I hear some kind of big sporting event just got under way. Grown men kicking balls around, that kind of stuff. Everyone seems to be very excited about it for some reason. No, I’m not a football fan, but ok, I do watch the occasional game. How can you not?
Like the medieval carnival, the football World Cup gives us an opportunity to temporarily forget about our regular lives. People drink too much and dress in strange, colourful, clothes; school kids and office slaves get time off to watch the matches. A generally festive mood prevails. We all deserve a break; it’s been a long, cold, spring.
For male academics football provides a great opportunity to feel matey and blokey about themselves; we temporarily abandon our regular pretentiousness and pretend instead to be Wayne Rooney. For a change we know what to talk about with cab drivers and electricians. It’s all very condescending and self-congratulatory.
The big make-believe is of course that the world still is made up of nation-states that fight with each other on an international arena. That there is a world where we dress in national colours, sing national anthems, display our most famous national characteristics — methodical Germans, argumentative Italians, fun-loving Brazilians. The world of the World Cup is the world of the stamp collector, of politics as it used to be before the state was undermined by the forces of globalisation. In the World Cup all battles are just and we all unreservedly support our soldiers.