The great Gloria Steinem was in these pages recently, and she had this to say about action and activism, or maybe their opposites.
“Pressing ‘send’ is not actually doing anything. It’s sending out information which may lead to action, but sometimes I feel, too, that I get some startling information about a problem, I send it to the relevant people and I feel I’ve done something. But I haven’t.”
Steinem’s point is well made, particularly in the context of decades of action, often unpopular, on behalf of the disenfranchised. It may seem a little excessive to haul it into the toy department, but the more you look the more examples you see.
There was quite a kerfuffle last week, for instance, about the state of the GAA in Cork, the reaction to the county hurlers’ defeat to Wexford, and to the document released by the Cork County Board coaching officer, Kevin O’Donovan.
The document was widely welcomed, with many people feeling it laid out some kind of blueprint for progress, even if the executive didn’t agree, and...
Steinem’s brief skewering of echo-chamber, virtual activism was never better illustrated. Everyone you think like thinks what you think, so what is achieved by circulating and approving what you know they’ll approve of anyway?
In what way is that a replacement for action?
The irony can’t be lost on anyone that sport, of all areas, is simultaneously an activity where people act in absolute direct terms — and yet conducive to the very opposite as well.
Those ironies don’t need a test case as obvious as Cork, either.
Consider the extent to which you can describe yourself as a great one for the hurling, a football man, an awful woman for the darts, big into the rugby… without ever making a real contribution to that sport.
Argue that payment for your TV package goes into your favourite sport, but to take the most obvious example, what does money paid to a transnational corporation covering soccer played in England by Ghanaians and Belgians for teams owned by Americans contribute to the game at grassroots level here?
The most damaging part of the above equation is that nobody feels there’s anything off-kilter in that web of relationships. This is the echo-chamber at work in reverse: If you and I feel the blanket media adoration of an upcoming fixture between (insert names of your preferred team and principal rivals here) is the focus both necessary and due to this clash, then why stand outside it and offer any kind of evaluation?
When this citizen worked in the Dáil, a deputy of my acquaintance had a traditional opener over coffee and the good scones in the self-service restaurant: “What did you do for your country today?”
Drop “sport” in for “country”, and ask yourself the same question.
McIlroy’s musings out of bounds
Rory McIlroy: speaking truth to power. Not Seamus Power. And not power, either, come to think of it, but annexing the golfer’s name to the traditional plea for honesty was just too good to miss.
It’s only a couple of weeks since McIlroy told the world he wouldn’t be going to the Rio Olympics because of the Zika virus.
How though the risk “is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless, and a risk I am unwilling to take.”
Then, last week, he said he wouldn’t be watching the golf at the Olympics, but the other events: “Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving, the stuff that matters.”
It’d be interesting to see how you could put a positive spin on that last comment. If McIlroy had come out originally and described golf as being outside “the stuff that matters”, which is a fair pointer towards his attitude by a process of deduction, then you’d have some respect for him.
If he’d said he had issues with the building of the Olympic golf course on a nature reserve, likewise.
Clearly you can have both fears about your health and a (healthy) disregard for a sport that has no place in the Olympics at the same time. The string of big golfing names who have pulled out of the Olympics, however, have simultaneously devalued the event and called into question its future inclusion in the games.
Equally clearly, only someone on serious mind-altering medication could take the Olympics seriously — this year’s version of the event, remember, had its dedicated laboratory for catching drug cheats declared unfit for purpose just a couple of weeks ago — but even the pretence of relevance takes another knock with McIlroy’s airy dismissal of an event which he was supposedly committed to only a couple of weeks ago.
Bear in mind also that “the stuff that matters” is under pressure from nonsensical inclusions like his own sport.
How long before that stuff is bumped for some other corporate lubricant?
The questions raised by Sexton’s return
In this paper last Saturday, there were some comments from IRFU head man Philip Browne about the provinces and the necessity for them to go it alone, in the words of the headline.
How then to square that with the deal struck to ensure Jonathan Sexton’s return from Racing Metro a couple of years ago, one which necessitated the involvement of a private investor?
More luck to Sexton for the support, and to Leinster, who benefit directly, but was that option open to all the provinces?
Was it taken up by any others or in any other situations? If not then why not?
And if not, then why was it allowed in Sexton’s case?
Oh naughty, naughty Netflix
I came across the news just too late — online broadcaster Netflix is purging some of its offerings from the Irish platform, some of which were on my to-watch list.
I refer to the Ken Burns documentaries, which formed part of a rabbit-hole I was keen on disappearing into.
Burns is behind some of the greatest documentaries of all time, many of them on key themes in American history. On jazz, the Roosevelts, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, The Civil War.
(Disclosure: I own The Civil War on DVD. One of the best parts is the exchange between Grant and Sherman in the aftermath of a battle with horrific casualties. “Well, Grant, we have had the devil’s own day.” “Yes,” said Grant. “Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”)
Fuller disclosure: I also own on DVD Burns’s Baseball, with which I have bored many a companion by describing it as the greatest sports documentary of all time. Fullest disclosure: it has been missing on loan for some time, and now needs to be reclaimed . . .
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