Wednesday, 7 July 2010
This is my World Cup Football blog. I haven’t watched any of the matches, have no interest in the result, but I don’t feel that should be an obstacle to expressing an opinion. What is ignorance, after all, except the ultimate form of objectivity, unburdened by the inherent biases of Knowing Stuff?
The main thing that struck me is how excruciatingly embarrassing most of the tabloid newspaper coverage of the England versus Germany match was. I mean, World War II was seventy years ago, very soon it’ll be slipping out of living memory, and yet its imagery gets wheeled out with grim inevitability every four years. It’s not funny, it’s not ironic, it’s just depressing, reductive, mindless bigotry and backward-looking. But then, if the British are good at one thing, it’s basking in Former Glories. Well, it’s something we used to be good at, in the sixties.
To be fair, it’s not just the football, and it’s not just now. Go into any WH Smiths in Lewisham and at the counter you’ll be presented with a selection of magazines relating either to World War II or to the exploits of Fred Dibnah. Fred Dibnah seems to exert some sort of hypnotic fascination for the people of this country. If you don’t know who he is, he’s essentially the British equivalent of Gore Vidal or Truman Capote. But with steam engines.
There’s not even the excuse that the people reading this magazines are being nostalgic. I mean, I’m barely of the generation that had World War II stories in comics which were so prevalent in the 50s and 60s, or the cycle of World War II movies that made up so much of our British Film Industry. I’m not arguing it should be forgotten, but the words ‘get over it’ spring to mind. The people buying these magazines are not reminiscing about the war, they’re romanticising it.
It must be disheartening for any Germans visiting the UK, to see all this World War II memorabilia everywhere. Imagine if you went to Germany and saw the equivalent magazines on sale in their newsagents, or if they reported on our football matches using their World War II imagery. Yeah. Point made. I'm probably the millionth person to make this observation, aren't I?
But anyway, football.