Olympic Protests or National Accountability?

Olympic Torch Protest in Paris

The protests over the Olympics have really gotten my attention.  My very first reaction was why would people mess with this wonderful tradition of the Olympics and the carrying of the torch.  I mean, what could be better than that?  But that isn’t the point, is it…  People aren’t protesting the Olympics, but they feel compelled to speak against the host country.  They are saying ‘something is rotten in Denmark’ (or China, in this case) and we can’t just say, “Rah Rah Olympics” when the host is oppressing a nation (Tibet, again, in this case).

Now I’ve no intention to comment on human rights abuses in the People’s Republic of China.  But I find the idea that the world (i.e. citizens of other countries a long, long way away from them, and with little or no say in that country) feel it is within their rights, responsibilities, even duty to hold China accountable.  I realize expatriated Tibetans, who are very involved with the situation are doing a lot of the protesting, but their support comes from their new countries of residence.

One of the unhelpful responses is for us westerners to point our fingers at China and say, “Ha, teaches you right.  You are doing bad things and the world is unhappy with you.”  We are tempted to do that because China has us all scared silly with their growing muscle in the economic, research, population, manufacturing, etc worlds.  You name it, after being in the lead so long we don’t know what to do with the fact that we see a much bigger vehicle approaching quickly in our rearview mirror.

The fact is that the world is shrinking.  While the world is getting more and more sophisticated and urban anonymity is more and more available to us, we are also getting closer and closer to each other.  We have a million ways, and a million watchdogs helping us look over each others’ shoulders.  And so our noses are in each others’ business.  Rightly or wrongly… doesn’t matter.  We are doing it.

Here is the other fact, lest we be smug Americans (this could also be written for Europeans, Australians, Japanese, whoever… but I’ll let them speak for themselves).  If the Olympics were to be held in the U.S. the torch bearing would be going no more smoothly.  Can you think of any nation whose citizens wouldn’t be stopping the torch and saying, “Out of Iraq!”  or “You’re not our policeman!” or “Clean up your industry before you tell others to do it!” or “Free the detainees in Guantanamo!” or “Restore Civil Rights in your country!”

Again, I’m not endorsing those critiques (although I do have my opinions; you have to buy me a beer, not just read my blog to get those), but I am saying that the same accountability the ‘world’ is leveling at China would also be leveled against us.  And we’d have to face it.  Here’s what we can have control over… actually two things:

1. Is it a good thing?  Is this just entitled judgmentalism on a global scale?  Or is it a global conscience learning how to flex its muscle? I’d venture a guess that it is a little bit of both and that such attempts are probably the only way the global community will learn to be mature with its new found power.  Besides, its going to happen, might as well get the adolescent acne stage going so it can be over with.

2. Are we going to seek to be ‘above scrutiny’ or not?  Is there, at least some, truth in the charges coming from all quarters that we can learn from? Again, I’ll venture a guess and say, “yes.”

Are there some early sounds of the kingdom of God in these groans of childbirth?  Hmmm…


5 responses to “Olympic Protests or National Accountability?

  1. I would love to think that it is global conscienceness but I know but. People can be very judgemental, even racist and that might be motivation for some. I think the majority of people want China to change their labor practices and with the elections this year I believe people just want to get the word out.

  2. I meant to say, I know better,not but I know but…geez.


  3. I’ll stick to my idea that as a global community we are all pretty immature in exercising the muscles of our conscience. There are many mixed motives involved right now and always will be. But I think even impure motives can work towards good. There is something about a collective conscience that has broken free of artificially imposed barriers – like national boundaries, language, proximity, etc – that has a tendency – in the long run – to balance itself out… sometimes anyway. And I believe this is where God’s Spirit gets involved. I give a lot of credit to that Spirit. I believe it is active and guiding. Especially those who are seeking its guidance, and even those who aren’t.
    It will make for a precarious world that seems to have little control, but it is capable of obeying rules higher than government.
    In case that sounds like utopia or anarchy, I don’t mean to go down that road. I’m not replacing traditional forms of governing human behavior, but supplementing and balancing them. A check & balance sort of arrangement.
    Don’t take this as a new manifesto, just my musings stimulated by current events.

  4. well of course are are immature in global conscienceness, it is basically a new concept. I think the late 1960’s was the first time that we saw for our own eyes that we weren’t the only nation in this World, until then I think we were pretty naive abotu anything beyond the oceans that boarder our country. When we sent reporters into Vietnam and fed footage back that was pretty traumatic and I think that was a big part of the anti-war movement of the 60’s and 70’s was the fact that we could see the pain and hurt of others. Then in the 80’s we lived in fear of the Cold War and the USSR and we closed up again to protect ourselves. I went to Russia in 1992 as a teenager, right after the wall came down, it didn’t change overnight, people were so scared and hurting, it was really hard to understand how we could be eating and staying in nice hotels and the people were waiting in lines for days for bread or whatever else they were giving away. I tried to take my dinner out of the restaurant to some of those in the street one night and the hotel workers would not let me because they were afraid it would cause a riot. Sorry I got off track, the 1990’s I think was the first time that we really started to see a sharing of ideas, of global conscienceness and that was late in the 90’s. Still we have to work against censorship and it is hard to tell what is real and what isn’t but we are very visual people and if you show us a mass grave in Tibet or child militia is Africa we are probably going to say ” that is terrible, what can we do, what can I do to stop that?”.


  5. As a former amateur athlete I would like to put my two cents in here. Most of us who play sport don’t care about the concerns of politicians, we just want to play sport. Through sports we come into contact with people from other nations, share laughs, life and joys. We are not at war like others are. When America boycotted the Olympics because of Russia’s invasions of Afghanistan, a Russian athlete summed up what we were all thinking, “more medals for everyone else”.

    I am looking forward to the games. I am looking forward to small little known nations winning medals. I am looking forward to the unity that comes from playing sport.

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