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LIV And Let Die (Part 1)


Ian Fleming penned the novel Live and Let Die - first released in April 1954 - back when Fangio was busy winning the World Drivers' Championship.

Driving both Maserati and Mercedes cars during a nine race season he won in Argentina, skipped the Indy 500, won in Belgium then France. He missed the podium in Britain (he was fourth), won in Germany, then Switzerland, then Italy, before scraping a final podium in Spain, the final race of the year. Jose Froilan Gonzalez won in Britain, while Mike Hawthorn won in Spain. Bill Vukovich won the Indy 500, gaining him a mention in the world of F1, as he was racing in the US of A only, and did not compete in any other F1 races that year. The two series never really, well, getting along.

Back then it was alarmingly a case of Live and let die. So many died behind the wheel, a generation, still fresh from World War Two, that simply shrugged, pushed the burning wrecks aside and continued to race.

So to sports-washing, taking the King's coin, and generally acting in a profit before people manner. Has human avarice muted, refined or diluted in the most recent of decades? Or is it as rampant as the day Christ kicked over the money lenders tables at the temple?

While no nation is blemish free, it is modern corporations which push the bounds of avarice, while governments tend to skim their profit - sorry tax - and then sit back and moralise. No western company ever stated: "Let's go broke making poor people slightly happier!" Like no, never happened.

Even our best and brightest, I'm waving at you Richard Branson and Bill Gates, made sure they were solidly in the "Doing OK" bracket prior to doing what they could by way of concern for the poor. Similarly Bob Geldof, Bono, Sting and whoever is currently running the Coldplay online presence. We in "The West" are not without sin, yet we are actively trying to make a difference. Those in a position of comfort are trying to make a live or die difference to those with little power in a capitalist universe. So please, come with me dear reader. All of us, unless I have readers in Kyiv, are in a position to indulge these lines of enquiry without the undue concern of surface-to-surface missiles spreading the petunias and our brains in equal measure across the outer walls of the potting shed. So to a fresh round of moralising we rush!

Buckle-up. Fast forward to 1973, a modest 19 years later, and Albert Broccoli is desperately seeking a Sean Connery replacement for his film version of Live and Let Die (Sean having called it a day after Diamonds are Forever). Welcome to the 007 moniker for one Roger Moore. He of - at the time - The Saint, Ivanhoe and classic Volvo P1800 fame.

It was a good move yielding golden years for the Bond franchise. The bow, cherry, and icing on this (right for the times) perfection, was Paul McCartney, along with his dear wife Linda, and their band Wings, recording the theme song, Live and Let Die. An utter movie theme classic rarely matched to this day.

Back on track Jackie Stewart, driving for Elf Team Tyrrell, won the drivers' championship, while John Player Team Lotus claimed the manufacturers' title. It was also the first year the FIA used a safety car - yet this was not to become a regular concept for almost another two decades.

Life, racing and balance dear reader. Paul sang that you used to say "Live and let live" (you know you did, you know you did, you know you did...). Whereas now you say, "Live and let die..."

How insightful of Paul to sum up what happens when power corrupts, or love of money corrupts, or indeed, any obsessive human desire corrupts. Live and let live looks wonderful until one really cares about an outcome, and the idea of quietly slipping your opponent into a deep dark canal at midnight suddenly gains appeal. Yup, we can make live and let you die work, when the gains matter to us so much.

How sad that many slipping to this chilling point forget the even older saying; He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

Which brings us to LIV Golf and oil money in F1. Hello ARAMCO, and Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund, I'm looking at you. LIV Golf has spent this past season shaking up the world order of Golf for the simple reason they believe they can make a large container ship of gold out of this pup. Golf has never been more popular, and it has more-or-less been well run by the PGA. I refer readers to the stellar record of the FIA in running motorsports for comparison, or possibly the utterly Mother Theresa-like Sep Blatter over at the FIFA, or his warm cute, cuddle-worthy, successor Gianni Infantino, he of the infamous "deaths happen" quote in recent weeks, to set the rather low bar (is it actually off the ground?) that the PGA have to limp over to look like a quality world class sports organiser.

LIV Golf is backed to the tune of billions by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Why? Because the Saudis know we have already hit "Peak Oil". From here on in, oil is slowly going to be worth less and of decreasing energy importance. Why name it LIV Golf? Well a few seconds of research reveals they are using Roman Numerals. I mean... Arabic wisdom invented zero, to allow higher maths to work, and gave us our well known Arabic numerals with our old friends zero to nine. So they go all Roman? Go figure...

Realising it is not a play on "live, life or love" we now know it is supposed to be read as "fifty-four".

For those with rusty school Latin, the "L" is fifty, while the "V" is five, but (in a Victorian turn more than a Roman one, the Romans tended to write out the entire number, the Victorians invented the shorthand. Consequently, with an "I" in front this is deducted from the five of the "V" to make it a four. Hence "LIV" as a (Victorian shorthand) Roman numeral is read as "Fifty-four".

If one were to birdie, that is score one under par, at each hole on a 72-par 18-hole course, one would score 54. The LIV Golf folk have reduced the competitive game from four rounds over four days, totalling 72 holes to be played, down to 54 holes, by removing one of the days of play. While also removing the cut, being the removal of the lower half of the field after two days of play, and making every match invite only. So all things considered not really a fair, free, open and competitive field. But heck! It is awash in buckets of gold!

The PGA, an American organisation, is rather sad. Well, actually really rather infuriated by it all. Players are enacting a civil war and fans are growing confused as to what to love or follow. While LIV maintain they are in it for the love of the sport. Sure.

Which by way of a considerable detour brings us back to ARAMCO. The Saudis are not stupid. They have at best twenty years to diversify their economy or it is back to camels, falcons and large rug-lined tents. Which is all delightful in a true cultural sense but not so good when one has an air conditioned garage for one's multi-million dollar car collection and a customised 747 or two as private run-arounds for the favoured son and other assorted wives and kids.

The Saudis have a pile of gold big enough to make Smaug blush and a desire to use it which makes Gollum's obsession with the One Ring look like trying to get a class of kindy kids interested in listening to Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine of 1610.

Formula One has always run on money. Heck cycling, swimming, Olympic gold medals and the current FIFA World Cup all run on money! Any reader who has tried to discuss being given food "for the love of humanity" at the local supermarket, rather than paying for it, will know that money actually does make the world go around.

So ARAMCO are huge backers of F1 getting their name out there, using the F1 platform to get introduced to people in fields other than gas and oil. They are in a diversification race against time. They are pragmatic, cashed-up and in a hurry. Sounds like any major global corporation in the developed world!

Then the judgements begin! In the world of LIV Golf it has become a civil war blood bath of character assassination and slowly developing court battles. Conflating state-level failures with personal grudges, and then adding premier league wallet racing is never going to be all cuddles and "No sir, after you please!" Politeness.

Your scribe is very much against the state killing of journalists, regardless of who in the state system ordered it. One need look no further than any mildly autocratic ruler to see media suppression. This mild suppression rapidly leads to increased state control, leads to increasingly aggressive enforcement of the approved state view. One arrives at North Korea in an alarmingly short number of brutal steps. Yet, without engagement and the carrot from the rest of the world to have these states put away the stick, how do we aid such nations back into a respectful relationship with their peoples, and the rest of us?

So it is that FIFA paint the World Cup as a chance to aid Qatar on the journey to being a free, fair and reasoned nation. Possibly this will be the case, time will tell.

Saudi is a much larger, stronger and more opinionated state than Qatar. It has been greatly aided by the US and the global addiction to oil. Are we to blame them for accidentally falling into a position of significant world power? Much of the Saudi state runs in a reasonable manner, if one aligns to state views and values. It is in the interests of their nation for ARAMCO to diversify successfully over the coming two decades. Along the way they are bound to invest in a significant number of worthy companies, and thus, indirectly, advance the game for us all. Yet it will be an unbalanced progress. The very richest will gain most, and the poorest least, if at all. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk are all individuals. Yet the three combined are worth more than many small nations combined. It is only through their personal desire to improve life on Earth that the rest of us get any collateral goodness flow to us. Is that live and let live? Or live and please die out of my sight?



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1. Posted by Max Noble, 30/12/2022 1:26

"@Spindoctor - Your scribe should be careful what he wishes for…! My thanks for a long, and reasoned, post. Which I’m pleased to note is usually the case on PitPass. I like your phrase “coincidence of interests”. It is a wonderful summing-up of the key problem with convoluted conspiracy theories.

Let us hope a little collateral goodness rubs off and these more oppressive states become somewhat less so in 2023… may-be… How to monetise being nice to people…!??


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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 28/12/2022 15:22

"I read it too! Albeit belatedly after family visitations, nosh & booze-ups etc.

Getting to the nitty-gritty I agree pretty much with the opening exposition but can't really get behind your conclusion(s). Whereas even the most buccaneering of Western Capitalists (I spit upon them) are forced to obey The Rule of Law, the Saudi "Royal" family suffer no such constraints. Au contraire they have a deep-rooted contempt for what we'd probably call "Western values".
The scions of the family & their innumerable courtiers & hangers-on enthusiastically indulge in the "flesh pots" of the West, while declaiming & enforcing Wahabi extremism at home. It was no accident that Bin Laden & his closest conspirators were Saudis. The Saudis continue to fund extremist clerics & madrassas worldwide. They are happy to support Putin's aggressions by ensuring the OPEC cartel keeps oil & gas prices as high as possible - all grist to the "diversification" efforts you identify.

The net result of all this is that far from gradually moving towards the kind of Civil Society we enjoy in the West, they have been, and continue to be set upon its destruction. The events of 9/11 set up the "clash of cultures" which has characterised much of what has followed: the invasions of Iraq & Afghanistan being the most egregiously damaging, with the emergence of Daesh\ISIS being possibly the nastiest. The opportunity for Putin's Russia to hone its anti-civilian warfare tactics was an unexpected bonus, later exploited in Ukraine.

"Whoa" I hear you exclaim, but like most coalitions; that between Putin & the Saudis, Qataris etc al isn't a "conspiracy" (in the sense of smoke-filled rooms & secret handshakes). This is about a coincidence of interests. As long as Putin squeezes our Gas & Oil supplies the Saudis & their allies are coining it - enabling them to "invest" (as in take control of) our vital services & infrastructure. Sport in general & F1 in particular are merely peccadillos....
As an aside, it's interesting how the Israeli far-right (Netanyahu & Co.) are courting the Saudis - just as Western neo-Liberals sucked-up to the Russian oligarchs & kleptocrats. That worked out well.....

To summarise: "Beware Greeks bearing gifts" is an appropriate nostrum..."

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3. Posted by Max Noble, 27/12/2022 5:53

"@didaho - not exactly a nuanced response, but at least some one other than Esteemed Editor Balfe, and my mother, has reflected on the article. Actually as it’s Christmas not sure if my mum checked in this week… (favourite team McLaren, favourite driver James Hunt. Mum was also a huge Gillies Villeneuve fan, and had huge respect for Niki after his crash. She was not a fan of Ferrari after that, and also gave me my dislike of Pirelli tyres…). Ah Christmas! "

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4. Posted by didaho, 27/12/2022 2:32

"So white and clean!
All hail MBS and the good things the entire world does because of his benevolence (only a few degrees of freedom and a little time away from Yemeni genocide, sponsored terrorism & Wahhabism, executing protesters and flooding the world with C02)."

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