Olympic opening ceremonies and the death throes of a civilization

posted at 10:41 am on July 30, 2012 by J.E. Dyer

I don’t think I was the only American weirded out on Friday by the bizarre “dancing nurses” segment at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.  There were lots of children wriggling in hospital beds, and seemingly hundreds of nurses prancing around dressed in the garments of yesteryear.  It wasn’t clear what the artist was trying to say – and then the letters “NHS” burst out in glittering lights on the field.

Oh.  This is about the National Health Service.

[Pause.]

????????????

That realization was paired in my mind with the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Yasser Arafat’s terrorists in Munich in 1972.  The IOC’s position is that it doesn’t want to “politicize” the games.

 

Creepy NHS-worship at the openine ceremony, XXX Olympiad; Photo credit: J.C. Hong, AP (h/t: Thoughts from a Conservative Mom)

 

That position doesn’t hold up so well considering that 9/11 was commemorated at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.  In 1996, at the Summer Games in Atlanta, the IOC had a moment of silence at the closing ceremony for the victims of the Olympic Park bombing.

In 2010, at the Winter Games in Vancouver, there was a moment of silence during the opening ceremony for Georgian athlete Nodar Kumartashvili, who had died in an accident on a practice run just before the games began.

So in recent years, the Olympic authorities have commemorated the death of an Olympic athlete and the deaths of others in terrorist attacks, with a moment of silence each time in an opening or closing ceremony.  And guess what?  Last night, in the Olympic stadium, the victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in the London subway in 2005 were commemorated as part of the opening ceremony.  Granted, it was hard to catch; a photo montage was projected into the stadium during a lull in the prancing and acrobatics, but there was little narration to call it out.  I didn’t even notice it, and had to be told about it afterward by others who had seen it.

It is jarring to think of passing references being made to the victims of terrorism, sort of as part of the entertainment, during an event-palooza dedicated to performance and revelry.  The reason we usually have authorities solemnly asking for a moment of silence, at a carefully separated, showcased point in the proceedings, is that that’s what is appropriate for commemorating tragedy and sorrow.

But it was clearly important to the British planners to mention their dead from the 2005 terror attack in the opening ceremony.  So they did it.  For forty years, including this Olympics, no one has incorporated a commemoration of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes into an official Olympic ceremony.  Yet Olympic authorities have been assiduous about commemorating others.  Their relentless, determined failure to commemorate the Israelis in the same way is a failure to acknowledge the common humanity of Israeli Jews.

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games couldn’t have been more stuffed with politics if it had been a bell pepper.  The Republic of Taiwan was required to march as “Chinese Taipei,” although of course that is not what the Taiwanese call their nation.  There is no nation of Palestine, yet athletes walked under a “Palestinian” flag and were announced as “Palestine.”  The “quirky” performance segment of the ceremony involved numerous references to political events in the history of Great Britain, including, of course, the paroxysm of pagan worship, complete with cavorting women, for the National Health Service.  It was a really, really political night; if a commemoration for the murdered Israeli athletes might have been “political,” that would only have guaranteed that it would fit right in.

Watching the ceremony last night, I had a profound sense of sadness for the hollow revelry.  There was no dignified memorializing of the greatness, uniqueness, and courage of Britain’s past.  There was “irreverent, idiosyncratic” entertainment, and a very long segment of writhing self-abasement before the shibboleth of socialized medicine.

We seemed to be looking last night at a moment frozen in time before a great upheaval, like the last days of lingering sunlight before World War I.  A civilization based on entertainment and ritual political worship is headed for a fall.  But then, a civilization that singles out some humans, like Israeli Jews, to show less care for – less solidarity with – is a weak and unsustainable one.  Nothing else will go right with it.

Britain is not alone in her shallow, artistic commemorations of a dying culture.  Western Europe’s official vision of itself largely boils down to that.  I believe there are still many individuals in Europe – as distinct from the ruling precincts of political correctness and utopianism – who have the courage to forge a different future.  But as a useful vehicle for what needs to be done, the continent’s official organizations, its governments and agencies, are beyond their expiration date.  Too many of them do not serve the people now, but only indenture and discourage them.

Such a situation cannot endure.  No amount of artistic entertainment can make fear, loss of purpose, and politically correct weakness noble or inspiring, much less invincible.  The post-liberal culture and political idea of Europe are not in a position to triumph today.  They are not even in a position to survive.

Some bonus material evoking what England once was.  A poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

England and America in 1782*

 

O thou that sendest out the man

To rule by land and sea,

Strong mother of a lion-line,

Be proud of those strong sons of thine

Who wrenched their rights from thee!

 

What wonder if in noble heat

Those men thine arms withstood,

Retaught the lessons thou hadst taught,

And in thy spirit with thee fought –

Who sprang from English blood!

 

But thou rejoice with liberal joy,

Lift up thy rocky face,

And shatter, when the storms are black,

In many a streaming torrent back,

The seas that shock thy base!

 

Whatever harmonies of law

The growing world assume,

Thy work is thine – the single note

From that deep chord which Hampden smote

Will vibrate to the doom.

* G. Robert Stange, ed., The Poetical Works of Tennyson: Cambridge Edition (Boston. Houghton-Mifflin, 1974), p. 62 and note, p. 627)

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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Comment pages: 1 2

We would have been subjected to a one hour musical tribute to Obamacare and a dance segment dedicated to gay marriage.

MichaelGabriel on July 30, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Didn’t we already see the pre-show at the White House?

And, the Man’s Country rainbow colored glitter number would have been fab-u-lous.

Fallon on July 30, 2012 at 1:26 PM

No Guy Fawkes masks?!!!!!!!!!!?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

profitsbeard on July 30, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Fallon on July 30, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Thanks for the tip on the Boyle notes, Fallon. That “Jerusalem” business is interesting. I don’t know Boyle’s specific politics on the matter, but he seems to come from the school that will call Jerusalem absolutely anything except the capital of Israel.

Speaking as if Britain will “build Jerusalem” is a metaphor with an interesting history. See this sumamry from Wikipedia:

British Israelism

Richard Brothers, the originator of British Israelism, developed a viewpoint explained by Adrian Gilbert in his 2002 book The New Jerusalem. Gilbert proposes a secret tradition, that the British are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel, an idea known as British Israelism, and that the capital city of Britain should therefore be re-modeled as a New Jerusalem for the coming Age of Enlightenment. Supposedly this idea was already present in 6th Century England, and that it reached its height of influence during and just after the First World War; certain buildings, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, supposedly contain elements of the plan in their design.

William Blake wrote a poem about the British Isles entitled The New Jerusalem, first published in 1808. It captured the longstanding folklore that Jesus had supernaturally visited Britain.

Presumably this is the cultural reference Boyle was making. There’s a certain insular dottiness to it. Britain’s public culture no longer has a self-conscious sense of being for the whole world.

J.E. Dyer on July 30, 2012 at 1:40 PM

The main problem with England and the rest of Europe is that nearly all of their best, brightest, and bravest came here 300 years ago

john1v6 on July 30, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Their immigration policy has been a disaster and the socialist government is just as bad. They have put CCV cameras all over the cities and the level of political correctness is staggering. They have lowered their own standards to accommodate the trash they have allowed to immigrate and now they can no longer afford to take care of their own taxpaying subjects. Say goodbye to a once great nation!

I concur…I was waiting for the celebration of the out of control immigration policy that has resulted in the name “Muhammad” being the #1 name given to baby boys born int England…Good Lord, what has happened to these once great people? They have become a “Crony Marxist”, self loathing/white guilt nation of pansies…
Wanna see what Obama, Nanzi, Reid, Kerry, Levin, Schummer, Boxer, that Nutjob in Washington State and the rest of these self-loathing, white hating, Commie/Marxist, Alinskyites are trying to turn the once great USA into? Look no further than the Multi-Cultie capital of the free world, the UK…

Strike Hornet on July 30, 2012 at 1:57 PM

There nice article J. E…Very good!..:)

PS..Thanks..:)

Dire Straits on July 30, 2012 at 2:07 PM

I can understand why the IOC wouldn’t want to upset the arab nations. I mean really, imagine if they were to boycott the Olympics there would be 15 fewer athletes at the games.

Bishop on July 30, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Maybe the ghost of Neville Chamberlain was involved and felt that if they don’t remind the public that there are “issues” in the Middle East and that there are “terrorists” running around, then perhaps said “terrorists” won’t ply their trade at the games.

kim roy on July 30, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Nothing exemplifies the glory of the Olympics and the quest for human perfection, peak performance, excellence and strength like nationalized govt. dependence and sick children on hospital beds.

Maybe the Brits can conclude the games with a ceremony that glorifies the wonders of street cameras on every corner, the wonders of British dental health and a pack of Muslims chasing forty policemen down the street.

NeoKong on July 30, 2012 at 11:32 AM

*applause*

I’d watch that closing ceremony. Judging by what the opening was like, it should be very interesting what they do for the closing. Old people on beds? Nursing homes?

kim roy on July 30, 2012 at 2:40 PM

I concur…I was waiting for the celebration of the out of control immigration policy that has resulted in the name “Muhammad” being the #1 name given to baby boys born int England…Good Lord, what has happened to these once great people? They have become a “Crony Marxist”, self loathing/white guilt nation of pansies…
Wanna see what Obama, Nanzi, Reid, Kerry, Levin, Schummer, Boxer, that Nutjob in Washington State and the rest of these self-loathing, white hating, Commie/Marxist, Alinskyites are trying to turn the once great USA into? Look no further than the Multi-Cultie capital of the free world, the UK…

Strike Hornet on July 30, 2012 at 1:57 PM

There’s no doubt why one political party did it, to make their election more likely: Labour’s ‘Secret Plan’ to Lure Migrants

Not much different from Mexicans and democratics in the USA.

slickwillie2001 on July 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM

That photograph reminds me of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil:

ConservativeLA on July 30, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Last night, in the Olympic stadium, the victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in the London subway in 2005 were commemorated as part of the opening ceremony. Granted, it was hard to catch; a photo montage was projected into the stadium during a lull in the prancing and acrobatics, but there was little narration to call it out. I didn’t even notice it, and had to be told about it afterward by others who had seen it.

Nobody in the U.S. saw this. NBC saw fit to cut that part out and show a very dull interview from that pothead Olympic champion, Michael Phelps. Kudos to NBC for deciding for us what we Americans should and should not see!

Signed,
Liberal Sheep

RavenRog on July 30, 2012 at 3:46 PM

One of the twelve reasons I didn’t watch. It’s a glorified Macey’s parade.

michaelthomas on July 30, 2012 at 4:42 PM

Sorry, tojump in here and defend my adopted country. Yes the baby was a bit strange but overall I thought the show was brilliant. Think there may have been one too many inside references. Jerusalem, for example, is the unofficial theme for England (sung at rugby games). This is why you got Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland themes as well. Don’t think it was anything untoward. It was quirky and British and I liked it.

ExPat on July 30, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Dead baby death star?
Kinda creepy.

RovesChins on July 30, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Dead baby death star?
Kinda creepy.

RovesChins on July 30, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Creepy doesn’t begin to describe this whole NHS tribute circus by Boyle…

jimver on July 30, 2012 at 5:07 PM

It was a signal to their masters, that their necks were ready, extended, and longed for the blade.

squint on July 30, 2012 at 7:54 PM

Comment pages: 1 2