Cheering for Colonization
By Oriana P.
"The values of human solidarity that once drove our quest for a humane society seem to have been replaced, or are being threatened, by a crass materialism and pursuit of social goals of instant gratification. One of the challenges of our time, without being pietistic or moralistic, is to re-install in the consciousness of our people that sense of human solidarity, of being in the world for one another and because of and through others."
~ Nelson Mandela during the 5th Steve Biko Lecture, University of Cape Town
It’s as if Mandela was talking directly about the recent events in Daraa, Syria that can not be seen separate from the World Cup 2018 held in Russia and this for various reasons. During the games of soccer or football or whatever you want to call this sport – let’s just call it succball to end this silly discussion, errr...I meant soccball of course, succball...oops, there I go again – so during the games of succball Russia engaged in a full out attack on Daraa, the southwestern city of Syria known as the “cradle of the revolution”, where the 2011 uprisings began with anti-government graffiti by 15 boys who were brutally arrested and tortured. Under the protective distraction cover of the games about a week into it Russia relentlessly bombed the city, sometimes 600 attacks in one day, resulting in 320.000 people fleeing their houses and becoming displaced with no shelter, food, water or any other necessities and nowhere to go since neighboring countries Jordan and “Israel” closed their borders. Jordan has since been shooting at the displaced Syrians. In the meantime Assad’s thug soldiers are plundering their homes and another 750.000 people are in danger of being murdered by the persistent bombing. It is clear action is urgently needed to avert a massacre. Shamefully though the intensity of the international silence on the atrocities and warcrimes is only matched by the intensity of the worldwide roars with every goal made by the favorite team of the day, which varies according to national pride or some twisted sense of “justice” when the teams become politicized.
According to plan, the instant gratification of succball mania replaced the values of human solidarity. A solidarity that has now been limited to the hoped for victory of let’s say an African team playing against a team from a western colonizing country – never mind Putin’s victims of course. Not only is this laying the bar hopelessly low when it comes to obtaining justice but it’s also a complete waste of time because in World Cup history no African country has ever reached the semi-finals. You should probably read that last part again. Let’s face it, African countries are simply not allowed to win. That would scatter the image of western white supremacy and the domination of the white overlords, which is unacceptable. Cheering for these teams is essentially cheering for the still very existent colonial situation because the context is colonial. The participation of African teams only functions to emphasize white dominance while those same colonizing countries are heavily recruiting the best players from Africa and therefore once again robbing Africa from its treasures, resources and talent. When hauling in the wins for the white owned teams these African players do not remain African. They have now become tools of the white identity and euro-centric pride even when they gain personal fortune and fame. Black and brown people are allowed to shine as entertainment and they have been shining in music, stand up comedy, movies and yes sports. Their stardom doesn’t make one ounce of a difference though to the white power structure. Racism is still a fact and in the end black and brown people are still deemed inferior and heavily discriminated against. White European royalty loved their court jesters too after all but that didn’t mean they could eat at the table. And when those star players are famous enough they can be used to help sell white products. It’s a win-win situation for the white hegemony that’s still dealing in black bodies for its own benefits. Cheering for the diversity in these teams is therefore missing the point entirely and once again it comes down to cheering for colonization. The power of the white Christian nation doesn’t become challenged by rooting for African countries in sports or dark players in white teams. Diversity is necessary to change perceptions but it doesn’t have the power in and of itself to smash white patriarchy. Let’s not get distracted and keep our eye on the prize shall we? And while everybody was busy celebrating the diversity of the teams they were also busy ignoring dead Syrian children in Daraa. Another win for white supremacy, Islamophobia, imperialism and colonization because yes, Russia is steeped in pan-slavic white supremacy and is as such anti-Muslim and anti-Arab. But by all means, let’s all get excited over this diversity.
It is almost too easy to draw comparisons between the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 1936 Olympics in Germany. The four gold medals of black athlete Jesse Owens at the 1936 summer Olympics crushed Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy and in the aftermath he singlehandedly was able to prevent the Holocaust from happening. Except he didn’t. Those games actually stifled the voices of Hitler’s opposition and made Hitler look sane and acceptable. The rest is history. Similarly, Putin uses the World Cup to cover up his invasions, occupations and downright scary worldwide imperialism. The difference with Hitler is that Hitler still yet had to unleash his version of hell in 1936 while Putin at the time of the World Cup can already be credited with several genocides and countless war crimes, human rights violations and international agreement breeches. And still, we cheer.
Indeed, we don’t need Daraa to remind us that Putin needs to be stopped. The Chechens tried to warn the world what Putin was up to when he decimated a quarter of their people including 42,000 children but the world wasn’t listening. Then, as now, Putin’s propaganda machine was working perfectly and the Chechens were painted as terrorists so their land and their resources could be stolen by the Russian Federation. It was only a dress rehearsal for what was to come, a way for Putin to test the waters and see what he could get away with. Everything apparently. In 2008 he invaded Georgia and in 2014 Ukraine unobstructed despite the Budapest Memorandum from 1994 in which Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons arsenal in return for respecting their sovereignty, independence and their existing borders. In 2015, Putin began bombing Syrian civilians - mostly hospitals, schools and market places - to help keep Assad in power and to increase his imperialistic ambitions. Again, the world did nothing so why stop now?
“I am amazed at the Brits and Dutch watching and attending the #RussiaWarCup. You’d think several #Kremlin-ordered and orchestrated assassinations and assassination attempts on #UK soil, and shooting down a plane of mostly #Dutch citizens would be a bit of a deterrent.”
~ ArianaGic/АріянаҐіць on Twitter
Putin wants to destabilize the EU and the US because it would make the Russian Federation relatively stronger. To this end the creation of millions of Syrian refugees serves a double purpose. First, the fact that they are gone. When you want to colonize a country you don’t want to be bothered by a hostile population so Syrians need to either die or leave. Preferably die of course because dead people don’t talk but second, the influx of refugees in Europe and the US has the added advantage of creating an opening for the rise of Islamophobia, which will help grow the extreme rightwing parties that are all Putin’s allies. The resulting internal tensions will help break up liberal democracies in favor of authoritarian rule. Increasing evidence of Russian meddling in Brexit and the US elections of 2016 should leave no doubt of Putin’s intentions.
If the war on Chechens and the invasion of Ukraine were rehearsals for Syria then Syria is a rehearsal for what’s next. Putin’s empire is already expanding and this should worry everybody. Already there’s no safe place around the world for Chechens to go anymore and Putin has sworn he would hunt them down wherever they flee. Right at this very moment observers have noticed suspicious Russian activity in Moldova and the Azov Sea threatening Ukraine, while the rest of the world is lured away mesmerized by a ball played back and forth. The support for the World Cup only serves to normalize Putin’s crimes and sends a clear message that we are giving him the green light for whatever his heart desires. When we know how certain groups are treated in the fascist Russian Federation and we know how Putin is tightening his grip on the west then every group that has ever been discriminated against - women, people of color, LGBTQ, Muslims, Arabs, Jews – is actually cheering for the erosion of their hard fought rights they obtained in the west every time they support one team or the other even when the victory of certain teams would represent “justice” to some. Reality however is not a game and human rights violations cannot be avenged through a game. The opposite is true, human rights violations and warcrimes are perpetuated through the PR these games provide. Furthermore, when everyone who hates Russia is celebrating the Croatian victory over the Russian team Putin’s toxic masculinity that won’t allow for defeat might very well take it out on Syrians or Crimean Tatars. That’s reality. Reality is also when we don’t say anything, when we let it happen and even legitimize it we are complicit. In our quest for human solidarity we cannot allow ourselves to become distracted. Not even for a moment. The World Cup 2018 should have been boycotted. Period. When there’s justified arguments for the BDS movement when “Israel” is occupying Palestine then these arguments can be made as well for Russia’s occupation of several countries and terrorizing different peoples. Boycotts work as the BDS movement can testify and boycotting one but refusing the other amounts to selective outrage and that has nothing to do with human solidarity and everything with only looking out for the causes closest to our heart. Logic dictates that when everyone does that there’s no hope for any of us to stop any dictator on his imperialistic quest. Rest assured, other authoritarian leaders are taking note of what Putin is teaching them. Only solidarity can save us now.
“The silence of the righteous in seeing injustice makes the wrong-doers think that they are righteous”
~ Ali Ibn Abi Talib