Wednesday, January 30, 2008

belonging, or not

+ Steven Wells writes a piece about presidential candidates and football that excites me greatly in its disparaging, contemptuous and altogether callous dismissal of the football writing of Franklin Foer. The continuing attempts at satirising Foer descend into waffliness [after all, at some point of time you would like to get over the Foer joke and go into why Hillary Clinton couldn't be anything but a Man United fan] but the article, on the whole, demonstrates why those who did not read Foer's book, "How Soccer Football Explains The World," are missing out on rich opportunities for mockery. I will not go into overlong detail here, except to say in Franklin's favour that he is at least slightly more readable than Jonathan.

+ Yesterday, I wrote about my distaste for the gratuitous flag-waving that accompanied India's cricket victory at Perth. I failed to clarify that I have no feelings whatsoever for the Indian flag, within or 'out a sporting context. This was partly due to the fact that I was sleepy, and partly because, functional democracy or no, India still is a place where you can get into serious trouble -- with the police and the court and everything. I am not kidding, guys. -- for 'disrespecting' the flag in any way, shape or form, and I got a little paranoid. That's right. The flag. Disrespecting the freaking flag. Tonight I feel ashamed enough of my miniscule act of cravenness to come right out and admit that the Indian flag could die tomorrow and take no part of my selfhood with it.

+ I'm not even particularly community-oriented, not in any way that's not meritocratic and possibly somewhat elitist. I would protest very much if someone tried to get me to commit to an institution for the sole purpose of demonstrating a sense of belonging to it. But I do realise the importance of acknowledging a need to belong. Like Gandhianism, and happy endings, the truly positive and truly liberal group identity is a Platonic ideal that improves our worldview for cherishing it. Whether identifying as one Barcelona* fan among many is a step forward in this direction or not [and if you're Joan Laporta reading this, please be advised that I am not optimistic about the chances] is, for the moment, an ineffable question. But it is a question whose parameters are constantly evolving, and nowhere have I seen this expressed better than Brian's subtly-wrought, richly poetic musing on identity and alienation here. Highly, highly recommended reading.

* - I say Barcelona because Franklin Foer, a self-confessed Barca man, devotes an entire chapter in his book to describing how the club is demonstrative of the excellence of nationalism, which, in spite of anything Martha Nussbaum wants you to believe, is actually the way forward for humanity. It is not the most annoying thing I have ever read -- he does one on Iran and football liberating women towards the end -- but it's a bit like having a pig's head thrown at you when you're trying to take a corner.

+ I forgot to mention earlier. I contributed a piece on tolerance and marketing in football, partly re-worked from this post, to Pitch Invasion, the seminal football website of our time. If you don't already read PI [...probably just you then, Mom], you must anon.

+ Finally, a link that has nothing to do with football, but everything to do with life, love and literature: Dario Fo's Nobel acceptance speech, which the roommate discovered I hadn't read yet, and amended speedily.

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