In sports and in politics, only passion matters
There is no doubt that the Malvinas/Falklands issue provokes the same kind of emotions than are often perceived in popular games in Argentina. In my country, we often say that football is “the passion of the crowd”. And it makes no difference whether people are supporting a team or backing a social cause, they tend to resort to emotions when it comes to taking a stance.
When the current Argentine government began talking about Malvinas/Falklands, the whole country embodied a softer revival of the nationalistic spirit that used to be in full force in 1982. At that time, people would demonstrate in Plaza de Mayo square, near the government house Casa Rosada, waving white and sky blue flags. Songs in English were forbidden, and the same went for books and other cultural productions crafted in England. Now, the scenario is rather different, but the football-related kind of fervor hasn’t changed much.
In the field, the chant “the one who doesn’t jump is English” belongs to Argentine popular culture and is still repeated on every match that is played every weekend. This way, football fans encourage their team and attack the opponent. The enemy is said to be English, because of the old rivalry that erupted at times of war — also strengthened by the so-called “Hand of God” when Argentine sports idol Diego Armando Maradona scored a controversial goal in the 1986 World Cup. Still, this type of prejudices cast a shadow on several facts: football itself was adopted in Argentina thanks to English migrants who brought their traditions and customs with them. This social contribution has fallen into oblivion in years of confrontation, just for the sake of a confrontation.
I don’t mean to say that civil servants prefer cheering over reasoning. I am talking about the average Argentine citizen who stands up for the sovereignty of Malvinas/Falklands. When reading comments of journalistic stories, most people choose irrational explanations to detail-oriented facts that can prove the same point through different arguments. They accused English people of being colonizers, and tell them they should go home and leave the Malvinas alone. The references to pirates and conquests are commonplaces. They looked down on English people based on a series of prejudices that are by no means related to reality: “robbers”, “warriors”, “rulers of the world”, “go away”, are sayings that are also typical in the world of football to dismiss the rival.
What do these ways of approaching others have in common? They are based on hate, and tend to ignore actual facts (the true reasons behind international relations or football don’t really matter, because the importance lies on human feelings). There’s a kind “social self” that speaks on behalf of most Argentines and this “collective person” is impulsive, rebellious and noisy, like football fans. Sigmund Freud used to analyze this in “Mass Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego”: irrational thoughts prevail over well-articulated logic when people hang out in groups. Ego disappears and a new kind of person emerges out of the contact with others: the main trademark of this global self is that it doesn’t think, but acts.
In connection with Malvinas/Falklands, citizens don’t materialize their opinions, but these viewpoints do have an effect on real life: they are echoed on countless occasions and end up being a dominant part of the local perception of the issue. But, of course, strong emotions matter, but they don’t rule. Although they once did.
Educated sectors fear the possible consequences of this phenomenon of approaching Malvinas/Falklands as if it were a football dispute. The group of 17 Argentine intellectuals “Alternativa Malvinas”, led by world-like Isabel Sarlo, Juan José Sebreli and Jorge Lanata, claim it is high time we gave up on this attitude. “The blood of the deceased soldiers in Malvinas demands, above all things, that we don’t incur again in the hyper patriotism that gave way to death and was used as an element to underrate others’ opinions.”
The question is, then, why do we deal with issues of international relevance as if we were encouraging our favorite football team. Can this widespread emotion affect bilateral relations? Are we actually governed by feelings and they do matter more than thinking? There was a dark time when this kind of irrational enthusiasm was dominant and the results were disastrous. Now, things are not the same and the football-like kind of passion seems only to belong to a sector of the wild, mindless crowd.Tagged in: Argentina, falklands, football, Malvinas, Plaza de Mayo, politics, Sport
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