02 November 2010


Emerson says, Let the Victory fall where it may; we are on that side. In his inimitable way Waldo is for the human...the WE is all of us and no matter what happens, it happens to us. He also says No matter how often you are defeated, you are born to Victory. So Victory means something more than "winning" to Emerson...perhaps it's simply the greater glory of being fashioned out of the divine spark.

But on this mortal plane we might concern ourselves with winning and losing and what they mean. It is election day after all.

Let's go about this a little sideways--we'll tell this truth slant--and start with this from Ta-Nahesi Coates at The Atlantic:

Surely there are aspects of humanity which are not pleasant. How do our institutions reflect that? Have we created institutions which look unseemly, but actually are addressing some deeply-felt need? In relation to football, what if we--as humans--have a need to vent aggression, even if only vicariously? And what if we do this through other people who will be richly rewarded for their sacrifice, but will also suffer tremendously?

This is in response to a comment about democracy and taking sides and the Jon Stewart thing in DC...and Coates's own responses as a sports fan (football in particular it seems). The analogy extends to we pay folks (a lot) to play for a side and then we revel in their wins/losses and in the process we "vent aggression".

I may be jumbling some things, but things are a little jumbled in the post. I can't say with any confidence that humans "need" to vent aggression--I am in no way an "ist" of any kind with any pedigree. I do get the picture though...and perhaps there is a conflation with the Aristotelian idea of catharsis achieved through these entertainments.

So much is being written now on "taking sides" (Chris Hedges has been working his hardest to create a massive depression in me lately via his work at truthdig that I may need to find someone out there who will present the "manic" side of life for me)--Red/Blue; Right/Left; Christian/Muslim...and so on--that I think I'll try to focus on just one aspect of the US/Them dichotomy that Coates refers to specifically: sports.

Chomsky (a personal rule of mine--always follow Emerson with Chomsky) has written well about the role of sports in inculcating this particular Us/Them dichotomy..."Team" is after all defined only in relation to another team.

This is the institution of sports I'm talking about. Playing games is not necessarily "sports". I hated playing Little League baseball even when winning because it was so full of expectation from parents and coaches and teammates--striking out was an offense, committing and error would result in massive guilt (deserved if you asked other players)...But I loved throwing and catching a baseball, and still do.

That for me is the essence of Sports vs. Play. One inculcates a kind of sociopathic need to WIN and destroy while the other is about physicality and freedom.

Now, Coates asks if this is humanly necessary--but what exactly? Institutionalized aggression? In this there seems no difference in claiming membership in a religion/cult; a tribe; a country club; a fraternity/sorority; a society; an occupation; a specialty; a nation; a state; a family. These institutions exist and their role is to perpetuate themselves. They wish to fund themselves...they wish to exert influence; they wish to be the "right" society/organization; institution. They claim their Victories daily.

I am afraid I am born to Victory and yet daily defeated by the divisive nature of culture and society--which is, after all, just another team I am on.


  1. Isn't this exactly what politics has become, us vs. them, blue vs. red? Our sports are oddly barbaric and simplistic if you think about it, well mostly thinking about football. Teams defend their land, the other team tries to aggressively take over that space. Isn't this what we do to each other as a society, and what our country does on a larger global scale? It would be interesting to compare the role of sports in other cultures. In South America sports is less formal, and more of the play you mentioned, the pick-up street games of soccer.

    I think this need to vent aggression is more specific to Americans than humankind. Somehow we've become a very aggressive nation, to each other and to the world. We do promote that manic idea of life, we constantly have to choose sides.

    But we instill this is our children very young. At 5 we enroll them in organized sports, and even if they're told they're playing to have fun, and not to keep score, they all keep score.

  2. I don't know enough of politics--I assume, if Rick Perlstein is right in his Nixonland, that the worm turned at that point and politics became far more "us v them" rather than the elected reps actually representing a demographic concerned with social issues and economic issues endemic to their "place" and motivated by local issues. WE all argue "nationally" now thanks to television and idiot cable show pundits.

    Taking sides in sports is pretty universal...and riots over sports outcomes have been a soccer phenomenon to my knowledge.

    However, yes, we inculcate team pretty early rather than play...we inculcate institutional obeisance as soon as possible. Then our masters allow us to vote...foregone conclusions as to policy implementation regardless of who is in the seat.

  3. I regret the media often paint stories black/white. Having spent many years reporting, there's no true two-sided issue. Nuances are everything, and never reported very well or thoroughly.

  4. You know, sometimes I'm against nuance...in terms of journalism I think there should be one motive: to find the truth through an examination of facts. This entails understanding motivations as well. There is no room for reporting X said Y...unless you then go on to investigate the truth of the claim--NOT just ask an ideologically opposite respondent the same question. We need to DISCOVER again that people lie, cheat and steal for REASONS that are discernible. The media as a whole has simply forgotten how to investigate and all we get is opinion from overpaid dunderheads who stopped learning new things in their twenties and simply parrot the "elite" who offer them talking points.

    Discover MOTIVATION and you have the story.