Hiding In Plain Sight; The Tawdry, Grubby Meanness Camouflaging The Obscenity

Writing this article reminded me of how capitalist culture excels at hiding things out in the open.

The division of sport between male and female is one example. A system for producing winners and a great deal more losers is held to be fair simply because it avoids one very obvious source of bias. Even though sporting culture venerates the particular, innate, congenital greatness of its heroes — those people were born better — many people still accept that the playing field is level; as if all women for example, all over the world, have roughly the same capacity to compete and roughly the same opportunity; as if we weren’t constantly reminded, quite rightly, that many girls never even get to go to school, never mind compete in international sports; as if the commercialisation of sport which requires ever-more dedication, time and money didn’t filter out individuals who don’t want sport to dominate their lives and preclude other endeavours. Despite all the plainly-visible indicators to the contrary, no, that person who just won, they are without doubt the best individual out of the 8 billion people in the world at that event and must be so acclaimed and rewarded.

Staying with the sporting theme, another favourite cause for sporting pundits is the entitlement of some individual to do even better. How unfair, they will say, that a runner from a poorer nation or one who has secured less sponsorship cannot shave 3 milliseconds from their fastest time to run 100 metres because the funds are not available. Other pundits, reporters and fans will look on and agree and applaud the sentiment and endorse the call for a fairer deal for this one unfortunate who is deprived of their 3 milliseconds. Does this represent a generalised demand for the concept of fairness or for individuals to get what they need at more basic levels; enough to eat, adequate healthcare, decent housing ? No. It is the opposite. It serves to hide the sentiment it is supposedly based upon.

In a world where people continue to die of malnutrition, preventable diseases and foreign-sponsored wars, the same pundits are never heard to call for fairness in the right to life before fairness in the right to run. Capitalist culture uses sport to enforce the lie: the real problems aren’t solvable, forget it, just enjoy someone running fast and get irate if every effort isn’t made to allow them to run even faster.

Moving away from sport, or at least trying to but it’s very pervasive in capitalist culture, the charity game show plays a major role in shaping the landscape of popular culture. None more so than the charity Christmas episode of UK TV show Sitting on a Fortune. Like all such shows contestants compete to provide cash to their preferred charity. Like all such shows the aim is to reinforce the message that cancer care or respite for carers or equipment that enables people to live meaningful lives is best provided for through a competitive game for which there must be one winner and many losers.

The spiteful genius of this particular show is to invite football star Gary Lineker to host it. As it happens Lineker’s grotesquely inflated salary (from the BBC, no doubt he has other income streams) is common knowledge from this controversy. Such is the confidence now of capitalist culture that it can place before an audience an individual who could fund all six charities concerned with the full £100,000 each and not even notice the debits on his statement but still maintain that there must be losers; that, sadly, some people won’t be living as long or as well but we did our best. Hanging a sign reading the funds are not available next to a pallet of bank notes would not be more blatant.

Hiding in plain sight; the tawdry, grubby meanness camouflaging the obscenity.



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