Can people be redeemed?
Is it possible to learn from and grow from your mistakes? At what point are you past redemption? And is it even up to us to decide what that is?
Two weeks ago, we witnessed a historical matchup between two fighters of two radically different disciplines take to the ring a spectacle that is truly once in a lifetime. But despite their individual achievements, both fighters have had a past and some present bad behavior stemming from racism to domestic violence. And frankly, it has made it hard for many to watch the fight (not to mention the notion of glorified gladiator culture, and allegations of racketeering to sports rigging from fighting organizations) while others revel in it and what it brings out of us.
Without parlaying into a historical account of fighting, fight-culture and the psychology around the sport and it’s nature of violence — why is it that watching two very complex individuals leads to a fractured take on what we as a society deem acceptable?
After Floyd received jail time, boxing suspension, fines and a host of other means of “punishment” for his crime back in 2010, why is it, after 7 years, when he is receiving the biggest payout of his career is reminded of his past? Is it to remind him that he is flawed? Is it to spur protest so that he is not “rewarded” after what he did? (In fact, is that a form of rewarding — him being able to compete and manage a company in Boxing?)
There’s a ton of questions and reasons to why this is the case for not just him, but Chris Brown, Jon Jones, Ali, MLK, Biggie, etc. Any man or woman under the lights of fame is under intense scrutiny to retain a modicum of dignity and infalliblity lest they be cast out forever.
But here’s the thing:
How does one live?
If someone is permanently stripped from doing something that they are good at, what’s left of them? At what point is it enough for them to start again?
Should they start again? If not, what should they do instead?
When it comes to crime and punishment in this country we don’t have a great concept on what that is. We punish and in recent years murdered hundreds of innocent people. We’re quick to point fingers at a societal group and demonize them. And we can’t seem to admit when we are wrong if we deliver a sentence to someone who didn’t deserve it. I also don’t think that every case requires “punishment”, perhaps rehabilitation — a chance to matriculate into society — reformed, positive, reflective.
As a society, we are so complex that being absolute in doling our justice across the board is either hard or a refusal to adopt for us.
People buy Volkswagens even though they were the manufacturer for Nazi’s.
People buy and will murder others for Nike shoes even though they and other manufacturers were sanctioned for child labor abuse.
People idolize Coco Chanel but she was a literal Nazi Spy (Coco Chanel, or Abwehr Agent F-7124).
But we still champion these brands. They are still allowed to market to us, operate as a business entity and so on.
So by comparison, when we take these two fighters who are businesses in their own right, are these battles that seem winnable as we move toward a society that is increasing its intolerance for heinous deeds? Is protesting a form of protection for an individual’s morality?
Could be both. Could be the latter or the former. Could be something completely different.
What I do know, is that no matter how something seems, when it comes to morality — a lot of things are grey — or that’s what we tell ourselves as we justify what we each allow in.
For some, people like Floyd and Connor are beyond redemption and should not be allowed to be apart of the organizations that gave them a platform.
For others, these two characters in the ring are separate from their personal lives where they are free to enjoy the art of the sport and renounce their personal demons during conversations at work or online.
Then there are some who don’t care and others who despite their pasts support them for various reasons.
Are they all right in their judgement? Maybe. Perhaps its the ever-changing notion of “right” that this spectrum makes sense.
Within the same examples above, Nike and other companies have done great strides to become transparent with their entire manufacturing practices thanks to the outcry and calls to actions society made to pressure government to write new policies.
Chanel has since been given the torch to new leaders who (were thought to have learned but apparently with their new Coco campaign during this Neo-Nazi growth…) retooled the brand to represent something other than its founder. Same with Volkswagen.
So perhaps redemption is possible. Perhaps it requires an understanding and a recognition of those demons. Perhaps it is within that constant battle that we all have in some way that brings us to this fragmented sense of morality.
Who knows…I’m only human.