Olympic Power


Fresh off  closing ceremonies at Sochi, still smiling from the exhilaration of Canadian men and women’s hockey taking gold, I find myself pondering another Olympic moment.

The courage of Tommie Smith and John Carlos exemplifies the civil rights movement. I’m not going to explain why – take 5 minutes out of your life to watch a snapshot in time, a moment in history when  Olympics’ sacred line was crossed, when damn the consequences ruled over “tow the line”. Smith and Carlos managed to define injustice without uttering a word.

I often write of protest; specifically my dismay at society’s screwed up priorities – our spoon fed, cult of celebrity, gun toting, fundamentalist, reality television, someone else’s problem world. For those too young to understand the optimism, hope and determination of people who believed they could make a difference, I wish I could roll back time. When coffee shops and campuses burst under the weight of collective purpose rather than suffocating taps of MacBook keyboards in an otherwise silent Starbucks.

This ponder isn’t about “world peace”, I’m talking about our back yards and dark alleys. Poverty, education, injustice taking place in front of our eyes – corporate greed, “stand your ground” nonsense, environmental atrocities, civil rights violations – reduced to a Tweet or cooked into poppycock by Fox News wingnuts.

This Olympic moment reminds me of a time when purpose out weighed lucrative endorsements, a time when we believed change was a matter of determination, a time when seizing  Olympic glory for peaceful exclamation of injustice was not only thinkable, it was possible.

14 thoughts on “Olympic Power

  1. Until a few weeks ago I shared your pessimism. Then I attended two conferences LIFT (on innovation and society) and TEDxLausanne and came away inspired. The average age of the participants must have been around 30 and what was clear is that they have a plan (they are beyond dreaming). They are creating a world that assumes globalization, internet and social good (or lack of) is a reality and a starting point. And on that basis they are implementing organizations that are fundamentally fair, companies that let everyone benefit and a social space where the remote poor are not only among us, but are engaged in developing the solutions we all need.

    The world of greed, corporate ruthlessness, social carelessness is one that we created in the 80’s and celebrated in the 90’s. These kids grew up with the impact and won’t and don’t need to accept it.

    Most of all, I enjoyed the glint of hopes and dreams in their eyes, because they too , just like we did, know that the world is their oyster.

    • Believe me when I say I want to agree, understand your point, and realize there are many, many socially aware groups and individuals with their heads screwed on straight. That said, I don’t think pessimism ails me – I’m honestly one of the most optimistic people around – I just don’t see social awareness filtering down to where it actually matters. My point being – there is a glint in the eye of young people, the world is their oyster, their frame of reference just happens to be far different from an era when courage to defy convention translated into grass root action rather than think tanks, motivational speeches or well meaning, albeit ineffectual action groups.

      I believe moments like the one in this video, are not only valuable but critical reminders of the power each one of us has to say “oh hell no”.My fear is rooted in unease as I watch society disconnect from the possibility of one small voice.

  2. “a time when purpose out weighed lucrative endorsements, a time when we believed change was a matter of determination, a time when seizing Olympic glory for peaceful exclamation of injustice was not only thinkable, it was possible.”

    Too many today have no idea what you are talking about.

    One of the most stunning things to happen in my life was when a person I had been mentoring came up to me after several years of working together and said, “You know, before I met you, I never thought this was possible because I never met anyone who did it.”

    I have long been a believer in the simple idea that people cannot copy what they don’t see being practiced. I guess that’s why I have always chosen my battles knowing that I can’t fight every one of them. But I can fight one or two of them and know that I can win. When the world is going to hell in a hand basket that may not be much consolation. There are more people needing to see what is possible. But I’ll shine to those I can, and hope that others choose to do the same.

    Keep on pondering, Ponder.

  3. Very powerful. Being too young to experience this first hand, when I first learned about this later as a young kid, I initially did not understand it (kids have the clear/natural minds which simply do not understand bias & -isms), but then it really impacted me. It is hard to say, but that was my first ‘experience’ of race issues, and I thought how ‘strong’ these two must have been to make such a statement on such a powerful platform. Thanks for the post!

    • As a Canadian I can only speak to my “gut feeling” that this was a “first experience with race issues” for far too many people – regardless of age.I get tears in my eyes every time I watch this clip – what makes it so important is the fact “race issues” were laid bare for all the world to see.

  4. Reblogged this on notestoponder and commented:

    In the spirit of July 2 marking the 50th anniversary of America’s first signed Civil Rights Act , on the heals of last night’s pondering of those rights – I’m re-posting “Olympic Power”. I can’t watch this clip without becoming emotional. Take 4 1/2 minutes out of your life to watch and ponder. All I ask is that you try to find the absurdity of hatred, fear, and exclusion based on the colour of your skin.

  5. The world does not belong to us any more. It belongs to those who are not even born yet. We can only show the way we think might lead to a better world.

    I don’t think mankind has changed a bit when I see what is going on in the world.
    Maybe the world needs to go backward a little to the extreme right to then move on to a brighter future… if the extreme right does not destroy the planet that is.

    I hope I am making some sense here.
    I know you did with this post.

    • The world does belong to us! We owe it to future generations to keep it safe.

      Mankind is inherently selfish – our history is violent, oppressive and cruel. History teaches us that countries, religions or armies with the most clout trump the unfortunate sap with starry eyed illusions of providing a decent life for their family.

      The absurdity of actually believing another person is inferior based on religion or skin colour makes my head explode.The notion of equality boils down to who stands to loose.

      Yikes – I have to stop before I blow a gasket 🙂

      • The world not belonging to us is something I heard or read about the environment.

        It made sense.

        We owe it to keep it safe for future generations.
        Right now people are either SELFISH as you said or not conscious enough about the environment.

        Manking thinks it owes the Earth…
        Sometimes I believe ants are more intelligent than we are.

        I did not want for you to blow a gasket. In fact gaskets should be banned. This way we would have to drive electric cars which don’t need them… I think.

  6. Pingback: Missing Sinead O’Connor | notestoponder

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