By: Matevž Tomšič
The Slovenian media missed the news that the footballers of Poland and the Czech Republic in the matches for the World Cup qualifiers, recently played against England or Wales, refused to kneel on the field in support of the Black Lives Matter movement against discrimination and social injustice. Recall, this habit spread after the alleged murder of black George Floyd in the American city of Minneapolis, when one of the police officers pressed his knee to his neck while trying to arrest him, which allegedly caused his death. This provoked violent protests across the United States and later elsewhere in the Western world. This kneeling is not only meant as an expression of remembrance of the deceased, but is also a kind of gesture of apology of (mostly) white Americans – and their imitators elsewhere – for racism, which is still very much alive, leading to members of other races, especially blacks, being exposed to various forms of discrimination.
Well, as I said, the Polish and Czech national football teams did not agree to do so with a simple explanation that this is not a part of their story. The problems behind that are not part of their history. And that they want to maintain a neutral and non-political stance in sports competitions.
Their action can be understood as resistance to the growing politicisation of most areas of society, including sport. The goals of the Black Lives Matter are distinctly ideological and political. It is a radical leftist movement founded by a group of Marxists. The protests, organised together with similarly oriented groups, caused great material damage as well as deaths. Hundreds of monuments dedicated to “ideologically inappropriate” individuals were destroyed or desecrated (even the giants of American history, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, were “blacklisted”). That support for their agenda should be expressed, is therefore far from self-evident.
Of course, this does not mean that there is no need to fight discrimination – on any grounds. It is also necessary to try to correct the injustices that have been done in the past. Colonialism and especially slavery are phenomenon worthy of all condemnation, and as such represent a major stain on the historical legacy of some Western nations. Therefore, critical self-reflection is undoubtedly something desirable.
However, as a rule, this is not the case for the actions of social justice activists – who are often attracted to a significant part of civil society and the media. Namely, there are distinct double criteria in the assessment of individual phenomena both in the present and in the past. The impression is often created that expansionism and the subordination of other people and cultures are something that is unique to Westerners. Thus, European colonialism is strongly condemned, however, the conquests of the Ottoman Turks are not. When it comes to the African slave trade, again, almost exclusively Europeans are blamed, not Arabs, even though the latter controlled this activity at the east coast of Africa. Thus, it is obvious that this kind of justice is only a disguise for undermining the symbolic foundations of a Western-style social order.
The nations from the eastern part of Central Europe, which managed to re-establish national subjectivity after decades of Soviet supremacy, are the least susceptible to such “progressive” ideological trends. Therefore, they are particularly sensitive to social engineering in the name of some “higher goals” and to the imposition of ideologies that have no tradition with them. If they had to suffer the Soviet type of communism and the ideology of proletarian internationalism for so long, they now have no intention of submitting to the dictates of Western neo-left progressivism.
Matevž Tomšič is a sociologist, professor at the Faculty of Applied Social Studies, and President of the Association of Journalists and Publicists.