The VigilanceVoice

Monday-- February 18, 2002
—Ground Zero Plus 160

Olympic Courage, Conviction & Action
Wins Big Battle Over Terrorism's
Fear, Intimidation & Complacency
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 18--Vigilance overpowered Terrorism at the Olympic Games last night.  Courage pushed Fear aside.   Conviction smothered Intimidation.  And Action swept over Complacency.
       After the smoke cleared, the Gold Medal was draped over the heads of the Canadian figure skating pair, a symbol that Vigilance not Complacency rules the Olympics.
       Historically, bad calls by Olympic judges are generally ignored.   The International Olympic Committee ( I.O.C.) as most governing bodies, likes to keep controversy at bay.  As an institution, it prides itself on being "beyond corruption."  It likes to keep the facade gleaming that it is "in charge" and "invincible."   Otherwise, those who look up to it as a model of might could become discouraged and lose faith in its structure, believing the only way to "win" was to "know somebody."    
      It wouldn't have been surprising had the IOC left things as they were--"swept the controversy" under the rug.  It would have been "safer."  Everyone would have understood.  Average families around the world don't like their "secrets" laundered in public either.   They don't want the world to know daddy is a drunk, or mommy is sleeping with her Yoga instructor, or Mary is a compulsive nose picker, or that uncle Joe once was convicted for burglary.  
     Corporate families don't like their dirty laundry aired either.  Enron certainly didn't want its "dark secrets" flapping in the public's face.  Its CEO prefers to use the 5th Amendment to avoid letting the world inside his glass house.  Governments are notorious for hiding their soiled sheets.   Facing the truth is not part of the average person's, society's or institution's way of life; it disrupts what is; it endangers the security of the insecurity.
      Impropriety--a nice word for crimes against others--is a blemish to organizations like the Olympics who promote themselves as the epitome of fairness and symbols of the "perfect order" of mankind and womankind where everyone--regardless of race, color, creed or national origin--receives an equal birth on the ship of competitive excellence.
      A scandal within, a flaw in the diamond of perfection, might bring the Olympics down to common ground.  It might reduce its status to a human flaw. It might expose the character defects of its members--expose their pride, anger, greed, lust envy, gluttony and sloth--the Seven Deadly Sins that collide with judging the rest of the world's excellence in a fair and impartial manner.  To expose the lack of excellence among judges would be to admit the deliverance of a Gold Medal was just an opinion of excellence rather than a fact of it; that it was just a piece of cold, lifeless metal given not deserved, not earned upon a level playing field where hairs split the difference between great and greater.
     Those old, archaic ways of judging Olympic Gold Medal skill were crushed by the fist of Vigilance last night when the IOC presented the Canadian figure skating pair with its Gold Medal in tandem with the Russian figure pair skaters.
     The test to the Vigilance Formula is-- (Courage minus Fear) + (Conviction minus Intimidation) + (Action minus Complacency) = Vigilance.  It met that test with flying colors last night.
     Acting swiftly on evidence that the French judge had allegedly agreed to "down mark" the Canadians to allow the Russians to win, the IOC and International Skating Union met and decided to air the impropriety of the judge. Their decision was to award the Canadians a Gold Medal in joint tenancy with the Russians.
      Justice was swift and sweet.
     While many criticize the decision to award the medal, others lauded it as necessary to remove prejudice in judging, and to set up firewalls to protect future athletes from the political whims of judges whose human foibles can so easily impair true judgment of an athlete's skills.
      The choice to admit its fault on the spot versus sweeping it under the rug  was not an easy one.  It stirred the Olympic judging pot, bringing to the to the surface the controversy of "how deep was the collusion" between judges?   How many countries were involved?   How long has this "trading of votes" of one country in favor of another been going on?  Does this indictment invalidate all the Gold Medals given in the past?   Does it destroy the veracity of the judging tradition?  
      The questions resulted in one answer-- "the need to change."  The IOC's decision ran a javelin deep into the heart of Olympic Complacency about how athletes are judged.  It threw the spotlight on Vigilance.  
      Vigilance is all about facing Complacency.  Vigilance isn't about being right, it's about "doing what's right to protect against the wrong."  It's the Boy Scout's Motto:  "Be Prepared!"
      None of us want to face Vigilance in our daily lives..   Vigilance requires Change.   It demands we alter "proven past behavior" in favor of "unproven future behavior."  It sucks away the sand upon which we walk and exposed the rocks beneath which are far more difficult to negotiate until, that is, we eventually find our footing.
      Flawed as it is, the judging system for figure skating has been evolving to what it is today for nearly eight decades when the first Winter Games were played in 1924 at Chamonix, France.  Human flaws undoubtedly have been part of the process.  But no one dealt with them.  Complacency set in, as it does with all human affairs until something happens, like Terrorists attacking America, or Enron's collapse, or a Presidential voting decision being decided by one county in Florida.
       Humans tend to be "shocked" out of complacency.  Hitler rose to power over the turning of heads.   America was warned of Terrorism long before the attacks.  Parents ignore a child's slamming of the bedroom door and the isolation of their being until they walk into a school cafeteria and shoot their classmates; a 77-year-old mother weeps in grief after learning her son mowed down innocent women and children in his car in the heart of Manhattan, telling the press--"he was such a good boy."
      We tend to compromise the Truth until it becomes Complacency.  We say, the gives and takes between judges will, in the long run, even out.  We allow discrepancies as a "way of life," or we "table the issue," because we have more "pressing" priorities.  Governments support one leader and then another, some good and some bad, eventually hoping the money invested in both bad and good will pay off with an ally not an enemy.
      But in the interim of Complacency's Compromise, bad things can happen.
      We once supported Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians.   We once offered aid to Iran and now embargo it.  Our former President once denied having any "sexual relations" with that "woman" (Monica Lewinski) until she produced a dress that smashed his lie.  
      As individuals we have make many bad decisions in our lives, we compromise the present in hopes we might make it up later on in the long run.    It's always easier to compromise than to change.   It's easier to deny than to face the truth.  Truth is bare and raw and often full of shrapnel that causes others pain and anguish.  To deal with the truth means we have to uproot the lie, rip it out of our existence and cauterize the wounds it creates.  And then, worst of all, we have to deal with the gap it leaves--the emptiness, the vacuum.   The hard work is replacing it with something to fill the hole.   Like the World Trade Center.  It is now a giant hole in the ground, waiting to be filled with something--a new building, a monument.   But it is hard to grow things out of scar tissue.   To quit smoking we replace a bad habit with hopefully a good one, not another bad one.   To face Complacency, we must replace it with Action.   Change.   Evolve, for the effect to be positive.
       Usually, this change means new behavior.  We have to re-learn, re-evaluate, re-test, re-apply our selves until we "get it right."  It means our lives will be upset in the process, that the way we once lived or thought or acted must alter and evolve to meet the needs of the truth.   Once exposed we cannot afford to go back to what we were without a severe cost to our self-worth..  The truth makes hiding from the lie virtually impossible.  
      That's why Vigilance is not an easy way out.  Complacency is far more attractive.   It's much more comfortable to stick our head in the sand than to go nose-to-nose with the truth--the need to change.    Human beings aren't easily moved from one set of beliefs and actions to a new set.    We are victims of routinization.   We like our ruts, even though  the difference between a rut and grave is only the depth.   The Law of Nature says: "if we don't grow we go."  We get lost in time.  We become anachronistic sticks in the mud, immutable to change, brittle and ultimately dispensable. To refuse change is to refute Time.   Everything changes--the Seasons, life into death, happiness to sadness, sadness to happiness, right to wrong, wrong to right.   We forget the earth spins at 1,000 miles per hour each and every day.  We forget we aren't standing still.   We forget that when we say "I'm just coasting," the reality of that expression means we're going down hill, backwards, because gravity forces us to work ourselves up, or pulls us down.  There is not "coasting" uphill.
       That's what I liked most about the Olympic Committee's decision to admit the flaw in judging and to award the Canadians their Gold Medal along with the Russians.  It was an opposite decision to their allowing the U.S. World Trade Center Flag to be marched into the stadium during the "Parade of Athletes."
       I considered that decision not a Vigilant one, but the result of "political pressures."   That was not an act of Vigilance in my opinion, but rather an act of Complacency fueled by Intimidation and driven by the Fear of alienating America.   Unfortunately, it opens the door to any country wishing to express its grief over atrocities, and to turn the non-partisan affairs of the Olympics into a forum for world politics.  I considered that decision by the IOC a reaction to Internal Terrorism--a kowtowing to pressures that had little to do with truth or the evolution of it.  And I'm a flag waver.   I kneel before the flag and honor it.   But not during the Olympics.   Our flag in that venue belonged of equal size and weight as all other flags, no bigger, not smaller, no better, no worse.
      Conversely, the decision to award the Gold Medal to the Canadians was truly a Vigilant one--worthy of the historic roots of the Olympics.   While the Olympic Torch might have dimmed at the beginning of the ceremonies when America forced its flag to dominate the opening, it blazed brightly when the Gold Medals were draped on Canadians last night in Salt Lake City, Utah.
     I knew the Sentinels of Vigilance would be happy.   These guardians of "right over wrong" who swirl around the world's disaster spots, cheered.   They saw the IOC drive out Fear, Complacency and Intimidation with their decision to award the Gold to both the Russians and Canadians.
        The Sentinels know the danger of "turning the other cheek" in hopes the "evil" will go away.   They know it won't.  It only festers, digs deeper roots, clings more voraciously to "tradition" until it chokes a society or a family or an individual to a whimpering death, wallowing in a quagmire of denial that leads only to more vulnerability, more corrosion of the self, the society, the institution.
     The Olympics is a forum for Vigilance.  If there are three words that sum its essence, they are Courage, Conviction and Action.   They are not popular words for most of us who find ourselves comfortably snuggled in our ruts of life, happy with the status quo, not wishing to change anything for fear of upsetting the apple cart.  
    It is easier to not turn in an Enron and take your paycheck each month in hopes the "leaders" will correct their error and your retirement won't be endangered than to blow the whistle on them.
    It is easier to flick on the television and shove in a video than to sit with your child after school and discuss the day's events.  It is easier to ignore the formation of a child's character than to burrow into its mind to know what he or she is thinking, to help the child face his or her Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies and teach them how to convert them to Courage, Conviction and Action.
    It's easy to say to the world events: "that's not my business" and get on with the daily job of making a living and trying to smooth out our own bumps in the road than to take on the challenges of self leadership or community service better served by the "do gooders."
    It's easy to turn the security of our homes, our neighborhood, our communities, our state and our nation over to the Homeland Security than to become a Parent or Citizen of Vigilance, vowing to ward off Internal Physical and Emotional Terrorism.
     Change is a bitch.   I don't want to change.  I want it "easy."   I want to ignore the responsibility to evolve.   It's far more comfortable to accept than to question, to "go along" than to "fight." 
    That's why the Gold Medal award last night was so important to me. It reminded me of how Vigilance can work in our world and touch millions of lives when people chose to stand up in the face of Complacency, Fear and Intimidation.  
    While the decision will cause an upheaval in the structure of judging, it will give the Olympics a new face--the face of Courage.  It will tell young children vying for a spot on their country's Olympic team that they too will have a better chance at winning by being judged more fairly.   It will give the Olympics a greater sense of stature  It will insure its future.
    Enron officials should take a lesson from the IOC.
    I salute the Olympics.  The Sentinels of Vigilance are smiling down upon them, and all those who chose to face the truth despite its painful fallout.
    Now, I need to learn from that lesson.  I need to apply that same Courage to my life, to face some of my lies, my deficiencies of character.   After all, life is nothing more an Olympic Competition where we are charged with the Olympic Cry--"Let me be Victorious or my attempt Glorious!"
    Perhaps I'll modify that for my own evolution and say: "Let me be Vigilant, or my attempt not Complacent."
    Perhaps the Sentinels of Vigilance will smile down upon me too someday, and say, "Attaboy!"
    Semper Vigilantes--Always Vigilant!

     Go To Feb. 17--Where Have All The Cab Flags Gone--Terrorism of Complacency

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