Sports, Spectacle & the Death of Culture

Feast of St Lucian the Martyr of Antioch

Notes_on_Death_of_Culture_Square.jpgAS WE LOOK forward to meeting on Tuesday, October 27, you might find time to consider this excerpt from Mario Llosa's Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society (2012):

"Massification, along with frivolity, is another feature of our time. Nowadays sport has acquired an importance matched only in Ancient Greece. For Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and other regular visitors to the Academy, the cultivation of the body was coextensive with and complementary to the cultivation of spirit, because they believed that both were mutually enriching. The difference with today is that, now, people usually play sports at the expense of, and instead of, intellectual pursuits. In the sporting field, football stands out. It is a mass phenomenon that, like modern popular-music concerts, attracts large crowds and raises passions to a greater degree than any other public mobilization, be it political meetings, religious processions or civic assemblies.  Of course for the fans—and I am one of them—a football game can be a magnificent spectacle of skill and harmony, with justifiably applauded flashes of individual brilliance. But today the major football games, like the Roman circuses, function mainly as a pretext for irrationality, the regression of individuals to the tribe, to being a part of the collective, where, in the anonymous warmth of the stands, spectators can give free rein to their aggressive instincts, to the symbolic (and at times real) conquest and annihilation of the opposition. The notorious Latin American barras bravas, the gangs of supporters attached to certain clubs who cause havoc with their homicidal brawls and the burning of stadiums with great loss of life, show how, in many cases, it is not watching sport that attracts so many fans . . . but rather the ritual that releases irrational instincts, allowing them to turn their backs on civility during the game and behave as part of the primitive horde." (pp. 29-30)

But what would be the condition of Plato's republic without the gymnasium, the warrior class without friendly games, the local high school on Monday without some testosterone left on Friday's field?

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.