Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Lives of Soccer Players

The Iranian soccer players who wore green armbands in a World Cup qualifying match in solidarity with the protesters have been "retired" from the team. Yglesias makes a very astute connection to the tactics used by the East German government, as displayed in The Lives of Others, one of my favorite films:
One of the things The Lives of Others does very well is illustrate how a dictatorial regime that prefers to stay in power through “soft” methods can use the threat of destroying people’s careers. Instead of being put on trial and executed, becoming a martyr for the cause, you can just be rendered unemployable in the field of your choice in a decision nobody has to publicly defend but everyone understands. You become, then, not an imprisoned hero, but perhaps just an apparently pathetic person—in the movie it’s a theater director who can’t direct—a cautionary tale rather than an inspirational example.
This is not the martyrdom of Neda Agha-Soltan, the peaceful protester shot dead by the regime's thugs, but it is a sacrifice all the same. These players must have known full well there would be consequences, the ending of their careers possibly the mildest scenario imaginable. Whatever the result of this situation, its legacy will be a hundred thousand stories of courage. I hope someone tells them again, someday.

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