One Love

November 25, 2022 • 1:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

For all sorts of soccer reasons, staging the World Cup in Qatar was and is a bad idea, but that’s not what I want to bring up here.

As was widely reported earlier this week, Harry Kane, the England captain, had planned to wear a “One Love” armband as a statement about human rights, especially with regard to homosexuality. FIFA then threatened to yellow card (i.e., penalize) any player wearing the armband, because in Qatar homosexuality is a crime. Under this threat, Kane, and the other European team captains with similar plans, relented.

I don’t know that there was any such connection in the minds of the Dutch national football officials who started the “One Love” campaign, but I Immediately thought of the Bob Marley song “One Love,” which begins

One love, one heartLet’s get together and feel all right

Since Kane and the other European captains can’t express the thought on the pitch, I’ve been doing so by listening to the song, and thought I’d invite WEIT readers to listen along.

52 thoughts on “One Love

  1. “Let’s get together and feel all right”

    Not enough by itself. The rest of the song is religious gibberish. It would have been more effective if they all wore the armbands as protest at the World Cup matches. Qatar and FIFA are disturbing.

        1. Maybe I should have begun my comment with “…” to indicate agreement and extension of Bob’s comment. The noxious views are those of Islamists, and it is them I can’t see getting together with.

    1. A lot of great music — hell, a lot of great art period (from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to Mozart’s Mass in C Minor) — qualifies at some level as “religious gibberish.” That’s why I, for one, find it essential to maintain a wall of separation between one’s atheism and one’s aesthetic sensibilities.

      1. I always liked Bob Dylan’s Slow Train with Mark Knopfler on the guitar, Lyrics aside, it’s more to my taste than Reggae. Fine for enjoying, but not as a symbol for anything important.

        1. One can experience the numinous without ascribing to it any theological import. It’s possible to be deeply moved by the Chartres Cathedral or Milton’s Paradise Lost (or Bob’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”) even if one rejects their religious content.

          1. I dislike the words “numinous” and “transcendent” – seems like appeasement of the supernaturally inclined, though in your and his case I know it’s not the intent. It makes me cringe, like when I hear “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”

              1. Thanks Dom, but from the reviews I’ve read, I wouldn’t enjoy it. Stories
                featuring struggles with addiction, religion, or other mental problems are not my cup of tea.

            1. I’m not crazy about the words either, Carl, but I’m not sure we have a solid secular vocabulary to describe the experience.

              And addiction salvation stories aren’t usually my cup of tea, either, but I do love me some Bill Burroughs and Jerry Stahl’s riotous junky confessional, Permanent Midnight. As Kinky Friedman blurbed it — it’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys on your back. 🙂

            2. Yes, one can be in awe and emotionally moved by, say, the incredible diversity of life or a frozen waterfall, but I agree that ‘spirituality’ or ‘transcendence’ are way too loaded terms there, although I think the emotions are identical, or at least very close.

    2. Life brings fascinating changes. When I was a kid, the book “The Ugly American” was published. It indicted Americans for their parochial belief that other countries should aspire to and live by American values and cultural mores. Since we occasionally lived abroad, I was taught not to judge other people based on my values and to refrain from judging other countries based on American values and culture. Hard to convince a boomer not to judge others but I finally appreciated the value of withholding at least verbal condemnation of things I didn’t agree with or always really understand. Took decades but I eventually understood that condemning others’ strongly held beliefs ruined relationships but didn’t change minds or hearts. Under that construct, wearing insignia intended to shame your host country while advertising your own righteousness is a profoundly unintelligent way to change policies or minds. From that perspective, it was a self-indulgent act that deserved to be shut down.

  2. “. . .go piss up a rope (as they used to say in my neighborhood growing up).”

    Hah! Not sure where you grew up, Ken, but that was one of my mother’s favorites. For some reason she loved all urine-related sayings, including “Piss or get off the pot,” “Don’t pee before your water comes,” and “That letter is silent, like the pee in swimming.” Perhaps my favorite was when she refused to give a urine sample because “I’m Catholic and I’m not about to pee in a Mason jar.”

    1. From the eastside of Cleveland, Gary. I associate the phrase mainly with blue-collar guys from my dad’s generation — although my mom, who was Irish-Catholic, could let loose with some favorite off-color phrases of her own. 🙂

  3. There’s been a lot of media coverage in the UK over the fact that being gay is illegal in Qatar, and about various protests about this by Western players. There’s also been some commentary about (the absence of) women’s rights.

    But, as far as I can see there’s not been the tiniest squeak about religious freedom. In Qatar, if someone gets to age 20 in Qatar and decides they don’t actually believe in Islam, and says so, then the penalty for that is death. There’s been no protest at all by any UK media or soccer players.

    Why? Does no-one care about religious freedom any more? The right to dissent from and criticise Islam underpins every other rights issue.

    1. To answer your question, I quote Ben Afleck: “It’s racist.” Of course, that’s as misguided as when first vomited at Sam Harris and Bill Maher for raising this point.

    2. It doesn’t affect us*. We are not Muslim apostates to a first approximation, but many of us are women or gay or want to drink alcohol at the World Cup. For most people in the UK, religion is a non issue and we try to avoid talking about it too much because our history is full of religious inspired death and destruction.

      *people living in Western democracies.

  4. My suggestion as a workaround would be for players and spectators to each wear an armband or ribbon of a specific colour. Individual groups could work out who wore which colour. The default could be purple as a protest against violence against women. No need to make a big statement to authorities. It could be done discreetly, by word of mouth.

  5. The “One Love” armbands were originally launched in 2020 as part of campaign by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) to foster inclusiveness. Specifically, the KNVB campaign was opposing “discrimination on the basis of race, skin colour, sexual orientation, culture, faith, nationality, gender, age and all other forms of discrimination.” However, the rainbow heart on the armband effectively jettisons all these forms of discrimination in favor of sexual orientation. So the armbands directly contradict the original spirit of inclusiveness and should probably be banned for that reason alone.

  6. The very restrictions from Quatar on this issue at least creates awareness and discussion about this important issue. Perhaps fans in the Middle East are hearing about the censorship, and that is something.

  7. Critical as I am of all religious societies, I give (and have given in an article for Forbes) a bit of a pass for Qatar. I see them as the best of a bad bunch and not a bad example of how such a society can modernize and be a little less intolerant.
    I’ve paid particular attention (and visited) to Qatar ever since I studied Middle East politics at Georgetown U. (whose foreign service school was partly funded by Qatar, even then, 1992, though I wasn’t a direct beneficiary.)

    1. > I see them as the best of a bad bunch …

      The “bunch” being the predominantly Middle Eastern Arab states? Aren’t Turkey, Indonesia, Tunisia, and other predominantly Islamic states more liberal and tolerant than Qatar? I think they are, but I’m seriously asking.

      1. Turkey or as they want us to say, Turkiye, (I think that is it?) – has gone backwards under Erdogan. A real pity. For all these countries, please note regimes are not run by the populace in general but the people are put upon by authoritarian governments.

  8. I just watched the U.S. and Great Britain battle to a nil-nil tie. It was interesting to watch the ads being displayed around the stadium at field level. Budweiser had a giant add, spelling out the familiar Budweiser script. No beer with alcohol is being served during the games (if I understand the rules correctly). Ironic.

    1. > I just watched the U.S. and Great Britain

      Nope. US and England. Scotland, Wales, and a United Ireland have their own teams.

      While I support the right of individuals to enjoy free speech on their own time, I do not think that employees have unfettered free speech in the workplace. That is precisely what we are seeing here. Not every activity is a platform. I don’t want to walk into a restaurant and have employees shove their religion and politics in my face, either.

        1. Oh, and for anyone in Qatar at the moment, I’d strongly recommend hopping over to Dubai for the Rugby Dubai Sevens event, 1-3 December. It is an amazing event!

          (I won’t share any comment on politics or quality-of-life issues in the region *cough*, but readers are free to do their own research.)

    2. I just watched the U.S. and Great Britain battle to a nil-nil tie.

      That was fun wasn’t it? The other representative of GB, Wales, looked like they were playing a man down for much of the game against Iran. Then they had a man sent off for real and looked about two men down. Then they conceded twice in two minutes to lose the match and left the field looking rather displeased with their lot. The Iranians looked like they had just toppled their government and won the World Cup all in one go.

    3. Right. I think it’s time to knock this business on the head. Our esteemed host also does the same thing, I noticed.

      In football, you don’t have a tie, you have a draw. It wasn’t a nil-nil tie, it was a nil-nil draw. I know the two words mean the same thing in this context, but it just sounds weird to call it a tie.

      To make things more complicated, we sometimes call the fixture a tie. In England the “England-USA tie” refers to the match, not the result.

      I see you’ve already been corrected about the use of “Great Britain”, so I won’t bang on about that. 🙂

    1. I read your article and found it helpful, providing a perspective from
      someone who has spent time in Qatar. Things look different when you
      live there. It reminded me in some respects of Jonathan Haidt’s
      experience (The Righteous Mind) when he went to live and work in India
      for three months. These comments don’t necessarily apply directly to
      Qatar, but they are relevant when considering how we behave when we
      encounter stable societies very different to our own. Haidt’s
      experience in India had a profound effect on his views on morality, a
      topic on which he is a world expert, and he completely revised his way
      of thinking on the topic. Here is an excerpt “…I was immersed in a
      sex-segregated, hierarchically stratified, devoutly religious society,
      and I was committed to understanding it on its own terms, not mine. It
      only took a few weeks for my dissonance to disappear, not because I
      was a natural anthropologist but because the normal human capacity for
      empathy kicked in. … Rather than automatically rejecting the men as
      sexist oppressors and pitying the women, children and servants as
      helpless victims, I began to see a moral world in which families, not
      individuals, are the basic unit of society … In this world, equality
      and personal autonomy were not sacred values. Honoring elders, gods,
      and guests, protecting subordinates, and fulfilling one’s role-based
      duties were more important … for the first time in my life, I was
      able to step outside of my home morality, the ethic of autonomy”. When
      he steps on the plane to go home he cringes when he hears a loud
      American blabbing about his individual rights.

      1. Thank you Stephen, I agree. Living in a place is certainly something that changes one’s perspective. I lived in Japan for a few years and visit frequently, speak Japanese, for example. My knowledge of Japan is much better.
        I don’t count my briefer trips to Qatar as part of my real understanding of the place – that I gained more from reading about it since college and following the Middle East generally (my first degree is in Middle East politics/psychology).
        Qatar is a weird place to go to and meeting actual Qatari citizens is very rare.

  9. The Economist: Editorial: In defence of Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup. Nov 19, 2022
    It is a worthier venue for a big sporting event than other recent hosts

    The Economist: International sporting events are increasingly held in autocracies. Nov 19, 2022
    Regimes time crackdowns to minimise embarrassment over human rights

  10. I think England and others with similar views should have walked out. Let Qatar host a tournament with third rate teams.

    1. There is still time for England to leave the tournament. If things take a bad turn they might as well leave on a matter of moral principle and maintain that they would surely have won the whole thing had they remained.

      But I think England’s World Cup campaign is going rather well. They tricked the US into thinking that they, the US, were the superior team. Now England will scrape their way into the next round and all the way through to the final, in which they will play like the team that they really are and bash a surprised France.

      1. Yup, England are through to the next round as long as they don’t lose to Wales by more than 4 goals on Tuesday.

  11. No politics is the better policy. Open that door and rancor multiplies. Let the sport shine with no (added) distractions.

  12. FIFA had threatened that any team captain wearing the One Love armband would face getting a yellow card plus unlimited disciplinary sanctions after the match, which the England Football Association took to include a ban from subsequent matches. Very draconian and several teams are challenging the legality of the decision.

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