I cannot tell if tribalism is good or not. On one hand, I enjoy the Olympics quite a bit. The opening ceremonies are generally pretty cool. It’s nice seeing a lot of countries getting together and being generally sportsmanlike. Despite the vast majorities of sports being exhibitions of little-followed activities by overhyped athletes, there are lots of nice stories about how people persevered over being born very poor or with red hair and now, hey, cool, they can flip a snowboard really well at breakneck speed. Beijing and London, the two most recent Summer Olympics, were really great at educating the world on what makes the particular country/region unique and nice.
But, the thing that confuses me about the celebration is whether or not the particular focus is on maintaining those boundaries or transcending them. I am not suggesting that we get rid of all individual consciousness and merge into a transhuman cube structure, though you will assimilate when it happens, rest assured, but I am not sure if it’s the best idea to make a competition about how can swim 100 meters the fastest into a nationalistic thing. Thankfully, no one really cares enough about competitive swimming to make it into the spectacle of, say, a Brazil-Argentina soccer match, but the underlying tribal battle of nationalities is still there.
And I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, safe from the confines of my cozy little home, it is really something watching dueling battles of rabid fans go nuts at people wearing different colored jerseys, but, on the other hand, there are pretty massive security concerns toward this year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Russia’s domestic and foreign relations with the ethnic groups of Dagestan, Chechnya, Georgia and others in and around the Caucasus are causing many to worry about the safety of the games. While I am inclined to think that Putin will declare martial law over the area rather than risk an attack, the situation has been enough to cause several United States and Canadian Olympic hockey players to ask their families to not to make the trip.
The Olympics are not to blame for separatist tensions in southwest Russia, though, nor are sports in general. But I cannot help but thinking that these things can’t really help all that much.
When I was in high school in south of the river Kingston, Tenn., we all hated the football teams, and by extension a lot of their populace, of the rest of Roane County, although we were united by our loyalty to the University of Tennessee. As Vols fans, we really hated the rest of the SEC, but we were united by our hatred of Ohio State, Oregon, etc. And now, with the Olympics on us, we can put away those inter-conference hatreds and concentrate on cheering our athletes on against those other countries that are not as good as sports at us.
Given our tendency to think like this, maybe we need to establish a population on Mars. I would love to get together with some Russians and some Costa Ricans and some Australians and root like heck for our Earth boys to kick some Martian tail.