Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Olympics, Democtatic Convention ...

and Shakespeare’s first history play.

It’s a sort of weird brace of metaphor for:


During the Olympics I couldn’t help thinking of the way in which people were investing the participants with a sort of representative nationality – by this I mean they became like the ‘coronated’ king (yes, I know the word should be crowned but I wanted to ‘mark’ the idea); the sporting hero went out as a single champion (even if they were in a team) and fought not so much for a national pride as for that part of ‘me’ I had deposited in the symbol of ‘you’.

A bit abstract maybe ….

It was easy with Thorpe: Henry V if ever there was one. What a hero, what a fund of pride … and strangely, like Shakespeare’s Henry V, his magnificent success transcended any nationalism. By the end, all but the meanest minded wanted him to succeed … even if at the expense of ones own favourite. Bolt was more a Hal than a grown king – his antics not quite mature.

For Henry VI there were a number of contenders … we need a sportsman who shows a lot of early promise but who hasn’t quite lived up to them. The obvious contender is the British diver, young Mr Tom Daley: The build up he got, the press coverage and the general media attention lead a lot of people to expect … and what a flop (except, it wasn’t …) ! No medal, lost hopes, wasted investment.

No blame to the young man himself – it was our over expectation, our unsolicited demands, our unreasonable faith in a maturing boy … sound familiar? Henry VI is expected to perform in the same way … especially in competition with France. He doesn’t … and at the start of this play, we feel that disappointment. The magnificent ceremonial hype of trumpets and hautboys … and the immediate disaster of the loss of France.

But the Henry VI of this play is not Mr Daley - he is older … maybe Tom is the Henry of Henry VI Part 1. (And I want to make it very clear the boy done good – I am talking here of the expectations of others and the disappointment their wrong placed expectations result in.)

We need to look for an older, high expectation, low performance competitor … someone like Andy Murray?

Tennis got a bit of a rough ride from the English sporting press (well it might) for not really being an Olympic sport … there are much more important events for it than the Olympics (bet Mr Nadal and certainly Mr Federer would beg to differ). Murray wasn’t taking the competition seriously, he hadn’t prepared, he was focussed elsewhere. He thought he could swan in and get somewhere reasonable and people would be happy …

Now, that is more like the Henry VI of the ‘First Contention’. Henry is more focused on the Kingdom of Heaven than that of England … his paradise is not of this earth, he is not so interested in an Eden, although he doesn’t mind being there whilst he waits for a more important job of work over in the Flushing Meadows of … perdition.

But we are stuck with Murray – he’s the English number one, but there are obviously much better foreign princes and real monarchs out there … he is never going to perform, not even at home.

But, hold on, he’s not English … he’s really not entitled to the job of representing me … isn’t there someone else with a better right to do that?

Welcome to the American Political Conventions!

In the UK speechifying is about as important as … learning grammar: People nod in the direction but realise it is an outdated and impotent way of getting things done. The press conference and the sound bite are much more important (like genre and texting).

Not so in the quaint old US of A!

The conventions (origin: with talk although I had hoped it was with wind) are back to back speech making getting prime time coverage and swamping a nation already deaf to meaning with more meaningless but impassioned sounds.

And we are back to Shakespeare’s play.

As soon as Henry enters, his warm-up man, Suffolk, gives us a speech. It is one sentence long, lasts for around 15 lines and drops a lot of names. Great start to the convention. Set the ground, pull out all the supporters and place yourself at the centre of attention whilst nodding in the direction of the guy currently in power.

The new Queen throws in a similar but more fawning speech … great to be here, happy with the husband and the land (Mrs Obama or what? – God Bless America!). Then it’s the turn for the heavyweight contenders to way in … old powers first, Gloucester … (read Kennedy) and Cardinal Beaufort (read Clinton – which one I’ll lead you , and the results of this November’s election to decide).

But this is not the convention of today … this is a ‘certain loser’ convention. As soon as the candidate leaves the stage the speeches of descent start – each speaker jockeying for position.

I will watch the Republican convention with interest …

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