Wednesday, October 03, 2018

The Ryder Cup a metaphor for internationalism

Take five Englishmen, two Spaniards, two Swedes, an Irishman, a Dane and an Italian. Pick a Danish non-playing captain and dress them all in blue with yellow stars. Play the contest on French soil and call it a European team. Then put them against twelve Americans with wives with shiny teeth and all dressed in red, white and blue. No contest? Well as it turned out yes, no contest. But why?

Lots of reasons - playing better golf on a course unlike those the Americans will have seen before helped. But surely a comfort with team sports and partnerships helped even more ? Every American player was a brilliant individual - but team player? Nah. In America amongst friends with supporters shouting “In the Hole” and chanting “U S A “ a noisy patriotism helps. But in Europe, and  especially in France where there is a healthy scepticism of faux-patriotism and a fear of nationalism ? No sir.

The EU flag is the flag of Europe but it is not a patriotic symbol. On the contrary it is a symbol of a conscious bias AGAINST nationalism. It’s the polar opposite of the Stars and Stripes. The underlying premise of European integration is shared sovereignty and shared accountability. A brilliant Italian and an eccentric long-haired Lancastrian formed an unbeatable partnership. They pooled their strengths and helped each other minimise their weaknesses. A metaphor ? Well maybe that’s a step too far... but maybe not.

History teaches us that working together, having alliances, forming partnerships can be difficult and that leads some to think that going alone is preferable? Taking back control is better than working out our differences some would say. But history also teaches us that closing borders, rather than opening them and nationalism rather than internationalism can be deadly.

The European Ryder Cup team won not in spite of their differences, but because of them. The Americans lost because they were all the same. Individuals. Flag-waving but shallow. Gleaming white teeth but empty hearts. Dollar bankers where success is measured by the size of your winnings not who your friends are and how good a team player that makes you.

Vive la difference !