Of cynics and apologists: Opinion piece by Matabele Democracy! It is a value that has inspired heroic deeds from great men and a term that has been hi-jacked to launch great evil on the world. What is this concept, held so dear, that we are prepared to fight great battles in its defense, sacrificing millions of souls to its cause? For many the most noted value of democracy is the freedom of speech and the right to determine our own destiny. There would be no need for democracy if we all agreed. In the absence of differing points of view there would be little need for debate or the consideration of an alternative. The reality is that we live in a world far from that ideal. So what should our response be? There are several options. We could desist from raging against the dying of the light and allow a slow atrophy and decay of what we hold dear. The alternative is to decide what it is that we consider of value and set ourselves to the task of improvement. One of the most important parts of that process is the ability to analyse and objectively criticize that which is wrong, broken or imperfect. A good example of this is our political process. Media and public scrutiny are essential tools in the process of identifying the wrongs and shortcomings of a government. In a society where apathy rules or where this process is stunted, and sadly some would argue that is the case in Australia in this current political age, the authority or management of that society often gives itself to indulgence or autocracy. Neither of these options is acceptable and history shows that the inevitable end for the indulgent or autocratic regime is either civil unrest or invasion. What does this have to do with Rugby League you ask? The conflict between the two approaches reminds me of the several years of debate amongst Manly fans. Unaccustomed as we are to losing, in recent years Manly fans have had to confront extended failure and consider a response to it for the first time. It has resulted in two groups. The first is populated by those that would argue loyalty to the cause and the need for affirmation of the players and the club in an attempt to protect their confidence. The second group is those that are calling for change, for heads to roll and a thorough analysis of what leads to disastrous flogging after flogging. There is a vast difference between blind loyalty and objectivity. At the moment, those that choose to be critical of the club and especially the players, do so with no great pleasure. Rather it comes from a deep concern that the current player mediocrity combined with certain areas of off-field concern could well lead to a mortal decline in the club we all love. IsnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t it better to have a club to criticise than to blindly love it into the grave? Sometimes, though it doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t seem that the realistic approach is one employed by the club. Consider that coach Des Hasler feels the team ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“over achievedÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? in a season where it slumped to the greatest loss in memory and only slunk into the finals through losses by other injury-ravaged teams. A season like 2005 would have been considered a disaster in the clubÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s heady days between 1970 and 1997! Has our level of expectation been so lowered that parlous performances and props making one hit up per game is seen as an over-achievement? Why is there so few that feel the slight slide in our guts counteracting the butterflies of optimism fearing that these days a win doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t mean the confirmation of our dominance. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s more likely that a win shows a complacent opposition and an inspired, above ability performance from our team. Are we wrong to want to change that? Are peoplesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ memories so short that they canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t remember how it used to be, when weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d spend our Fridays salivating at the humiliating flogging weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d be handing out on the weekend? Too often it is us on the receiving end. My message to the apologists? Dress it up however you like, but season 2005 was more feaces sandwich than it was Manly tradition. So please donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t insult the intelligence of the North Shore by pretending that said sandwich has suddenly been transformed into a delectable dessert of mousse and cream. WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re just not that gullible!