Why don't people learn from history? Currently I'm reading all these bizarre and saddening stories about Westerners who would make up any excuse for the atrocities in Stalin's Russia, and then I turn on the news to see New Zealand politicians overjoyed at the free trade agreement they've scored with China, and very very quiet whenever someone mentions human rights. Probably two minutes before there would have been a news item on what scurrilous little Fiji has done now, and how noble our politicians have been in standing up against it.
It's not that I think our politicians shouldn't make a stand against loss of crucial rights in Fiji such as freedom of press. But I would like to point out, if I may, that Fiji is not in possession of a massive economy and therefore there's no reason for us to play dumb. Neither is Fiji shooting people in the back of the head every day and charging their families for the bullets.
Then the sports news comes on, and here's some more New Zealand athletes happily signing gag agreements, and explaining that politics has nothing to do with sports and that their job is to go and compete, and to hell with human rights. (I paraphrased a little there.) Thank goodness that some athletes, such as Mark Todd, have made it clear from the outset that they have absolutely no intention of keeping their mouth shut just to keep Beijing happy.
Maybe later that evening there will be a documentary on the Berlin Olympics in 1936 (any guesses on the amount of politics that will be featured in that story of sports?), or perhaps on the South African Springboks rugby tour of New Zealand in 1981. The noble few who protested against anything less than condemnation of apartheid. The exclusion of Maori players from the All Blacks team so as not to offend the sensitive white Springbok sportsmen. The evil sports bosses who claimed politics doesn't come into it. Bishop Desmond Tutu on how much the protests meant to them. Maybe a few sportsmen will be interviewed who will concede that at the time perhaps they hated the protesters, but now they have seen the light.
Please, sportspeople, politicians, pick up a history book. Every once in a while. And consider the probability that one day you will be featured in one. Do you really want to be the people we look back on, disgusted and amazed at how anyone could be so (a) stupid or (b) callous and indifferent to human suffering?
So. This year I am boycotting the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately my decision won't have much of an effect. Unfortunately most of those few people whose decisions would make a difference will be zipping their lips tight shut, because it's not their job.
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