Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In so many words...In so few actions.

As a reflection of the prevailing zeitgeist of a vocal part of the world, I shall indulge you with some reflection on boycott.

The power of action through inaction, boycott stems from the name of the “Real estate agent of an absentee landlord” in Ireland in the 1880s. In response to high rental rates, tenants decided to avoid dealings with Mr. Boycott altogether rather than suffer through his unsympathetic approach to land-lease dealings.

Through the power of news media at the time, the term boycott was entrenched. In fact, in today’s world, it is this same media (with the additional benefit of technological advances) that serves as the primary means for the propagation of this same technique of protest.

This custom of social expression is frequently employed. We are often asked to refrain from buying non-organics, or non-free-trade coffee for example. It seems that the term boycott has also become synonymous with most major media events, from the Academy Awards to the Olympic games. It is this last that deserves more discussion, in light of recent events.

By nature, any public event deserves scrutiny, especially one that has, controversy notwithstanding, political overtones. The Olympics are first and foremost considered one of the world’s largest sporting events, (it is in fact the World Cup of Soccer that is the world’s biggest, viewed by over 700 million people). It is, however, an impossibility to disassociate them from politics. Whether one considers the history of the games, the Olympic Torch relay (a custom first started by the Nazi party in the 1936 Olympics as a way of associating Nazi Germany and Ancient Greece as two Aryan powers ) or the fact that competitors are divided according to international boundaries, the Olympics must also be considered de facto a political event.

In fact, activist and host-country alike should welcome the use of the Olympics as a political forum. One actor can celebrate the accomplishments and grandeur of a country, another voice their desire for independence from an oppressive regime. In short, under the microscope that is the world, perhaps the supreme form of peer review, these matters at hand can be digested, analyzed, weighed, and ultimately, with some fortune or wishful thinking, resolved or realized in the world forum.

Plainly it is also an opportunity to resurrect skeletons from the closet, bring to surface things that some would rather stay buried, and so is not something that is universally embraced. In the interest of optimism, I shall not dwell...but I strongly believe in the importance of debate, argumentation and dialectic with regard to the achievement of a better understanding.