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Thanks to Billy for the link to a story about the Norweigan ski coach who gave a replacement pole to a Canadian competitor who had broken hers. I've been avoiding any Olympic coverage like the plague that it is, and this article points in the general direction of why.

The why is because everyone but Bjornar Hakensmoen hasn't the slightest clue why they are in Turin this month. Not the media, that's for sure, not the IOC officials and organizers, and not the coaches, trainers, and athletes. OK, maybe some of them, but I'll bet even most of them don't get it anymore and the ones who do are quickly being trained to forget it. I'll give you a hint: the daily "Medal Count" is just about the last fact about the Games that I want to hear.

I'm an objectivist. I believe in selfishness, or at least, to put it another way, I am vehemently offended by any notion of selflessnes, and morally offended when such is described as the way people should act. If you think you understand that, then tell me, what would that morality have demanded I do in the situation Mr. Hankensmoen found himself in? If you said anything other than "give her a pole", then you really don't understand it at all.

I would have done exactly what he did, or if I hadn't, I would have counted it among the many times I've failed morally - and the victim of that failure would have been only myself, and my team. Hankensmoen comes oh so close to explaining why, though he misses it by a hair. I don't know what kind of person he is, what philosophical beliefs he holds, but if he meant by his explanation that he did it because he was being selfless and because of that it was the moral thing to do, then a miss is as good as a mile.

You think that what he did was counter to my values? Do you think it didn't further his own acheivement, his own interests and that of his team? Think again. He knew that it did, even if he didn't (or couldn't) quite tell us why. Even if he thought he was doing it selflessly, it was a selfish act, and I applaud him for it. It had nothing to do with her, her misfortune, whether or not she deserved to continue in the race, how she would feel about it, or who would end up with the medal. It had everything to do with the fact that it was she the Norweigan team had to beat.

He understands something about that. Maybe it's only in a vague and disconnected way. Maybe it's not a result of explict philosophical conclusion, but only some distant cultural memory of a time when values and acheivement were still important in the world. No matter, he did the right thing. But now, most people have lost even that memory, and are flailing about helplessly in the world while counting medals as a pathetic substitute for some connection to real acheivment and real values.

Correction: Corrected "He knew that it didn't" above. Should have said that he knew that it *did* further his own interests and acheivment.



Posted by eddy at Wednesday, January 13, 2010 06:51 AM

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