#Sochi. A city of over 300,000 residents. #Sochi one of the very few places in Russia with a subtropical climate. #Sochi the home of the Winter Olympics in 2014. Which of these three statements is the most surreal? Which of these three statements seems the most unbelievable? Which of these statements are true?
My #Sochi is not any of those. My #Sochi is a moment. A moment of realisation. An epiphany if you will. It is the sudden realisation that if you don’t fucking like something, do something, anything. Because at the end of the day the only thing which truly matters in life is exactly how you feel about yourself.
My #Sochi moment happened in a supermarket. I was standing in the crisp aisle looking for something to accompany the crate of beer which lives on my balcony. My eyes fell upon a packet of barbecue Pringles. As I reached onto the shelf to take the packet my arm refused to obey me. My brain found a picture in the dusty recesses of my mind. It was a picture of #Sochi sponsors. I stood prostrate by choice, suddenly feeling guilt that I was considering buying a packet of Pringles. As I stood there my mind started to race, and I found myself asking what difference a few euros would make to a brand as powerful as Pringles. I knew the answer instantly, none. And yet I remained glued to the floor. Suddenly it dawned on me that it wasn’t the gesture that was empty. It was my perspective which was faulty. The moment wasn’t momentous because it represented a politicization of me. It was momentous because it was the moment I truly learned the power of social media, that sharing can penetrate people’s consciousness. And most of all I realised that it is a battle which can be fought. The emptiness of the gesture suddenly dissipated like a puff of smoke. I picked up a bag of Croky, stuck my fingers up at the Italian looking Pringles face, span on my heels and left with a giggle.
The trouble with perceptions is that they are often wrong. In my case Mr Pringles is innocent. He is not a sponsor of the Sochi Olympiad. My mistake was that I had taken a picture that I believed to be true, and created my own set of assumptions based upon the image. In much the same way that people are instinctively believing the numerous images posted by American journalists on social media, showing various building calamities in Sochi are all true, I had fucked up; I had put faith in an image. When you think about it you know they can’t be. If the President of Russia, members of his government, and the members of the Olympic Committee say that #Sochi is ready, who are we to think otherwise?
The curious thing is that it reminded me of a novel I wrote back in 2010, which incidentally remains unpublished. It tells the story of a dictator in a fictional African country that changes reality in his country. The dictator rules his country under the assumption that he is the country. There are more than a few similarities to a large country somewhere to the east of me, as well as a number of others. The saddest thing of all is that even today it is possible for a statesman to change the reality of his people by proxy. If a statesman wants to build a winter sports facility in a subtropical climate, why shouldn’t he? If a statesman wants to host an international event just a few hundred miles from a number of terrorist hotbeds and declare it safe, why shouldn’t he? If a statesman wants to outlaw educating people to prevent them turning into homosexuals, why shouldn’t he? After all if he has the faith of his people, surely we should not question him. Should we?
The most depressing fact of all is that these issues have corroded my own reality. I have become the type of hypocrite I resent. I decided weeks ago that I will not watch these Winter Olympics. And yet there is a hunger inside of me. I have spent hours reading countless articles about the games. I have reveled in a thousand Buzzfeeds showing how the Sochi Olympics are proving to be an unmitigated disaster. I am denying my own reality. I am not abstaining from the 2014 Winter Olympiad at all. Instead, I am a voyeur, peering through a window even though the curtains are closed.
If I have learned anything at all about #MyRoadtoSochi it is this: We are entering the last battle in the age of indifference, the battle for reality. It will require a little effort from each of us. It will require learning. And it will require speaking out against those people hellbent on bending it into unrecognizable shapes.
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.