Before some reading this ask what this has to do with anti-Semitism at the Guardian, let me preempt the question by stating the following. CiF Watch isn’t merely attempting to refute anti-Semitic commentary and egregious anti-Israel bias. Our broader mission is to diagnose and comment on the intellectual currents which give rise to such bigotry. As such, it is my view that certain intellectual trends (which are much more difficult to diagnose and deconstruct than explicitly anti-Semitic tropes) do as much harm to Jews and Israel as outright hatred against Jews. Barry Rubin is among the very best at – as he says – “seeing big issues in small things.” This post is about more than just his son’s soccer team. It’s a commentary on the way children in Western society are socialized to believe in ideas which are detrimental to the long-term survival of freedom and democracy. In short, ideas move the world, and bad ideas can be as dangerous as all the bullets, missiles and armies in the world combined.
“May your work be a fight, may your peace be a victory. War and courage have accomplished more great things than love of one’s neighbour. It was not your pity but your courage that so far has saved the downtrodden.” –F. Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
It‘s something of a stretch to compare a soccer game among eleven-year-olds with the fate of the democratic world but I’ve always managed to see big issues in small things.
The basic background is this: My son is playing on a local soccer team on the East Coast which has lost every game, often by humiliating scores. The coach is a nice guy but seems an archetype of contemporary thinking. He tells the kids not to care about whether they win, puts players at any positions they want, and doesn’t listen to their suggestions.
He never criticized a player or suggested how he could do better. My son, bless him, had once remarked to me, “How are you going to play better If nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong?“ The coach just told them how well they were playing. Even after an 8-0 defeat he told them they’d played a great game. And, of course, the league gave trophies to everyone whether their team is in first or last place.
So were they really happier to be “relieved” of the strain of trying to win, “liberated” from feeling bad at the inequality of athletic talent? I’d even seen an American television documentary about boys and sports which justified this approach, explaining that coaches were doing something terrible by deriding failure, urging competitiveness, and demanding victory.
No doubt, of course, there are coaches who make unreasonable demands, scream at the kids, and humiliate them. This may be a big problem that should be righted when things go to the other extreme. But it isn’t a blue state problem!
Or am I right in thinking that sports should prepare children for life, competition, the desire to win, and an understanding that not every individual has the same level of skills? And a central element in that world is rewarding those who do better, which also offers an incentive for them and others to strive rather than thinking they merely need choose between becoming a government bureaucrat or dependent.