There’s a reason sport and politics shouldn’t mix. Take the Rugby World Cup for instance. It seems that by loafing in front of a plasma TV to watch thirty incredible hulks wrestle what looks like an alien’s head over a white line, I’m able to conveniently forget about innumerable worrying events cropping up all over the globe. Amazing! In fact by navigating a path through various sporting tournaments throughout the year, it’s almost possible for me to blank out that some people still believe in stoning and nuclear power. My guess is that if ornithologists actually peered into an ostrich’s hole in the ground, they’d find a tiny plasma TV showing avian Olympics on Sky.
Anyhow, there I was a few days ago, head stuck in the sands of sport, cheering a try and forgetting entirely about the March of Regress, when a slow motion camera showed that I’d been cheering a referee’s mistake. The player had slid into touch just before the ball crossed the line and the ref didn’t call for a review when he should have.
“Christ,” some feller says beside me, “we have the technology, use it!”
At which point, inexplicably, sport and politics mixed in my mind. Even before a conversion sailed between the giant H of the posts, I realised we could eradicate the world’s problems by applying technology to politics and in particular – politicians. And we wouldn’t need to watch rugby ever again.
Now I sense here, heads of state spluttering in rage:
President Sarkosy choking on his croissant as he reads this column in the Élysèe Palace … Putin in the Kremlin giving his Southern Star a contemptuous smack of the hand …Interpreters in Beijing trying desperately to calm Hu Jintao as, having got through the Clonakilty notes, they read these words aloud to the communist central committee.
“Why apply technology to us?” I hear them wail in a rake of languages: “Tis not our fault that people believe in stoning and nuclear power.”
But my point is this: these folk with the combed hair and fine dentistry get up on their soapboxes at election time promising us the moon and stars if we tighten the stringy belts on our trousers and then ten years later nothing’s been done. In fact, things have only got worse. Don’t tell me its all down to the intractable nature of the planet’s predicament – a dearth of probity in politicians has blighted civilisation since the Ancient Greeks first cast a vote. The fact is, the kind of people who shin to the top of the greasy pole in search of power are often interested in nothing more than telling us one thing and doing another. Often as not they tell us the very opposite of what they know to be true. By the time we kick them out, the earth’s problems have snowballed.
Which brings me back to the rugby. Now I’m not suggesting we send out national politicians fifteen a side and watch them scrummage and maul across a rugby pitch as an answer to our social and economic problems. However symbolically apt it might seem to have opposing parties wrestling in the mud and kicking each other in the teeth, and however diverting as a spectacle, (let’s be honest, it would be more absorbing to watch than any current political programme and you might find out who was really up to putting in 80 minutes for their country) it wouldn’t stop rainforests being felled. No, I’m talking about the way that rugby uses cutting-edge technology to establish the truth of whether the alien’s head actually went over the line. In the past, we only had the ref’s word for it. Now, we can go over it frame by frame in slow motion from any number of angles and get a pretty good approximation of the truth.
Why not do the same with our politicians? Where would the difficulty be in say, strapping lie detectors to those who hold high office? These contraptions needn’t be huge. Nowadays they can be micro devices no bigger than a tiepin. Politicians would be required to wear a fib detector at all times – it could even be implanted under the skin. A noisy alarm would be set off whenever the politician told a whopper. One can imagine transcriptions from Hansard in the UK:
“My Right honourable gentlemen, beep beeeeeep beeeep”.
“On the contrary, if the Right Honourable beeeep beep.”
I know your Sarkozys and Putins and Jintaos might find all manner of excuses for refusing to wear the contraption. But surely it’s the same argument that they always give with regard to street surveillance cameras in cities. As they say, if you’ve nothing to hide, why would it bother you?
The advantages for us all are obvious. A question that might have been put to President Bush such as “Are prisoners being tortured in Guatanomo Bay,” would be answered “No. Beeep beeeeeeep beeeeeep!”
Or perhaps, aware that we could see their noses growing, our political Pinocchios would never transgress in the first place. They might start acting on world problems instead of filling fertilizer sacks with cash confetti. All I’m saying is, the technology is there. We should use it.