We are all hypocrites. I would like to say that almost all of us are hypocrites, but I’ve yet to meet an exception to the rule, save for those most unfortunate among us: those so indoctrinated by the marketing machine that critical thought is nothing more than a term vaguely remembered being heard in a grade 12 philosophy classroom. For them, naivety and ignorance allow for a lack of hypocrisy. For the rest of us, our hypocrisies abound. I offer here that our primary hypocrisy as a society is what allows us to yell and scream but take no real action, to make no real change. This hypocrisy allows us to be appeased so very easily, and this appeasement guarantees the perpetuation of the status quo (allowing of course for nature’s rebalancing of our equations, but that’s another topic).
It is because we as a society, especially the middle class, have so much to lose that we can be appeased, placated and dismissed so easily and consistently; it is our fear of loss, however moderate, in our personal comfort that we allow ourselves to be led by fools using obviously corrupt institutions and displaying bankrupt morality. Our government is supposed to represent us, but I know of no one who feels represented by our so-called leaders.
I raise my hand without hesitation in acknowledgement that I am a part of this hypocrisy: I have been appeased, I am being appeased, I will be appeased. I offer no solutions to our situation, for I believe none exist save some manner of systemic collapse that, like a forest fire in the wild, allows for new and greater growth to appear. I look to history, to all the major civilizations of the past that we know of, and see three common reasons for their demise: resource depletion, greed and a prideful belief that their society would be the one to avoid the realities of the first two reasons, that their society had some sort of manifest destiny.
At best, I feel we can be honest with ourselves about where we are and who we are, and we can be present in this time, for this is in my opinion the most exciting time we could possibly have hoped to be alive.
The Olympics give us a great lens not just to examine our society, but to examine ourselves.
Let’s get this out of the way: the Olympics are a fraud, an excuse for those in power to give the money of the people (and future people) to other power players; it is an outdated, grandiose expression, perpetuated for centuries, that bigger is better, that unlimited growth is not only possible but mandatory. The corruption and/or willful ignorance of the IOC, the BC government and local officials, is well documented; the claim that the Olympics are a boon to a host city is only perpetuated by marketers and vested media interests; the developments to public land are moderately worthwhile at best, and certainly not a priority versus the always current lack of vital funding elsewhere. Even the athletes, often held up as a justified reason for such an extravagance, are a farce: the goal of winning a gold medal can most be chalked up to the sponsorships to follow, and what’s more, as a populace, do we really care about someone from our geographic area of the world being better at luge or speed skating than someone from a different geographic area? And yet, the games were held here in our largest local city. Why do we allow it? Why do we not storm the provincial legislature when we see that province wide vital services are being cut to pay for the multi-billion dollar over budget games? I, for one, have too much to lose. What’s more, I may even cash in on it a bit if all goes well. It seems many of us are in this boat.
My partner works in a bar in downtown Vancouver: we hope February will be a booming month of business that will help us in our dream of buying a property. My father is a well-known artist who accepted a good amount of money to perform during the games. A friend of mine accepted a large contract to work at a performance location during the games. None of these people think the Olympics are a positive thing for our society. These are just the close to home examples for me, but they speak volumes. Our society, as highlighted by the Olympics, is a pie that we know is poisonous, that we detest and protest, but we are each happy to accept our small piece of and dream of getting a larger portion.
Perhaps our hypocrisy is due to lack of options, lack of alternate avenues. There are so few ways of living in our society that don’t rely on the very machine that we see is the problem. I think this has led to a boom in the world of local food and crafts. In the end, our desire for a piece of the pie comes down to our needs: shelter, food, water, clothing; the pie is just a means to gain these essentials. I feel a deep level of liberation when I pick a carrot from my garden or buy a hat from a knitter made from local wool. In contrast to the spectacle of the games (which is obviously just a polished sheen on a rotten institution) such simplicity grounds me and enlivens me and I deeply thank all those who pursue such avenues with what vigor they can.
To me, the Olympics are not really a big deal in and of themselves, they are but a glaring example of the problems of our society. My hypocrisy – our hypocrisy – is felt all the more strongly but it is, in fact, no more present than it always is, for we are all hypocrites. So long as we pay taxes without representation, use a fiat currency, use any product that is not 100% recyclable, eat any food not grown in harmony with the people and the land on which it is grown, drive an automobile (including all electric), and countless other daily practices that we, to one degree or another, all engage in, we are hypocrites. For me, this concept is not disheartening, nor is it daunting. I try my best to recognize that every action I take, every decision I make is a choice, and I try to make the best choices I can. Sometimes I make bad choices and I try to learn from them. Often I make compromised choices, the best available, and thus I am appeased.
I will not celebrate the games in any way, including watching any part of it. I will not care in the least if Canadians win no medals or win them all. I will, however, use the Olympics as further reason to examine my own actions, my own decisions, and I will strive to make the best choices I can with as little compromise as I can. I will recognize and admit my own hypocrisies and work towards reducing them.
Mike King spends a startling, large amount of time sprawled in front a fireplace.