Last week, a co-worker drew my attention to a foundation that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has created. It is the International Olympic Truce Centre (see here for the official website, and for the sources of the various quotations that follow… also note the way in which the IOC dominates the Board of Directors). Even thought the Centre was founded in 2000CE, it traces it’s origins back to the first Olympiad (c.776BCE) when a truce (ekecheiria) was established between the various Greek city-states for the sake of the Games, and also roots itself in the events of 1894CE, when the IOC was established “with the goal of contributing to a peaceful future for humankind through the educational value of sport”. Thus, the Olympic Truce calls “upon humanity to lay down its weapons and to work towards building the foundations of peace, mutual respect, understanding and reconciliation” and calls “for all hostilities to cease during the Olympic Games and beyond”.
Now, in my opinion, this is a fantastic example of ideology at work in the worst possible way. I’m not just talking about their fascinating historical narrative; rather, this becomes blatantly obvious when one realizes that the Olympics themselves are a fundamentally violent event (a lot of literature and websites exist detailing how this is the case, but you could start here for some easy reference points). The Olympics are consistently employed to destroy poor communities and environmental safe havens, steal real estate, criminalize poverty, erode civil rights, and place a vast amount of wealth in the hands of the already wealthy, while forcing tax payers to pick up the bills.
So, we notice the extremely narrow definition of violence employed by the Olympic Truce. Violence is understood as doing things like striking another person, destroying property or pulling down security barriers (erected on public land). However, things like destroying precious natural habitats, tearing down poor communities, and stealing housing from those with low incomes are not considered violent. Perhaps, an appropriate illustration of this sort of thinking would be to consider a scenario wherein a man is raping a woman and telling her not to fight back because more people should be committed to peace and the cessation of hostilities! Essentially, the IOC wishes to rape us and our resources, while imposing an ideology upon the public that preempts and counters those who wish to fight back.
Not only this, but the IOC, via the Olympic Truce Centre, is rooted in a position of power and influence so that it can impose its narrow definition of violence upon others. This is why the Olympic Truce Centre and the IOC can speak the language of peace and nonviolence and call for an end to hostilities during the Games… while simultaneously spending around $900 million on its security budget, bringing in 4500 soldiers, over 5000 private security guards, and masses of police and RCMP from all across Canada (the total number of people on the force is something like 16000+). Not only this, but the Olympic Security forces are also authorized to use a number of weapons upon civilians — teargas, pepperspray, fists and boots being fairly standard, but the recently developed ‘Long Range Acoustic Device’ has also been cleared for use on protesters. One might be inclined to take the Olympic Truce Centre more seriously if they were simultaneously disarming the cops — who have a proven track record of employing force in anything but moderation at protests of the sort that are expected to occur in the next week. But, of course, the rhetorical power play is that these forces and weapons are necessary to maintain our safety and security. Nobody stops to consider that the protesters themselves are acting out of their concern for the safety and security of the environment, the marginalized, and the general public. To further the illustration used above, the Olympic Truce Centre is like the man who threatens a woman and tells her she’ll “get it twice as bad” if she fights back while being raped, so best just roll over and take it.
But, thank God, there are many people who will not roll over and take it. The truth is that there can be no truce while the people are being raped — the precursor to peace is the cessation of the Olympics in their current manifestation (if not altogether). That is to say, we will stop fighting back when we are no longer being raped. It’s that simple. So, this is why I will be participating in some of the mass actions that are taking place by those who wish to disrupt these Games, reveal their true Spirit and, as much as possible, shut them down (see this schedule for more on those). I encourage anybody in the Vancouver area to come out and show their solidarity with the people — and come not so that you can say you ‘were there’, and not to be more hip than your roommate, and not to engage in some simulacrum of action or some counter-cultural spectacle that eases your conscience; no, come to succeed and be prepared to take some risks and pay a price to get there (although this information might help). I hope to see you there.