Friday, June 12, 2015

National excellence in #sports mirrors the national character

A good head rests on a good body. That was the ancient anthropology. That was the rationale and foundation of the Olympics. The idea could only come from Greece, the seat of ancient intellectualism and reason, whose influence is still very much evident today. When the elites of the Roman empire needed to educate their youth, they imported Greek philosophers and teachers. That accounted for the powerful and widespread impact of Greek thinking in Western thinking, an offshoot of the empire. That thinking is still very much felt today because underneath every politics through all the ages is that longing to be somehow be that Roman republic in its glory.

Against that background, there was no way that Gnosticism could flourish. Gnosticism was, and is, a multi-headed beast, but one of its major tenets is that matter is a fallen, inferior form of being, produced by a low-level deity. The soul is trapped in matter, and the whole point of the spiritual life is to acquire the gnosis (knowledge) requisite to facilitate an escape of the soul from the body. When the biblical thinking of Christians finally dominated the empire, Gnostic thinking ended up being relegated very much to the fringes. Bible emphasized that matter is good; redemption is not really that escape of the soul from the body, but rather the salvation and the perfection of the body. Because it does not denigrate the body, it should not allow the intuition that the body and mind are in antagonistic relationship.

What has that got to do with the present topic, which is sports? I will get to that directly, but I think it is important to first have a perspective of that said struggle because we in the modern world are very much under the spell of Rene Descartes. This is the reason why many could not get the point that Benign0 and Kate Natividad were intuiting in their articles, and the same point this article of Grimwald is hinting. The point is that NATIONAL SPORTS IS THE MIRROR OF THE NATIONAL PSYCHE, and for that matter, the national identity and the national aspiration. No identity, no aspiration, we are like the Rohingyas, but this time drifting in the sea of public opinion that scorn those who have no where to go. Why is this not obvious? Because Descartes, in discussing the res cogitans (thinking thing) and the res extensa (thing extended in space), drove again a wedge between the spirit and body. Because we are very Cartesian in thinking, we are in more ways than one neo-gnostics. This should not be a surprise because the shadow of Descartes' dualism have influenced Kant, Hegel and most modern thinkers and academics. That is what we have been chewing from elementary thru college and via modern media.

(This neo-gnostic mind can be demonstrated and dramatized by the latest sensationalized news of the Olympian Bruce Jenner transforming to Caitlyn. Because his mind said he is a woman, he made his body follow the mind via a medical procedure. It didn't occur to him that the body dictates the mind as well as the mind dictates the body in equal terms. That dichotomy of the mind and body cannot be possible in a non-gnostic, non dualistic, thinking.)

Thus, what we have today in Olympics and almost all sporting events are just about medals, and the fame and fortune that come with that, and nothing beyond. It is all about money and the commercials. So, FIFA, a supposedly prestigious sports association, could also be so corrupt if we go by the latest news.

In that respect, we probably have to look at China as the exception. Because of their aversion to Western thoughts and thus less influenced by the dualistic thoughts, they are more similar to the way the ancients thought. Even if the reason why they are not dualistic is because they don't believe in a soul, we still can't take away the fact that they may be more akin to ancient philosophers in this regard. Thus, even when they were still poor, scraping the bottom, which is really not that long time ago, they always saw to it that they always had full participation in the Olympics and the likes. It was not about money. It was about the national spirit, about the national psyche. which is more than national pride or prestige. In every sporting event, it was about measuring if their standards was in par with, or better than, the best in the world. The medals were just the measuring sticks, the medium, and not the objective. Hopefully, modernity will not damage the purity of the Chinese in sports, so the world could always have an image of the thoughts of the Greeks when they started the Olympics.

Sports, beyond physical exertion, agility, etc, is really more about the spirits of hard work, patience, consistency, perseverance, sportsmanship, fairness, teamwork, and giving credit where credit is due. Competition is there because we have to aim for excellence, the only way real achievements could be produced. It is not just about winning over another, although that is part, but it is really about safeguarding against falling into mediocrity. So, the medals are just visible by-products, which really falls short of the inner joy experienced by achievers who only compete with excellence, no matter in what form excellence manifests itself.

That is the reason why Sports have always been an important component of Education. Classrooms are for teaching theories and principles. Sports are there to augment and inculcate the spirits mentioned above. What is the use of a thinking human, if he/she does not have a character? In practice, sports is the best approach in building the character of the youth. That is the rationale why every Catholic school in PHL has sports in their curriculum — and possibly why Ateneo, LaSalle, UST have consistently been dominating UAAP, etc. You can't call yourself a Christian and be only after mediocrity. Those two are incompatible terms. Excellence is the enemy of mediocrity.

But even that rationale is now lost in these schools. Instead of sticking to what should be, they have searched more and more for what is convenient in doing things, and worse, acceding to what the public wants to ensure profitability. But, what can we do; a good many of the priests/ clergy are themselves neo-gnostics in thinking, so how can they even purge theology from the superstitions that is very much part of the animistic PHL even before Christianity came. Is this the reason why in a country, which is supposed to be 80% Catholic, religion and mediocrity go hand in hand? Either we go biblical in thinking, or we go neo-gnostics as advocated by Descartes, Kant, or Nietszche, but you can never blend the two, or you get a confused public. It is the biggest irony, I think. No wonder CBCP is now perceived as a meddlesome lot. And thus, among other things, Ateneo, LaSalle and UST have lost their impact on society. These are just prestigious schools, but really empty for they have become the symbol of the great ocean span between the rich and poor. So the rivalry of Ateneo and LaSalle in UAAP is good for entertainment, but it never uplifts the national psyche.

This is one reason why nobody gives a damn about the corruption going in the sports agencies, bureaus and departments. Like the CCT, the amount allocated to a beneficiary is arbitrarily imposed by this or that fee. So, an athlete entitled to say a monthly 15k pesos allowance gets only 5k in effect because some official said such and such
fees have to be deducted. Talk to our athletes and you ll know this is true. Never mind our taxes, there are also a lot of private donations in support of Sports. Believe you me, 80% of that goes to the officials. So, we have sports commissions that have more chiefs than Indians. Have you not noticed that when we send delegations to international events? We send 10 officials for every two athletes. We can laugh at this, but this is an outrage.

So let us ask, for example, where is the accounting of the US$ 2 to 4 million that is sent annually by FIFA for the development of football in the grass roots? I am sure it didn't go there for we at this late hour still had to import players for our Azkals team. Even Azkal, if we think about it, is a private initiative. If we waited for govt, we will be waiting for kingdom come before any competitive team could even be conceived. Thus, I would understand our two divers going to the SEA Games with just the idea of a junket. Hell, they can jump like Hermie the Frog, and who cares. The whole idea of Sports in PHL is about junket and shopping for the latest designers' craze at the event venue.

We may scoff at the corruption in Sports for in terms of peso value, they are small compared to that say in Customs, smuggling, LTO, DPWH, and such and such tongpats. But, think of China when they were poor, and you will see that this corruption is sucking blood directly from the very soul of PHL. We love basketball because it is about quick goals; we love quick fixes. Many Pinoys don't like soccer because it is about strategy, teamwork and patience. But, we will never change if we look at Sports only for its fame and fortune. Pinoys idolize Pacquiao because he got tons of money for his effort, but what about the rest of our athletes, how do we support them? In other words, China is where it is today because from the start, they have been interested in CHARACTER, not personality. And, that cannot be over-emphasized.

How can our interest be on strong characters if we are always and only obsessed by personalities? Is it any wonder why the word achievement is generally foreign to Pinoys, whether in Sports and other fields of endeavour?

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