olympic solidarity challenge

The XXX Olympiad has begun. The world's athletes gathering there have drawn thousands upon thousands of dignitaries, officials, media professionals, security personnel and other support staff to venues in and around London.

The XXX Olympiad has begun. The world’s athletes gathering there have drawn thousands upon thousands of dignitaries, officials, media professionals, security personnel and other support staff to venues in and around London. Hundreds of thousands of spectators, including a few Yukoners, will queue up to see the many competitions. The world’s focus, without doubt, has become fixed on running, jumping, throwing and a host of other Olympic demonstrations of physical prowess and skill.

The civil war in Syria, however, will not stop. Neither will the drug trafficking in Latin America and the violence it brings to the people of Honduras and Guatemala. Drought in the Horn of Africa and the damage caused by severe typhoons in Southeast Asia won’t let up. The fiscal problems of Spain and the low income housing shortage here in Whitehorse won’t disappear.

Global concern, at least for a few days however, will focus on whether Usain Bolt or rival Jamaican Yohan Blake can run the fastest 100 metre sprint ever. Or how South African Oscar Pistorius will do as the first amputee running on blades in head-to-head competition with able-bodied runners? Can Canada achieve its highest summer medal count ever? Will cyclist Zach Bell from Watson Lake exceed his previous personal best and make it to the podium?

The Olympics also offer us an opportunity to celebrate our common humanity. Barriers, that for millennia have and continue to divide us by ethnicity, skin colour, and language, will fade into the background for a few summer days. Even politics and economics take a back seat to those able to achieve their highest, strongest and swiftest results.

A new planetary consciousness has fitfully been evolving over the past few generations as the globalizing effects of our transportation and communications technologies speed our economic integration. The Olympics accelerate this developing mindset. Still, all too often, our sense of solidarity with others is limited to a rather narrow range of family or local civic obligations. Can the biblical notion of “my brother’s keeper” truly be limited to only blood relations or next door neighbours? This is clearly no longer adequate in a world as interconnected as ours. Our solidarity obligations should direct us outward as well.

It must not be allowed to be forever true, as the ancient Greek historian Thucydides argued, that “the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” We have to build together a just, sustainable global community based on this emerging awareness of our oneness, or we will collectively fail.

Our new Canadian demographic reality should assist this evolution. More and more Canadians have broader global ties as new first- or second-generation citizens call this nation ‘Home.’ In this light, the current federal government’s restrictive immigration policies and reduced foreign aid dollars, which it is redirecting to narrow, self-serving business and export promotion, must be deemed unacceptable measures of Canada’s engagement in the world.

Clearly we have a whole set of moral, as well as practical issues to deal with as we seek to meet the solidarity demands of global citizenship. We must not shy away from this truly Olympian task. As Harvard professor, Michael J. Sandel notes in his book, Justice: what’s the right thing to do?, “A politics emptied of substantive moral engagement makes for an impoverished civic life. It also is an open invitation to narrow, intolerant moralisms. Fundamentalists rush in where liberals fear to tread.”

Sandel concludes, “A politics of moral engagement is not only a more inspiring ideal than a politics of avoidance. It is also a more promising basis for a just society.” Are we up to this Olympian challenge?

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months


Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Ivan, centre, and Tennette Dechkoff, right, stop to chat with a friend on Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Most Read