Monday, December 14, 2009

Out of the Woods

In relation to the news cycle, I am as old as a dinosaur and as slow as a snail, but now that I am back to writing, I cannot resist the urge to comment upon Tiger Woods' domestic problems. My initial reaction to all of this was pretty typical for me: "this is nobody's business" and "why must I once again be subjected to 'news' of a celebrity's personal foibles?"

The episode sits squarely at the top of the three-headed monster of race, sex, and class, however, and as such, it demands a bit of attention. Thankfully, coverage that I have seen has been devoid of overtly racial themes. That said, I have been made aware that person(s) known to me, big fans of Mr. Woods prior to the scandal, have made comments about black men, apparently fishing for permission to cast the conversation about Tiger into a racial one. Repugnant, to be sure. But how isolated was that attempt? Probably not as rare as one would hope.

Part of the reason I had to comment upon this story is that I cannot avoid it. Yesterday afternoon in the grocery store checkout line, I was visually assaulted by the tabloids - Us Magazine proclaimed: Mistress: Tiger Woods Told Me He "Wasn't Happy at Home With Wife"; while In Touch screamed: Tiger Tells His Mistress: I WILL LEAVE MY WIFE FOR YOU. The People magazine cover was the worst: Tiger's Wife: Inside Elin's Nightmare. All of these headlines demonstrate a prurient interest in Tiger's exploits, to be sure, but they also reveal gender politics of what I thought was a bygone era. Here in these salacious quotes is writ large: infidelity on the part of a man justifies domestic violence on the part of a woman. Is this the 21st century?

Let's go to Dubai. Why Dubai? It turns out that the richest athlete in history, like every other rich man that walked the earth before him, could not accumulate that kind of wealth without some kind of devilry. The one golf course in the world that bears Tiger Woods's name sits in that desert city; an unnatural oasis that uses four million gallons of water per day, to say nothing of the rest of the city, its appalling labor practices or its centrality to the international sex slave trade.

Nation writer Dave Zirin calls Tiger to task for this and for his corporate deals with Chevron as well. Zirin put it best when he said, "Woods has every right to keep his personal problems personal. But when he makes deals that benefit dictatorships and unaccountable corporations, all in the name of his billion-dollar brand, he deserves no privacy."

Last night my mind wandered to Tiger and his all of this recent media attention as I watched The People Speak. Muhammad Ali, one of the most famous athletes of his time, went to prison and was stripped of his title rather than fight in Vietnam, a war to which he objected. Contrast that to Woods, who would rather collect another few million than come out against barbaric labor practices, child sex slavery, or toxic polluters.

While he's taking time off, presumably to repair the damage he did to his family, Mr. Woods might consider rethinking all of his priorities and reflecting upon what truly makes a life well-lived.

6 comments:

J G-W said...

Dubai is kind of an extreme version of L.A.

J G-W said...

There's a reason we think of hierarchies as a pyramid. The closer you get to the top, the more likely you are to hobnob with the culprits of all kinds of social wickedness. That's why the Bushes have more in common with the Bin Ladens than they have with 99% of the Americans who elected them. (More Dubai connections there too, I'm sure.)

Andrea said...

Welcome back, and very good post. You gave me a reason to sort of give a shit about this stupid controversy.

Knight of Nothing said...

Hey John - I think my post was actually not hard enough on Woods. After I wrote it, I came across another piece that detailed how steadfastly and carefully Woods has avoided the topic of race (and racial injustice). Not that as a black man he has any obligation to speak about race (or any other social issue for that matter), but with the wealth he has amassed, I think he's crossed the line from mere celebrity/athlete into the realm of real, rarefied power. And the some of the choices he's made in order to consolidate his personal brand make a mockery of his charitable foundation and of human decency.

Andrea - thanks! It seems like it is always the petty, stupid scandals that I don't want to know about that seem to topple public figures, not the most heinous ones. Why do you suppose that is? Perhaps a good topic for later :-)

J G-W said...

I wasn't suggesting that you were being too hard on the old boy. I was just pointing out that he's probably not guilty of any special wickedness for somebody in his position. Just run of the mill powers-that-be type wickedness.

Knight of Nothing said...

I suppose, but that doesn't really make it all that much less galling. :-)