Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Africans vs. Their Africans

I am delighted to say that I have done a splendid job of avoiding news of the Olympic games. It is has been difficult, given the saturation coverage, but several weeks devoted to covering my eyes and ears whilst going "la, la, la, can't hear you" seems to have worked, and little news has seeped through. It was not until last night that I first heard mention of Hussain (sp?) Bolt. I gather he runs very quickly.

However, be my ignorance of these matters never so determined, it would take a deaf and blind lobotomy patient to be unaware of the dominance of ethnically African athletes in the 'proper' sports. (Tiddly-winks, figure-skating, basically anything involving points, simply doesn't count). Indeed this dominance is long-standing.

There was a time when even to draw attention to such a fact was to risk social ostracism of the most aggressively supercilious and patrician kind, but I sense that that time has passed. And it's only right to point out the dominance of, say, Caucasians in the swimming pool. But therein lies the difference: for every Moroccan or Ethiopian runner, that is to say an ethnic African possessing a Moroccan or Ethiopian passport, there is a young man or woman of, say, Ethiopian descent and in possession of a French or British passport; but how many Caucasians/Anglo-Saxons, call-us-what-you-will, carry Ethiopian passports? How many white Nigerian champion swimmers are there?

To ask the question is to know the answer.

Does it matter? Well since I couldn't give a flea's toss about the Olympics, no. But actually that's an evasion because the same situation holds true in the World Athletics Championships, about which I am not nearly so scathing. The point is: in all the national triumphalism, here and in other countries, when you filter out all the events the Africans can't afford to compete in, to what extent is a G8 national team's success dependent on its importation of African athletic talent?

Now a multiculturalist might say, "Hang on, there are British Africans. Britain, or any other country can take pride in the athletic achievements of its young, their ethnicity is irrelevant".

Hmm. I think my response is that that's wishful thinking. Consider the Soviet-US space race and the famous joke that success was a question of which side had imported the best German rocket scientists after the war. That's a partial truth, of course: success also depended on factors like the amount of money available for R&D, but the parallel is broadly identical.

So what are those who trumpet British Olympic success actually saying? Well, a team participating under the Union flag won a lot of gongs. But then so do Chelsea and Manchester United, and in neither case is the appendage of 'English club' anything more than a flag of convenience. And, interestingly, since these are private businesses, the correct-thinking political elite sees no difficulty with proposing curbs on the importation of foreign players; would it propose the same in respect of the publicly-funded British Olympic team?

Once again, to ask the question is to know the answer.

Perhaps a flag of convenience is exactly what national identity has become in a great era of volkerwanderung. But is that sufficient to constitute a tie that binds? That question brings us back to the multiculturalists who, in their zest for world government and the brotherhood of man irrespective of historic, blood or community ties, would certainly hope not. And if the multiculturalists are right to perceive the dissolution of ethnic national bonds, and indeed the dissolution of national bonds full stop, what then is the point of national pride in a team by definition antithetical to a national identity? The Union flag is now just a logo, which is an ironic outcome of a policy pursued, as often as not, by socialist internationalists hostile to logos.

For my part, aware as I am of the ethnic variations in Caucasian British identity even before the Empire Windrush, I am reluctant to ascribe my national identity to racial homogeneity. Which is not to say that racial homogeneity does not assist in defining certain nationalities. But I do think a shared history is important to British identity. Or was. And I regret its passing, mainly because no decision-maker has ever asked me or, the millions whom I suspect are like me, if we minded that this was what they were going to do. The truth is that those decision-makers, of all political parties, never gave a damn. They simply did what they wanted. Call me a bluff old recidivist, but I resent that.

The success of the British Olympic team, and the apparent popular pride in it is, then, the product of decision-makers who despise that very same popular voice, when it suits them.

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