As has been my wont for over thirty years – along with others of a similar bent – I played in an informal annual golf tournament yesterday.
The participants are an eclectic bunch. Some have been pals for all this time, some are friends of regulars picked up at some point along the way and – these days – others are kids or new generation relatives of ‘originals’, this as the competition seeks, on the ‘evolve or potentially die’ factor that eventually visits all projects seeking longevity, to reinvent itself on the hoof.
I’d guess that – apart from our interest in golf (I cannot in all honesty here write ‘proficiency’) – one of the things we involved all have in common in an abiding love of sports generally.
The format is a Stapleford competition in which grub plays a central role – consumed with relish are the pre-tournament ‘old school’ full cooked breakfast followed after the first (and for some only) round of the day by a similar ‘full on’ roast lunch accessorized by all the usual trimmings and lashings of alcohol.
My purpose today is not to review the play or even the result: sufficient to it record that your author played as poorly as he can remember on one of the most life-enhancing summery days – and indeed places to be – that it has been my good fortune ever to experience in the month of October.
Rather it is to mention that – quite by chance – on the lunch table I found myself the primary random topic that came to the fore in general discussion was the current vexed and complicated pariah status of Russia in the world.
It seems to be a theme of human history that whenever any country or kingdom becomes preeminent in world affairs then there immediately arises a ‘push back’ mentality amongst all others who may have been temporarily rendered inferior (or at risk of becoming so) as a result.
There naturally exists a state or fear or concern abroad in the world which assumes (perhaps with wisdom learned of experience) that great strength acquired by one will always beget a threat to the stability of others. Put simply, human cynicism and straightforward survival instinct leads to the presumption that anyone who acquires the means to dominate the world will eventually seek to do it.
If you’re the dictator of a repressive, violent and antidemocratic regime the one thing you fear – apart perhaps from notions of democracy and/or a people’s uprising against you – is that some super power (e.g. the Unites States of America) will seek to overthrow you and/or (for-whatever-reason-it-concocts-to-justify-itself) declare war on and obliterate you.
That’s why – courtesy of some hare-brained fantasy logic – you instigate a massive and cripplingly expensive programme seeking to develop nuclear weapons as a presumed (“mutual destruction”) deterrent.
Which inevitably racks up world tension because other nations – not least the USA – regard the thought of some crackpot dictator acquiring nuclear weapons as an extremely serious matter.
And so on.
When it comes to Russia – which someone at yesterday’s table claimed was an economic minnow if not basket case, citing the fact its economy is smaller than that of Texas – it presents as a country (with at the helm a similar leader in Mr Putin) with ideas way above its station.
To Westerners Russia’s image has for the best part of a century been one of a devious (bollocks to international convention or protocols, the end always justifies the means), unerringly oppressive, overbearing, self-interested, malicious influence upon the world. Those holding power in its malignant state administration are little better than Mafia bosses, brigands, crooks and gangsters. They have taken unto themselves ill-gotten gains equivalent to the GDP of country-strength economies and cocked a snook at anyone who protests and/or points this out.
And it regularly drives a coach & four through the principles, integrity and good intentions of world bodies such as the United Nations and/or world sporting governance and drug-testing institutions. Because it can. And it doesn’t care what people think.
The consensus at our lunch table yesterday was that the West – together with that right-thinking (as in upright and principled, not necessarily right wing-thinking politically) group of world leaders – should make a stand and hit Russia where it hurts most.
In other words, firstly, maintain and even extend the economic sanctions currently in place against Russia as punishment for its invasion of Crimea and attempted murder of the Skripals, plus a hundred other crimes upon humanity.
Secondly, stop messing about and just keep Russia out of every world body and every major sporting tournament/event – not least the Olympics and FIFA World Cup – until further notice unless it apologises and atones for its lying, cheating, ignoring of all rules and conventions, and widespread systematic abuse of all the performance-enhancing drugs (and other) controls as exist now or in the future.
Why? Because, as with South Africa and apartheid, nothings hurts a pariah nation more than exclusion from the gatherings and trophies that they desire most – i.e. (put in a nutshell) the prestige of appearing on the world stage as an equal of, and with, all other great countries and continents.
And today I spotted (somewhat late, it has to be admitted) this piece by Matt Slater on Russia’s appeal against its three-year IAAF suspension for systematic doping, as appears upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT
My thought – and now advice – is that the IAAF should extend said ban ‘until further notice’, if not preferably permanently.
Denying that little squirt Putin the opportunity to strut alongside other world leaders on the global stage, thereby being able to pretend to his population of citizens that he’s as important and respected all the rest, would work wonders by dealing a blunt ‘reminder’ to his sensitive and over-inflated ego, if not give him a much-needed ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ moment.