The Olympian Ethics

clock running backwards

If you believe that the clock can’t turn backwards, you might have to think again after what happened at the Australian Open tennis tournament for Junior Girls.

Liza Kotliar, a 16 year-old Ukrainian girl, shook hands with her Russian opponent after being knocked out in the first round.

If this scene was set in ancient Greece, such a gesture would have been lauded for her ethical message. Nowadays, two thousand years later, such a gesture triggered a stark controversy and the young athlete was forced to apologise for shaking hands to the winning girl because that girl was from Russia and Russia invaded Ukraine.

The ‘shame’ of shaking hands

The Ukrainian minister of Sport have reportedly launched an investigation into such a gesture. Liza’s father released a statement about the incident, insisting that her daughter “regrets” her actions…

May I ask if it makes any sense? Do sports change their ethics according to the political flow?

To me it doesn’t, but it might be that my brain is not flexible enough. To me it only shows that some people are trying to turn the clock to old ancient times. To times before ancient Greece, before ancient Egypt, before any previous civilisation in India or China. Back to the age of Neanderthal or so.

the shame of shaking hands

The controversy caused by this episode shows the attempt -more or less conscious- to inject in young people the poison of an old mindset, the attempt to project outdated values into the future. The last time that politicians tried to resume the values of the old Roman empire, it was devastating for young people, a disaster for us all.

This is the most invisible, tricky war.

In our summer efforts, we want to make young people aware of the ground on which we build our social relations, what words and behaviours have the strength to empower the sense of community and what words and behaviours can demolish it.

Our values

Reciprocal respect is always at the top.

Mutual support.

Understanding one another’s needs and point of view.

Proactive aptitude to help the most vulnerable stand proudly beside the strongest ones.

Sharing resources.

Making sure that we take care of everyone on board.

My focus -before, during and after the summer school- is on creating something which doesn’t hide the values of the past in a modern language. My focus is to make sure that  behaviours are matching those principles that we express in words.

We aim to spread seeds for the future, whatever future young people might  choose. But in order to move forward -not backwards as it is at the moment- we have to call those seeds with clear names, we have to stand for those values, not hiding into any fake appearance.

Consequent behaviours

Freedom, social justice, fraternity: we do not need drones or missiles to spread ethical values, but good actions, good relations, good intentions and overall good practice.

The AEL project is a vector for getting young people active in a good way, for helping them relate to one another with reciprocal respect, for practicing the mutual support in every simple moment of our daily life.

We make mistakes, we might match or mismatch our intentions at various degrees at every summer camp, but the direction is clear and consistent: giving our students the experience that we are building a house.

In the house, we create common spaces for all and private spaces for every participant. We also aim to create doors to communicate with each other as well as windows to be aware of what happens outside. On occasion we might have to ring various bells to raise awareness for  those who don’t distinguish between doors and walls, common and private spaces, windows and corridors, but -regardless the bells ringing- the house is there for everyone with good will.

There is one more question and it is whether young people can experience at home and at school similar efforts: is there nowadays a real determination to help young people become self-standing and aware of the values entailed in living together?

A parent’s dilemma

Everyone can answer for themselves and evaluate whether we equip our kids to be ready for their future or we are trying to address them towards our own nostalgic vision for our old past times.

As for Liza Kotliar, I hope that the minister will change his mind and send his apologies to her with a prize for her sportive gesture.

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