The Cult of Competition

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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 Hellad; knight tournaments were an authentic play of feudalism; sport is an authentic play of capitalism. The theory of sport reduces sport to a suprahistorical 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.

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.

Sport acquired its institutional character in the second half of the XIX 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 XIX century civil society and conquer the world. The modern Olympic Games are 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 (Gutc Muths, Schartan, Brookes, Lesseps, Grousse…).

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“. Writing, after the First World War, on the highest evaluative challenges of the British ruling circles, Bertrand Russell, one of the most important British philosophers in the XX century, concludes: „In an ordinary high class British family the killing of birds is considered to be quite honourable and the killing of people in war – the noblest of occupations.“ (1) A „need“ of the aristocrats to kill is not an expression of human nature, but an expression of the pathology of the aristocratic order which degenerated man and regarded the killing of people as the supreme virtue. The same applies to greediness: it is not an authentic human need, but is an expression of the pathology of capitalism attributed to man in order to „prove“ that capitalism is based on human nature and therefore eternal. The behaviour of „hooligans“ is similar: it does not indicate the nature of young people, but the nature of the ruling order and the position of young people in society.

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.

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 women’s 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.

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.

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