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Olympics, Sports and National Identity

Updated: Apr 27

The Olympics are probably one of the most exciting events every few years, and rightfully so. People from all over the world gather in a specific place and compete to become the very best in their field of expertise. In some way, it is like any other competition in the world. To be the most favored by the opposite sex. To be the most productive worker. To gain the highest grade on an exam, and so on.

However, what makes the Olympics, and other such events, so attractive, lies within a generalized fallacy. It's the fallacy that if one or a group of representatives become the victors, then their own victory brings great pride to the nations they came from. And still, one must ask: why one or a group of individuals, sufficient to indicate the entirety of a nation, with all of its citizens and with their different skills?

Let's use an example to try and better convey the logical problem I'm trying to present here. Let's say a person who is physically powerful wins some kind of prize in a weightlifting contest, such as a silver or even gold medal. How does he or she exactly bring pride to their nation?

After all, just because they were accomplished in their contest does not mean that their nation is generally made up of physically fit people. What if that nation has a huge obesity rate and the weightlifter in question wins nonetheless? The thing is, the representative is not the same as the country they apparently represent.

This is the main reason why I find it hard to see the appeal of national-based sports events. Unless your nation happens to be the size of a village, the variety of skill sets in a nation is vastly different, regardless of the nation they are in.

Nowadays, where you can technically learn abroad through the internet, your national origin might as well not matter. Even if your nation has some kind of influence on your development as a human being. Of course, the nation can help you develop certain expertise through funding and other means. However, that help does not necessarily reflect on the rest of the nation. It does not apply to every citizen or resident, obviously.

The problem with national representation is that the individual's self could exist beyond the national and societal framework. Each representative might have a personal life, a certain field of interests, and hobbies. All of which do not necessarily have anything to do with the nation they represent. That is the same with every other representative, regardless of who they are and how good they are in their profession, sport, skill, or craft.

In Israel, for example, we have good martial artists, more specifically in the arts of Judo, Karate, and Krav Maga. This alone does not mean in any way that the average Israeli is good at self-defense, should someone assault them unexpectedly. This argument won't change even if Israel becomes the global champion in martial arts contests.

In order to properly represent a nation, the fallacy of generalization should be thrown out the window. There should be a way for the representative to "speak" to the average citizen; for the citizen to see them and say "Ah, they represent me and the nation I am loyal to".

Without the personal aspect of representation, it will be nothing more than an act of apathy towards the individual, who is the basis of the collective. Alas, since I guess, however, that people may not think this deeply enough when they think about whatever nation-based sports event.

There is an exception to all of this, however, and that exception is North Korea or any country that resembles it in terms of authoritarianism. The North Koreans, although heavily oppressed, are extremely talented in many fields, and some even began to practice at an early age (as far as I know).

Their national identity is so embedded within the individual, surely everything about their country is also about them. This sense of belonging to their country is probably the only good thing I can say about their horrible nation. Such patriotism does not exist in every country, and likewise, not every Israeli would say that they are patriotic (especially if they are not Jews, although there are exceptions).

If I may, I would like to share with you a beautiful North Korean music video, not because I love that country (not at all! I hate it!) It's just because I want to show an example of how patriotism is done: by using the national identity and combining it, without little distinction, with the individual identity.

The song in question is about encouraging education, not only for your own sake. It's also for the sake of the country. I actually think it is a great message. It gives the individual a purpose that extends beyond his or her own egotistical pursuits. Like studying nuclear physics! It can help your country, yes.

Please turn on translation and English subtitles and enjoy!

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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