Untimely Observations

The UK's Dystopian Olympics

There is a certain logic of degeneration at work when a civilization loses its bearings. The Olympic Games are a case in point. Once a religious festival of the ancient Hellenes, the Olympics were first revived during the convulsions of the French Revolution.

Along with a number of other spurious fabricated holidays, the Directory in Paris held L'Olympiade de la Republique from 1796 to 1798. In place of classical paganism, the games were animated by the new humanist faith, with athletes competing to honor the gods of liberty and reason.

The Olympics would then be permanently established a century later, this time their rationale being the rather Victorian concerns of good hygiene and international brotherhood.  Since that time the events evolved from a propaganda battleground among the militant antitheist ideologies of the 20th century into the vapid, overblown commercial extravaganza we know today.

While the Olympics held sacred import for the Greeks of the classical era, they have been recast through modernity as a pseudo-festival, a celebration of ultimately nothing. In his work In Tune with the World, the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper saw that man's rejection of God leads to a frenzy of meaninglessness in a vain attempt to escape the terror of death.

For the mad dash to meaninglessness, contemporary Britain wins the gold. In the run-up to hosting the 2012 Olympics, London has just raised the curtain on its mascots for the summer games. While they're supposed to "chime" with children, these creatures are more likely to induce a fresh round of psychological disorders in the rising generation. Forget clowns; let's all welcome the new stars of kids' most fevered nightmares.

Aside from these concerns, the new representatives of the games neatly encapsulate the U.K.'s transformation into an alien, postmodern dystopia. It's particularly noteworthy how these entities came into being- by committee. "Wenlock" and "Mandeville" (named after the respective founding-places of the British Olympics and Paralympics) are the product of 40 focus groups over the span of 18 months, a fact that presupposes additional layers of administrators and experts guiding the entire unholy enterprise. Any individual creativity or artistic inspiration was thus quashed by the processes of the managerial regime.

Wenlock and Mandeville, Mascots for Cool Britannia
Photo: Suzanne Plunkett, Reuters

The mascots' creators have also ensured that the characters are liberated from even the slightest connection to English history and culture. There they stand in a schoolyard in front of a rainbow mural, each a strange metallic cylinder with the all-seeing eye of a giant squid. Perhaps they're meant to symbolize Britain's ubiquitous surveillance cameras; that would at least make matters more comprehensible. Ever-vigilant Wenlock and Mandeville monitor London's multicultural chaos, represented here by the ensemble of children who might as well have been flown in from multiple points around the globe.

There are affairs more pressing than criticizing London's choice for its 2012 Olympics mascot. After all, one can find evidence for British social disintegration in its crime explosion, the breakdown of the family, mass immigration by invitation and numerous other symptoms of advanced decadence. Then again, the two silver aliens are fitting symbols of secular, egalitarian Cool Britannia's institution of formlessness. Modern society's worship of man ultimately leads to the reign of absurdity.