Opinion: Cult of personality thrives on the geopolitical playing field of the world’s two powerhouses
China and the US are dominated by big personalities but as idle spectators we only have ourselves to blame for ignoring the lessons of the past
Like President Xi Jinping and Tung Chee-hwa, the first chief executive of Hong Kong, I love football – or soccer if you prefer.
I was hooked as soon as I could stand up, ably aided and abetted by my late father who, when I instinctively held out my hands to catch a ball he threw towards me as a toddler, said: “No, kick it son, use your feet.” An example, if ever there was one, of how coaching and education can shape basic human instinct into something unexpected, new and pleasurable.
That must be why they call it “the beautiful game’’.
Of course, it isn’t always beautiful by any stretch. Problems big and small blight the sport, but to get back to the action, there is nothing worse than a greedy striker who despite having not scored for weeks, insists on doing it all himself and hitting a 25-yard scorcher into the top corner, selfishly ignoring teammates in better positions, and missing by a mile.
Big Charlie White, the manager of Invergowrie Lad’s Club (under 12s) – my first organised team – would berate our serial offender thus: “Hey, MacDonald, how many times have I told you, there is no ‘I’ in team.”
As the final whistle looms on another year of tumult and uncertainty, the cult of the individual is alive and well, in fact, it never went away, hidden in plain sight for times just like these.
It appears the top two teams in the premier league of geopolitical power have come out for the second half of a chaotic and bruising contest. Both teams need to put some steel in their backline and neither can afford to lose a goal. In fact, if you ask me John, at this stage, I reckon they’d both settle for a draw.
In post-party congress Beijing President Xi invokes stars of the past Mao Zedong – who was fond of red cards – and Deng Xiaoping to cement his grip on power and keep the team-China party-hearty as it embarks on a new golden era dripping with trophies, including the Fifa World Cup.
In the United States, where they like to think they do things differently, it’s also time to wheel out the old greats. New boss Donald Trump is spending too much time on the golf course, has lost the dressing room and performances are suffering.
On cue, past presidents-turned-super-subs, the experienced mid-field trio of Obama, Bush and Clinton dust off their old boots to tell team USA, and all their fans, that despite the recent bad run of form, the “American Dream” is still on.
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All this tells us is that we have failed – miserably – to learn the lessons of the past.
If we – whether fans of the Reds or the Stars and Stripes – are content with this outcome, then it’s time to look in the mirror. Our schizoid and blinded culture swells with self-satisfied indignation.
The cult of the individual begins with and relies on delusion. Surely, the time has come for us to realise this simple fact.