It’s been some days since the World Cup winners returned to their homeland and received a well deserved frenetic welcome, which was a Freudentaumel really.
The party, though, didn’t go without controversy. Part of the celebrations was a so-called ‘Gaucho-Dance’, in which key players walked heads down singing something akin to “Like this walk Gauchos, Gauchos walk like this…”. After few metres the players would jump into upright position, throw their arms joyful into the air and yell: “…and world champions walk like this!”. Personally I found this mockery a bit tasteless and in sharp contrast to the team’s behaviour during the world cup.
There was, for example, Miroslav Klose, who broke Ronaldo’s record of 15 goals, now being the only player to have scored 16. Klose was aware of the tragedy that breaking the record of a Brazilian-born player in a match against Brazil. But, as Ronaldo surely would agree, such is the game. In a show of real sportsmanship the new record holder stated humbly in a press conference that though he is currently the only member of the ‘Club of 16’ “everyone is invited”. Even more so, during and after the German selection virtually destroyed Brazilian football, players were anxious not to ridicule the host nation and opponent. The team of Jogi Löw offered to play soft on the Brazilians, in order to avoid total Brazilian humiliation.
In fact, throughout the entire tournament the Germans upheld a high standard of sporting competition. I very much liked that team. It was merciless in the pit, but always respectful of the opponent. The German selection behaved like real Gewinner (winners) instead of Sieger (victors). Alas, some of the respect I had, vanished with the appearance of the Gaucho-Dance. (I doubt Argentina would have behaved more honourable would they have won, yet this is irrelevant when judging the German selection.)
Still, I wouldn’t have thought what a buzz the ‘Gaucho-Dance’ creates in the mainstream media and on Facebook. Even liberal-conservative publications like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, usually quite fond of national identity, accused the players of flushing down the toilet the image of a tolerant and worldly society. More left-wing dailies like the TAZ railed against the boys’s disrespect towards the “freedom loving Gaucho”, who is a strong symbol of Argentinian culture. Most other publications were critical, too, with some, such as the conservative Die Welt, insisting that boys nevertheless shall be boys.
On Facebook and mainstream online forums, however, a different tone set in. There, many people raised their voices strongly against what they perceive to be anti-German, i.e. anti-national, anti-football, anti-success, soft do-gooder publishing. In fact, I found not one public opinion which actually went with the published opinion of the mainstream media outlets. Such discrepancy between published and public opinion can be observed in Germany for quite some time now. A common line of argument is that the corporate and either right or left-leaning media, which is dominated by either ‘do-gooders’ (Gutmenschen, a now common term to defame critical, anti-capitalist and pro-social equality thinking) or corporate hacks, aims to suppress German national identity. Unfortunately, in the wake of such disruptions even straight Nazi publications like the Junge Freiheit score points and are widely shared on Facebook for example, by people who would never identify themselves as condoning Nazi ideology.
In order to understand such sympathy for the devil it is necessary to dig a bit into German collective psyche, especially that of the younger generation (to which, despite my rather serious 34 years, I count myself).
Ever since World War II ended, the guilt of the Germans has been unequivocally established. Moreover, since the shock of Auschwitz came full circle in the early 1970’s, German’s have been blamed for either their acquiescence or active participation. Astonishingly, German’s also began to crucify themselves for the horrors their people committed. There awoke a deep desire to find out what happened and why (although this didn’t go without opposition). Today, Germany is one of the most important places to learn about Nazi crimes; their consequences, and the importance of memory. There are exhibitions, documentaries and movies. The two World Wars are critically treated in history lessons in school, and not one day goes by without someone making a reference to rottenness of Nazi society. Such agonizing is just. A people that built something like Auschwitz has to be constantly reminded of the ways that led to the creation of the ideology death camps, national expansion, and the eventual annihilation of human life on industrial scale were embedded in.
Yet, something changed a couple of years back; something the older generation hasn’t realized and the younger doesn’t know how to deal with. Our history cannot be written with blame anymore. It’s unreal to blame my generation for Auschwitz et al. And because we know this we miss the danger of the current times. It’s not about blame for the 1930’s, it must be about responsibility from the 1990’s onwards. We as a perpetrating people are unable to distinguish between guilt and responsibility.
If now, in gross ignorance, some boys mock a foreign nation (and if its just for sports) and are criticized for that people feel their national pride is attacked. This pride doesn’t rise out of Nazi ideology but of a sense of achievement. The sad thing is that German’s aren’t able to be sincerely proud of their nation without proper Nazi’s taking advantage of that. Extreme right-wing sentiments capture such national feelings instantly and are able to exploit criticism to their advantage. This is the German tragedy, and this is why nationalism in Germany is more dangerous than in others. My generation refuses to take responsibility for the present and future, let alone to face the root causes of our current plight which is found in global capitalism, i.e. the power of the markets to dictate welfare policies, global inequality creating migration flows, erosion of democratic participation to secure class hegemony, and selfish competitive culture.
Thus nationalism in Germany is more dangerous than in other nations, we can’t be too nationalist since our pride is instantly exploited by sinister Nazi-sheep in German-identity clothes.
I hope one day we will be able to recognize our responsibility without being so stupid as to give one inch to Nazi opinion. I hope one day we can be Gewinner instead of Sieger. At the moment, however, many people are too drunken with pride and rage to develop a critical, democratic and respectful national pride. Our boys didn’t help to advance in that direction.