I WAS involved in a debate some years ago where I had to defend the motion “Sport is about winning at all costs”.

I used the event to raise some concerns about SportScotland, the government agency for sport, and the cotton wool culture developing around sport. Little did I think that within a few years the Olympics would be infected with the same snowflake sensibility.

Who knows what difficulties Simone Biles was going through but the celebration of her backing out of the gymnastic team event is unhinged. Biles, in fact, appears to have received more fame, praise and celebration for withdrawing from this event than if she had swept the board with gold performances.

The gushing praise for Biles’ “brave” act of not competing has come from all quarters, with a host of commentators in the UK celebrating her actions. In the US, from the New York Times to Michelle Obama, there was no doubt that Biles' failure to compete was an “act of heroism”. But was it? After all, whatever Simone’s difficulties, she managed to go back and compete within a matter of days.

The empathy and praise for Biles is far more than human compassion, it is part and parcel of our new weird type of politics, the dangerous “emotional correctness” that increasingly dominates public life and indeed public institutions.

It is dangerous for many reasons, not least of all because it is a key part of our cancel culture and the suffocation of public debate.

Listen to Alan Brazil on TalkSport Radio as he struggles to raise some concerns about an athlete quitting and abandoning her teammates. He simply can’t find the words or bring himself to say what he thinks. He knows what he is trying to say is unsayable. How dare he question her “lived experience” or raise some concerns beyond her “mental wellbeing”.

It’s interesting to note that Biles talks about how she felt she was “competing for other people” as one of the reasons she didn’t compete. After her return she then explained that, “I was doing this for me”. But isn’t the Olympics about more than "me"?

This struck me because almost everything I read within sociology at the moment is, in one form or another, a condemnation of duty or any sense of responsibility for anything outside your “self”, your identity and “how you feel”.

In popular culture and even in politics the same “Me” sensibility seems to be all we have left. “Be the real you”, “Find the inner you”, the “hero” it seems is always to be found “inside yourself”. Ironically, this hyper-individualism used to be called Thatcherism, today it’s called “being aware”.

Society, or Western society, is seriously struggling at the moment to understand what it means to be an individual that is part of society or anything that is bigger than the self. As a result, our modern elites and our institutions have embraced therapeutics and what one sociologist calls the “governing of the soul”. Step outside of this therapeutic sensibility and you risk being cast out of polite society.

Part of the problem with all this is that the sorts of difficulties we all face and weaknesses we have are being repackaged as issues to do with “mental health”. Competitive sports are reimagined as forms of “risk” through the prism of “stress”. And we find organisations like SportScotland educating parents about the dangers of asking their children “Did you win?”! They even give a list of 20 ways to say “well done” as part of the “unconditional support” we must give to our fragile offspring.

Ultimately, the Simone Biles affair is not about her or in fact sport, it is about the new emotionally correct culture that demands that we take the knee at the altar of therapeutics, it is about re-educating us to understand that being "brave" no longer involves courage and duty but is about “opening up” and allowing the new elites to govern our soul.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.