Reading about the Olympics…

You know the GP essay question about sport is never really about sport itself, but about the many issues surrounding it and its function or purpose for society. With the ongoing London Olympics, sport comes packaged as a global spectacle celebrating the epitome of human strength and spirit for all the world to see, to applaud, to criticize. Here are some articles I’ve read on the games so far that might be worth a look:

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What’s in an Institution?

Same-sex union can’t be labelled ‘marriage’

MANILA-BASED world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao just got into hot water with advertisers and fans when he said ‘I’m not in favour of same-sex marriage’. That’s unlike United States President Barack Obama who, after years of fence-sitting, declared his support for it.

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Surveying the Future Generation

I found Adecco’s survey of school children living in Singapore fairly insightful actually for three broad reasons:

Well firstly, children are brutally honest people I believe, so what you glean from the responses will most certainly be fairly authentic, rather than adult responses that often tend to second-guess survey intentions or are more conscious about the politically correct answer or image their answers may portray.

Secondly, the responses give us a sense of what kind of society we are, or at least what kind of society we try to make ourselves to be, and the values we seem to uphold. We may write off their responses are immature or childish, but truth be told – this is the world they perceive, or rather the world that is being projected to them. Even suggestions that the Presidency is the ‘coolest job’ is highly telling of how we – or the media – may have been over highlighting the ceremonial easy-life-good-pay role of the Presidential office. Mentions of dreams to be a tai-tai or billionaire seem cute, but what might such early thoughts breed in future?

Thirdly, the emphasis on ‘thinking about others’ – as inferred from the top career ambitions – is actually notable. I believe that kids do honestly and sincerely think about others a lot more in their younger formative years. Yes, such sentiments may fly in the face of developmental literature that charts stages of maturity according to age but such survey results perhaps offer a different view: the human being possibly being more naturally other-centered and actually becomes more selfish as he/she continues to interact more with the adult capitalist milieu.

What are your own thoughts on the survey findings? 

A Survey on the World with Google

Check out the 2010 in Review from Google Zeitgeist (spirit of the times). Analyzing what people search for gives you a sense on what people are generally concerned about.

Sometimes when you’re looking for examples or trends, using the Google search bar as an informal sociological tool can help. Typing out a query midway in the search bar and letting Google suggest a list of questions for you gives you invaluable insight into the pressing concerns of Google searchers all over the world. This article from Big Think cites some interesting finds about searches concerning husbands and wives.

So, You Want Them to be Happy?

Childhood has always been a disputed territory, its true geography quickly forgotten as we grow older, replaced by an adult-imagined universe. But there appears to be a growing consensus that childhood today is in a peculiarly parlous state. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph this week, a powerful collection of experts including Philip Pullman, Susan Greenfield and Penelope Leach argued that the fast-moving, hyper-competitive nature of our society is seriously damaging children’s mental and emotional wellbeing. They suggested that junk food, computer games and constant testing in schools were directly responsible for the well-documented escalation in childhood depression.

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Women. Wheels. Willpower.

Image from American Bedu

Road Warriors

by Aryn Baker/Riyadh (original article here)

When Maha al-Qatani settles into the driver’s seat of her family’s baby blue humvee these days, she goes through a familiar routine: a glance in the rearview mirror to ensure that her headscarf and face veil are on right; a whispered prayer; and a reassuring pat of her Coach handbag, stuffed with all the essentials for a possible prison stay — toothbrush, deodorant, comfortable clothes and prayer rug.

She may need them. On June 17, al-Qatani made history by becoming the first woman in Saudi Arabia to receive a traffic ticket. She sees it as a badge of honor, proving that she defied a prohibition on women driving in the kingdom and, she hopes, paving the way for more women to do the same. Still, the possibility of prison remains. “If no one sacrifices, no one will get their rights,” al-Qatani said on the day of her maiden drive in Saudi Arabia.

In one of the most peculiar revolts to have been inspired by the Arab uprisings, al-Qatani and dozens of other women have taken to the streets — not on foot but behind the wheel. They are leaving their drivers at home and heading out on their own to the grocery store or to the doctor or to pick up their kids from school. Those thankless errands may plague women around the world, but for some in Saudi Arabia they are a long-dreamed-of freedom. “What these women are doing is brave, and what they are seeking is right,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the protests.

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Legalization of Gay Marriage: Celebration or Concern?

Image from Newseum

New York lawmakers voted last Friday to legalize same-sex marriage,  making The Big Apple the largest American state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed, giving the US  gay-rights movement renewed  momentum and evoking both celebration and concern around the globe.

Get an overview of the US gay-marriage debate here from or here from the PEW Forum.

What are your own thoughts about this issue? What impacts could it have on similar issues in your country?