At times, there is little to add to what has already been said and written about Muhammad Ali. This is one such time. In the twenty-four hours after his death, the story dominated the headlines around the world.
I would like to add one personal observation
I should have written more
Leaders We Deserve has posted examples of many charismatic leaders. I should have written more about Ali. If he had no talent beyond his sheer physical appearance he would have been discovered (and possibly been exploited) into super-celebrity status.
His life, in complete contrast to one that could have been a passive acceptance of fate, was an articulate gesture against exploitation. Against treatment of black people in America. Indirectly against exploitation of all those American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Against what he called his “slave name” CassiusClay.
And within these broader beliefs, he fought against his own exploitation, and found his personal resolution in adapting the Muslim faith.
He put to use his great talents. A dazzling speed of thought and movement which propelled him to the world championship in boxing, and an astonishing display of verbal dexterity and self-promotional skills in his very public appearances.
His career was illuminated and at times seriously disrupted as he was seen as an uppity and dangerous enemy to the American establishment.
Towards a post-charismatic world?
There is little dispute about the uniqueness of his talents. Historians will have to reach conclusions about his impact on the twentieth century and beyond.
To say there will never be another Muhammad Ali, is another way of saying that we are moving into a post-Charismatic World, and trying to figure out the implications of that process.
Andy Murray loses to Roger Federer in the quarter finals of Cincinnati. Your LWD correspondent considers becoming a behavioural psychologist
Just another tennis match, [16th August, 2014] and no big deal. Except Roger Federer has just had praise heaped on him on the event of his thirty-third birthday with the implication he is nearing the end of his illustrious career. He has drifted down to World number six. Andy Murray after surgery has slumped to World number ten, and is slightly under-cooked for the US Open in a week’s time.
At the start of the match, one TV pundit favoured Murray slightly to win it. Another expert favoured Federer slightly. What happened was dramatic and unexpected.
Early exchanges show Federer to be the more confident player, and he breaks to lead 3-2 and serve. Then he wins another break to take the first set. One of the worse sets Murray has played against Federer.
Federer’s play dips and Murray breaks at 2-1. Then again to 4-1. Murray strategy to Federer’s backhand side is winning. Federer’s play weaker than in the first set.
Murray drops serve and droops
Murray drops serve with weak play to 4-2. Then drops another serve with even weaker play. If I believed in momentum I would say Federer had gained it.
Murray’s play continues in increasingly predictable weak fashion, and he loses miserably.
‘Between Andy’s ears’
Peter Fleming, one of the better tennis commentators, observed for B Sky B that ‘something was going on between Andy’s ears’ , a euphemism I took to mean that Andy’s mental state was wrong. But on the previous day Andy had shown enormous concentration in defeating big serving Isner. There was no mental fragility on show.
Why I might become a behaviourist
I did not disagree with Fleming’s remark. Except it left me feeling I might give up searching for explanations of human behaviour that involved unobservable processes such as mental fragility. That is the central precept of behavioral psychology,
Fight may still be OK
If I took up with behaviourism, then I could stop worrying about mental events or processes such motivation, commitment, maybe even fright, but fight might just about be OK because like flight it is just about observable.
And, as a behaviorist I would have to abandon worry as an epiphenomenon.
Goodbye to creativity
So it’s goodbye creativity, hello to the world of stimulus and response.
My observations on this brave new world may be reported in a future blog post.
August 22nd: The Murray conundrum continues in the first round of the US open. Against a veteran opponent Robin Hasse, Murray is tentative from start and gets worse. The serve is tentative. The play a mix of cautious and over aggressive. Still struggles on, but wins tie break to go two sets up.
Murray then increasingly physically distressed, cramps mightily, appears to be about to default. Hasse wins
set, then also flags. Murray limps home after a wildly swinging fourth set.
I depart from neo-behaviorism and reach speculative view that AM is in same dire form as some English and Indian cricketers I have watched recently. Cramp is part of a more complex set of actors. So is first round nerves.