Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympics: Black or White


The country is awash, awash with a sense of euphoria....the feel good factor is all upon us...and boy didn't this country need it. Banking issues, NHS in strife, phone hacking scandals...you name it...and everyday the doom mongers were having a field day. Every single day, the news was only about disaster and pestilence...the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse were here...despair ruled supreme. Drill it down to the healthcare system and no different...there was no money, Newsnight was about doctors squabbling amongst each other, the reforms, the pensions, the poor care....doom and gloom....and then...suddenly, just like that...it happened. The Olympics was here...

The media in the initial stages would have none of it though...the first few days...no Golds..and some wit on TV suggested we all break out in renditions of "Always look at the bright side of life"...evidently this is British humour..I don't know...just sounded like cynicism to me. Even the opening ceremony...an unmitigated success in the eyes of the world came under the scanner. An elected MP chirped it was multicultural crap..the Daily Mail ran an online article challenging that multicultural families didn't exist. On the other hand my kids rolled over in laughter watching Mr.Bean and my inner geek freaked out when Bond and the Queen met each other. A good opening ceremony? heck it was awesome...and the seeds were sown...the cynics were outnumbered with the first wave of positivity. Sky TV still ran features as to how London would collapse under the stress and strain of all the folks arriving, how the Immigration system would go into melt down...there was some sort of perverse enjoyment in looking for faults....and then the messages started coming back from the folks going to the big smoke. It was smooth, the volunteers were amazing, the mood was buoyant..and the wave of positivity steadily but surely gained momentum.In between, some dimwit took a pop at young Dailey, secure behind his PC or IPhone at home...allegedly unaware his dad had passed away. Kids 18, lost his biggest pillar of strength and still stood up to represent his country...when his diving partner got it wrong, in an interview, the boy became a man in front of our eyes when he said they were a team...they won or lost..together. Still, it rankled that someone had thought otherwise....the lingering remnants of negativity smouldered. Social media had chosen to show it's darker underbelly.

And then the ladies showed the way. First gold from the rowers...and voila, the floodgates opened. The determination to win shone through all, rowers apologised for coming second...and you suddenly stood back and thought...I have never experienced anything like this....the goosebumps were there..and nothing more than on Super Saturday. In a flash, Team GB represented what modern Britain aspires to be...when the whole of Britain egged on a mixed race woman and then a Somalian Immigrant to win...when the county perhaps, finally, embraced all those diverse people who have made modern Britain. There in the studio was Aamir Khan, there was Denise Thomson..and there was no distinction between them and Jonathan Edwards or Chris Hoy. They were British, they were champions..and as the song goes...it didn't  matter if you were black or white.

And that to me has been the biggest achievement of the Olympics..taking on publicly the naysayers and the doom mongers who profess that immigrants make this country worse, that Muslims are to be treated with suspicion...picking away at a festering wound, somehow revelling in the chaos and anarchy.
I have many a times been asked this question...has colour or my race been a bar to my career or life in this country? And it always has bothered me. It's not because of whether it's been a barrier, but because of the belief that it could be. And that is the legacy of papers such as the Daily Mail...somehow they have created the belief that such issues are still relevant, still rife and perhaps even acceptable. Are there cases of bias based on colour? I am sure there is, and much more needs to e done...but the prevalence is no where near professed or believed. Britain has been nothing but good to me. If I had faced bias based on my colour,let me put this simply..there is no way I would have got to to where I have in my career so far. When I have used that answer to folks who have asked me the "colour" question, the reply has been...but you are different..you have the gift of the gab..and you can unlock doors. Well, thank you for that...but even for a second, if I accept all those, let's give you one more bit of factoid. There are around 15 folks in this country who I trained with in Calcutta...their present status? Either a Consultant or GP..ergo at the top of their career. Languishing in back water hospitals, doing rubbish jobs? I don't know but hospitals such as Imperial College or Kings College or titles such as Consultant surgeon or Consultant Orthopaedics sounds all quite good to me.And nope, they aren't all "smooth talking, long haired smart-asses"..on the contrary, they are far more traditional but have got to where they are on sheer dent of quality.

And that, my friends, is reality. The vast majority in this country actually don't care about all these issues...they look beyond their skin colour and make friendships, work as colleagues or whatever. They are not "tolerant" as there is nothing to "tolerate"....it's a demeaning word in it's own right...equality is based on mind sets...nothing to do with tolerance. There will always be people like Aiden Burley who feel organising Nazi stag parties, or demonstrating his stunning wit on Twitter are signs of maturity. Beyond that, he could also have been misunderstood and could be a lovely man who happens to have many "colours people as friends". Frankly I don't know...and honestly, I don't care either. I am not here to change anyone's beliefs and if anyone believes that their skin colour gives them some sort of superiority or otherwise, then they are welcome to their beliefs. It's a free world..everyone's entitled to their thoughts...in my mind and experience, they form a tiny minority who are encouraged on by the attention given.

And that's what the Olympics have provided for me. The euphoria will surely settle and after the weekend, there will be that hollow feeling..and maybe the negativity the media so likes to pervade will seep it's way back. I sincerely hope not...but even if that does happen...for 2 weeks, it didn't exist...for 2 weeks a nation stood together and admired their heroes and heroines for who they are, not from where they came, not who their parents are. And frankly you couldn't have scripted a better Olympics..it was like an alternative Daily Mail Universe....a Black Muslim Immigrant taught us the "Mobot", a mixed race girl dazzled us with her smile....and we pumped our fists with as much intensity for Queen Vic as we did for Jess. Heck, even ginger haired folks who have been the target of jokes had their hero in Greg Rutherford. They were Brits...and were loved by all.

You couldn't have asked for a better advert of Britain....so to all those involved, Seb Coe, Becks...thank you for bringing the Olympics to London. Thank you for proving all the doubters wrong. Thank you for a fabulous party...I have loved it....and it didn't  matter  if you were black or white.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, my friend. And brilliantly put. Keep up the good work. Despite a few people who live in a bygone era, Britain is a welcoming fair and decent place. The Govt may pursue policies that harm the poor both at home and abroad but the people of the country know better.

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