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Emile Durkheim, Donald Trump and Manchester United: A Short Essay on The Media and Corporate Greed

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Time to “Kick” Corporate Greed Out of Industrial Football? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2924895/Eric-Cantona-wish-d-hit-harder-Manchester-United-legend-shows-no-remorse-Crystal-Palace-kung-fu-kick.html

 

Business Insider recently published a piece with the headline “Manchester United is blaming Donald Trump for the club’s half-year loss of £29 million — here’s why”. Considering that the piece garnered almost 5,000 hits in just under 24 hours I might need to consider using sensationalist headlines myself, but I digress. According to the article, Manchester United FC had to write off £48.8 million ($67.9 million) and “because of US tax cuts imposed by Trump, United posted a half-year loss of £29 million up to December 31, 2017”.

Given that the club’s chief financial officer noted that “It should be beneficial to the club in the long-term”—which should not be surprising, seeing as how Mr. Trump’s tax cut was designed to favor corporate entities like Manchester United—the sensationalist headline was surprising. Indeed, it is so surprising that it is worth delving into. While the headline follows the tendency towards one-dimensional thought in the media—anything negative about U.S. President Donald Trump sells—it also does nothing to further the traditional “watchdog” role of the media. In the past, the media acted as a counterweight to the state/government/dominant narratives; now it seems as if the media merely trumpets out the same old familiar lines day in and day out. It is one-dimensional enough to turn one off from even reading the news—which would be a feasible course of action were it not so dangerous!

What is most disturbing about this headline, however, is that Business Insider (and other outlets who carried the story with nearly identical headlines such as The Daily Mail, Bleacher Report, and The Telegraph) conspicuously ignored the much bigger—and more concerning—picture for football fans and normal citizens alike.

Who, honestly, really cares how much Manchester United loses? Does a £29 million loss really mean a lot to Manchester United, the most valuable team in Europe according to UEFA, with a value of 689 million Euro and a yearly growth of 169 million Euro (32%)? The question journalists should be asking is just why we care that a football team—that is supposed to be for the people (just like our countries used to be)—needs to make such obscene amounts of money. It is this kind of corporate greed which has led the world towards a tipping point; capitalism cannot—and will not—be able to sustain continued growth to infinity. Just like the club revenues of football teams in Europe that have tripled this century according to UEFA, it is inevitable that the upwards trend will end. The question, of course, is when. And it is a question which journalists are clearly not willing to touch.

 

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Where Does it End? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.uefa.com/MultimediaFiles/Download/OfficialDocument/uefaorg/Clublicensing/02/53/00/22/2530022_DOWNLOAD.pdf

 

This kind of greed has had negative effects on working classes and middle classes all over the world, and that is why it is something—one would think—that journalists would make note of. In national terms, this has led to a “bloated” and “unaccountable government” in the United States; as the (conservative!) Washington Times notes

bureaucrats in the information business flout the law, as though they’re above it. While those in charge of our money use it like a never-ending water stream, that is unending and belongs to them [. . .] When the government views the citizen as the servant, we get weaponized law enforcement agencies to be used against us, and law-breaking agency bureaucrats and politicians who see our democracy as an inconvenience to be subverted.

This is why the issue of corporate greed goes far beyond the faux “left” and “right” dichotomy that, clearly, journalists love to underline in order to (you guessed it) sell more news!

Indeed, the United States—like much of the world—is facing absurd amounts of equality even though there is more than enough money to go around. According to the United Nations, the poverty and inequality in the U.S. is “shockingly at odds with [the United States’] immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights”. Similarly, the Economic Policy Institute found in 2017 that “in 2016 CEOs in America’s largest firms made an average of $15.6 million in compensation, or 271 times the annual average pay of the typical worker”. As the report shows, this is “light years beyond the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and the 59-to-1 ratio in 1989”. Indeed, “the average CEO in a large firm now earns 5.33 times the annual earnings of the average very-high-wage earner (earner in the top 0.1 percent)”. Clearly, the jump in discrepancy between CEO’s and average workers since 1989 (not coincidentally, the end of the Cold War) is not sustainable. What is more alarming, is that this absurd gap is not just confined to the United States; as Bloomberg notes (https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/executive-pay many European countries also have large discrepancies between CEO and average worker, even if they are not as astronomical as in the U.S. (Indeed, in Manchester United’s home country, the UK, the ratio is 201 to 1).

 

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Its Not Just an American Problem. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.epi.org/files/pdf/130354.pdf

 

The scariest part of these figures is that while CEO pay has increased from 843,000 USD in 1965 to a projected 15,636,000 USD in 2016, the annual average wage for private-sector production/nonsupervisory workers increased from 40,000 USD in 1965 to a projected 53,300 USD in 2016. That is an astounding 936.7% increase in CEO pay between 1978-2016 and a mere 11.2% increase in average worker pay during the same time period. Needless to say, the issue is not that there is not enough money to go around; the issue is corporate greed. And it should be clear that this system is not sustainable, it will—quite literally—lead to the end of world civilization as we know it. And the solution will certainly not be found if the media continually ignores inequity in the favor of furthering their own bizarre sensationalist agenda based on the imagined “left” and “right” divide.

 

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It Is A Sad Sight Indeed. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.epi.org/files/pdf/130354.pdf

 

Here, French sociologist Emile Durkheim is quite relevant. I quote from George Ritzer’s The Development of Sociological Thought (8th ed.), the text I use in my class:

In Durkheim’s view, people were in danger of a “pathological” loosening of moral bonds. These moral bonds were important to Durkheim, for without them the individual would be enslaved by ever-expanding and insatiable passions. People would be impelled by their passions into a mad search for gratification, but each new gratification would lead only to more and more needs. According to Durkheim, the one thing that every human will always want is ‘more’. And, of course, that is the one thing we ultimately cannot have. If society does not limit us, we will become slaves to the pursuit of more (Ritzer 2008: 81 [Emphasis mine]).

We would all do well to keep Durkheim in mind given the massive amounts of inequality we see in the world. It is our responsibility—as citizens—to keep our journalists aware that they exist to serve the people, and not their corporate sponsors. Their job is to print news that keeps business and government accountable, not sensationalism that panders to the zeitgeist of the day.

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Industrial Football, Globalism, Homogenization Consumerism, Imperialism, and Football Shirts: The Case of Leeds United’s New Crest

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Most football fans will already be aware of how industrial football works. As it encroaches on football clubs it first globalizes them, distancing them from their localities and their fans, before homogenizing them into a form more compatible to the consumerist culture of extreme capitalism. At the same time, industrial football serves to only benefit the same groups that stand to benefit from a globalist, “borderless” world: multi-national corporations.

Leeds United is the latest club to face the wrath of industrial football gone mad, with their hideous new logo. Like Juventus, Leeds United’s technocrats came up with a brand new logo, prompting ridicule from the football world. Even heartburn remedy Gaviscon recognized the ridiculous new logo as what it is—hideous.

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The New Crest is Definitely “Soulless” and “Offensive in its Robotic Inoffensivity”, Which–I Suppose–Is Important In a World Where People Look For Ways To Be Offended.

 

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FC Zenit’s Fans Always Know How to Point Out Absurdity in Industrial Football.

 

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Point Well Taken Mr. Short, Leeds’ New Crest Is Depressingly Ahistoric.
Images Courtesy Of: https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/909386/Leeds-United-badge-logo-salute-LUFC

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/heartburn-remedy-gaviscon-posts-ad-mocking-new-leeds-united-crest-1-8983602

 

The Independent’s Jonathan Liew gave a good reason for why Leeds United’s new crest should not, necessarily, surprise us. Liew notes the “faux-inspirational” dogma with which global corporations speak to us these days, referencing a message he saw inside a package of muesli: “No-one ever looked back at their life and wished they’d spent more time at work”. I have long railed against this kind of faux-inspirational language emanating from the corporate world; for me the Gap’s ridiculous holiday slogan of “Love” is a cheap attempt to frame consumerism as a humanist virtue when, in reality, it is just boring clothing with no emotional value whatsoever being sold as something more. Liew correctly notes the reason that such cheap marketing ploys work on us:

 

Part of the reason our muesli and our shower gel have started talking to us, I think, is to do with the way we interact with each other these days. The face-to-face and the voice-to-voice conversation have been supplanted as our primary means of communication by the email and the instant message. Though we are all theoretically closer together, we are actually more alone, and more detached, than we ever have been. And so into this torrent of words and pictures slide the brands: cleverly disguised as your friends, talking just like the sort of regular people you would meet, if you ever met people, or talked to them. We have replaced genuine human connection with an ocean of talking machines spouting cutesy banter, and when most communication has been stripped of its basic human signals, it’s tempting to wonder: what, really, is the difference?

 

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The Gap, A Globalist Company That Sells Our Human Emotions Back To Us. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.lovemarkscampus.com/gap-love-comes-in-every-shade/

 

In a world where social media has alienated us from one another more than we could have ever imagined, we are seeking emotional connections to…corporate brands. If this is not absurd, then I do not know what absurd is.

The Sunday Express’s Joe Short labeled the new badge “soulless” and “offensive in its robotic inoffensivitiy”. At the same time, Mr. Short connects the entire process to globalism and the homogenized consumerism it encourages:

 

Make no mistake, Leeds in rebranding are setting themselves up for the world. And to do that you need to play by the world’s game. And that includes design, it includes marketing. It’s why Everton changed their logo to a simpler design so it can go on pencils and key rings and all the other crap a football club mass produces.

 

Hopefully, the fan’s protests will reverse the team’s decision. Sadly, I am not very optimistic. This is because this same process has happened elsewhere, and not just at Juventus.

The uniforms for the Dutch women’s national team changed in summer 2017, with the classic Dutch crest’s lion undergoing a sex change. According to shirt designers working with Nike “It’s a message that gives female players something of their own to rally behind and to help drive sports participation amongst women in the Netherlands and beyond”. At the outset it seems like a suitably noble endeavor; couched in the language of “gender equality” and “social justice” the casual observer would think that there is nothing wrong. Yet—as one commentator on Dezeen’s online story points out—hidden in the “lioness’” tongue is a Nike logo! This is how the globalist world works. It tries to sell us corporatization and consumerism and homogenization with catchwords like “equality” and “tolerance” and “progressive ideology”.

 

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Notice the Nike Logo? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/07/13/royal-dutch-football-association-replaces-lion-crest-with-lioness-national-womens-team/

 

This is how a memorial for a heinous terror attack becomes mere product placement for a budding artist; using a tragic event to sell art must be one of the lowest forms of life but . . . people do it. This is how the European Union, sold to us as the panacea to Europe’s political problems and the end of fascistic nationalism, becomes—itself—the prototype for a fascistic world government. Because it sounded so good to progressive minds, no one could see that taking away national sovereignty—and governments for the people and by the people across Europe—would result in a technocratic form of fascism.

Now, the fans of Leeds United have learned just how fascistic extreme capitalism in the globalist world can be. Juventus fans learned it last year. Just how many more teams—how many more communities—have to lose their teams to consumerism before we all wake up to the undeniable fact that globalism and globalization are a lie?

Football Fandom as Good Citizenship: Besiktas Fans Do the Right Thing

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In an increasingly globalized world characterized by a growing bureaucratic rationalism within the context of extreme capitalism, it is becoming harder and harder to have real—in the sense of meaningful—ties with our fellow humans. Even national identity—and the very concept of citizenship—has come under attack, with people like the globalist Turkish academic Deniz Ulke Aribogan lamenting citizenship itself: “If you are an individual you have rights. If you are a citizen you have duties,” she says, seemingly irritated by what she calls “walled democracies” which have replaced individual “rights” with “duties”. In her mind, it is the borderless globalist world that would be preferable. Yet in my mind, I know that the idea of a “borderless” world is just as fake as the idea that, in the (neo)liberal “modern” world, everyone has become “tolerant”. Of course, it is so clear that the very opposite is true; in fact it is just the political correctness and faux “tolerance” of the modern world that has only served to paint over the ugliness that resides in so many. Even if the “modern” world tries to paint over its blemishes—enacting smoking bans and even trying to phase out alcohol consumption by replacing it with a synthetic alternative—it is clear that the unpleasant and irrational still exist and will continue to.

On 15 January 2018 a disabled youth was savagely beaten on a minibus in the southern Turkish city of Adana. According to reports, the twenty-year old—who is deaf—was approached by a group of four young men who asked him to move out of their way on the minibus. When he did not respond—since he was deaf—they started attacking him. When he tried to respond via sign language, his assailants redoubled their efforts. After their arrest, the savages—one of whom was a kickboxer and another who was a medical student (!)—claimed that they thought the youth was trying to make obscene gestures while he was just trying to communicate. This sad event is absurd on multiple levels: It is absurd that four healthy people should assault an innocent disabled young man is absurd; that one should be a kickboxer and another a medical student only serves to double the absurdity; yet perhaps the biggest absurdity is that passengers on the minibus did nothing as they saw this ugly beating unfold. The fact that the passengers on this minibus did not speak up only serves to show just how alienated we—as citizens of the modern world—have become from our fellow humans. Just like the modern world paints over unpleasantries like smoking and drinking, the modern rational individual paints over their lack of morals with political correctness and blind adherence to “progressive” ideologies. Yet, it is clear, that the rationality of “modern” man—which says “do not intervene in someone else’s fight”, even when it is clear that a disgusting attack is unfolding—has lost all connection to humanity.

 

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Carsi Stand up For Racism in Football, Even Outside of Turkey. Image Courtesy of: http://www.diken.com.tr/carsidan-sirbistanda-irkci-saldiriya-maruz-kalan-brezilyali-oyuncuya-destek-mesaji-hepimiz-everton-luiziz/

 

Thankfully, not all of us have accepted the doctrine of modern “rationalism”. The fan group of the Besiktas football team, Carsi, has been lauded as “A movement for society and self-improvement” (https://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/04/13/a-movement-for-society-and-self-improvement-besiktas-carsi-ultras/ . Indeed, I have written before on the positive contributions of Carsi to Turkish society whether by standing against authoritarian leadership or supporting earthquake victims. Recently, they stood up for a Brazilian footballer who suffered racist harassment in Serbia. But the team also keeps up with domestic issues in Turkey. In 2015, after learning that Reza Zarrab—the Iranian trader who orchestrated a billion dollar scheme to help the globalist leaders of Turkey skirt sanctions against Iran—had purchased a box seat at Besiktas’s new Vodafone Arena Stadium, Carsi spoke up.

 

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Carsi Stand Up For Their Country. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.diken.com.tr/carsidan-sarraf-tepkisi-besiktas-milletin-a-koyacagiz-diyenlerle-saf-tutanlarin-takimi-degil/

 

Their Tweet read “BESIKTAS will remain the team of the people, not the team of they who stand with those that say ‘we are going to F*** the nation’”. They were harsh words indeed, but they were words that show Carsi’s odd combination of anarcho-leftism, populism, and nationalism. Indeed, it is a potent combination that resonates with many in Turkey, and for good reason. Indeed, the disabled young man who was savagely assaulted in Adana was invited to Besiktas’ Vodafone arena on 18 January 2018 after he revealed that he was a Besiktas fan. Next week it is hoped that the young man, Agit Acun, will attend Besiktas’ match against Kasimpasaspor.

 

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Young Agit Acun Poses at the Vodafone Arena. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.besiktas.com.tr/2018/01/18/spor-agit-vodafone-parki-gezdi/

 

How quickly Agit Acun’s fortunes turned thanks to his connection to football and the sense of community—of humanity—that the football fans have. In an age where humanity is being slowly whittled down into a wholly rationalized shell—and in a world where industrial football threatens to rationalize football as well—it is good to know that there are some of us who still express the most irrational of human emotions: love. Whether it is love for a football team or love for a fellow citizen, some football fans have it. That is something that we should all be grateful for. In a world increasingly driven by hate, true human compassion and true human emotion is truly a beautiful thing to behold.

Cheers to Besiktas and Cheers to Carsi for keeping it real.

 

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Graffiti in Besiktas. Image Courtesy of the Author.

The World Cup Failures of Turkey and the United States Reveal the Ills of Industrial Football

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I have often remarked about the similarities between the two countries I call home; even though they are miles apart geographically and culturally they have an odd way of showing similarities in certain aspects. I am not talking about the bizarre visa spat between the two nations which saw both countries make identical announcements—down to a typo. Instead, I am talking about football.

 

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The Absurdity of Turkey and the United States Literally Cutting and Pasting Diplomatic Announcements Should Not Be Lost On Anyone. Images Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/son-dakika-abd-vize-basvurusunu-askiya-aldi-40603924

 

After Turkey lost their chance at the World Cup following a 3-0  home loss to Iceland (who became the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup), the Turkish press was incensed at an image of Barcelona star Arda Turan laughing as he left the field of play. Obviously we do not know what was going on in Mr. Turan’s mind, but one has to ask why he couldn’t have just walked off the field with his head bowed, at least feigning disappointment at losing out on the World Cup. His indifference prompted one Turkish columnist to write:

 

May God Grant Us Arda Turan’s Indifference

–As the Dollar rises…

–As the Euro breaks records…

–As our soldiers invade Idlib [a Syrian city]

–As taxes rise…

–As the tension with [Iraqi Kurdish President] Barzani continue…

–As inflation grows…

–As the weather gets colder…

May God grant our whole country…

Arda Turan’s indififference as his team loses 3-0…

Amen.

 

While it distressing to see a professional footballer take such little pride in his work, it is not altogether surprising. In the age of industrial football, players only care as long as money is flowing into their bank accounts. Where representing one’s country used to be a matter of pride for professional footballers, it is now merely an unwelcome distraction from the real money-making endeavor of playing for their club teams. It seems that the players have become as one-dimensional as their societies.

 

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Perhaps He Didn’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yazarlar/ahmet-hakan/allah-hepimize-arda-turan-lakaytligi-versin-40603374

 

Surprisingly, it was no different in the United States as the country of 327 million lost to the tiny Carribean nation of Trinidad and Tobago (population 1.2 million) and crashed out of the World Cup due to results elsewhere. Of course, had the United States at least tied their match, it would have avoided arguably the biggest disaster in American sports history. The result prompted (understandably) rage from U.S. Soccer commentators. Before the match, former U.S. soccer great Alexi Lalas was ridiculed for calling the U.S. team “underperforming, tattooed millionaires”. How right he was, since it seemed like the U.S. team figured they had it all wrapped up following a 4-0 victory over Panama. U.S. sports media didn’t even focus on the match as they were too busy poking fun at Trinidad and Tobago for the waterlogged pitch they practiced on; ESPN’s piece was a typically derogatory news story coming out of one of the world’s richest countries. Of course, Trinidad ended up having the last laugh. Yet instead of recognizing Trinidad’s victory for what it was—deserved—much of the news focused on political issues.

The Guardian claims that this failure was “years in the making”, pointing out that perhaps MLS, the domestic league in the United States, has been of more of a help to Caribbean nations than to the U.S. Of course race came into the equation as well (as it always does whenever anything goes wrong in the U.S.), as pundits claim that the “pay to play” culture of American sports favors white athletes over more talented Latino and African American athletes. For some reason, even U.S. coach Bruce Arena suggested that it was U.S. immigration policies that made qualifying more difficult because it gave the Latin American countries more of an incentive to defeat the United States. If responding to (perceived) unjust immigration policies made teams play better football, than I’m sure Turkey would never lose when playing a member of the European Union. The absurdity of making a sporting failure political should not be lost on anyone.

In fact, I believe there are two reasons for the failures of both Turkey and the United States to qualify for the World Cup: Player apathy and structural issues that go far beyond politics. The first is obvious, and stems from Alexi Lalas’ criticism. Players in both Turkey and the United States are making so much money that they view international duty as an unwelcome distraction. In the American case, they were so strongly favored that they (wrongly) believed that the shear weight of their country’s name would carry them through. It was not to be. The second cause of this debacle is, as I said, structural. I have already written about why the United States will have difficulty in becoming a footballing power; it is because the best athletes are directed towards other sports which make much more money. This is part of the structural problem. In the Turkish context, it is the fact that sporting infrastructure is not well-developed enough to nurture young talent. For many clubs, the goal is profit in the short term. This means that clubs prefer to import foreign talent rather than nurture home grown talent. This means that there are less young players coming through the system with the aim of showing themselves on the international stage. By contrast, in smaller countries like Trinidad, Honduras, Panama, and Iceland, players are focused on getting discovered and play with more desire, as results show.

 

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The U.S. Crash Out Of The World Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espnfc.com/united-states/story/3226915/sunil-gulati-united-states-failure-to-qualify-for-2018-world-cup-a-huge-disappointment

 

Unfortunately, in the age of industrial football, many players from the larger countries have lost the amateur spirit that makes sports such a fun spectacle to watch. Hopefully, the qualification failures in both Turkey and the United States serve as a catalyst for change. Make no mistake, to chalk these failures up to “racism” or “immigration policies” is the easy way out; it is always easier to look for blame elsewhere.

Sports, Separatism, Nationalism, Globalization, and the crisis of Western Liberalism in the United States and Spain

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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.

Football Fans Take Part In Anti-Capitalism Protests in Hamburg Surrounding the G20 Meetings as Absurdities Abound

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Poland ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg set the tone for the absurdities which would follow. Chris Cilliza, an employee for CNN (one of the major news networks guilty of publishing polarizing stories recently) tweeted a report that the Polish First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, snubbed Mr. Trump’s attempt to shake her hand during the latter’s visit to the Eastern European country. Of course, Mr. Cilliza’s poor excuse for journalism soon turned out to be “fake news”; Ms. Kornhauser-Duda did in fact shake Mr. Trump’s hand, it just did not appear in the four second video Mr. Cilliza Tweeted—perhaps it was a case of premature tweeting–and Polish President Andrzej Duda Tweeted a call to “fight fake news”. Regardless of one’s political inclinations, this event should remind everyone that they must carefully interpret what they see on the internet, lest they get sucked into the alternate reality of one-dimensional thought which is being pushed on the entire world.

 

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Tweets Fly With Abandon..Even When They’re Fake. Image Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4675312/Polish-head-blasts-critics-said-wife-SNUBBED-Trump.html

 

Unfortunately, many people bought the “fake news”, despite Mr. Duda setting the record straight. This might be, of course, because Mr. Duda is derided by media outlets (like The Guardian and CNN) for being “rightwing”. Indeed, the rightwing identity is one that the media loves to paint Poland with. Journalist Christian Davies wrote a damning portrait of Polish football fans in March of 2017, seemingly painting the whole of the country’s fans as “xenophobic white-supremacists”. Mr. Davies’ article explains the situation as such:

 

In the run-up to the Uefa European Championship in Poland and Ukraine in 2012, Poland’s then Civic Platform-led government (which was headed by Donald Tusk before he became president of the European Council in 2014) clamped down on organised hooliganism. It was feared that violence or instances of racism could disrupt the tournament and damage the country’s reputation abroad.

That provided an opening for far-right and right-wing politicians to adopt the nationalist fans’ cause, portraying them as ordinary patriots enduring harassment from a liberal government hostile to “traditional” cultural values. Their cause has also been adopted by hardliners within the Polish Catholic Church, who share PiS’s [Author’s Note: the acronym for the ruling Law and Justice Party] view that the country’s values and identity are under sustained attack by decadent, Western cosmopolitanism and the racial diversity imposed from above by Brussels.

 

Clearly, Mr. Davies’ sweeping generalizations are an example of bad journalism, similar to fake news. As a scholar of football fan culture, I am left wondering: How many Polish football fans did Mr. Davies actually speak too? My hunch would be that he did not speak to many; after all, the money in journalism comes from stating what people already believe and pandering to the readership, not from challenging existing beliefs and risking the loss of said readership. Is it true that there are xenophobic and racist football fans? Of course it is! Anyone familiar with football fan culture will know that there are more than a few fans that believe in negative ideologies. But this does not mean that all fans are conned by such violent ideologies.

After all, I would say that anything “imposed from above by Brussels”—such as “racial diversity”, to quote from the above article—is something that the citizens of Poland have a right to be miffed about, especially since Poland was once conned by internationalism and multiculturalism imposed from abroad (does anyone remember the Soviet Union!?). If people would like to defend their own countries and cultures from the meaningless mélange of globalization, then I would say they are right to stand up for nationalism. Of course, we don’t know what the football fans really think because Mr. Davies didn’t talk to them, he merely succumbed to the trend of one dimensional thought.

The same absurdities abound in the form of protests surrounding the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The protestors say they are fighting “capitalism” and globalization”… yet they are also protesting against leaders like Mr. Trump, who himself espouses an anti-globalism and pro-nationalism point of view! It truly is an absurd situation. To make matters worse, these protestors are actually hurting local businesses. One shopkeeper whose business was destroyed, Cord Wohlke, was quoted by ABC news as saying, “I just don’t know why people would do this … It wasn’t the people who live here. They’ve done about 400,000 euros in damage. This is just criminal, not a protest”. Mr. Wohlke—like so many Hamburg residents—have every right to be upset at the violence, which doesn’t even compute ideologically. If these thugs really wanted to combat globalization they could have supported local businesses, allowing them to benefit from the G20 summit financially. Instead, they chose to destroy the city. It seems to be a dystopia indeed, just not in the manner that Croatian philospher Srecko Horvat thinks it is (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/06/hamburg-protest-g20-dystopian-nightmare-security-disunity-politics . Mr. Horvat calls German leader Angela Merkel a “leader of the free world”, ignoring that she is a globalist through and through! Mr. Horvat criticizes the G20 for implementing the Washington Consensus (perpetuating American control over the global economy) while the Guardian seemingly laments America’s “abdication” of its position as a global power (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/g20-summit-could-mark-end-of-us-as-global-leader-but-what-is-next at the same time. It truly does not compute, and this is where football comes into play.

 

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Hamburg is Burning and Football Fans Are Taking Part. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-09/g20-protesters-bringing-violence-to-hamburg-put-locals-off-side/8691894

 

Fittingly, Hamburg is home to St. Pauli FC, a football club known for its left-wing stance. The club is characterized by its ties to underground punk rock music and a staunchly anti-neo Nazi position; these are of course very positive and they have gained the club a cult status among world football fans. I myself find St. Pauli FC to be one of the more interesting clubs in a football scene that is being homogenized by the forces of globalization and extreme capitalism, in the form of industrial football. Unfortunately, I fear that many of the football fans who were involved in the protests—and even the St. Pauli executives, who opened the stadium doors to protestors and allowed them to camp there–are unaware of just how capitalist even an ostensibly anti-capitalist football team can be. It is a relationship that the media—purveyors of fake news and distorted facts—does not want fans to know about.

In the January 2012 issue of the academic journal Soccer & Society (Volume 13, Number 1), scholar Gerald Grigg wrote an interesting article entitled “’Carlsberg don’t make football teams . . . but if they did’: the utopian reporting of FC St Pauli in British Media”. Mr. Grigg provides a great summary of what St. Pauli FC is, while also pointing out that:

 

the real extent of such a group’s [the FC St. Pauli fans] cultural resistance may remain open to question. After all, as a professional football club, FC St Pauli still plays in a high-level organized league, pays professional players and, as a business venture, mirrors many of the same practices exhibited by other teams (Grigg, 2012: 77).

 

Although the team certainly does represent an admirably anti-racist and anti-homophobic stance, Grigg points out that the media also glosses over the less admirable qualities of the team:

 

Specific realities which may question the strength of the nostalgic and alternative picture portrayed in the reporting can also be found within the published articles, but in the main there is something of a ‘glossing over’ of the potential significance of details such as:

Signs that the modern business of football is catching up.

Sponsors [injecting] around 40 million Euro (34.6 million GBP).

They are now moving to new training facilities in 2012. 

Customers queuing up to buy merchandise … which includes toasters, rugby shirts, baby clothes, and ashtrays—all with the familiar skull-and-crossbones logo.

A rebuilding plan that will eventually see the whole stadium modernized.

Many of these facts may well represent the modernizations that occur or have already occurred across major leagues in western Europe and indicate that FC St Pauli may have more in common with their league counterparts, such as Bayern Munich and neighbors Hamburg, than it would first appear. It is interesting that the reporting which comments on such facts massively plays down their potential implications. The Times reports upon the development of the new stadium, but states that when it is completed, ‘it will never be confused with Hamburg’s UEFA five-star venue”. (Grigg, 2012: 78).

 

Grigg closes his article with a call for more first-hand studies of FC St. Pauli, to provide a fuller examination of the team in the face of the rather utopian rendering of the team by the media. For scholars of football everywhere, it is certainly a call worth heeding. By studying the absurdities of our time (like the G20 protests and the involvement of football fans in them) we can avoid the traps the mainstream media sets for us by independently analyzing situations. To show just how dangerous these traps can be, I will quote from the Guardian (one of the worst culprits of poor reporting) and present a selection from a recently published piece by an African-American writer who claims that the American flag makes him feel “afraid”:

 

As a black man post-election, I felt even less certain of what threats I might face outside my front door. Should I slow my stride so as not to startle the white woman up ahead? Should I give up my space on the sidewalk to the oncoming white man and his dog? Does my outfit identify me clearly enough as a recreational jogger and not a criminal?

 

This kind of poor reporting is, unfortunately, a clear example of racism. Yet, the author is celebrated—rather than criticized—for judging people based on the color of their skin! It is absurd that someone should be able to get away with clear racism in a mainstream news outlet, but that is the state of the world we live in. It is one dominated by the one-dimensional thought that is pushed through the media, presenting just one side of a multi-dimensional story. Is FC St. Pauli a unique football team, with a unique fan base that takes a positive stand on social issues and combats the negative elements within football fandom? Of course it is! But is it—like any football team—also a business (which also commodifies its own “alternative” image)? Again, of course it is! This is why we need to seek out an accountable media that tell us the whole story, not just part of it. Otherwise we end up with “anti-globalization” mobs protesting nationalism while, at the same time, ruining the livelihoods of their fellow citizens–the local shopkeepers–who are far from the corporatized global elites un-affected by violence in the streets.

 

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Cheers To The FC St. Pauli Fans For Staying Unique. Here Is To Hoping They Can Resist Their Own Commodification! Image Courtesy Of: http://www.footballparadise.com/punk-rockers-of-football-a-story-of-pirate-flags-and-the-anti-nazi-st-pauli/

The Robots Have Arrived: A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on McDonald’s and the Rationalization of American Society in the Age of Extreme Capitalism (With Bonus Coverage of McDonald’s’ Love Affair With Industrial Football

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As an educator it is sometimes difficult to explain the intricacies of Sociological theory. Much of it is abstract and can best be understood only through real social interactions. Since too many sociologists (in the current context) shy away from actually interacting with their fellow humans (due to, mainly, political disagreements) I believe that it is important to put the subjects I teach in the context of real-life situations. A few nights ago, at the local McDonald’s, I was provided an experience that allowed me to better explain eminent Sociologist Max Weber’s concept of rationalization to my students. I shared it with them in class, and I believe it is equally relevant to the wider social world so I am choosing to share it in this context as well. After all, McDonald’s is one of the major corporations that sponsors football’s most visible competition, the FIFA World Cup.

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McDonald’s and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://bizztro.tumblr.com/post/88927751559/fifas-game-of-sponsors

 

Sociologist George Ritzer coined the term “McDonaldization” in his book “The McDonaldization of Society”. It was essentially an extension of Max Weber and his ideas regarding the development of a form of social control driven by a focus on efficiency and “means-end” concerns. This process involves a certain degree of homogenization and it is something that globalization itself perpetuates: Everything—down to our human interactions—must be rationally controlled; even the football stadium is not immune to this process. More and more new stadiums are being built in the interests of corporate profit and not the fans—what earns the the team money is the most important concern. This is why we have seen a backlash to industrial football among world football fans. The stadium has become a space for profit, not passion.  This process erodes human agency, and I saw—first hand—how this process works at my local McDonald’s.

 

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Marginal Sociologists Can Sometimes Transcend Their Own Marginality (Author’s Note: I Have Yet To Achieve That Level). Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_McDonaldization_of_Society

 

I dropped by the nearest McDonald’s for a late night snack the other day. Upon walking in I noticed that there were four (4) computer screens set up for ordering; there was just one human cashier. Since I am against the growing computerization (and mechanization) of society, I decided to wait in line so as to physically interact with a human being during my transaction. After all, the only way of telling corporations that human beings are better investments than machines is by supporting them. After waiting about three minutes I actually got the “privilege” of interacting with a human being.

 

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How Human Is The Idea Of Breaking Burgers Down Into Nationality For the World Cup? It Seems Like More Of  a Tool To Further Atomize–and Divide–Global Society In the Age of Globalization. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2014/05/taste-test-mcdonalds-2014-world-cup-brazil-and-australia-burgers/

 

I ordered one double cheeseburger (only onions and ketchup; no pickles or mustard). Assuming it would be a small purchase I presented two (2) American dollars as payment. The cashier informed me that the final price was two dollars and two cents ($2.02). I asked if $2.00 dollars was enough; it would save her the time of counting out ninety-eight cents in change and me the time of waiting. It made “sense” insofar as it reduced the need for “cents”. The cashier, for her part, did not budge. $2.02. She wanted those two cents. I searched on the floor for dropped change in vain. I pleaded for her to drop the two cents but she was adamant. $2.02. In effect, my human cashier had become as robotic as the machines that will soon push her out of a job. But, in the context of the rationalized world of extreme capitalism, she couldn’t understand that she had lost her human agency. If she had cut me some slack—as a human being could (and arguably should)—she would be held accountable by her manager for the missing two cents in her register at the end of her shift. And I get that. But I also get that it represents the kind of bureaucratic rationalization that Max Weber argues leaves human beings bereft of their own human agency. My cashier on this night might have saved the McDonald’s corporation from losing two cents, but that will not keep the McDonald’s corporation from laying her off in favor of a computer somewhere down the line. This particular cashier was all too willing to earn the company profit—which will likely not trickle down to her paygrade—at the expense of having a human interaction. In fact, for two cents, she even risked losing a customer (After all, I am not opposed to criticism of corporations who subscribe to the values of extreme capitalism, such as Starbucks).

 

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Again, in 2006, McDonald’s Was At the Forefront of Football Advertising. Image Courtesy Of: http://fifaworldcup.tk/fifa-world-cup/fifa-world-cup-2006-logo

 

In the end I decided to order a second double cheeseburger (since two are $3.20) so as to at least get more “bang for my buck(s)” (and to get less change). As I waited for the food, however, I became more and more incensed at the blatantly impersonal nature of the modern fast food restaurant. Eventually I lost my appetite. Rather than refuse the food (an action which I, for a moment, contemplated), I decided to take it and walked out hoping (for possibly the first time in my life) that one of the famous panhandlers in my city would accost me looking for money. When one did—asking for a dollar so as to purchase a bus ticket to a city more than five hours away—I made my own move: “I don’t have any money for you, but I do have two hot McDonald’s double cheeseburgers with only onions and ketchup—will you take them?” At that a smile crept across the gentleman’s face and I presented him with the food I had ordered. It was fitting that—in a dehumanizing world—we can still strive for humanizing experiences (even if extreme capitalism tries, at times, to suppress our own humanity).

 

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Like Starbuck’s, McDonald’s Might Attempt to Send a Multicultural Image (Look At the Clearly Inter-ethnic Display of the Four Children In This Advertisement) But That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Pursue The Kind Of Global Homogenization That Globalism and Globalization Encourage; A Kind of Discriminatory Cultural Imperialism That Erases All That Is Local. Image Courtesy Of: http://bizztro.tumblr.com/post/88927751559/fifas-game-of-sponsors

 

 

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