Unless one is slovenly - and proud of it - the urge to clean house when company is coming over is almost irresistible.
The same holds true for countries hosting high-profile events.
In the weeks before the opening ceremonies at the winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea, a government push was on to curb dog meat offerings at local restaurants. Local authorities were going so far as to offer subsidies to eateries in exchange for temporarily revising their menus.
Few establishments reportedly took the government up on their offer and the ones that did saw a drop in revenue prompting many to resume sales of dog meat dishes. Regardless, signage advertising the sale of dog meat became less prominent near the Olympic Village.
But this is a small price to pay for appearances, right?
Outrageous? Certainly. But before we pile on to South Korea as the sole purveyors of deceit, let’s take a tour of other Olympics host-cities and their whitewashed walls of dishonor.
- As the 2016 Summer Games in Rio approached, private security guards cleared the streets of homeless people, transporting many to shelters 50 miles away from the city.
- Beginning about a year before the 2012 Olympics in London, young people in transitional housing told researchers from Sociology that they were regularly being stopped and searched by police in areas where they normally moved freely.
- Leading up to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, police reportedly drew a “red zone” around the upscale part of town where Olympic events were held. People who appeared homeless or otherwise sketchy were herded into the poorer, East side of town for the duration of the Games.
And, let’s not forget the mother of all window dressings: Hitler’s Munich in 1936, scrubbed clean of ethnics leaving only a nation of rosy-cheeked, beer-chugging Bavarians oom-pah-pah-ing their way into visitors hearts and minds.
So what to do in the campaign to bring marginalized animals and people center stage during global celebrations - and at all other times? It is impossible to shout down or throttle the monolithic forces bent on wiping away all traces of life they don’t want us to see. We can’t even boycott them away.
Ultimately, the most powerful vehicle for change is the seed of education which can take root in the minds of young people brave enough to question, challenge and overturn long-held customs that have no place in a civilized, compassionate world. The answer lies in the work of people like animal activist, Marc Ching, founder of Animal Hope and Wellness. Ching has made several pilgrimages to East Asia to dispel the misguided belief that tortured dogs make for tastier meat. Whereever he campaigns, Ching is helping to elevate the status of dogs from protein source to pet.
These seeds of change are becoming evident. While there are no explicit punishments for the cooking of dog meat, the South Korean government is at least outwardly challenging the custom of eating dog meat, branding it “detestable.” The building of inroads against the dog meat trade in South Korea is apparent as now more than half of the country's population is opposed to it and that number continues to rise.
With the passing of Olympic torches between generations, perhaps it will eventually be possible to keep our houses clean without wiping away our shame.