June 22: cultural misapprehensions

I read how the Brazilian fans in the crowd at the match between England and Italy were unhappy with English fans for not joining in with the Mexican wave. The English position, as propagated and engendered by the media, is that we are serious football fans focused on the match and so are loath to engage with a Mexican wave. The view of most other nations, also serious football lovers, is that the Mexican wave is part of the event and should be respected. The game is a cultural event and not just a result, especially at a World Cup.

The French call the English ‘hypocrites’ when anglo-saxons avoid confrontation by, say, not complaining in a restaurant. I think it is a different use of the word from the English understanding. We see the avoidance of confrontation as diplomatic, rather suave and civilized. For many other nations it can be spineless and pathetic. My sympathies are in both camps. Sometimes the creation of conflict over a nothing makes no sense, but it can also be a lack of engagement in the moment, the refusal to have a stake in things.


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