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The Winners!

We are the Winners!

They’ve packed up and gone –
the whole bloody lot of them
pushed off in their ships.
So end of the story!
Open the gates
come and see for yourself –
they are the losers
we are the winners!

We knew we would win
with right on our side.
Of course it took time
and we suffered too
for winning’s not easy
we’re all well aware.
But we stood our ground
and they ran away –

victory’s sweet!
Specially when hard won
but we got there at last –
well done everyone!
And look what they left
in their hurry to go –
a curious horse!
help pull it inside

as it’s ready to move.
Come on everybody
we’ll party around it
all day and all night.
History will tell
how we saw them off!
They’re gone and we won –
Hey winners! Job done!

There’s been a lot of win/lose talk recently – even, more specifically, the widespread deployment of military terms.  Front lines, unseen enemies and casualty numbers, orders being issued and (for the most part) followed, sacrifice of personal liberties for a greater cause and the hailing of heroes, not to mention the wearing and availability of armour – all looking forward and contributing to eventual victory.

Much of this derives from the vocabulary of modern medicine. Our political leaders have readily picked up this fighting talk – the need to conquer disease, to combat, eradicate and destroy infection, with physiological responses being seen as defence and attack.

Meanwhile there are the victims, those who lose the battle but who have fought courageously…

Which isn’t to say that when crisis threatens it’s important to be positive, to identify and describe what resources can be mobilised and to what good effect – not least at an individual level, to encourage and activate the patient who often does need to fight.

And sport has played its part. Here too are to be found all those warlike words and phrases associated with winning and losing, victory and defeat.

It may be just a game, but there’s an edge of violence in ‘beating’ the opposition. All this is important: those who represent, acting for us in these various confrontations – be it locally, regionally or nationally – are highly esteemed, even granted heroic status.

That sport has borrowed military terminology, reinforcing it, rendering it generally acceptable, even to be expected, is of course not new.  War games go a long way back – way further back than jousting.

My poem begins to explore the relationship between war and sport, as well as medicine.

After a very long siege, with victory seeming to swing from one evenly-balanced force to the other, occasional breaks between bouts of fighting and many an individual act of bravery (along with antisocial behaviours which challenged conventional rules of the game) one side seems to give up.

We are the winners! is chanted – sung over and over, the refrain echoing all around in waves, as in a stadium.  One man turns to another – the phrases repeated – then joins the chorus again as it returns.  The clichés say it for you, shout it out reassuringly: there’s no need even to think which words to use.  Shout out what everyone else is shouting, go out into the street and repeat it, daub it on the walls! Victory shouts!

All this is exclamatory, so there’s a heavy smattering of exclamation marks.

I’ve tried to reflect this in the empty pomposities of my poem’s second verse, where leaders pronounce that which is expected. Everyone has a role to play – leaders and led, Chiefs along with Indians, demagogues and rabble…

But my poem also suggests we may have got it wrong, and don’t know when we’ve won.  Victory may seem obvious, but at what point can it be truly claimed, who decides anyway, and may events yet take an unexpected turn?

That which the vanquished leaves, the legacy of apparent defeat, can radically change the situation. For sure, never trust Greeks bearing gifts – indeed suspect the power of any present, especially in the context of a recent conflict, whether it’s simple struggle, confrontation or outright war – and be cautious about claiming victory, let alone bray triumphally.

All of which has a contemporary feel.


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