An interview with Ljubodrag Simonoviç, author of The Philosophy of Olympism. Sport is central to his critique of capitalism.
Sport as the religion of capitalism: an Interview with Ljubodrag Simonoviç
It is estimated that more than one billion people around the world are watching this year’s World Cup football tournament in South Africa. Billed as “the biggest sporting event in the world”, it has produced a bonanza for the multinational corporations which sponsor it.
While many people are aware and criticize the commercialization of mass sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics, few understand the role that sport plays as a fundamental keystone to the global capitalist order.
I recently spoke with Ljubodrag Simonoviç about the role sport plays under capitalism. Simonoviç is not what one expects of a philosopher. He was a star player for the national basketball team of Yugoslavia in the early 1970s. He quit the team after walking out of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich to protest the use of doping by the Puerto Rico team. Since then, Simonoviç earned his Doctorate in Philosophy. One rarely equates athletes with philosophers, let alone intellectuals which makes his theories all the more compelling.
Simonoviç is the author of two recent books: The Philosophy of Olympism and A New World Is Possible. Sport is central to his philosophical critique against capitalism.
DK: Many people are aware of the corporatization of sport but you take the argument even further. You say that sport is essential to capitalism. Can you elaborate?
LS: Sport is a capitalist competition. Not every historical form of competition is sport, but the one which is the embodiment of the Social Darwinist principle bellum omnium contra omnes and the absolutized principle of the quantitatively measurable performance shaped in the Olympic maxim citius, altius, fortius – which corresponds to the market economy and the absolutized principle of profit. Just as capitalism is essentially different from the Hellenic slave-owning and feudal order, so is sport essentially different from the ancient agon and knight tournaments. The Olympic Games were an authentic play of the aristocratic Hellas; knight tournaments were an authentic play of feudalism; sport is an authentic play of capitalism. The theory of sport reduces sport to a supra-historical phenomenon the essence of which comes from the “unchangeable human nature”, whereas man is reduced to a “beast” and human society to a “civilized” menagerie. However, individual competition (achievement), which is based on the principle of “Equal chances!”, is a historical product and corresponds to the original spirit of capitalism (liberalism) which atomizes society according to the principle homo homini lupus. The elimination of the “opponent” through victory achieved by an ever better result (record) becomes a capitalist form of a (“civilized”) natural selection. “Primitive peoples” do not know of individual competition and individual achievement, nor do they know of the principle of record. The same applies to the Hellenic society: man is a member of polis and “God’s toy” (Plato). The purpose of competition is not a record but a victory achieved by the Olympic agonistes as the “gods’ electee” which gives him the possibility of acquiring a place on Olympus among the immortal Olympic oligarchy.
DK: Can you give a quick summary of the history of sport under capitalism compared to earlier periods of history?
LS: The history of sport is the history of capitalism. In its original sense the term “sport” (since 1828, before that desport, desportare) does not denote a competition dominated by the cult of victory and the cult of record, but a pastime, a voluntary participation in the activities designed to act out the aristocratic way of life through a symbolism and forms of behaviour deriving from the aristocratic world, and which are the embodiment of the aristocratic system of values expressed in the principle “order and measure” (ordre et mesure). “Sport” was a privilege of the aristocracy through which its exclusive ruling class status was confirmed, which means that it was not a way of integrating the working “masses” into a spiritual orbit of the ruling class, as it was to become in the bourgeois society. It was not dominated by a fight for victory through the elimination of the opponent nor by the idea of progress, but by such a way of behaviour (“gentleman’s manners”) which distinguishes the members of the aristocracy from the “lower classes”. Likewise, the original concept of “sport”, as an entertainment, is not derived from the relation to work and the “world of concerns”; it rather denotes the lifestyle of aristocracy as the parasitic class. It is only in the developed capitalist society that the term “sport” came to designate the “independent” spirit of capitalism which is the embodiment of the principles bellum omnium contra omnes and citius, altius, fortius and appears as the sphere of “freedom” opposite to work. As far as the principle of “chivalry” is concerned, which is used by the ideologues of sport in order to give it a “cultural” legitimacy, in its original sense it corresponds to a static aristocratic order in which the dominant social status is not acquired by a merciless struggle for survival, as it is the case in capitalism, but by birth.
DK: You write that sport is a representation of Anti-Enlightenment thought. How is that so?
LS: Sport acquired its institutional character in the second half of the 19th century and represents a way of dealing with the leading ideas of the French Revolution, critical rationalism, emancipatory possibilities of the newly formed democratic institutions, as well as with the philanthropic and dancing movements. It is not a product of an advanced bourgeoisie which, inspired by the spirit of the Enlightenment and ideals of the French Revolution, strives to create a new society, but of the imperialist circles which strive to deal with the emancipatory heritage of the 19th century civil society and conquer the world. The “international sport” is an expression of the “mondialist” spirit of imperialism and as such rejection of the cultural (religious) being of the ancient Olympic Games, as well as of the Olympic ideas and movements of the Modern Age – which are based on the Hellenic spiritual heritage, national cultures and the emancipatory heritage of civil society.
DK: Many people believe that major sporting events such as the Olympics and World Cup are avenues to promote world peace. For example, after the conclusion of these tournaments, the host country and host cities fly the Rainbow Peace flag. Can you explain exactly how sport encourages war and is in fact, the antithesis of peace?
LS: In its original form, sport does not rely on bodily activism which is supposed to enhance the development of working or artistic capacities, but on the “chivalrous tradition” which is of a belligerent character. Sports contests represent a war not waged by weapons, but by the bodies of “opponents”, and thus are a struggle with the pacifist conscious and preparation for an armed conflict. Hence the ruthless “rivalry”, which involves the ability and readiness to kill the opponent, represents the main characteristic of sports “brotherhood”. Sports terminology indicates its essence: sports contests which do not involve elimination are called “friendly”, which means that the competitions in which the victory is an imperative – are hostile. The natural selection being the carrier of “progress”, it is understandable why the bourgeois theorists speak of war with such enthusiasm: they regard it as the highest and the most direct form of the law of natural selection. From Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine it clearly follows that sport belongs to the sphere of war and military training and that it is the main vehicle for dealing with the pacifist conscious. The view of Carl Diem, a loyal interpreter of Coubertin’s doctrine and one of the leading ideologues of German (Nazi) expansionism: “Sport is war!” (“Sport ist Krieg!”), most adequately expresses the essence of sport. It should not be forgotten that Coubertin started the Olympic campaign with an overt aim to effect changes in the French education system, in order to transform the French bourgeois youth into colonial phalanges. A colonial campaign “without proper sports preparations” represents, according to Coubertin, “dangerous unmindfulness”. It is no wonder that England, as the leading colonial power, where there is place only for “strong individuals”, was the main source of Coubertin’s Olympic inspiration. Furthermore, it is no wonder that Coubertin, in the bloody fights on ancient Olympic playgrounds and medieval tournaments of haughty aristocrats found a source of the “chivalry spirit” which a bourgeois should strive for. War on a sports field was meant to preserve the militaristic traditions of the warring aristocracy and “overcome” them by a belligerent and progressistic spirit of monopolistic capitalism. The ability to “look death in the eyes”, which appears in the form of a man reduced to “opponent”, is one of the most important characteristics of Coubertin’s “new man”, while the ability and readiness to kill a man represents the highest challenge for his “utilitarian pedagogy”.
DK: Besides profit and money, how does capitalism benefit from sport?
LS: In sport, the belligerent spirit of capitalism becomes “independent” and, by way of “sports competition”, strives to resurrect the spirit of the ancient slave-owning aristocracy, as well as the “chivalry spirit” of the bloodthirsty medieval lords. The militarization of the body, spirit, human relations and the relations between nations and races is the highest “cultural” form in which the ruling belligerent spirit appears. In antiquity, in the form of the struggle of individuals for acquiring a place on Olympus the ruling class struggled to preserve its privileges; in modern society, in the guise of a sports competition, the parasitic classes struggle against the emancipatory heritage of humankind and man as the universal creative being of freedom. A sports competition becomes a combat with a competition which does not involve elimination and domination of one man over another, particularly with a competition which involves the development of man’s universal creative powers and offers the possibility of overcoming the existing and creating a new world. In sport, there is no outplaying; it is rather that the contest comes down to a struggle for survival and domination which is completely in line with the dominant spirit of capitalism: the stronger go on, the weaker are eliminated. The purpose of sport is not the development of play, but the preservation of the ruling order.
DK: I have always considered sport serves to distract people from the social and political system of oppression and repression. What do you think about that?
LS: Interestingly, it does not occur to the bourgeois theorists – according to whom gladiator’s fights, knight tournaments, duels and war are “competition” – to refer to the class struggle, struggle for womens emancipation, struggle for liberation from the colonial yoke and particularly revolution – as “competition”. Likewise, in spite of the fact that they emphasize the struggle, it does not occur to them to include in the concept of play the struggle between old and new which involves the expansion of the horizon of freedom – without which there is no true play. Basically, the purpose of competitive play is not the development of the human, but the release of “negative energy” so as to prevent it from being channeled into a political struggle aiming to eradicate the causes of social hardship. Play becomes the sterilization of a critical and changing conscious. In Russell, also, competition does not involve a struggle against the unjust and destructive ruling order, meaning a struggle for freedom and survival; a struggle between old and new; between good and evil; the development of man’s artistic (erotic) nature – it rather involves a struggle against nature, which means the acquisition of technical skills the purpose of which is to establish control over nature and its exploitation.
DK: Can you elaborate what is the ideology of sport within contemporary capitalist society?
LS: Sport is an authentic ideology of liberalism: the cult of victory and record was a form in which appeared the myth of capitalism as an order in which “Everyone has a chance!” and which is capable of providing a stable progress that inevitably brings good to the citizens in every aspect of their lives, which is expressed in the maxim “Competition generates quality!” In monopolistic capitalism, based on the principles “Destroy the competition!” and “Big fish devours small fish!”, sport has become an anachronism which maintains the appearance of a “competitive society” and as such is destined to degeneration. Instead of a “personal initiative” and “individual achievement”, the competition of sportsmen becomes a form of struggle between the most powerful capitalist groups for domination – by means of a dehumanized science, medicine, technique … The principle of competition has become the principle of domination, the latter being the principle of destruction. In a “consumer’s society” the original sports spirit has become completely distorted and sport has turned into a banal circus performance governed by the rules of show-business. In his original Olympic writings, Coubertin indicates where professionalism and commercialization of sport lead to. According to him, “money is the biggest enemy of sport”, as it turns sport into a “fairground”, and (professional) sportsmen into “circus gladiators”. Similar views were expressed by his followers from IOC. Contemporary sports theorists, talking of “original” Olympism, never cite these Coubertin’s views, as they reveal the true nature of sport and thus the true nature of their “theoretic” activity.
DK: Then how did money come to dominate sport if Coubertin believed “money is the biggest enemy of sport”?
LS: Strivings for records condition a specific (concrete historical) nature of sports competitions. A victory over the opponents is worthless without setting a record. It becomes a universal measure, alienated from man, for determining the performance (value), which means a peculiar “superior power” to which man is submitted. A record is the market value of a sports result, and the prevailing logic in sport corresponds to the process of the reproduction of capital: the apsolutized principle of record corresponds to the apsolutized principle of profit. The increasing domination of the apsolutized principle of performance in sport has led to a gradual elimination of combative individualism, the corner-stone of the ideology of liberalism. It has nothing to do with the struggle between people for victory, but with a contest without contestants, where man fights “phantom” records incarnated in the measuring instruments which are the symbols of a dehumanized and denaturalized “pace” of the capitalist time. The history of the ancient Olympic Games is a succession of winners; the history of sport comes down to a linear increment of numbers to which the names of depersonalized “recorders” are assigned. The absolutized performance (record) acquires a mythical dimension: sports “achievements” become the measure of “progress” and “perfectioning” of humankind and thus historical milestones. Simultaneously, the quantitative comparison becomes an “objective” criterion for the distribution of positions on the social ladder of power, which appears in the form of Arnold’s elitist “theory of pyramid” that Coubertin was to adopt: a hundred people should devote themselves to physical culture if fifty of them are to engage in sport; fifty people are to engage in sport if twenty of them are to specialize; twenty people are to specialize if five of them are to become capable of “astonishing bravery” (prouesse étonnante). The pyramid of success indicates a hierarchy of “natural selection” in sport and a mechanistic logic of “contest” which corresponds to the market “competition” and “industrial society”. The qualitative measurement becomes a form of domination of “progress” over man confirming its superiority and eternity. It is not a historical product, but a “fact” which cannot be brought into question and thus is an instrument for training the oppressed how to accept inequality in society as something inevitable. At the same time, a record is not important as a human achievement, but as a means of proving the “progressive” nature of the ruling order. As there are no medical or moral barriers to the progressistic principle citius, altius, fortius, it is clear that man’s “perfectioning” leads to his (self) destruction. Sport crushes the modern (humanistic) idea of progress which involves qualitative leaps in the development of society, the affirmation of man as a being of freedom and the creation of a novum. It enables only (endless) quantitative shifts, advancing in the given spatial and time dimensions, which involves progressing without a progress.
DK: Many intellectuals aren’t interested in sport. Indeed, sport appears to be the epitome of anti-intellectualism. How do you see sports vis-à-vis the degradation of the human intellect?
LS: In sport, there is an evident distinction between intellectual and physical labour, as well as specialization (at an increasingly early age). Each sport has a specific training technique, which means that each sport in a specific way cripples people both mentally and physically and turns them into specialized sportsmen-recorders. The one-sided sports activity leads to the hypertrophy of some and atrophy of other extremities, organs, bodily and mental functions. A sportsmen becomes a specific working force (a self-destructive character), a tool for labour (highly specialized machine) and material for processing (body as a raw material) – for producing a particular record. The bigger the gap between man’s biological powers and the record that must be reached, the more the sports training contributes to man’s self-alienation as a human being and the destruction of his individual dispositions and abilities. Based on the absolutized principle of performance, sport turned a healthy physical strain into an exertion that destroys man as a living being. A sportsman becomes a robot and as such a commodity on the market of sports show-business, while “sports technique” becomes a technical form of the destruction of man’s natural and cultural being. The methods and means applied in sport are those used in the industrial production and modern science: sport is an engine for the production of recorders (records). The maxim “Recorders are born in vials!” suggests the real nature of “top sport” which is, as its name suggests, the highest challenge for sport generally. Behind technical terms and scientific formulations an industry of death is hiding: “top sport” has become a supreme form of man’s destruction. Sport is a means by which man, as a biological and human being, turns into a mechanical device. At the same time, it brings about an ecocide conscious and ecocide relation of man to his (her) own body. The “competitive mind” becomes a form of irrational processes of the capitalist reproduction which, by way of a “sports spirit”, are infused into man. The “aggressive animal nature” is replaced by a self-destructive fanaticism.
DK: You write that sport is the religion of capitalism. Specifically, you describe it as the cult of the body. Can you elaborate?
LS: The dominant cult in sport is the cult of the body and muscular strength which is expressed in Coubertin’s maxim “combative spirit in a muscular body” (mens fervida in corpore lacertoso). While in the ancient bodily agon there is a spontaneous relation of man to the body, which arises from the body being experienced as a constituent part of the universe and the source of man’s vital energy, sport is dominated by an instrumental relation of man to the body. Everything is submitted to a modeling based on the capitalistically (ab) used technique and science: just as in antiquity the physical appearance was meant to be united with the (geometrically constituted) universe, so is in the modern world the physical appearance meant to be united with the Social Darwinist and progressistic spirit of capitalism. Also, in sport, the cult of the body has nothing to do with a broader religious context, as it was the case in antiquity, but is a means of creating a positive character and positive conscious, as well as a means of demonstrating the expansionist power of capitalism. In sport, unlike the gods in antiquity, there are no anthropomorphic symbols representing the dominant power. That role is assumed by sportsmen, and their body and appearance are completely subjected to the nature of the ruling order. Instead of the ancient holistic approach to the body, the emphasis is placed on the expansive muscular strength and mechanization of the body. In sport, man fits in with the capitalist universe by way of the body and bodily posture which is in accordance with the dynamic and progressistic nature of capitalism. The “sports spirit” is a manifest form of the expansionist spirit of the ruling order, while the “sport body” represents the most authentic capitalist form of physical degeneration and thus is a “supraclass” and “supraracial” model of the body. It is an ideological body which expresses the totalitarian and ecocide nature of the ruling order. A dehumanized and denaturalized world, based on the capitalist destruction, corresponds to a dehumanized and denaturalized body and a destructive body movement.
DK: A recurrent theme in your writings on sport is about turning humanity into robots. It’s obvious that over the past 35 years, capitalism has propagated the ideology of “The Man Machine” within popular culture. In the 1970s, it was bionic men and women, in the 1980s, it was the cyborg. Over the past 15 years, the breathtaking growth and expansion of cyberspace has accelerated this process. What is the relation between sport and the mechanization of human beings into robotic machines?
LS: Sport is an area in which the technicization of the environment, man and interpersonal relations attained the climax. It is one of the most important instruments of capitalism for destroying a humanistic and creating a” Technical civilization”. “Sportification” of the world is the most radical form of man’s denaturalization and decultivization and a means of his being involved in the life and spiritual orbit of “technical civilization”. Science strives to create a being (machine) which will be deprived of all those human qualities that hinder the breaking of records and the production of increasingly bloody sports spectacles. Sport draws on a mechanistic philosophy of the body and finds mimetic impulses in the industrial and militaristic movements. Instead of a natural movement and natural body, the prevailing movement is mechanistic, the body becomes the cage of technical rationality, while the “competitive character” becomes the embodiment of the ruling destructive spirit. Coaches become body technicians and slave drivers who are to enable the achievement of a desired result (record) at the cost of man’s destruction. At the same time, man’s spirit is also being crippled and the cult of a technicized body is being created and thus the cult of a “technical civilization”. This way of thinking absolutizes the quantitatively measurable result achieved at the cost of the destruction of man’s natural being. Sport creates a capitalist ideological sphere and the appropriate “public opinion” by destroying the emancipatory heritage of the civil society which offers an opportunity for man to get rid of the ecocide capitalist tyranny.
DK: Can you give some examples of how sport is used to achieve the frightening goals you have just highlighted?
LS: “Disciplining” the body in the bourgeois physical culture and sport reflects an endeavour to bring nature under control of the ruling order: “Taming” of the body corresponds to the “taming” of nature. Sport does not cultivate man’s natural being, but “disciplines” it through a technocratically based drill dominated by the mechanics of the physical, turning the body into a machine. In contrast to the Middle Ages, where dealing with the body becomes dealing with the “false” earthly world, the bourgeois pedagogy suppresses and destroys in man all those things that do not fulfil the needs of the capitalist order and can jeopardize it, and develops all those things that contribute to the preservation of that order. Hence, Coubertin insists on a “utilitarian pedagogy”: the “good” is that which is useful to the ruling order. An aggressive belligerent (‘healthy”) egoism, an insatiable “need” for acquisition and ruling (oppression) – those are the “true” characteristics of a “model” bourgeoisie. Coubertin’s principle of “greater effort”, which conditions a relentless relation of man to his body and to which, in the psychological sphere corresponds the principle of “greediness”, is analogous to a colonial-plundering relation to nature. The “development of sport” is based on an ecocide logic: the physical drill destroys the body, which is for man his immediate nature, and thus breaks man’s connection with nature and makes life in nature impossible. The technicized living conditions, which means capitalistically degenerated nature, become man’s living environment he “spontaneously” strives for and in which he can survive. Sport clearly illustrates the fact that the capitalist way of production does not turn nature into useful objects but degenerates and destroys it: the relation to the body reflects the relation of capitalism to nature. In sport, the capitalist exploitation of nature is fully realized, according to the principle of an ever better result (profit) in an ever shorter time. On this the principle of early selection is based, the principle which cripples the body, destroys man’s erotic nature, his mind and spirituality, and creates a sado-masochistic character. In the contemporary world (“consumer society”), the sports body has become an instrument for producing a sports spectacle, meaning a spiritual drug, and a moving advertising billboard.
DK: In your book, The Philosophy of Olympism, you refer repeatedly of sport being connected to the militarization of society. How does sport develop a militarized society?
LS: Sporting physical drill involves a modeling of the body according to progressistic (quantitative) criteria which lead to man’s (self) destruction. The highest challenge is to reach the given “model” of the body which is the projection of the result (record) striven for. Instead by art and naturalness, sport is dominated by technique which involves an instrumentalized body reduced to a technical device and technicized skill conditioned by the nature of sport and the achieved “level” of results. Man is reduced to a tool for the production of records, and his body to a raw material which, through physical drill and scientific methods, is to be “transformed” into a “sport body”. In sport, the ruling model of the body is not appropriate to a particular cultural pattern; it is a direct incarnation of the ruling relations and values: a sportsman is an anthropological form in which the ruling order appears. Like in antiquity, the citizen of modern society is to completely fit into the established (capitalist) universe; he is to be spiritually, physically and actively united with it. Sports aesthetics do not derive from culture; they are based on the nature of sport as a war waged with bodies, on the striving to set a record and on the nature of spectacle – which is a commercial package of sports merchandise. The holistic approach to the body has been discarded (proportionality, harmony), as well as the softness of movements and bodily expression, the pulsation of the erotic, emotional and spiritual, the movement of man to man and the ancient kalokagathia which insists on the unity of the beautiful and the good. Mimetic impulses are not found in nature nor in the cultural sphere, but in technical processes: technical “perfection” represents the highest challenge for sports esthetics. It is corresponded by a body reduced to a highly specialized machine, mechanics of movement, technicized (ecocide) mind, a suppressed and mutilated Eros, as well as man’s crippled emotional and spiritual being. The mutilated bodies of contemporary gladiators become the highest attainment of the “beautiful”.
DK: There’s a contradiction in the philosophy of sport. On one hand, it espouses the “cult of the body”, while on the other hand sport destroys the body.
LS: The body is not a form of man’s existence as an independent being, his possession; it is an instrument for achieving political and economic goals. Within this context, man’s relation to his own body is mediated by the ruling ideology. The alienation of the body from man becomes man’s alienation from his own self. “Disciplining” of the body, the maxims mens sana in corpore sano, mens fervida in corpore lacertoso and citius-altius-fortius – represent the forms of establishing an institutionalized oppression over man which means not only a destructive instrumentalization of the body, but the destruction of personality. Instead of a respect for man’s specific individuality and his human complexity, the priority is given to a dehumanized (destructive) principle of performance and the appropriate model of man. The one-sided oppressive physical activity creates a physically one-sided and spiritually mutilated man. In contrast to the sophists, who by human nature mean the “unity of the body and the soul but, above all, man’s internal disposition, his spiritual nature”, in sport, just as in Christianity, the dualism of the body and the spirit is established. Instead of a “divine spirit”, sport is dominated by the spirit of capitalism incarnated in sportsman’s muscular body in combatant effort, but, instead of the soul, the character (sado-masochistic, murderous-destructive) becomes the meeting point and support of man’s governing spirit. In sport, man is reduced to a depersonalized model of “sportsman”, which means that he is deprived of elementary humanity, thus becoming part of the “team” of capitalist gladiators, stunt men and circus players. He does not regard his fellow sportsman as a man, but as an “opponent” who should be removed from the way. Physical injuries and killing become a legal and legitimate form of “relation” to the “opponent”. The same applies to man’s relation to his own body. Torturing of the body and its destruction is the basic way of achieving “victory over the body (pain)”, which gives rise to a (sado) masochistic character and “victorious will”. Man is reduced to the body, while strength, speed, stamina, killing and destructive power (skill) become the basic way of his self-evaluation. Sportsmen turn from living beings into robotized beings guided by a (self) destructive fanaticism. At the same time, in sport man is subject to an authoritarian order and is accustomed to “responding to a whistle” – without reasoning. The “golden rule” of every coach is that “players do not think, but do what they are asked to do”. A sports training does not serve to cultivate man, it mutilates humanity. It is reduced to a technical drill which resembles a military drill, the difference being that in sport the ruling principle is not that of the optimal but of a “greater (destructive) effort”.
DK: There’s something I’ve observed in all sports and that is the manipulation of sexuality. There’s quite a bit of eroticism within sport. Granted, most of it is homoerotic. For example, one often sees male players patting each other’s behinds. In basketball, many women spectators attend just to see the exposed bodies of the male players. In tennis, the most popular women champions are the ones with the shortest and most revealing skirts. What’s the relation between sexuality and sport?
LS: Sport deprives man of his erotic nature. A man and a woman are not sexual (natural, affective, human) beings; they are raw materials and tools for setting records. “Specificity”of the woman’s body is that it is “weaker’ than man’s, which means that it achieves “poorer’results. If life-creation is the basic existential principle, then precisely by virtue of her body the woman is superior to man since she possesses a life-creating (fertile) body. By accepting the governing evaluative model as the basis of her own evaluation, the woman renounces that which makes her a specific human being and reduces herself to an “inferior being”, a surrogate, or a bad copy of man reduced to a robotized gladiator. Sports pedagogy deals with Eros which induces man to develop his affective nature and closeness with other people, and turns his energy into the driving force of “progress”: a muscular male body in combatant effort, as a symbolic form of the governing spirit, is the highest sporting challenge. Love destroys the fanatic concentration of a sportsman on achieving victory (record) and thus changes his relation to the body of the beloved person, as well as to his own body. It ceases to be a machine and becomes an erotic challenge – a source of pleasure, and thus questions training that mercilessly destroys the organism, doping-treatments which decrease sexual potency, as well as the (self) destructive “competitive motivation”.
DK: Can you speak of the debilitating effects sport has on the health of athletes?
LS: On the example of bodily exertion we can also see how untenable is Plessner’s, Habermas’ and Rigauer’s theses that sport is the “duplication of the world of labour”. Labour is dominated by the principle of optimal effort, while sport is dominated by the principle of “greater effort” which basically means a merciless destruction of organism —based on the apsolutized principle of performance. The rhythm and intensity of sports exertion destroy the biological rhythm of organism. Sport abolishes the distinction between tiredness and over fatigue— which is a pathological state of organism. “To increase physical fitness” involves suffering and blocking of pain which is organism’s natural defence reaction to excessive exertion. Cells are destroyed as well as muscles, spine, heart, joints, liver, and this results in a functional and constitutional disharmony of the body and organs, some extremities, organs and functions of organism are hypertrophied and some are atrophied…
DK: There have been hundreds of sport related deaths over the decades, which have received very little attention. Athletes have not only died on the field but also off the field. There is a popular belief that an “athletic” body is the healthiest. You obviously show the opposite. An athletic body is actually the unhealthiest.
LS: Sport is a capitalist way of producing physically and mentally ill people. In the beginning of the 20th century, the French physician Phillip Tissié, who analyzed the functioning of organism of long-distance runners, came to the conclusion that excessive physical exertion led to the degeneration of cells, and that the sportsman is a chronically ill person. Sports physicians do not struggle for a healthy man, but for the creation of a “sport body” and its “servicing”. What is a pathological state for “ordinary people”, for sportsmen is a “normal state”. Special terms have been coined, such as a “sport heart”, turning chronically ill sportsmen into “supermen”. Off course, this applies only while the medals are being won. Physicians take active part in this physical and mental destruction of people. A typical example is the medical report on the West-German heptathlon contestant Birgit Dressel. In spite of being “a hundred percent healthy”, Dressel died of “toxemia” in agony. She was 27 years old. No one was held responsible. That is how the life of sportsmen ends throughout the world… Coaches ruin the lives of a large number of children in their preadolescent and adolescent period. The most obvious example is gymnastics, where little girls are monstrously degenerated. As far as sports injuries are concerned, only rugby in the USA records 650 000 seriously injured people annually. It is estimated that most orthopedists in the West earn their livings on “correcting” the consequences of injuries incurred in sport activities.
DK: One of the reasons why you walked out of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich was related to the use of doping by the Puerto Rican basketball team. 38 years later, doping incidents seem to be the norm rather than the exception despite rigorous testing and official condemnation of doping by the International Olympic Committee and various other sporting authorities. Why is doping so prevalent in sport?
LS: Body doping is but one of the means used to make the organism of a sportsmen achieve results which exceed his biological capacities. Anabolic steroids, “bathing” in oxygen, blood doping, doping-pregnancy, virilisation, “therapy” with the hormone of growth, erythropoietin, computer “processing” of muscles and shock treatments (as in the “training” of horses), genetic engineering – without all these means the “progress” in sport cannot be imagined. What the sports industry is doing to sportsmen resembles the experiments on human beings performed in Nazi laboratories of death. Body doping is carried out by sportsmen being fanaticized, which (only conditionally) can be called mental doping and which blocks the power of reasoning and generates a will for self-destruction. A need to escape from poor slums and anonymity, dreams of making “big money”, the dominant evaluative model, the achieved level of results, the imposed pattern of sports conduct which involves the production of increasingly bloody and destructive spectacles – all this creates the background for a fatalistic acceptance of one’s sports “destiny” and for the development of a self-destructive conscious. The maxim mens sana in corpore sano, and particularly Coubertin’s maxim mens fervida in corpore lacertoso, clearly indicates that sport does not count on the development of mind, but on the development of a belligerent (murderous-destructive) character and an instrumentalized body.
DK: You take Marx’s concept of alienation further. Marx spoke of alienation of the worker related to his job. You say that sport alienates the individual from his body. How?
LS: In modern society, the relation to the body is mediated by the capitalist universe (industrial mimesis, the principle of rationality and efficiency, destructive instrumentalism…) which appears in the form of a technical sphere, alienated from and dominant over man, which is an immediate living environment and imposes the logic of living. It is by way of this sphere that the capital rules man and nature. Just as in antiquity man was the slave of the ruling order by way of the sphere of Olympic gods, so in capitalism he became the slave of the ruling order by way of science and technique. The instrumentalization of the body is based on the capitalistically-based division of labour, that is, on specialization and thus on man’s mutilation. Marx speaks of man being transformed into a freak in the industrial process of production, which is brilliantly demonstrated by Charlie Chaplin in his movie the “Modern Times“. The capitalistic form of alienated labour processes the body by turning it into a technical (working) tool, and reduces the mind to an operationalized intellect. A capitalistically degenerated body has degenerated senses and motoring. The dominant characteristics are the bodily mechanic, precision of movements, esthetics of the machine, deerotization, hypertrophy of some and atrophy of other functions, spiritless body and movements; instead of the ancient principle metron ariston, prevails an aggressive muscular body; the principle of optimum effort is replaced by the principle of “greater effort”; the prevailing character is (self) destructive and the prevailing movement is adjusted to the capitalist rhythm of reproduction, etc. Thus, it is not about a humanization, but about a technicization of the body (nature). The capitalist way of industrial production transformed man into a robotized freak. It is best seen in sport, in the principle “Recorders are born in vials!”, in which a robotized body is the highest esthetic challenge. If the body is neither natural nor human, then not only can man not “be-in-the world”, he can no longer be at all – since he is no longer a man.
DK: There are countless examples of how an entire industry has been created out of playing on people’s dislike, hatred and even shame of their bodies. In the US, in particular, a wretched “dieting” industry has been created. We know that girls as young as 12 years old starve themselves just so that they can have the same type of body as the celebrity star. Within the past decade, men have been sucked into the image industry known as metrosexuality. Why do you think this self destruction of the body has become so prevalent?
LS: As man is, by way of his body, “immediately in the world”, the most fatal and inevitable form of the impact of capitalism, as the order of destruction, on man is through the body: the crisis of the world is, at the same time, the crisis of the body. Hence the basic form of man’s self-alienation is the alienation from one’s own body. Man experiences himself as an otherness as against the existing world through the suffering which is the consequence not only of his unsatisfied primary needs, but also of their mutilation. He flees the world by fleeing from his body, or by fleeing to his body (narcissism). Most people in the West experience everyday frustration because they discard their own body as worthless, unfitted to the ruling (consumer-advertising) model of the body which becomes the basis of social evaluation. Man experiences his body as a punishment, as something alien, and tries to mask it (“fashion”), or change it with exhausting physical exercises, “treatments”, operations… A capitalistically degenerated man has an instrumental relation to his own body based on the principle of profit. Physical appearance and health are not the purpose, but a vehicle for achieving social prestige and existence. The desirable model of the body is that which is in line with the dominant value-related model dictated by the dominant fashion concerns. The frequently changing fashion forces people to ever more frequent changes, which means an increasingly merciless treatment of the body. An industry was born for the production of images. The image becomes a commodity similarly to garments. The entertainment industry offers increasingly diversified forms of physical degeneration. Plastic surgery, body-building, fitness-centres and diets – all these serve to make man conform to the dominant model of the “beautiful” according to the standards of advertising industry. “Barbie” doll becomes the “most beautiful” form of man’s devaluation. As far as “Rocky”, “Rambo”, “Terminator” and other Hollywood freaks are concerned, they are the picture of the contemporary capitalist “superman”, whose cultural conscience has been “erased” and who is guided in his behaviour by a destructive idiocy.
DK: Yes! This is all promoted through “consumer society”. Sporting events such as World Cup and Olympics are basically marketing campaigns to sell consumer products.
LS: In contrast to the former ruling classes, the bourgeoisie strives to include the working layers into its spiritual, as well as into its living sphere. The capitalist way of life (“consumer society”) becomes a totalizing principle of life which spares no one and from which there is no escape. The commercialization of life is the worst form of totalitarianism ever created in history, since it completely submits nature, society and man to the destructive mechanism of the capitalist reproduction. Its essence is expressed in the monstrous maxim “Money does not stink!” – which illustrates the very gist of the ecocide capitalist terrorism. According to the dictate of the absolutized principle of profit, the totalizing of the world by “technical civilization” is in place – and it destroys the possibility of creating a humanist civilization – as well as of nature, body and bodily movement, which directly conditions the “development” of senses and man’s mental capacities. The dominant form of bodily activism becomes a consumer activism. The commercialization of the body is the “highest” form of capitalist degeneration of the body (man). Man’s body is not only part of a capitalistically degenerated world; it becomes a means of destroying the natural and the human and as such the enemy of man. A direct product of the “consumer society” is a man-consumer corresponded by a consumer-body in which the surrogates of “consumer civilization” are to vanish. Capitalism destroys the body by turning it into a destructive mechanism – causing hypertrophy of those physical functions which offer a possibility for the development of consumer society, and the atrophy of those functions which are not of a profitable character. The dominant rhythm is that of the capitalist reproduction which destroys the biological rhythm of life – without which there is no healthy man. Man is not only guided by a consumer activism as a value-related challenge, but his body cannot survive without an ever bigger number of devices and aids, as well as artificial living conditions. The capitalist totalizing of the world involves the capitalist totalizing of the body, which means its distortion and the creation of a chronically ill man who can survive only with an ever bigger amount of medicaments and medical interventions. Man’s survival is increasingly mediated by artificial means which turn him into an invalid. The body has lost its natural needs: it can no longer process natural food; it lives on medicaments and through medicaments. Man’s whole life is under “treatments” which, ultimately, are to enable him to survive in a functional harmony with the ruling order. Material wealth does not provide him with a healthy life; it rather causes a specific mental and physical degeneration of plutocracy. The relation to the body shows that the development of the “consumer standard” involves the destruction of the living standard. Work, way of life, movements, rhythm of living, diet, sleeping, space which is a modern ghetto (towns), air, water, food, tobacco, drugs, beverages, the way of life which destroys man’s natural being, night life – all these forms of life become a way of man’s degeneration. Cholesterol, cellulite, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurasthenia, depression, AIDS, etc. – are not the “diseases of contemporary world”, but are capitalistic form of man’s physical and mental degeneration. It is about a capitalist mutation of man performed by depriving man of natural and human life-creating force and degenerating him into a plastic and technical “being”. At the same time, an increasing number of threatening diseases are not naturally conditioned and of a natural character; they are the products of laboratories and are of a genocidal and profitable character. We are dealing here with a capitalist production of diseases which are being “treated” by turning man into a profitable patient, which means a chronically ill person. “Physical needs” of today’s man are determined by propaganda machinery and his social position. Man, who constantly devours increasing amounts of increasingly low quality food, is the most important strategic goal of the food industry. It creates an increasingly ill man who is, naturally, “attended to” by medical and pharmaceutical industry. The consumption of an increasing amount of food is not the need of our bodies, but is a compensation for a frustrated humanity. Capitalism is turning the consequences of the destruction of nature and man into the sources of profits and is developing ever more horrible mechanisms of destruction. The human body becomes a universal destructive machine and a universal garbage collector which should devour the ever more poisonous surrogates of the capitalist civilization. At the same time, existential anxiety, everyday humiliations, loneliness, hopelessness generated by the destructive capitalist nothingness, mentally distort man, and this is a direct cause of the degeneration of the body.
DK: You say that sport is the highest form of Social Darwinism. You write that this was invented by the founder of the modern Olympic Games Pierre de Coubertin. How did Coubertin devise his philosophy?
LS: Sport is the cult of capitalism. In his Olympic writings Coubertin writes of Olympism as the “cult of the existing world” which appears under the ideological veil of the “cult of humanism”. The starting point for establishing sport as the cult of the existing world, however, is not humanism, but Social Darwinism and positivism. Sport is the reaction of the bourgeoisie to the guiding ideas of the French Revolution, the emancipatory legacy of the civil society and the ideal of future which becomes the landmark of a political movement striving to overcome capitalism. It is a form in which the bourgeoisie, which came to power on the wave of bourgeois revolutions, performed a spiritual counterrevolution. Instead of of “Freedom”, “Equality” and “Brotherhood”, the principle of “progress”, reduced to the “development” and “perfectioning” of capitalism, becomes the supreme political principle; instead of a struggle to realize basic human and civil rights, there exists a conflict between nations and races and colonial expansion ; instead of a respect for cultural tradition, sport is used for destruction of nations’ spiritual heritage and thus their libertarian dignity… Sport becomes the most important “mondialist” ideology and stadium the most important “cultural” venue of the capitalist world.
DK: Basically, you’re saying that sport is the religion of capitalism. What are the symbols and rituals related to sports religion?
LS: Unlike the religious cults based on transcendental values, sport is a positivist cult reduced to the divination of the existing world. The prevailing symbolism in the stadiums expresses the prevailing spirit of the existing world and represents a means for integrating people into the ruling order. Not war, but life based on Social Darwinism and progressism is the source of sport. Instead of traditional religions, Olympism becomes the highest (positive) religion appropriate to the spirit of the modern world: the spirit of Olympism is the spirit of capitalism. Unlike traditional religions, sport is not an attempt to make life meaningful; it is a shock-therapy meant to alleviate the ever bigger sufferings caused by the everyday meaningless and ever bloodier life. It crushes the critical visionary mind, the idea of future and man as a living (biological) being. The “creation of future” in sport is based on the positivistic maxim “to know in order to predict, to predict in order to act” (savoir pour prevoir, prevoir pour agir). A fight between people is possible, according to the rules which are the embodiment of the ruling spirit, but not for the purpose of changing the established order. In it, there is no fight between the good and the evil, which means that the basic humanistic principle is excluded from sport, the principle without which there is no civilization. Sport is the most authentic anticipation of a capitalist “future”.
DK: Right. What is the function of sport within capitalist class society?
LS: Sport has become the most important political weapon of the class domination by which the bourgeoisie destroys the class consciousness of the working people, critical mind, libertarian dignity, depolitizes the oppressed, achieves “national integration”… In contrast to the earlier games, which expressed the spirit of the ruling order and had a class exclusivity, sport is a “supraclass” game which expresses the progressistic capitalist universalism by means of which the bourgeoisie draws into its spiritual orbit not only workers, but women and members of “lower races” as well. It serves to “overcome” class antagonism (“sport has nothing to do with politics”), achieves “class reconciliation” and thus “social peace”. For the ruling class, sport is an “ideological political cudgel” which destroys the critical mind and workers’ drive for changes. It is a vent releasing the discontent of the oppressed and preventing the creation of an organized political movement that can jeopardize the ruling order. The conflict between classes is transferred from the political (social) sphere to stadiums, the war waged in sport being the embodiment of the capitalist way of life. When a man gives vent to his discontent on a stadium, he does that in a way which does not question the existing order, but reproduces it. Sport is a capitalist ideology which “levels off” class differences based on the ruling principles of capitalism. To win! – that is the existential imperative both for those who are at the bottom and for those who sit in “blue loges”. Capitalism does not leave anybody alone. The existential uncertainty is Damocles’ sword hovering over everybody’s head. Trying to escape from the bottom and struggling not to come to the bottom – this is what makes the rich and the poor “get closer”. “Enjoying” wealth means letting off the fear of poverty. Sport repeatedly produces the awareness of an unavoidable world based on the Social Darwinist principle “The stronger win, the weaker are eliminated!” (Coubertin). It provokes a conflict between people (nations, races and genders) thus producing the existing world of injustice. Sport serves to provide the oppressed with “opponents” in the form of an “opponent team” and “opponent supporters” so that they can vent their anger at them because of their humiliating position. It absorbs the increasing discontent of the oppressed working people and their children – whose future is being destroyed. Capitalism produces an unhappy and mutilated man, and at the same time creates ever bloodier compensatory mechanisms and a need for them – which is attributed to the “evil” human nature. Sport clearly shows the truth that politics is an art of directing the discontent of the oppressed towards the realization of inhuman ends. That is why in sport everything is allowed: murder, serious physical injuries, verbal abuses… “Victory” on a sports field is the defeat of humanity.
DK: There, however, does appear to be continuity between the Roman Empire and today’s society. Ancient Rome used the coliseum to offer the masses bread and circuses. In Ancient Rome, this was used to keep the population from turning against their elites. Sport today serves the same purpose but also something much more sinister. The Romans were interested in distracting their citizens rather than destroying them. Today, sport serves to both distract and kill the citizens.
LS: Sports spectacles have become the chief and cheapest spiritual food for those deprived of their rights. To drive the oppressed into stadiums and sports centres has become the most important political task of the ruling regimes. Hence everything is being done to enable their regular occurrence. Those who adopt laws prescribing long-term imprisonment for children who run into the field during a game, are the main promoters of sport, which is an institutionalized violence with a spectacular dimension; those who struggle to “abolish” capital punishment as a “non-civilized” measure are the chief organizers of the ever bloodier sports spectacles in which premeditated and accidental murders as well as the infliction of serious physical injuries are legalized; the European legislation in no way tries to stop a monstrous abuse of increasingly younger children and their turning into sports slaves; the duration and intensity of trainings are not limited; the selling of players by clubs is legalized; segregation according to the gender has been institutionalized; the use of dope is elevated to the level of the state policy – hiding the interests of multinational concerns and ruling political clans; “physical culture” has been expelled from schools and “sports education” has been introduced in which, instead of cultural conscious and tolerance, prevail physical strength and the spirit of ruthless rivalry; young people deprived of their rights acquire the status of “hooligans” and thus of social outcasts; instead of pedagogical measures for preventing the violent behaviour of young people and creating the conditions for changing their ever harder social position, we are facing an increasingly brutal police oppression… All those things that express the existential spirit of capitalism – murder, physical injuries, destruction of humanity – acquire in sports fields a spectacular dimension. The principle “Victory at all costs!”, which corresponds to the principle “Profit at all costs!” – becomes a supreme and unquestionable sports principle.
DK: I’m originally from New York, which is not only the centre of the capitalist world but also where baseball is the most popular sport. The two most popular “newspapers”, which are really nothing but gossip tabloids devoid of any serious news, devote half their pages to sports. In fact, most New Yorkers buy these papers to read the sport results. The most popular writers are sports columnists. The stories are all about the personalities of the managers and players. When one or both of the baseball teams make the playoffs, the entire city is swept up into the drama of whether or not the Yankees or Mets will win the Pennant or the World Series. During the month of October, New York gets swept up in the drama of baseball. Indeed, the collective or mass psychology of most inhabitants is determined by how well or bad our teams do.
LS: The nature of sport as drama is conditioned by the role of sport in society. It is not an activist integration of the ruling class, like the ancient Olympic Games and medieval chivalrous tournaments, but is a “supraclass” phenomenon and as such means the integration of the oppressed into the spiritual orbit of the ruling class and their depolitization according to the principle panem et circences. Its purpose is to inseminate man with the ruling spirit, to pin him down to the existing world, destroy his mind, imagination, hope of a better world… A sports spectacle is a modern pagan festivity which gives a fatal dimension to the ruling relations and values. It does not enable man to treat the existing world in a reasonable way, but completely integrates him into it. Man becomes the toy of destiny, which means of the basic processes of capitalist reproduction. Sport abolishes the dualism of reality and ideals. In it, there is no opposition between play and life: it represents life in its existential and essential sense. Sport is the authentic form of the playing of life and thus is its glorification which is supposed to create a religious relation to the ruling values. Sport does not reflect the human; it is rather that man becomes a means for deification of the ruling relations and values. Sport is not an innocent children’s play; it is a ritual manifestation of the submission to the ruling spirit and thus is the highest religious ceremony with a liturgical character. It is pervaded with a sacred serenity. Hence the importance of the “Olympic oath” (serment olympique): sport is the cult of the existing world, while man appears in the sports ritual as the symbolic incarnation of the spirit that rules the world. A sports spectacle is not an enactment of life; it is its reproduction: in it, the essence of the capitalist world appears in a condensed form. Rugby, boxing and other bloody sports are immediate expression of the “American way of life”, which is based on a ruthless Social Darwinism and a destructive progressism – and which becomes a planetary way of life (“globalism”). The sports drama is the authentic way of the playing of life – in which life itself is the stake. Sport is a drama without masks, without petty bourgeois lies, without invented plots which are to glorify criminals and obtain meaning for the capitalist nothingness. Life itself continues without a “humanistic” and “artistic” veil. It is legal in sport to inflict serious physical injuries and kill, to mutilate children, apply medical “treatments” which reduce sportsmen to laboratory rats, to turn the young into fascist hordes… The theatre represents the scenery of the world of lies and crime; sport represents its foundation. At the stadium, there is no human distance, there is no comical: gladiators are not entitled to laughter. The increasingly bloody life requires increasingly bloody sports spectacles, which are the compensation to the oppressed for the increasing everyday misery. “The spectators love the smell of blood!” – this is the “golden rule” of sports show-business in the USA and other countries of the “free world”. Sports stadiums were not built for well-to-do (petty) bourgeois, as is the case with the theatre which has an elitist status, but for the working “masses” deprived of their rights and for their children reduced to “hooligans”. The modern stadium appeared along with the modern industrial proletariat, at the time when workers managed to obtain the eight-hour working day – when the bourgeoisie endeavoured to “colonize the leisure time” of workers and thus prevent their political organization and integrate them into the ruling order. Stadiums are not designed for “cultural education” of the oppressed, but for their “pacification” (depolitization) and idiocy. “Sport is the cheapest spiritual food for the (working) masses that keeps them under control.” – this is the most accurate sociological (political) definition of sport reached, after the First World War and the then revolutionary movements in Europe, by the “father” of modern Olympism Pierre de Coubertin. Sport is becoming a way of destroying the class consciousness and shifting the fight from the political to the sports arena. Stadiums are not the temples of culture but bonfires for burning out the discontent of the oppressed. This is what determines their appearance: stadiums are modern concentration camps for people deprived of their civil and human rights. Everywhere in the capitalist world, where people are becoming increasingly poor, and fewer and fewer people are becoming rich, we have the same picture: wire fences, special police forces, trained dogs… A match is an occasion for giving vent for a man increasingly deprived of his rights, and it does not reflect human “evil” but suffering and despair. Sports spectacles are a way of turning the critical and change-oriented potentials of the people deprived of their rights into aggression directed towards the so called “opponents”, who belong to the same class of the oppressed, and a way of provoking a war between them. This is the basis on which supporting groups are formed: instead of turning their discontent towards the ruling order, young people turn it towards other supporting groups, who are also the victims of an inhuman order. “Supporting masses” are a form of degeneration of the working youth, while fanaticism of supporters is a form of degenerating its critical and change-oriented conscious. Symbols and slogans under which the youth gather do not speak of freedom, brotherhood, peace, cooperation, love: they are of a fascist character. “Patriotism” without culture is barbarism. As far as sports “idols” are concerned, they are not fighting for freedom; they are the tool of capitalism for combating the libertarian mind and integrating the youth, reduced to the supporting “mass”, into the existing world. The increasingly bloody conflicts between different supporters are an inevitable consequence of the increasingly difficult position of young people in a world based on the principle “Money does not stink!”, and on the increasingly ruthless manipulation of the young, which springs from the fear that their discontent might turn against the ruling order and be used for building a new (just) world. On sports stadiums, fresh mountain water, which can overflow the increasingly rotten capitalist dam, turns into a swamp. Firecrackers and other supporting equipment do not express joy of life: they are symbols of destruction. Torches are not the source of light: they are a symbolic form of burning the world without a future.
DK: You’re right! For residents of New York our two most sacred buildings are Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden. Shifting gears, you write of “Sportification”, which you say is the key component of capitalism totalitarianism. Can you elaborate what you mean?
LS: Officially, “sport has nothing to do with politics” but, in fact, it is a universal political instrument of the world rulers in their attempt to preserve capitalism. “Sportivization” has become the most important ideological form of the capitalist totalizing of the world, while stadium has become the most important cult venue of the contemporary world – where to the ruling spirit a critical and change-oriented mind is sacrificed. Sport, as the chief “mondialist” religion, becomes a means for destroying traditional religions, cultural heritage of peoples and political ideas and movements which oppose the “new world order”, which means a destructive (ecocide) capitalist totalitarism. Coubertin does not hide that the chief task of IOC is to create, through sport, a global positive one-mindedness. The establishment of a total and unquestionable unique (capitalist) worldview has become the leading political principle. In the world, there are thousands and thousands of sports manifestations every day; the sports commentaries from the sports fields are given the prime time in the news and cover most of the space in public media; “sports” TV channels broadcast sports programme non-stop; sport is becoming the chief advertising billboard in an increasingly ruthless economic war and the most important political platform; sports paganism becomes a means of Christian churches (and other leading religious communities) for courting the “masses”; the ruling “aesthetic model” becomes the sports body; everyday language takes over sports terminology, especially the political language and that of business; politicians and capitalists place primary importance to their sports biographies, the photos of them are taken while engaged in a sports activity, they strive to attain a “sporting image” which is meant to demonstrate their “victorious spirit”; sport becomes the chief means for “money laundering”, meaning a mafia business of utmost importance; coaches acquire the status of supreme managers of capitalism; sportsmen become moving billboards, while stadiums, sports and betting places become the temples of capitalism.
DK: It’s interesting how our conversation has led to two central themes: stadiums and arenas as the temple of capitalism and how in New York, the sports columnist is read by more people than political columnists. It isn’t an accident that the New York Post, owned by the far right wing propagandist Rupert Murdoch boasts that is has the “Best Sports Section in New York”. How do you see the correlation between the lack of serious journalism, i.e.; serious reporting and investigation of the most pressing issues that the masses face, with the saturation of sports and gossip presented as “news”?
LS: The role of a journalist is to give a “spectacular” dimension to the increasingly cruel sports reality. There is not a critical detachment from the aspect of morality, social interest or any other norms apart from sport. Sports commentators glorify violence and destruction and in a perfidious way encourage conflicts between the oppressed, which appear in the form of supporters, between nations, genders and races. They seek to establish a direct contact between sports spectacles and subconscious: a sports spectacle is meant to “draw” discontent from the oppressed and direct it towards the “opponent”. Sports articles are of an increasingly primitive character: they correspond to the sport which destroys the power of reasoning and creates a massive idiocy. The ever more aggressive sensationalism is a commercial form of ever more meaningless texts which give a “fatal” dimension to marginal phenomena and a marginal dimension to the crucial issues for humanity. Writing on the nature of modern capitalism Marcuse concludes: “The non-functioning of television and the allied media might thus begin to achieve what the inherent contradictions of capitalism did not achieve – the disintegration of the system. The creation of repressive needs has long since become part of socially necessary labour – necessary in the sense that without it, the established mode of production could not be sustained. Neither problems of psychology nor of aesthetics are at stake, but the material base of domination.”
DK: Combined, sport and propaganda which are only meant to entertain rather than to enlighten, serve to degenerate society. What are the more serious effects by which capitalism creates total destruction?
LS: Capitalism creates not only repressive, but also (self) destructive needs. Suicidal “feats” become the biggest “test of courage” and are thus a form of dragging people away from the field of (political) fight for the realization of their human rights and the survival of the world. The same applies to boxing and other bloody spectacles. Instead of directing their dissatisfaction to the abolishment of the world of misery, people direct it to bloody clashes with other people. Sport is the most important instrument of capitalism for degenerating man. It destroys not only the body, but also the critical change-oriented (visionary) conscious and produces (self-destructive) fanaticism. By way of sport man is held outside historical space where the governing values are conserved – which is the essence of the view that sport is a phenomenon sui generis and “has nothing to do with politics”. Instead of changing the ruling order which increasingly generates evil, the order changes man by destroying in him everything that makes him human and can become the basis for the development of a critical mind and changing practice. The emancipatory legacy of civil society has been discarded and “new” fascism is being established which is the incarnation of the ecocide spirit of contemporary capitalism. By becoming the order of destruction in a pure sense (“consumer society”), capitalism cast away its “humanistic” and “progressive” mask. Sport is no longer used for preserving the faith in the “eternal values of capitalism”, the critical change-oriented mind is being destroyed which, above all, means the confidence that a free and righteous world is possible. Manipulation shifts from the ideological sphere to the psychological one: stadium becomes a psychotherapeutic institution. Instead of the cult of victory and records, the dominant cult is that of a spectacle which is the main spiritual drug by means of which the ruling oligarchy holds “masses” under control; instead of becoming “contestants” and “recorders”, sportsmen become circus players, gladiators and stuntmen.
DK: What hasn’t been reported in the mainstream media is the police state which has been created in South Africa for the World Cup. Tens of thousands of residents of the slums have been relocated hundreds of miles out of the towns where the matches are being played. South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world. Rather than addressing the needs of its poor, the government has made them literary disappear so that visitors and the international media don’t see the social reality of South Africa. Moreover, South Africa is not receiving a single penny from FIFA from TV broadcasting rights, ticket sales and the sales from official FIFA merchandise. Stadium stewards went on strike to demand their pay and higher wages. They were met with police repression and sacked en-masse. None of this has been covered by the international media. One can only conclude that the World Cup in South Africa has been to the benefit of foreign multinational corporations while increasing the misery for the majority of impoverished South Africans.