The ills of the current world system are playing out on sports fields around the world. From Donald Trump’s battle with the kneelers of the NFL (National Football League) in the United States to Barcelona’s decision to protest La Liga’s call to play against Las Palmas in Spain, we are seeing a real battle between the globalist forces of global media and global capital and those who believe in the unifying power of civic nationalism.

In the United States, we see that—actually—a majority of adult Americans (58 percent) polled from 25-26 September, 2007, believe that players should be required to stand for the American national anthem before sporting events. At the same time, a similar majority (57 percent) believe that players should not be fired for not standing for the national anthem. In keeping with a sense of healthy—and uniting—civic nationalism, the majority of Americans got it right. It makes sense that players should be required to stand and respect their country’s national anthem; players should realize that it is their country—in this case, the United States—that has given them a chance to make millions for essentially moving a ball around a field. Few countries offer sports figures such astronomical sums as the United States does, and it is not absurd that players should recognize this fact. On the other hand, players should certainly not be forced (by threatening their jobs) to stand since that would be overly coercive. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady agrees with the majority of Americans’ position, saying President Trump’s call to fire players was “divisive”.  In the end, on Sunday 1 October 2017, the New England Patriots lined up for the national anthem in a way that—I believe at least—every American can be proud of.

 

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The Patriots Live Up To Their Name. Image Courtesy Of: https://nep.247sports.com/Bolt/New-England-Patriots-Tom-Brady-an-anthem-display-Happy-we-respon-108300938

 

On the other side of the coin, it is not surprising that multinational corporations—like Nike and Ford—sided with the kneeling players against President Donald Trump. This is not because they approached the controversy in a nuanced way (like apparently most Americans did), but because it is these multinational corporations that profit the most from globalism. These are the same multinationals that have transformed football from what was once “the beautiful game” into what is now known as “industrial football”—where local clubs in Britain are run by billionaires from East Asia and Middle East. It is a football world where—somehow—a European team like Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes can field a team made up of only non-European players in the UEFA Europa League (at the expense, of course, of local Portuguese footballers).

For the multinational companies, their “support” represents a poor attempt to gain good PR. It is as if—by “supporting” the players’ “right to freedom of expression”—the exploitation inherent in Nike’s East Asian sweatshops will be forgotten; what happened to those who protested Nike’s use of child labor and their workers’ poor working conditions? It is all part and parcel of the contradictions of modern liberalism. The current world order has—somehow—conned well-meaning “liberal” individuals into believing that they are “fighting a good fight” while really contributing to their own—and other’s—continuing subordination by what we may call the one-dimensional thought of modernity, to borrow from Herbert Marcuse. This is because constant media narratives (from the West) and commentary from celebrity figures continually encourage the one-dimensional thought of the masses around the world. It is illiberal liberalism.

A recent football related development in Spain represents a perfect examples of how this process plays out. FC Barcelona played their fixture against Las Palmas on 1 October 2017 behind closed doors as a form of protest against the Spanish government’s treatment of Catalan protesters during a referendum on independence from Spain. FC Barcelona’s statement read:

 

FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression.

Given the exceptional nature of events, the board of directors have decided that the FC Barcelona first-team game against Las Palmas will be played behind closed doors following the Professional Football League’s refusal to postpone the game.

 

The team’s statement had all the hallmarks of modern “liberal discourse”, including the “democratic right to free expression”. For the team, it is a PR coup. They also had the classic celebrity backing, in this case coming from a “tearful” Gerard Pique who threatened to quit the Spanish national team. Former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola also weighed in, saying he wouldn’t have played the game at all, while his statement “Spain will try to hide the reality, but the rest of the world’s media will show it” represents a perfect example of the synthesis between celebrities and Western (in this case, non-Spanish) media in shaping public opinion. Even the football shirts worn in the match were political, as Barcelona donned a strip in the colors of the Catalan flag while Las Palmas showed up with a Spanish flag embroidered on their jersey.

 

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The Empty Stadium At Least Served for FC Barcelona to Send their Message: More Than a Club (Don’t Think That This Was Not Intended). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838

 

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The Political Jerseys of FC Barcelona (Middle) and UD Las Palmas (Bottom). Images Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838

 

Amid the maelstrom of controversy (because, somehow, the modern world—despite its inherent “liberalism”—is rife with conflict), the inevitable question rises: Which side, if any, is right? The answer is not easy, and in order to even attempt to answer this question we must attempt to break free of the kind of one-dimensional thought that threatens to paralyze our ability to think independently in the modern world. We must open our minds to alternative interpretations of events, free from the narratives we are constantly fed by our newsfeeds on social media and in the 24-hour news cycle of modern mass media.

First of all, in regards to Barcelona’s decision, it is unclear who the winners are: the players were unhappy (Pique was “tearful”), Mr. Guardiola was unhappy, and I don’t think Barcelona was very happy since they were caught between a rock and a hard place; either they could make a real political statement and boycott the match and then stand to have six points deducted, or they could save the six points and keep their hopes for winning a championship alive and (of course) earn more money for their brand in the process (they chose the latter). The biggest losers were most certainly the fans, since tens of thousands of people travel to Barcelona every year just to experience a game at the legendary Nou Camp. Those fans—who paid good money for a trip to Spain and a match ticket—were denied this experience. Perhaps the only winners were multinational corporations—like Nike—since the match served as a giant advertising campaign: Nike’s Catalan flag-themed shirt was on display along with their traditional “swoosh” due to the empty stands. It was the same old story of industrial football, the fans lost and the corporations won, all while the players cried crocodile tears. What is most interesting is that nowhere in the mainstream media will you find this analysis; mainstream media is too busy fawning over the romantic notions of “democracy” and “freedom” (even if it comes at the expense of the “middle class”, the ticket-purchasing fans).

 

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Nike Wins Big…As The Fans Lose. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/10/02/pep-guardiola-condemns-decision-play-barcelona-vs-las-palmas/

 

Second of all, in regards to Catalonia’s decision, it is similarly unclear who the winners would be in the event of Catalan independence from Spain. It is even unclear how many people want independence or even what these protests mean, despite mainstream media’s analyses. The BBC believes it is more populism than it is separatism, yet it is “leftist” Antifa forces who are calling for “occupation forces” to get out. If the Catalan referendum is about populist nationalism, then why is it a leftist cause? Here we clearly see the crisis of modern liberalism. Since the issue has been framed as one about “democracy”, one would be forgiven for believing that most Catalans want independence. The BBC says first that the vote in support of independence was nearly 90 percent, before going on to tell readers that turnout in the referendum was…just 42 percent. So what about the other 58 percent that did not vote? Any novice statistician (as well as marginal sociologist) might be able to explain that there may have been a social desirability bias in play; those who wanted to vote “no” may not have voted because a “no” vote was framed—by international media and celebrities—as one against “freedom” and “democracy”, among other things that no humanist individual could honestly be against. In fact, according to the BBC, a July 2017 “public survey commissioned by the Catalan government suggested 41% were in favour and 49% were opposed to independence [for Catalonia],” supporting the argument that the 58% percent of referendum abstainers were, in fact “no” voters.

 

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Catalans Calling Spanish Police “Occupation Forces”. Image Courtesy of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41479048

 

That so many Catalans should reject independence is telling. While it may be mind boggling for some to wrap their heads around, I believe there are many reasons that Catalans might reject independence from Madrid. First and foremost, geopolitically speaking, an independent Catalonia would make just one more insignificant nation-state carved out of a formerly significant nation-state. Once powerful states like Yugoslavia—and now Syria—have been torn apart by civil wars (encouraged or ignored by outside powers); it seems that what is happening in Catalonia is yet another example of this process, yet one done in a more civil manner. It is encouraged non-violently by the media rather than violently by international arms traders (please see my piece on globalization as a more humane form of imperialism for more on this topic).

 

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Is it “democracia” in Catalonia? …. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/10/02/pep-guardiola-condemns-decision-play-barcelona-vs-las-palmas/

 

_98097208_scoreboardempty.jpgOr a Showcase for International Capital (Like Rakuten, Beko, and Nike? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838

 

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Rakuten Takes (Literally) Center Stage as the Company Becomes Bigger Than The Sport. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41459838.

 

Secondly, economically speaking, an independent Catalonia would be far from an economic powerhouse. As a small nation—which would likely have poor relations with their neighbors Spain—an independent Catalonia would be beholden to international finance and/or the European Union for support. Perhaps that is why international media and celebrities are so keen on pushing for Catalan independence; with it the transnational visions of the European Union might be rekindled as yet another state will fall prey to the forces of predatory globalism (to borrow from Richard Falk). This may also be the reason that the European Union has been unable to deal with their own hypocrisy, as the New York Times notes in a typically biased piece:

 

Police officers in black RoboCop uniforms and Darth Vader helmets blocked ordinary citizens from voting. They beat people with batons, fired rubber bullets and wounded pensioners. All of it was captured by smartphones and news cameras and spread around the world. It is the kind of violence the European Union would ordinarily condemn in high moral terms and even consider punishing. But that was not so easy this time. The nation in question was one of its own: Spain.

 

The New York Times, like the BBC cited earlier, tries to connect the Catalan case to “nationalism” and “populism”, since these are verboten terms in the modern media narrative…yet this poor attempt to “frame” events also shows the hypocrisy—and illiberalism—of modern liberalism at the same time. A left-leaning news site, Slate, makes this contradiction even clearer in a piece written by Joshua Keating:

 

Over the past two weeks, two very different nations—Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia—have taken steps toward declaring themselves independent states. Both have been met with hostility by the countries they’re trying to split from, and indifference from the rest of the world. Both have sent a strong message to nationalists and secessionists around the globe: The established countries are an exclusive club that’s typically reluctant to admit new members. Both places have learned just how few advantages separatists have in breaking into that club.

 

In this comparison between Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia, Mr. Keating paints a sympathetic picture of the separatists since they are the are the underdogs to the nationalists. They are not part of the “established” and “exclusive” group of countries, they are “without privilege” in Sociological terms. These sentiments are, of course, a part of the politics of victimhood. Yet Mr. Keating continues his piece, describing Catalonia, with this sentence:

 

The level of political breakdown on display here [Catalonia] is something new and unprecedented for a Western European democracy in recent years.

 

It is almost as if Mr. Keating is unable to understand that Western European Democracies—as well the United States—have been fomenting this kind of “political breakdown” for years by encouraging the emergence of identity politics. Since the days of “self-determination”, proposed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Western democracies have pushed identity politics both at home and abroad as a way of garnering votes. Just a cursory look at voting charts in the United States shows just how important identity politics—particularly based on race and gender—are in determining voting patterns. It is unforgivable for a journalist (from a left-leaning website, no less) to be seemingly oblivious to the dangers of identity politics.

Thirdly, sociologically speaking, an independent Catalonia would be devastating. The new nation state would be one founded on division, as well as one that would be far from the inclusive vision of civic nationalism. In fact, an independent Catalonia would be one founded on racial and ethnic exclusion, Catalonia for the Catalans! It is my hope that ostensibly “liberal” onlookers take note; supporting division based on ethnic identity is as far from the “inclusive” vision of modern liberalism as it is from “civic nationalism”. If anything, it is reminiscent of the fascistic forms of ethnic nationalism that gave Europe two world wars in half a century.

Catalans and Madrid must come together and negotiate a better way forward together. This is not Brexit, where “together” (part of the slogan of the “remain” camp) meant the continuation of a transnational union at the expense of national sovereignty. In Spain, “together” means the Spanish nation state coming together to resist the forces of transnational globalism in support of national sovereignty. If there is any connection between these two events, it is the positions of “Leave” the EU and “no” to Catalonia as a republic. Nations can only be strong if they stay together and, most importantly, work together. Humanity cannot sustain being broken into smaller and smaller units, which—ironically—causes more division than it (supposedly) heals without alleviating the problem of domination (in the Foucauldian sense). Spaniards and Catalans are better off solving their issues and remaining united; with the alternative of the Syrian example (a conflict also framed in the name of “human rights” at the outset) close at hand, observers would do well to think about just how dangerous—and bloody—encouraging division really is.

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