domingo, julho 09, 2006

A politização do Mundial de Futebol.

Neste Mundial foi observável a relação causa e efeito entre as prestações das selecções e o aumento do patriotismo e contentamento das populações nos respectivos países. Olhando para os semi-finalistas, a selecção portuguesa fez esqueçer o défice em Portugal; a selecção francesa fez esqueçer a crise social, económica e política da França; a selecção italiana vai provavelmente reforçar a ideia (verdadeira ou falsa logo se verá) que os tempos vindouros do novo governo italiano são auspiciosos, e por fim a prestação da equipa germânica veio gerar um novo nacionalismo alemão que temia em se materializar devido aos fantasmas do passado recente. Este nacionalismo liberal germânico em harmonia com os ideais democráticos fará certamente esqueçer o nacionalismo totalitário, agressivo e expancionista que se observou durante o regime Nazi, e será certamente mais uma pedra na construção e consolidação desta Alemanha do século XXI.

Patriot Games
by Andrew Curry

Germany's World Cup aspirations ended this week in a heartbreaking loss to the Italians. While winning the championship certainly would have pleased the country's soccer fans, something more historically significant emerged from the games, something of which all Germans should be proud: a new sense of German patriotism.

In Germany, national feeling has always run either too hot or too cold, but never just right. But since the World Cup started on June 9, there's been a sudden outbreak of perfectly innocent flag-waving here. Everywhere--from streaks of face paint and Mohawk wigs to cars and apartment buildings festooned with black, red, and gold--the German tricolor has been flying. Along the city's "Fan Mile," which stretches from the Brandenburg Gate to the middle of Berlin's usually quiet Tiergarten, a sea of patriotic fans swelled with every German victory. At first glance, this was a little unsettling. Under ordinary circumstances, flying the German flag anywhere but on top of federal buildings is looked down upon. Patriotic displays aren't quite taboo in Germany, but they are certainly politically incorrect. Perhaps for Germany, then, the best thing to come out of the 2006 World Cup may be something Americans take for granted: an understanding that it is possible to be proud of one's country without being a nationalist.

After World War II, Germans tried burying the past in work and denial. Indeed, in the cold-war rush to get Germany up and running, the de-Nazification process was left unfinished, and even in the 1960s many university professors and government officials had Nazi pasts to hide. German baby boomers put an end to this hushed secrecy. "The libertarian, anti-authoritarian, democratic 'coming out' we had in the late '60s changed political culture down to the roots," says Klaus Fuecks, co-chair of the Heinrich Boll Institute, a Green Party think tank in Berlin. Like students all over the world, Germany's post-war generation spent the '60s fighting the establishment and dragging their country's past out into the light. The often violent protests of 1968, for example, included demands that professors with Nazi ties be removed from the university system. Confronting the past forced Germans to alter the way they viewed their country, and made it difficult to be proud of being German.

In the years afterwards, the sins of the past became a constant theme in the German political and educational systems. "In the '70s, we all grew up learning Germans did terrible things," says Michael Minkenberg, a political scientist at Viadrina University in Frankfurt-Oder. It was this guilt that turned Germany into one of Europe's most welcoming countries when it came to political asylum seekers and immigrants. By the 1980s, Germany was the European Union's strongest supporter. For young Germans, it was much more appealing to be European than German. And by the beginning of the century, alumni of '68 like Joschka Fischer--whose Green Party was another legacy of the student movement--ended up in charge of a very different Germany. Field trips to concentration camps were a feature in German schools; flags and the national anthem, on the other hand, were still anathema.

And so the recent flag fever has prompted a typically German round of hand wringing. One think tank suggested changing the national anthem, or at least prefacing it with a warning. Schools debated whether to forbid kids from coming to class wearing national colors. In an attempt to preserve the Berlin police force's neutrality, police officers here were ordered not to wear or fly the national colors. Some conservative politicians called this absurd. "We should all be patriots, Berlin cops included," one right-wing parliamentarian complained. There has been a much more serious backlash as well--not surprisingly, since Germany's radical right is currently experiencing a mini-boom. In the economically struggling provinces of Eastern Germany, hate crimes and neo-Nazi membership are on the rise; right-wing nationalist politicians have succeeded in getting elected to state parliaments in the past few years.

A few weeks before the Cup started, former government spokesman Karsten-Uwe Heye--now running an anti-racism organization called Show Your Face--warned black soccer fans to avoid the East German countryside, calling the provinces around host cities Berlin and Leipzig "no-go zones." The warning was widely discussed, and politicians pointed out that it amounted to a win for neo-Nazis looking to keep foreigners out of Germany. It was a reminder that while racism isn't a uniquely German problem, Germans are under unique scrutiny. "There is a problem, and we should talk about it," says Fuecks. "But that's not Germany, and you must not be afraid to come to Germany. The majority of people don't agree with these radicals, and there's a growing civil consciousness and awareness of the problem."

Which is why it is tempting to view the public displays patriotism as a hopeful sign. Neither nationalism nor self-loathing, the feeling here is one of pride without hate. Reports of serious fights between German and foreign fans can be counted on one hand, and the police patrolling the capital's Fan Mile have been mostly bored. Despite over six million visitors since the beginning of the Cup, only one serious breach of security occurred when a driver broke through crowd-control barriers last Sunday and injured almost two dozen fans.

Of course Germany has celebrated during past World Cups, but never with the patriotic outpouring--and the sense of community--of the past few weeks. In fact, Berlin probably hasn't partied this hard since the fall of the wall in 1989. That party was more a celebration of freedom than of patriotism. But Germans today can be proud of being German without forgetting or denying the past. Though Germany's flurry of flags is unlikely to outlast the World Cup, hopefully the country's new-found patriotism will.

Andrew Curry
New Republican Online

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