Silver Lining?

Silver Lining?

Is it in bad taste to say some good can come from the loss of life?

When those deaths are in excess of 450,000 plus One is there any reason or outcome that offers justification?

When the plus One was the murder of a black man by law enforcement, should the suggestion come from a white person who may accidentally litter each paragraph with his privilege?

It all sounds a bit of a stretch. Decency and common sense say it’s best to stop typing now. But that decency has come from a background that prevents my neck being pinned down by a cop for eight minutes, forty-six seconds. The white idea of decency is turning the other cheek. Remaining silent now would be the most indecent act of all.

Before we get to the plus One, the number of deaths that will soon reach half a million needs to be considered. Everything requires context. It’s always cause and effect. The largest protests seen in thirty years didn’t come about just because of the plus One. People were primed, had been brimming.

It was coronavirus that saw the daily death rate rocket to nearly half a million. In response, the world went into lockdown. Daily life changed and may never return to a replica of before. Economies tanked by twenty percent. Families sat at home, wondering if their incomes would still exist after furlough schemes. Students couldn’t take exams. Doctors and nurses were used as frontline fodder.

It wasn’t a spring of renewed hope; it became a period of deathly stasis.

With the servitude to the rat race suspended, people became more opinionated, passionate about all causes and views. With each of those coronavirus deaths, people took a step closer to creating unified voices. Examining the government’s response to a never seen before situation was never going to satiate this newfound appetite.

Everyone in the room became restless.

Different sides had already formed—across all political lines—the pandemic just primed them for action. All participants were expecting something akin to the Brexit or Trump debate. The expected arguments would be how the half-million could have been reduced to something much less if only…

Each “If Only” could be argued and countered enough times to last an infinite number of lockdowns. Then those eight minutes and forty-six seconds happened. If there was no lockdown, there would have been widespread condemnation from families around the world. They’d have settled down after a long day at work, shook their heads at the television screens and made comments about how nothing has changed in America.

That America still has a race issue.

No senators would have taken the knee for a photo opportunity. Any protests would have been localised and quickly quashed. Marches in the UK would have been counted in double figures—if there had been marches at all. The world would have been too busy to stop for the murder of one more black person by a police officer. Everyone’s senses would have been dulled by the pressures of the day-to-day.

Lockdown was oppressive and liberating in equal measure, in immeasurable ways.

With each passing week, increased frustrations were harder to suppress, impossible to keep bottled. Eight minutes and forty-six seconds was the length of time it took the fuse to burn.

The murder of George Floyd was a bomb beneath the existing structures of systemic racism.

Thousands flocked to demand change. To chant in the clearest voice: Black Lives Matter.

It took nearly half a million deaths to make the world take stock. To put movie stars and heavyweight boxing champions front and centre, speaking from the heart at protests instead of condemning the situation in sanitised interviews during promotions for their product.

No one is born racist. It is usually taught. But people are born ignorant and that can grow. Worse still, it can be manipulated by those with agendas.

People using the counter chant All Lives Matter, haven’t understood the core issues. It’s a big part of their privilege, believing a universal view is the fix for isolated problems they’ll never face.

They need guidance. They’ve never spent a day in the shoes of a person who is pre-judged, looked at suspiciously, treated as a second class citizen, just because of their skin tone. They don’t see a problem because they’ve never personally witnessed one.
They don’t know what they don’t know, because they don’t know it.

Counter claims that America is the land of opportunity, that they’ve had a black president, underlines the ignorance. Just because you can make it, doesn’t mean you won’t face unequal hardships on the way. Doesn’t mean you won’t still be perceived as second class once you’re there.

The protests then became a magnet for the opposing view.

They didn’t need a fuse to be lit. The far-right are more like a jack-in-a-box, outdated and always ready to spring into action. The problem is, both extremes—right and left—further the other’s cause.

The left breeds hypocrites, the right produces honest liars.

Everyone needs education.

But with each confrontation, ears are closing.

Openness faces a new lockdown. The half a million will have died for no reason if reasonable people become obstinate in their opinions.

Should removing historical monuments occur when they have links to slavery?

The world has been taught to see in black and white, when it operates in a permanent state of grey.

To erase history means we can never learn from it; appearing to champion wrongdoings halts progress.

There is no easy answer. Here in the UK, there have been calls to remove Sir Robert Peel’s statues in Glasgow, Tamworth, Manchester, Bury and his monument on Holcombe Hill. He has fifteen statues around the world. A former Prime Minister and creator of the modern day police force. He had a patchy record on the slave trade. It appears he profited from it but did eventually vote for its abolition.

Peel is one case that needs examination. It’s not clear cut. People are of their time.

A future generation’s harsher standards will judge the presumed principled people of today. There is something uncomfortable about watching a young person fervently protest, and attempt to deface war memorials, based on the cultural oppression that led to a man’s murder while wearing branded trainers. The Nike tick and Adidas stripes are the modern day motif for slavery. But no one is pulling their stores down and placing them in rivers.

Women are trafficked and forced into sex slavery. But no one calls on the government to track each gang and give these women freedom.

Black Lives Matter, and that movement shouldn’t be hijacked or diluted by another. But the emergent voices for change can carry multiple causes going forward. Those ignorant to Black Lives Matter will always take a myopic view. This has been made more difficult with overreactions which further underline the lack of understanding.

When the middle of the road white man sees a classic comedy axed—one which its creator John Cleese defends—it incites a new type of division. A debate he had no facts for to start with, has just been changed into a talk about something else. He’s no longer thinking about those eight minutes and forty-six seconds. He’s blaming political correctness.

He may even begin to harbour feelings for a return to “better times.” Those times are just a construct: a part of the white collective’s imagination. They were never better times. It was a time Black Lives Matter could only be a whisper, not a chant.

Not the loud cry for help which now resonates around the globe.

Can over 450,000 deaths plus One ever be considered a silver lining?

The cloud that accompanies the lining is large. It blocks the sunshine of progress at every given opportunity.

Heading toward half a million is a big number but that single plus One stops a bigger count. It has paved the way for lasting change. The uncountable loss and damage racism produces every day. Utilitarianism states the most ethical choice is the one which is best for the largest number of people.

The plus One represents all people.

A chance for lasting change.

Everyone left behind has a debt to pay to those who have been taken. A vow to turn their passing into a positive action.

If you carry on as before, you’ll take your turn pressing a knee into a neck for eight minutes, forty-six seconds.

Is Project Restart Already Void?

Is Project Restart Already Void?

Before the problems with Project Restart are placed under the microscope, let’s make something clear: this is one writer who actually wants to see this season completed. While nothing would humour me more than watching Liverpool being denied a title due to a void campaign, the reality is football needs to come back.

This opinion will be immediately met with disdain. For many, the suggestion sport returns before coronavirus has been eradicated is preposterous. They see it as the money in football coming before the nation’s health.

There are valid points in such arguments against the resumption of the Premier League. But with any risk, the handling of it is played off against the side effects of continued suppression. There has to be a point where the advantages of resuming football – or sport in general – outweighs the potential negatives.

Addressing the financial elephant in the room. Yes, there should be enough money in the game to survive such a setback. FIFA has a billion in its rainy day fund. But sport is business and businesses can be self-serving. Not all clubs will make it through the other side if the delay continues for too long.

Resuming the top flight could have a knock-on effect when it comes to redistributing wealth to the lower leagues. It’s easier to make the rich more benevolent when it’s a condition of them making money again.

A return of televised games would also help pacify a restless nation. With each passing day, the chances of people sticking to the stay at home guidelines diminishes. If they made games free-to-air – say, a couple each day as they chew through the outstanding games in the pile – it will subdue a large portion of the nation.

To make it work safely – and this is where the Premier League cannot get it wrong – it would be ideal to have a single location for all teams and support staff. Hosting all games in a closed village, with everyone tested going in and remaining in complete isolation from the outside world. It’d be a World Cup style tournament with Premier League and FA Cup games.

Integrity

The problem with this idea is teams will say playing at neutral venues calls into question the integrity of the competition. It is a valid point. Why should a club like Watford face relegation because they lost home advantage? The argument it’s the same for everyone is weakened by the fact it hasn’t been the same throughout the entirety of the competition.

Even if officials agreed to allow teams to play behind closed doors at their usual stadium, the question of integrity still stands. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has amended the rule on the number of permitted substitutions for competitions that will be completed within this calendar year.

Being able to make five subs instead of three puts a different take on the game. Those with bigger squads will clearly benefit and it’s a major rule change that only affects a part of the season. All the rules have to be the same from start to finish. The Premier League do not need to adopt this rule, but you can bet they will.

IFAB has also stated VAR can be turned off for the resumption of competitions. It’s the only coronavirus death that’s worth celebrating but further evidence that the proposed returning Premier League will be too far away from the competition that began last August.

There’s also the problem of player contracts. The squads submitted for the Premier League will become invalidated if players move upon expiration of their contract. A little more of that remaining integrity slips away.

So it seems there are two clear choices:

Bring back football, behind closed doors but using existing grounds, keep VAR (never thought I’d type that), and ignore IFAB rule changes.

Or,

Void the season as it can’t be completed in a manner that maintains the competition’s consistency and sporting integrity.

No clubs should be relegated, no titles handed out. Champions League places determined by average-points-per-game to calculate remaining fixtures. Although, there’s surely a UEFA coefficient system that can be used to ensure clubs like Leicester miss out but Arsenal and Manchester United can return.

However they wrap up this season (or don’t), some forward-thinking needs to occur before a new campaign begins. There’s a chance coronavirus could have a winter revival. The next Premier League season needs to be set up in a way it can deal with another lockdown without its integrity being called into question.

The country needs the distraction of sport but it needs competitions to be safe, sustainable and authentic.

May Writing Sprint 1: Prompts

May Writing Sprint 1: Prompts

May’s first two-hour writing sprint comes by the way of five words:

Artillery. Blame. Run. Bake. Abolition.

A quote from Shirley Jackson’s Photo The Haunting of Hill House and a photo by wu yi on Unsplash.

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Post in the comments, on your blog and link back here or over at Mel Cusick-Jones‘s site or the Twitter thread.

Best of luck and enjoy the Bank Holiday.