By Matthew Clark
Karl Marx wrote "Religion is the Opium of the Masses." In a mad rush to secularize the world, and shred the world of spirituality, some public figures have agreed with the Communist Propagator. Yet in reality a belief in the almighty compels the believer to always question his actions, and those of the people around him. This is unlike the opium drug which relegates the user to a container of sensory incoherence (similar to the ramblings of many a politician), religious spirituality has the believer enmeshed in the constant flow of questions and ideas.
Karl Marx, instead of taking a self serving shot at religion (religion is a competitor against the political body) should have studied history more thoroughly, and then looked around his contemporary 19th century culture to find the true opium of the masses.
Opium, as stated earlier, is a drug which accentuates the sensory in an individual. Users have described being in a serene state when the drug works well. Like almost all narcotics it alters the natural chemical composition of the brain, and, if used for any length of time, also creates a physical addiction, usually with negative consequences. Despite negative repercussions there is a constant widespread demand for opium. Contemporary drug gangs and terrorist organizations, al Qaeda being one example, the Taliban another, finance their enterprises through the selling of opium, or opium products. In the nineteenth century Great Britain fought two wars with China, and France fought one war with China, to open the Central Kingdoms market to the drug.
Among of the reasons why the Manchu Dynasty resisted the import of opium to their empire was that the drugs addiction caused its users to be lazy, useless individuals. When use was widespread among the population that citizenry had an increase in family breakdown, a decrease in gainful employment, an increase in crime, prostitution, suicides, and a decrease in healthy public discourse. Opium use promoted a public who were highly sensory, mentally slow, physically immobile, and without ambition, beyond acquiring the next indigestion of the narcotic.
Criticize religion as you will, this is not its characteristics. Especially when the believer focuses on the teachings of our lord Jesus Christ.
Yet arguably opium's ugly byproducts are similar to the effect on the public that big time sports has. Especially big time professional sports. Whether it is 100,000 fans (the word fan is short for fanatic) watching a soccer (excuse me football) game in an outdoor stadium, or a bunch of pals viewing their favourite team on television, the character exhibited is usually the same. A highly sensory, mentally incoherent, physically immobile (shouting, standing, clapping is not being mobile) group utterly devoid of any ambition. Their thought are consumed by one desire. To see the group of athletes they root for defeat the other group of athletes they are competing against. Often the competition these adults are watching is a game devised for, and even by, children. Ice hockey, Rugby, Rounders (evolved into baseball) started out as children's matches which were later taken up by adults, be they ordinary working folk, or royalty itself.
Human beings attraction to athletics has been around for a long time. The first Olympics were held in ancient Greece, with the winners of events celebrated as heroes in their home community. Classical Rome feasted its charioteers, such as Gaius Appuleius Diocles who was so successful that he amassed a fortune in winnings. Estimated in todays money as the equivalent of 15 billion dollars. Watching these events caused the Roman poet Juvenal to invent the phrase 'Bread and Circuses.'
'Bread and circuses' Juvenal explained, were meant to deter the general public away from the challenges in everyday life, especially politics, and instead direct their attention to the escapism (from day to day life) of the arena. By cheering for an athlete, or a set of athletes, who were victorious in their challenge, the cheering onlooker became victorious too. If unsuccessful there was always next time, the next event. If the athlete you were cheering for showed perseverance while gaining victory, such as overcoming an injury, then the cheering admirer had obtained some of that fortitude as well, despite having done nothing to gain such an honour.
This trait has carried on into the modern world, starting from the humble beginnings of modern sport in the 19th century to todays epoch of colossal professional sports. In Canada Montreal Canadienne ice hockey fans of my generation were regaled with tales of Rocket Richard overcoming a head injury to score the winning goal in a playoff game, or Boom Boom Geoffrion playing despite suffering from a broken leg. In the same sport Toronto Maple Leaf followers have feted since 1964 on the tale of Bobby Baun scoring an overtime winning goal despite being hobbled with a broken ankle. Canadian Football League Toronto Argonaut followers describe the grit of quaterback Matt Dunnegan playing in the Grey Cup for the team during a bitterly cold contest, while inflicted with a separated shoulder on his throwing arms side.
What these men did was truly laudable, an example to look up to. Yet such tenacity is performed in unaccountable numbers by individuals everyday, with far less reward than what these gentleman received.
Our adoration for the big time athlete, male or female, is becoming grotesquely distorted, in a world with increasingly unsolved problems. The Battle of Waterloo might have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but the participants on those playing fields were young men whose rewards for taking part in the activity was to learn how to interact with their peers, along with the value of tenacity and intestinal fortitude in the face of struggle.
Todays athletics are all to often exhibit emotional indulgence, witness the celebratory antics of players after a score, and the necessity to entertain rather than achieve. More frequently rules are devised to make scoring easier . Thus the public further loses themselves in the contest.
Every Sunday in the United States from September to February the nation is shut down for the day so its populace can observe numerous games where the best of the nations athletes battle over the placement of a pigskin in a short, narrow field. No longer is Sunday the Lords Sabbath, it is instead the working day of the National Football League. And it has hundreds of millions of worshippers.
What Sunday is to Americans Saturday is to Canadians with their adoration of the National Hockey League. Europeans spend Saturday afternoons enthralled with the ordeals of the local (soccer) football team. Meanwhile all of those mentioned jurisdictions have slipped into an economic and political stagnation which is an existential threat to their civilization. No amount of slam dunks, home runs, or field goals are going to better the average persons life. Nevertheless that is what far too much of the general public places their attention on, at the expense of ignoring the substantial issues of (their) everyday life. Placing so much importance on big sport athletics betrays the average individuals addiction to irrelevance. If we, as a civilization, are to pull ourselves out of this malaise, and progress back to a state of prosperity, spirituality, and individual freedom, we must, in large numbers, defy the opium of big league sports, and the celebrity worship which accompanies it. If we do not, then modernity will suffer the the same fate as the Roman Empire. Unsure what happened to the Roman Empire? Well look it up!