Blinded by the sun

The boos from the crowd during the men’s Olympic 200-meters final on Thursday is incomprehensible to the Protestant ethic of northern Europeans, as the public failed to respect the athletes’ need to concentrate. The foreign media saw the disruption as a display of contempt, a nationalist outburst that prevents people from following rules and distinguishing good from bad. Such criticism is based on the Manichean perspective about good and evil – an idea that dominates Western culture and rejects gray areas (as manifested in the chorus of ancient Greek theater). People expressed deep skepticism about a system of rules that ought not be enforced eclectically. Greeks did not applaud the behavior of Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, they scoffed at the mysterious bike crash, and saw through official attempts to cover up the issue. But at the same time, they know that sprint champions are all products of the same laboratories. Looking at the American sprint champions, people find it hard to believe their vigor and performance is the result of training alone. People are upset, for they deem that athletes do not all get the same treatment. Misbelief coupled with the age-old syndrome of seeing ourselves as victims of international conspiracies generated this overemotional reaction the Western public found so provocative. It is about the difference between the north and the south as captured in the work of the French existentialist Albert Camus. People in the north live and work in a gloomy environment. They descend to the Mediterranean in search of light – and that shapes their temperament. Mediterranean people live under the sun, and are thus intrigued by the mysterious, the otherworldly. This relationship tilts us off the tracks of rationalism, making us waver between condemnation and absolution.