Notes From the Margins…

Jonathan Freedland’s Olympic Kumbaya

  • July 28, 2012
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For some time now Jonathan Freedland has been  The Guardian‘s state-of-the-nation zeitgeist guy, with a trusted ability to churn out fluffy sentimental prose on national occasions, from which analysis and meaning are generally absent.

Yesterday he outdid himself with nearly three pages of stunning claptrap on the Olympic Games, culminating in these startlingly idiotic observations:

Seven years ago we told the world that we could come together to stage a spectacular Olympic Games and that we were a kinder, gentler, more inclusive country, open to the rest of humanity. The world believed it. The question is, can we believe it too?

To which the answer from this reader is, no we freaking can’t you posturing buffoon.     And how dare you insult the intelligence of your readers by even suggesting such a possibility?

The idea that the Olympic Committee agrees to stage the Olympic Games in London or anywhere else on the basis of whether their hosts are ‘ kinder, gentler, more inclusive’ – is so fatuous that Freedland ought to be led through the streets sitting backwards on a donkey and wearing a jester’s hat.

But so too is the notion that Britain deserves any of the adjectives that he so thoughtlessly attaches to it.   Kinder?     Gentler? More inclusive?

This is a country that routinely to seeks to punish the most weak and vulnerable sectors of society for a crisis they did not cause; where even wheelchair-bound disabled people or cancer patients are likely to have their benefits cut; where violent cops can kill with complete impunity.

It’s a country where landlords in the East End house tenants in garden sheds; whose governments are continually whittling away at the institutions of social solidarity that are genuinely inclusive, such as as the NHS and the comprehensive education system; where disability organizations report a rise in hate crimes against disabled people in the last few years; where migrants and asylum seekers are stigmatized as parasites and criminals and reduced to destitution; where the Metropolitan police bashed in the heads of teenagers during the student fees demonstrations, secure in the knowledge that none of them would ever have to account for their behavior to anyone.

And how ‘open to the outside world’ is a government that boasts of its determination to cut migration to the tens of thousands in order to placate the most xenophobic and racist sections of the British public, even though its own advisers have concluded that hostility to immigration is damaging the country’s economic recovery?

London 2012 is in many ways a microcosm of a British society run by a corrupt and incompetent elite of grasping politicians, dodgy bankers and financiers, and   security companies and consultants on lucrative government contracts, whose lack of accountability or integrity is exemplified by the cloddish performance of G4S in the run up to the Games; by the warmonger entrusted with the ‘Olympic legacy’ who has called on Britain to ‘show a little pride’ even as he – and the government – are engaged in blocking the Chilcot Inquiry’s access to key documents on the Iraq war.

Then there is the smug, vulpine visage of the culture and sport secretary Jeremy Hunt, as blatant a corporate tool (in every sense of the word) who ever held office, who nearly laid out a spectator with a bell yesterday that would have been better used on himself, and should not even have a job were it not for the fact that he is protected by an old Etonian PM who has nothing to offer the population but falling living standards and years of ‘austerity’ that are already bringing   the country to its knees.

All this is ignored in Freedland’s vapid celebration of the most corporate of all Olympic Games as a national kumbaya moment that will unite the country and define ‘ our place in the world.’

Call me a cynic but I have to say, no they won’t, and nor should they be expected to.   And Freedland’s pretentious bathos has failed to make me feel differently, and has only reminded me why I want nothing to do with the whole fake ghastly spectacle.






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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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