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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Unsuccessfully Moral

Two weeks ago, the President of the South African Go Association (SAGA) asked me to be the Tournament Director of the final leg of the South African Closed. Along with the allocation of participation points (points earn for each game played during a calender year), this tournament decides who will represent South Africa at the World Amateur Go Championships (WAGC) next year.

Why did I agree to this task, especially given my deep mistrust of SAGA? A feeling of duty to South African go, I guess: If I don't put up my hand every so often and volunteer to do things, how can I expect anyone else to?

The very next day, at the Club, my honour in regards to participation points was insulted in a most grievous of manner; it was alleged, in public, that since I had my participation point, I did not care about other players obtaining theirs. This was a serious allegation given its source, given that I had advocated for the participation point system (as a way of stopping foreign-based players representing South Africa at the WAGC), and given that I have, to my great embarrassment, been one of the main beneficiaries of the participation point system. The subtext to the allegation is that I was somehow cheating, using the participation points system to cover up for my horrible tournament results.

That hurt.

I resigned (via email) as Tournament Director the following morning. Moral worth is the only real currency, and I have no wish to have mine debased any further: I try to make all decisions of note on the basis of morality, instead of what is expedient or accepted. Sure, I often fail, and sometimes hauntingly so. In fact, I rarely succeed, mostly because living a moral life in an immoral society is very hard. As a brief aside, what constitutes a moral life is up for serious debate; for example, I don't consider a life of taking drugs, promiscuous sex and atheism an immoral life, far from it. For me, and very simply put, morality depends upon your relations with others and with yourself (the improvement of inner qualities, for example), and not upon societal and religious diktats.

This approach to life rests upon the idea that morality should be fundamental and primary to human interaction, on an individual and collective level to other human beings, sentient lifeforms (once encountered, that is), and the environment. If I believe that—I can't prove it yet, and may never be able to do so, proof is an elusive bitch—then I must try to act accordingly. Success is not guaranteed, but, maybe, it's irrelevant. Maybe it is in the struggle that the point lies.

The belief that moral should be at the base of human conduct is why I'm so interested in anarchism. Could anarchism be a better way to live? Or, at least, would it be better than current practices? If so then we should cast aside the State's shackles and, to paraphrase Murray Rothbard, try freedom.

This unsuccessful struggle to lead a moral life often starts with the small things, such as being a Tournament Director and allegations of impropriety. Keeping an eye on the grand scale is not only wise but most likely necessary. Still, if we can't lead moral lives in the pursuit of our hobbies, what hope is there for commerce, mutual aid, reciprocity? What hope is there for the species? I'm not kidding. If we don't do something as a species and change our collective behaviour, some of you will drown, others will starve, and the unlucky will linger.

Back to the small but not trivial. Either the allegation was true or it was false. Could it have been true? Could it be that, deep down, I wanted to go to the WAGC so badly that I was prepared to climb over all others to get there? I don't think so, or at least I hope not.

However, what if on a sub-conscious level my actions were guided by less than admirable motives and that shown unintentionally in overt actions? Maybe, and if this was the case, then I definitely shouldn't be the Tournament Director or be involved in WAGC selection.

Still, I don't think that is the case either. To the best of knowledge, the allegation was false. While I have taken the matter up with the individual involved and have done so in a private and confidential manner—a satisfactory conclusion has been reached, I hope, after a very long conversation—the fact remains that, if I were to be the Tournament Director, some of the people at the tournament may (or may not, I cannot judge without doubt the internal conceptions and unspoken thoughts of others) believe me to be a partial and flawed actor. That I have ulterior and wicked motives.

Furthermore, I have made other suggestions on how to improve the selection system for the WAGC and the arrangement of the upcoming tournament, some of which might have benefited me, and these suggestions could also been seen as additional evidence of me tying to engineer a system for personal gain. Another good reason not to be a Tournament Director.

After my resignation notice, I did receive mails of support from one former SAGA Council member and three current members (and I thank them for their support, it did mean a great deal to me, and I shall not forget it). I have reconsidered my decision (especially as the tournament is still without a director), and came close to re-accepting the post after speaking to the country's strongest player and certain winner of the Tournament about the matter. Had I received letters of support from each of the players at the SA Closed (there only being eight) and each SAGA Council Member, I would have done so, shrugging off the whole episode as another piece of evidence marking my paranoid slide into a permanent conspiracy theory made real.

An inherent rebellious streak also gave rise to the idea that I should damn all allegations and the like to sixes and be the Tournament Director and if someone had a problem with that, then fuck him, his horse, his mother and his dog.

Then it occurred to me. Why does SAGA need a tournament director for a tournament of only eight people? Surely, those eight people can sort it out themselves. What sort of madness has gripped us all and made us believe that eight rational adults cannot sit down and play a tournament without supervision? Given the ease of communication in the modern world, a defined and agreed upon rule set, and years of tournament experience amongst the players, they can all plan out the event beforehand and arrange logistics, if that's even necessary. They don't need someone to hold their hands and tell them it is all going to be okay and provide milk and cookies at nap-time. And, if they can't sort it out, are unable to figure out who's gonna play who in a round robin tournament, then, hey, they don't deserve to be there. Bah.

So, I'm off the hook. There's no rationale for a Tournament Director, there's no reason why I should have to worry about my intentions, no need to make a trek out of a trip to the store. On this small matter, I have looked inwards, found no obvious blame, have done the right thing, and achieved some clarity on organising principles. Sorted.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 1:14 pm  

  • Bravo. Well Done. The way you demonstrated, clearly and precisely, your thought procesesses in handling this minor inconvenience in your life is bloodly lovely.
    I'll use it as a reference next time I am confronted by a smiliar conundrum.
    I am enjoying your blog immensely - not a go player myself. Have dabbled.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 4:30 pm  

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