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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 14. 1966.

Sport robs politics of activists

Sport robs politics of activists

Potential political activists in New Zealand are being drained off into the sporting field, according: to an eminent political sociologist.

High living standards and a consequent lack of personal financial problems have tended to render politics less relevant for the average man.

Cultural norms which stress high achievement and place sporting prowess high on the list of national values, appear to have deflected enthusiasts from politics to prestige earning sporting activity.

This allows continuing political apathy and the apparent consensus for the present regime to remain unshattered by the ideological fervour of a few young idealists.

If this is so, emotional sporting enthusiasts in New Zealand may be compared in some ways to the political idealists and religious extremist of the United States.

Writing on the emotional enthusiasm of political idealists. American sociologist Robert E. Lane says "there is no emotion without a cause— to the outsider the intensity of the emotion is wholly inappropriate to the situation."

In his "Political Life" —a book which can be ignored only at the peril of students of social participation (American Sociological Review), is careful and thoughtful (Political, Science Quarterly), and an exceedingly clear picture of what happens (Contemporary Psychology) —Lane explains emotional activism:

"What are the realities? On the topic we have available some material gathered from psychoanalysts treating Communists and former Communists, It was apparent that the party met the patients' needs not only for legitimising the expression of aggression, but also for accommodating deviant sex roles. Thus in the party, dependent and passive men (often with latent and overt homosexual tendencies) were able to profit from the situation."

From these case histories Lane infers that the emotional intensity of the commitment to the ideal and activity is a function of a dependent person's need for identification with the group.

"If sexual origins do not have something to do with the situation, someone will have to come forward with a better explanation," says Lane.

If this is true, then there is surely a parallel between Lane's political activists and the sporting demigods of New Zealand's cultural scene— given the authenticity of the New Zealand political sociologist's thesis.

Who would have believed that all those enthusiastic teams on the football and other fields may be not only "legitimising the expression of aggression." but also suffering from "latent or overt homosexual tendencies."—G.P.