Triumph, angst and own goals

By Terry Sarten

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Terry Sarten  Photo/File
Terry Sarten Photo/File

The Football World Cup cheered its way through extra time to a conclusion with a European side taking the trophy.

To paraphrase the classic sports quote: "It was a game of two and a half halves and the team that got the most points on the day won." Alongside the excitement, in a parallel universe, all the cliches and stereotypes of national traits were demolished.

South American teams, deemed the debonair players with flair, seemed as dated in their games as flared trousers.

Meanwhile, the German team played with a style and gusto that was exciting to watch. For some, the win sits comfortably with the concept of modern dynamic Germany that is an economic and political anchor providing stability within Europe while other countries struggle with fiscal dilemmas.

It is worth noting that the MMP model we use in New Zealand is based on the German electoral system and it seems that the resulting diversity in representation allows for a more open democratic type of government. Australia is going through a period of existential angst as voters realise the limitations of traditional FPP with an elected government that has broken a succession of promises and seems determined, like England, to haul the nation back to some post-colonial mythical past.

I was in Germany late last year to play a series of gigs and, because I speak German, was able to get some perspective on the everyday issues. The old towns, many founded in the Middle Ages, are increasingly being besieged by box-like malls and shopping centres and at risk of becoming museum towns rather than living communities. Work for the skilled is well paid but the growing numbers in poorly paid service and retail jobs is creating a new social class of employed but financially cornered families. The country's ability to be inventive and create exports remains ahead of most Western nations and the current political stability has supported relative economic success as other EU countries have tightened the austerity belt on their unhappy citizens.

It will be interesting to see how Germany deals with their own growing gap between the haves and have-nots.

The English response to Germany winning the football World Cup has mirrored much of the usual stereotyping back for some serious reflection. Faced with England's dismal performance, the hoary notions of unemotional, humourless German efficiency have had to be discarded for a grudging admiration.

Politically, England is busy scoring own goals at an alarming rate as the Tories attempt to drag the country back to the harsh policies of the Thatcher era. The power of wealth and privilege is hauling up the drawbridge behind them to exclude those without the fiscal muscle, leaving the poor and struggling to survive on the pickings. The rise of right wing nationalist parties in England and other parts of Europe are a dangerous indication of the risk of blowback as austerity hits the poorest the hardest. Germany has elements of these as well but, as a society, the response has been measured with faith in the voters and the democratic process. There are laws that forbid fascist symbols and the recent debate over republishing Mein Kampf has been tackled with maturity, acknowledging that understanding history is essential to progress.

On a lighter note, I see that German football fans nicked the English supporters song Three Lions and made it their own so that, along with dismay over the performance of their team, England have had to take the schadenfreude wrapped up in song.

Terry Sarten is a Whanganui writer, musician and opinionator. Feedback: tgs@inspire.net.nz or www.telsarten.com

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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