Monday, January 24, 2005

Day Trip To Paradise

On Saturday afternoon I was kindly offered a last minute ticket to watch Celtic football club play against Motherwell FC, in the Scottish Football League.

I stopped going to live Celtic games in 2001, after witnessing some of the most ugliest exchanges I had ever seen between opposing fans at any sporting event. That last match was between Celtic (the emerald green & whites), and their bitter archrivals, Rangers (the royal blues).

But Celtic have been my favourite team since well before I was even born (I even used their moniker for my user-name in this Blog).

That's the funny thing about football supporters in Scotland and the UK; it must be one of the few countries (exception being parts of South America) where you are actually born into supporting a particular team. No effort or choice is really made by the mandatory new recruit. Born into a Protestant family, then Rangers will most likely be your team for life. Born into a Catholic family, then Celtic is your default choice. It’s a celebrated, pointless tradition that has lead to countless strife, broken bones, and even to murder, in every weekend, in every year. But it’s the mechanical Scottish way; bigotry and football go together like bread and jam.

So I arrived at Celtic Park, also known to the supporting faithful, as Paradise. I have to admit I forgot how beautiful it looks; I climbed the stairs from the underbelly of the stadium, and gasped as my eyes attempted to take in a sea of sixty thousand green and white waves, contouring seamlessly in and out of each other. It’s hard not to smile at this awesome sight. I nearly forgot why I stopped going to watch Celtic play.

So, I was seated in the season ticket section, within the legendary stand formerly known as the ‘Jungle’ (historically a standing-only section for the die-hard fans, also known traditionally as the Bhoys, that even police have refused to patrol and enter at some games)

Seated beside me was Jimmy from Wishaw, and Paul from Gallogate. They were curious as to who I was, as they were looking for my friend whose seat I had borrowed for the afternoon. They were decent lads, and Jimmy bought me a Bovril before the kick off.

The game went very well for Celtic. Stilian Petrov, the lightning fast young Romanian scored the only goal in the first-half of the game. Chris Sutton, the big Englishman, scored an absolute blinder in the second half. Easy sailing. Things were looking good for the Parkhead Bhoys who to be fair were never going to lose to a lowly Motherwell side.

Near the end of the game, a young Motherwell defender hastily brought down John Hartson, the huge Welsh centre forward. The Motherwell player looked more frustrated then anything to be honest. An immediate torrent of spittle was thrown to the touchline, accompanied by hails of white-hot venom. ‘Jesus’ I thought, ‘here we go…..’

‘F*CK YOU , Motherwell Hun Scum’ – Jimmy from Wishaw directed this verbal bullet towards the young defender. Not that the young player would have heard it, as it was drowned out by sixty thousand other aggravated voices, and watched by 120 thousand glaring eyes.

I had to smile a little, things are still the same.

Still the same old friendly, acceptable hatred, which is seen as a good thing in. After all, the theory goes that if the faithful unleash all that anger on the terraces, then they are not going to be carrying it around with them when they go home, or when they go to the pub after the match. So it’s acceptable by the majority of supporters to verbally abuse opposing fans, and visiting team’s players alike; sort of akin to releasing the pressure on a boiler, to use a terribly bad analogy.

But anyone who pays attention to the fact that human beings have been kicking the living shit out of each other for time immemorial, will immediately see this for what it actually is; a poor excuse to vilify and hate other human beings, just for a little while, and just for the pure sake of it, just because they are not ‘one of us’.

Does the pressure-release theory really work? Do the fans go home tension free and content, after aiming and directing all that built up negativity towards someone else for 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon?

Hell No!!!

This is got to be why the human species is in such dire straights. We are automatically adjusted to despise each other, and when it’s not immediately natural, our peers encourage it to happen.

I don’t think I was still smiling when I saw, and heard, a very young lad shouting ‘F*ck the Huns’, in a squeaky, girly voice towards the Motherwell fans. It reminded me too much of myself when I was a y
oung kid……….

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Something To Complain About

I like a good moan from time to time; I mean, a real good temporary, subjective review of all of the little annoying disturbances that occasionally can ruin my morning. Like the trains running late when I'm hurrying to get to work on time, someone in my office not holding a door open for me, or running out of cigarettes when the shops are closed.

I notice I am not alone here either. My work colleagues and family like a good moan too; they complain about the lack of good television programming, the lack of sunshine outside, the lack of a good manners the youth display these days. People do like to moan and complain about every little detail that does not agree with how they expect things to be within their 'perfect ideal world'.

In fact, we are actually conditioned to complain about the little things; we enjoy doing it, and expect to hear the same when conversing with others. Just ask most people how much they enjoyed their holiday or vacation, and listen to their forthcoming answers. " Oh, it was great, really enjoyable, but _______ " - You can fill in the blank with any small unimportant triviality that contributes to an established, socially-acceptable 'Moan'.

However, what if the above blank was filled not by a rant about cloudy weather or loud drunken teenagers, but replaced by a terrifying description of a very large Tsunami that didn't just ruin their vacation, but one that almost took their own and loved ones lives, and destroyed the lives and livelihood of potentially hundreds of thousands of innocent individuals.

(Incidentally, as I'm writing this I can actually hear one of my colleagues complain about how the Germans 'took over' on his holiday, while they all share the same Spanish resort for two weeks with their UK neighbours.)

The sad fact and grand truth is, all of us who live in so called modern civilised suburbia have very little to complain about (for the moment anyway, more on that later...).

We, in contemporary Western Europe have seen no giant waves crush our coastal towns, or witnessed our families being dragged under floating cars, trees and houses. And while I'm comparing Western Civilisation to the 'Other Countries' far away over there, not since WWII have we seen bombs decimate our families, friends, neighbours and cities. Not since those times have we as a people experienced any real suffering (with the terrible exceptions of former Yugoslavia).

So what the hell do we really have to moan about? Recent world events, from the pointless destruction of Iraq to the devastating Asian Tsunami, have highlighted our relatively safer position, hasn't it?

So, are we just the luckier ones in this current cycle of natural and man made disasters doing the rounds? Is it really just a lottery as to which country, culture and timeline we are born and raised into? Is it a random throw of God's or nature's dice which decides this fate? And will we be the next ones to experience such?

These questions have been on my mind since I was a child, and I still have not discovered any tangible clear-cut answers. Perhaps I may not understand completely within this lifetime, but I have gained some insights upon pondering....

Why wasn't I born in Ethiopia, Rwanda, or Cambodia to experience real suffering at the hands of a soulless oppression, only to see myself dying of starvation at the age of eight years old?

Why was I not born in Iraq, Afghanistan or northern Thailand, where I may just have got to observe myself dying as a result of a US tax-paid smart bomb landing on my roof, or crushed by the weight of a neighbours car pummelling me against my living room wall at the age of fifteen?

Why was I not born in Palestine, to be shot in the head by an Israeli Defence Force sniper, on my own rooftop at the age of four?

So it seems that all of us here today, born into the 'Western-Civilised-World', were perhaps born specifically here (and not over there) for one of many different reasons. Perhaps one of those reasons is that some of us have been given a unique opportunity to observe the current pointless, cruel human destruction from more afar than others (at this current point anyway).

Does this idea really sound so strange? If you consider the possibility of Karma and what-goes-around-comes-around, then absolutely 'nothing' happens by accident. Including what country you are born into, what cultures you will interface with, and what experiences, or life 'lessons' you will encounter within that lifetime.

If this possible explanation as to the 'why question' is valid, then we are not special, or chosen, or even lucky as to which country or environment we are born into. Be it Europe, Australia or the USA. We are born where we are for a reason. So what are we currently doing with our time, with our unique opportunity to observe and to learn what is actually happening in our world today?

Maybe we ought to be using our time more wisely, and perhaps we should be using that available time to figure out just what we are here to learn, and experience.

Strange happenings are clearly afoot in the controlling Worlds of Power. I don't think it is a coincidence that all out War is being driven under the banner of many and failed excuses. It is quite obvious this current War On Terror is the number-one concern for the majority of our governments, all the while nature is reminding us once again just how easy it is to lose our heads.

The next time I start complaining over some silly little incident, I will try my best to remember that I don't really have anything valid at all to moan about.