greece had suggested proposals on some ways to proceed in establishing a permanent site for the Olympic Games. Especially when it comes to on how the financial burden shall be born. The Greek proposal suggests the formation of a politically neutral and militarily inviolable “Olympic State” in the area of the original site at Olympia. If this Greek proposal does go underway, the “Olympic State” would fall under IOC jurisdiction, although sovereign territorial rights would remain with Greece. The IOC would install and own the facilities at the site, plus the Olympic Committee would also be permitted to administer the Olympic area and granted powers to govern it. This enables the IOC to determine the terms of and conditions for entry. Greek law would apply within the area, but Greek military forces are forbidden to enter under any circumstances.

For all intents and purposes it was a good proposal. But many IOC member countries failed reaching a consensus especially when it comes to how the financial burden should be borne. And also of on how to equitably appropriate the financial benefits of the games among IOC member nations. Faced with this difficulty, the Greek proposal for a permanent site for the Olympic Games became more or less shelved indefinitely. But given the “perennial” problem of countries with less-than-stellar Human Rights and Foreign Policy records managing to win the much coveted International Olympic Committee bids to host the Olympic Games, isn’t it high time to reconsider the Greek proposal for a permanent site / venue for the Games?

Child Pornography: Do We Really Know It when We See It?

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll’s portrait photography of Victorian children to Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair photos of Miley Cyrus. When it comes to child pornography, do we really know it when we see it?

By: Vanessa Uy

If it’s hard to draw a timeline that shows how often free speech is co-opted by despotic political leaders, let alone made impossible to sort it out from genuine out and out obscenity due to the influence of “Aspirational Paedophilia” posing as free speech / artistic expression. Was this “threat” to Western Civilization started in 1998 when Hustler magazine CEO Larry Flynt started the Barely Legal franchise - thus making paedophilia aspirational – back in 1998? Or was it when the Russian teen Lesbian duo Tatu and accused punk poser Avril Lavigne battled for fame in 2003? Though many anti- Avril Lavigne websites still accuse Avril Lavigne of glamorizing the “Dickensian Dinginess” aspects of child pornography, by citing the way Avril Lavigne’s on-stage butt-crack exposure which became sexist humor fodder on the Joe Rogan Dough Stanhope era “The Man Show” is similar to the way Fiona Apple and Sheryl Crow glamorized the "Heroin Chic” in the late 1990’s. This despite the fact that Avril Lavigne will probably be turning 24 this year, thus proving the 21st Century adage that the blogosphere is indeed a fierce and fickle mistress, especially as an art critic. Add to that the recent row over the Miley Cyrus a.k.a. Hannah Montana “controversial” Vanity Fair portraiture by Anne Leibovitz and the Australian child pornography row over artist Bill Henson’s photo exhibition in a Sydney gallery depicting nude pre-pubescent kids that even “Lord of the Rings” and “Elizabeth” star Cate Blanchett managed herself to get embroiled. But the question remains; do we really know child pornography when we see it? Or is child pornography just a manifestation when the most cherished of our sociological constructs like Human Rights and Civil Liberties get trampled upon every time Halliburton and KBR exercises their “right to be greedy”?

When it comes to defining pornography and / or obscenity, the rational among us – which I hope constitutes the majority – always point out the immortal words of the former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. The famous quote of former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart goes as: “I know it when I see it.” Some say this highlights his failure to define obscenity during the Jacobellis v. Ohio case back in 1964 which later became a landmark US Supreme Court decision. But to some people – including myself – believes that what US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart meant about his famous quote “I know it when I see it” is that cases of pornography and / or obscenity should be examined on a case to case basis. Especially when it comes to Bill Henderson’s controversial photo exhibitions that the current Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has deemed obscene even though thousands of others have deemed it as mere artistic expression.

Sadly the wisdom of this landmark US Supreme Court decision went on unheeded – even viewed as just a mere US Supreme Court docket - when then President Ronald Reagan spent millions of American taxpayers’ money on a dubious pro-conservative biased study on pornography. Reagan asked then Attorney General Edwin Meese III to head this “commission on pornography”. This culminated into the 1,960 page report titled “Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography Final Report” dated July 1986. Unfortunately, the Reagan – Meese definition of “pornography” is next to useless when used as a benchmark to find out whether the “staged” antics of Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus and their ilk are guilty of glamorizing child pornography and / or promoting aspirational paedophilia.

The good news is that level headed folks everywhere now see the 1,960 page “Commission on Pornography Final Report” as nothing more than the Reagan Administration’s attempt at co opting every freedom loving American’s Right to Free Speech back in the 1980’s. Which makes the then President Ronald Reagan’s remarks on the signing of the Child Protection Act of 1984 rather somewhat bunkum. Hell, Avril Lavigne could have uttered those same remarks on Saturday Night Live and everybody would think that it’s one of those retro 1980’s stand up comedy routine.

The bad news is that the legacy of the Reagan – Meese pornography commission fiasco means that every “devout” Anglo-Saxon Protestants around the world now harbor an “eternal suspicion” every time they see those beautiful Victorian era Art Nouveau-like child portrait photography of Lewis Carroll – a.k.a. Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson. And interpret these as “child pornography”. Just like the current fiasco pertaining to Annie Leibovitz’s “Homage to Lewis Carroll” Vanity Fair photos of Miley Cyrus. Although the one where Miley Cyrus’ perky pubescence showing through her diaphanous sports bra might inspire every Vladimir Nabokov wannabes to invent lepidopteral / entomological labels for pubescent teen-age girls.

Despite of the political demagoguery that has become part and parcel on our attempts of defining what constitutes pornography and / or obscenity, to me, we may be misleading ourselves. Let along completely missing the point every time we examine the problem from the very narrow and somewhat limiting perspective of Abrahamic Theology / Judeo-Christian Morality. And everyone can now freely hate me as I say Darwin and Nietzsche could be right on the mark.

After reading the main article of the February 2000 issue of Discover Magazine about how Mother Nature utilized beauty as a survival trait. It began to dawn on me that as a society Western Civilization has yet to sort out what falls under “Slave Morality” and what falls under “Master Morality” in order to accept the true nature of ourselves. Babies, young kids, even pubescent teen-aged girls are genetically designed to be beautiful because it has a better chance of survival every time grown-ups with means (i.e. money, food, power, WMD s etc.) feel obliged to take care of them. We should be thankful to Mother Nature for delaying the manifestation of the "ugly gene” (usually this gets full-blown when one reaches 18) in each and every one of us for as long as humanly possible.

Though some might label my Darwinian embrace of aesthetic beauty as mere demagoguery, well, that’s their loss. Although in a perfect world, scantily clad perky pubescent teens do make great superheroes. Bad guys and everyone’s “Uncle Phil” would be “too distracted” to be evil. Someone should send a memo to Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee about this. But in the end who would you trust as the final arbiter when it comes to what constitute pornography and / or obscenity, yourself or an “organization” who thinks that the decision for one of their founders to burn alive 3,000 Jews is a good thing?