AAnd you will know us by the trail of rainbow love hearts. Time to take a close look at the inadequate toleration symbol adopted this week by the English and Welsh FAs; a symbol of tolerance that will be worn during the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is punishable by torture and death. And yes, it really does look like a sweet, sweet symbol of tolerance.
But could we have gone further? Should the FA have insisted on a slightly more urgent inadequate symbol of tolerance? Should it have a bolder font, for example? Perhaps the generic statement of concern, posted with the inappropriate tolerance symbol, could strike a more disapproving tone.
Bottom line: is the symbol of tolerance on the way to becoming? What are the eyeballs on this thing? Could the inadequate symbol of tolerance, listen to me, be genius? Is something brilliant going on here?
Overall, maybe not. Yes, the symbol looks like the cover of a mid-90s rave-pop track with vocals from someone who was in Grange Hill. And yes, “standing up against all forms of discrimination” can be a bit of an All-Lives-Matter, a statement so deliberately vague that it’s hard to agree or disagree.
And, yes, players wearing that love band will still make it to a stadium haunted by the ghosts of indentured laborers. There’s even a case where this whole campaign is nothing more than an empty branding swatch, a message so meaningless it reeks of its own brand of corporate death without air.
But apart from all that, the One Love symbol is at least a gesture, and gestures have value. It was heartwarming to see him on the arm of Harry Kane, who has been adamant about his support for tolerance and inclusion in football. Seeing Kane like this will bring support and encouragement to someone in the world. It’s a thing.
The England squad will also invite migrant workers to their training base, which may or may not help migrant workers. More concretely, the FA offered its support for the idea of compensation for the families of those killed during the World Cup construction projects. But it could also be difficult as Qatar maintain that hardly anyone has been killed on World Cup construction projects. What is zero times a billion dollars? Ok that’s a deal!
Gareth Southgate was right when he said England would be criticized no matter what they do on these issues, a fact dictated by his second point, that “there is a limit to what we can affect”. It’s a startling statement, if only because it’s like someone’s come the closest to telling the truth.
But not exclusively. Here’s another story from Qatar this week. Dr. Hend Al Muftah is a prominent Qatari civil servant, currently Ambassador Extraordinary to the Qatar Mission to the UN in Geneva. She lectures on human rights. In 2016, she was named the most influential social media person in Qatar.
A year later, she was appointed to the Qatar Advisory Council by the Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the same Emir who assured world leaders this week that the World Cup would offer open arms (note: not real open arms) to “all walks of life fans”, which is apparently code for “gay people”.
Dr. Hend supported the Scoring4TheGoals campaign that “breaks down barriers and improves cultural understanding”. Her LinkedIn page says she is “very interested in working with young people and diverse cultures.” She looks funky, progressive and the perfect candidate, as Qatar is pushing, to become chair of the UN Human Rights Forum. Which, in a happy optical case, takes place at the start of the World Cup.
Except judging by the contents of his social media accounts, Dr. Hend also appears thinking that gay rights are “disgusting rights” (“God damn them!”) and that “the Jews have ruled, tyrannized and ruled the world”, and are “our enemies” who should be “paralyzed”.
Although that explains why she posted a viral message that apparently promises to “trample the last corpse of a cursed Zionist”, and linked to the finding that Jews, gays and Western society are responsible for “obscenity, decadence, cocaine, crack, nudity, sex and violence.” Which, to be fair, sounds like a decent night out.
Unfortunately for Dr Hend’s candidacy, the watchdog organization UN Watch brought this content to light, describing her as ‘Qatar’s ambassador of hate’, which doesn’t seem like the right ambassador for a rights forum. man at the One Love World Cup.
Why am I telling this story? Because for all its dark details, and notwithstanding the fact that Dr. Hend may have changed his mind, it tells us something genuine about tolerance and opposing cultural values. Basically, and even speaking as a villain, it’s refreshing to hear someone say what they really think.
What is happening with the symbol of tolerance is quite clear. A fine line is drawn between appeasing the local public, who care about this version of tolerance and human rights, and not offending your hosts, who don’t.
Qatar predicted the future 12 years ago and basically won that long game. Qatar has 200 years of gas reserves in an energy crisis. Qatar is not looking for advice on how to behave. Qatar has an army of drones. Qatar has the World Cup and the Glastonbury Spider. Qatar will welcome you and give you a show. But with the best will in the world, Qatar thinks you’re probably going to hell anyway. Cool symbol though, bro.
Unwilling to boycott, unable to turn away, it’s hard to blame the FA’s statement writers and logo designers, who find themselves trying to get a corporate message across to get out of a place where nothing can ever go because basically everything is wrong.
The main villains are of course Fifa, not just for awarding the World Cup to Qatar, but even for entertaining an offer, for taking the money, while claiming to espouse the lofty ideals of tolerance, inclusion and everything else. Faced with this, what do we have? Hearts of love, brief statements. And the sense, above all, of the limits of things.