On the Modern Goliaths-as-Davids

In David and Goliath’s famous tale, little, plucky David uses just one single slingshot to slay the 9-foot, 9-inch, Philistine giant. The story came to my mind last week when I saw some of the football scores of the English League FA Cup.

This is one of the oldest, or probably the oldest soccer cup knockout competition in the world, stretching all the way back to the 1871–2 season. Most fans and pundits alike look forward to rounds three and four in early and late January when teams, usually from the lower leagues, face their counterparts from the Premier League and the Football League Championship. The main attraction here is to see the cash-rich, bon-vivant “Goliaths” slugging it out against the more money-conscious, thrifty “Davids”.

This time around results did not disappoint. For round five we already have a couple of non-league sides that, I am confident, will give a fair amount of headaches to the teams (several places above them) that play them.

The David vs Goliath story calls to the inner hero inside us. The person who, regardless of the circumstances, rises up against power. That the power in this instance is represented by a three-metre-tall Brobdingnagian renders the legend more visually striking. We can almost touch Goliath’s bronze helmet and be dazzled by the javelin he carries on his back. This is an all-too perfect narrative of little guy against mighty foe.

Or little guy against the state. The government. The status quo. The elite.

You can delete as appropriate in the above sentence but to me the message is the same: something strange has happened to the David vs Goliath story. The roles have been reversed and the message blurred.

To carry on with my football analogy, let’s imagine now that that non-league side, conqueror of a Premier League or Championship behemoth, is not as helpless as it looks. Yes, it might still play its home games in a 10,000-seat-maximum-capacity stadium but it has recently been bought by a Thailand- or Singapore-based billionaire with a very clear vision: to turn the club into a money-making venture.

Suddenly there is no David against Goliath scenario, but a Goliath against Goliath one. This is a tough sell to pull off which is why the figure of David is always invoked at some point.

We live in times when the Goliaths of this world keep telling us that they are actually Davids getting their slingshots ready to hurl stones on our behalf. Personally, I do not want anyone to protect me whilst hurting others. I want to have a say on how the slingshot is used, against whom and if it is needed at all. The more we cast doubts on those Goliaths dressing up as Davids and expose them as the frauds they are, the less we will live to regret foregoing our precious and hard-earned liberties.

One way to fight back against this false narrative of little guy against powerful state is by highlighting Goliath’s weaknesses. When he addresses the Israelis, he is all boast and pomp. Same with some of our alternative-facts makers. They cannot stop obsessing about size (crowds, hands, you name it). It is worth remembering what happens to David after he defeats Goliath. He marries one of King Saul’s daughters but eventually falls out of favour with the monarch to such an extent that even Jonathan, Saul’s son, is asked to end David’s life. This means that those Goliaths-as-Davids are also prone to internecine fighting. Their weakness is our strength. If not, ask Samson. Oh, well, that one is for another day.

London-based, Cuban writer. Author of “Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner”, to be published by Austin Macauley. Has written for The Guardian and Prospect.

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