Is European Patriotism the Answer to Far-Right Nationalism?

Opinion

By Sophia Obrecht

First published in The Palatinate, October 12th, 2018.

For many months now, far-right nationalism has been rearing its ugly head across Europe. In the meantime, the impossible riddle that is Brexit has been dominating the news in the UK — leaving a lot to be desired when it comes to a feeling of pride both on the continent and at home. Europe and the UK are at odds, while the UK itself is divided, not only between leavers and remainers, but between those who want a deal, a no deal, a second referendum, no referendum, and those who would just like to go back in time before this whole Brexit business began.

So the question remains, what kind of relationship will the UK have with Europe following Brexit? And with this what does the future hold for the EU, given the rise of nationalism across the continent?

With the European success against the US in the Ryder Cup, I began to feel a strange sense of pride … those cool collected Europeans, the underdogs, coming back to take the win against those arrogant Americans. A victory on French and European soil. This got me thinking, what if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe, and in order to reunite the UK with the continent after all this ugly negotiating?

What if it was possible to foster some sort of European patriotism through sport and sporting success, in order to counteract the growing rise of extreme nationalism across Europe?

I know, I know, this opinion might seem unpopular, especially to all those Brexiteers, and Eurosceptics out there, and especially after the wave of pure patriotism felt across England during the World Cup. But think about it for a second, what if we could harness some sort of European identity and set it against rivals such as the US, Russia, or China in a sporting setting not exclusive to the Ryder Cup?

At its core, a nation is built on a common heritage and shared goals. Following this, identity, and pride is founded on the presence of an ‘other’, a rival, or outsider, against which a community can create their own set of values. In Europe, it was easy for a nation to find its own common national history and therefore memory: with its many wars and conflicts Europe’s nations experienced victory and suffered defeat at each other’s hands. Rivals and enemies were created and a national heritage followed. However, as a continent, it was, and is, much harder for Europe to find a defining moment in political or social history that could function as a shared heritage, a shared victory or even defeat… a moment when Europe in its entirety was on the same side.

Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit

But what if this could be created in sporting history? Sport, at its core, has a great power to unite people, sure it can also prove divisive, but played out in a setting such as the modern Olympics, a common sense of pride and identity becomes easier to foster. Just look at the way the country came together this summer, following England’s performance in the football World Cup – despite its deep divisions over Brexit. Remember the pride associated with the London 2012 Games, or in Germany’s case the World Cup victory in 1990. The memory of these shared experiences has worked to strengthen national identity. Sports also produces rivals and inspires healthy, and peaceful competition (aside from the odd football hooligan). Now imagine if there were regular sporting tournaments or championships, whether it be football, athletics, or winter sports, that focused on teams grouped not by nation, but by continent?

While I am not suggesting Europe become a federal republic, or demanding greater centralization within the EU, I do think it is high time that us Europeans stuck together. If we were to bring a continent together, moved by a common support for a sporting team, the process of European integration and better yet the project of the EU may still survive the nationalist rhetoric prevalent across Europe, in states such as Austria, Poland, and now Germany, to name but a few. In many ways, the idea may seem just too simplistic, too naïve, too pure of heart. After all, the EU, and Europe geographically speaking, has a lot of issues to solve, not least regarding the refugee crisis, and the general need for reform. But if we could foster that same patriotism and pride, experienced in England during the World Cup, maybe, just maybe, Europe could step back from the brink.

 

Brexit or no Brexit, the UK will always be part of Europe, just as the countries, currently dominated by nationalist rhetoric will remain firmly on the European continent, whether they like it or not. It’s time we appreciated our shared European values which date back for centuries: from culture, art, to sporting prowess, from values such as tolerance, and equality …. From the iron curtain dividing the continent to the fall of the Berlin wall, the European experience is unique. It would be a shame to throw it away for some short sighted nationalism, for a no deal Brexit and an ugly divorce.

Mental Health: More than Just a Buzzword

Culture and Lifestyle, Opinion

World Mental Health Day, a day to encourage everyone to take care of their own mental health, as well as the well-being of others around them. Campaigns such as the ‘Its OK not to be Ok’ movement, have been growing steadily with the aim to support everyone dealing with mental health problems, encouraging people to speak out and share their stories. But beyond these buzzwords and campaigns, understanding mental health, whether that’s because you yourself are suffering from depression or anxiety, or because you have a loved one, a family member or friend who is suffering from a mental health problem, is one of the hardest parts of the battle — getting your head around mental illness is like climbing Mount Everest without a rope.

Almost impossible – right?

This topic is one that has recently been affecting my life more than I ever thought it would, and not because I myself am suffering from any serious mental health issue. Over the past three years my Dad has been suffering from a serious anxiety disorder, which now has also developed into depression. After having a series of panic attacks while he was at work three years ago, the anxiety took hold. At his worst, he couldn’t leave the house, couldn’t be left alone, and had serious trouble sleeping. After counselling and medication things got better, and he went back to work (he works in Germany, so commutes every week or so back to the UK). It seemed like I had my Dad back, the open happy Dad I used to know: my tennis partner, the funny man that laughs at all of his own jokes (I think that’s a Dad thing).

Almost exactly a year later though the anxiety resurfaced, and battle number two was about to commence. After another few months of tears (from the whole family) and work with a psychiatrist, again it seemed my Dad had conquered his demons, and the past year has been great. We got to go on holiday as a family again for the first time since the anxiety had started to dominate our lives, and he was able to come visit me in Munich!

But that’s the thing about mental health, you never know when it will strike again, or in fact how many times it might hit you. So, again my Dad is suffering, and the worst part is, part of me just doesn’t know how to help, and I can’t understand. I know he’ll get through it, he always does, but it’s just a matter of time and patience from himself and the people around him.

I find it hard to write about how my Dad is feeling, and about what he is going through, because he is the only one that really knows. The rest of us just have to listen and learn and hopefully find some clarity. The most important thing is to be aware of people around you, look out for each other, and remember you never really know what someone is going through, so be open and patient, even when it might seem like really hard work.