Belchings from a Smoldering Soul on the Occasion of ‘An Olympic Opening’

By M Thandabantu Iverson
Guest Contributor
30th July 2012, 17:45 GMT

After years of existence as an angry member of an oppressed people and an exploited class, perhaps now I should be willing to acknowledge how wonderful it is to behold this current Olympiad as a final and irresistible indicator of the triumph of Western capital. Undoubtedly, there were no small number of “former” workers who watched teary-eyed at the spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics in London with feelings of adoration for what capital claims as its accomplishments; so majestically proclaimed by the sounds, sights, and syncopated rhythms of the opening pageantry of The Games.

Accomplishments indeed! These were the results of the coerced toil, sweat, privations, sicknesses, and premature deaths of other workers.

Factory line: garment workers at the Shen Zhou factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, make Adidas Olympic Games merchandise via the Daily Mail.

Yet “it is best,” we hear some say, “to let some things be!”

Undoubtedly, these former workers felt rapturous pride in their own contemporary escapes from working-class conditions into conditions of greater status and economic comfort, if not security. These contemporaries will think me an ingrate that today, with a job as a teacher at a Midwest university, I continue to babble about the evils of oppression, the hypocrisy of the national pride of modern states mired in the history of colonial and imperial conquest, and the bourgeois theft of centuries of work by literally millions of workers. These contemporaries who have made their ways ‘up the ladder’ do not wish to hear us inveigh against those who stole and raped and maimed and murdered to create the racist, patriarchal, and capitalist hierarchies. Those voices will clamor that we are wrong to indict our good neo-liberal masters who control with such handsome smiles and such quiet drones and sinister prisons. Those who have longed to escape the working class may feel quite unnerved by our remembrances of how the nod was made by the Olympic Opening planners to the workers who dug, and dredged, and hammered, and lifted the Industrial Revolution into place; yet not a single slave ship was seen and not a single word was spoken to acknowledge the many enslaved African workers whose travails birthed the Industrial Revolution. My utterances now will only anger those who would like to continue to forget those telling black invisible creators of “progress”.

East Enders on the 28th July march through Bow.

Some will say that I should “just get over it all;” but I will not. This Olympiad is yet another round of the games and entertainments by which entire Peoples and Nations can be momentarily bedazzled, and as Malcolm X put it, “bamboozled.”

Millions are still jobless, homeless, landless, imprisoned unjustly, profiled inhumanely and murdered with legal impunity. Wall Street barons still live large, laughing at the prideful pimping they have turned into obscenity, and Democrats and Republicans sport their elegant and expensive finery while seeking ‘common ground.’ The rulers of Empire are congratulating themselves on their booty and their celebrations of international ‘brotherhood.’

Olympic workers have lunch.

But let them beware. There are millions of sullen souls who see this empty bombast and do not sing. We watch the events but we do not feel the pride of the elites. We are loath to cry with national satisfaction, watching those we may have to fight one day to fill some rich man’s pockets. We watch the contests as metaphors for the lives we live. We hope the underdogs can win, even if we cannot. But we are not entirely fooled. We will remember the work of our forebears, and how they built this world from which others seek to disown us. We are tired. We are starting to stir. The Games will not last always.

Dr M Thandabantu Iverson is a professor of Labour Studies and a writer.

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