Tuesday, February 2, 2010
In Flagrente Delicto
For those of you who are not aware – and there are readers in Mexico, Russia, and in Indonesia, say, for whom it may not be of any interest (they may not like football) – the Captain of the current English football team is one John Terry and he has been discovered to have had an affair with the girlfriend at the time of his club and English team mate, Wayne Bridge. Much has been made of the similarities with the Tiger Woods case in that both men have squeezed the last drops (cents and pennies) from their image rights in advertisements as men of true probity. Jacob Zuma, the South African President has transgressed the same fateful boundary in that he has apparently impregnated a friend’s daughter, though I am not sure what his image was when running in the recent election..
The boundary between acceptability and unacceptability has its no man’s land in the courts when an injunction is served to prevent disclosure of an individual’s personal life by the media. The judge ruled in the case of Terry that his income was partially derived from his use of a (false) image of the family man for whom no transgression was possible. Live by the claim of purity, die by the stain of discovery.
Generally people do not follow the biblical injunction to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In fact hypocrisy is part and parcel of the multitude’s character (if one can cluster the human herd into a singular mind like this). Regardless of what they may do in the privacy of their own homes or the anonymity of the groups with whom they run, they develop a piousness towards others’ trangressions that would make a priest think twice. In some countries there is less breast beating, though no less breast caressing, and it goes without saying that in Ghana, for example, it would be no great brake on a man’s progress in his career. For women here there is the usual universal condemnation of anything they might do that is illicit. In France, the funeral of a president can be publicly attended by both wife and mistress.
But sport is the new politics and in some weird and wonderful way it is becoming a theatrical sublimation of national and international conflict. The stars of a football pitch are known the world over in a way that politicians can only dream of and what they do exercises moral dispute in a far more exacting and flesh and blood way, as a consequence. In industry if you sleep with the boss’s wife you might find the shortest route between your desk and the exit but, in general, Terry’s behaviour would not result in a disciplinary. It usually comes down to your ability. Would you rather have a sexually profligate research scientist who invents products that make you great profits or a mob of staff who are straight jacketed fundamentalists, wielding their moral compasses?
Like most people I cannot escape the reaction that it serves them right, these paragons of sudden ill repute. Hoist with their own petard. The latter saying comes from Shakespeare and briefly means that you are blown up by the bomb you are placing at the gates of your enemy. Terry, Woods and, Zuma, the latter in an Africa where religion grasps the short and curlies, were all planting holier than thou bombs against the other side of the screens in our living rooms. It’s no wonder we stare smugly back with the grim satisfaction of knowing schadendfreude when we see it detonate before our very eyes..