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Why are Germans so darn good?

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, July 18, 2014    

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I am happy Germany won the World Cup. It was not the most skilful game or the most cliffhanging, but football is about goals; he who scores wins. Talent can be fickle, but you can bet on training, hard graft, and teamwork. If you run 5k every day you can do it today; the natural may score seven goals, but there are no guarantees. Talent wins the derby on a given day, but the book gives much more reliable results over the long haul.

The final was sullied by regret, not because of the game, but history. My history of Europe was a curse as it seems old Germany was playing new world Germany. Names as Mengele and Eichmann, who conducted horrible experiments -- dissecting live babies, lampshades made of human skin millions of Jews died -- came to mind. Is this soccer? Not cricket, but Bob would say "everything is everything". President Peron gave passports to Nazi brutes and it took decades to flush them out. So the nation of choice for old Nazis was to play the Fatherland. I was conflicted. I am not the naïve media worker who gave the Fuehrer's salute on TV -- my knowledge is my burden; his ignorance his bliss.

As I watched the match a nostalgic refrain meandered on the margins of my bruited consciousness: "Don't cry for me Argentina, the truth is I never left you all through my wild days, my mad existence, I kept my promise, don't keep your distance," -- Evita per Madonna.

Though tragic, Evita I tried to recall why Argentina's blacks are invisible, and no black player only one mestizo on the team. Do we exist in the Land of Silver? Eva Peron fought for women's rights, the vote, the first women's political party; stood for Argentina's poor "decamisados", those without shirts. A role later reprised by Madonna in the classic film Evita -- a poor woman found the city, became a rich actress, married a politician, was the greater partner in the duo, but too wasted by cancer to accept the call by her people to be president. Though elected by acclamation, she was the greatest female leader ever! Revolutionary? Fascist? Ravishing beauty, caring... "I have the body, soul and blood of my people." Argentina, the tail end of the southern continent, once had 40 per cent black people in many districts. They were cannon fodder in the wars of independence, genocide -- brave men, but not a black footballer?

Mass migration from Europe was beat only by the USA, so population multiplied and by early 20th century they were in the top 10 industrial nations ahead of Japan, Britain. Do we try their strategy? They were refuge of choice for Nazis -- aided by the Pope, Red Cross, Swiss bankers. With 96 per cent plus white people, the black on their football team is a mere spirit of African rhythm and European glitz -- the tango. I saw the match, but my eyes were fixed on history and my elation was muted; still the best side won -- Viva Germany!

Germans repudiate the Nazi past, but the values, attitudes, national pride which powered the Third Reich fuels peace, progress and football. Teamwork makes them a force in everything except pop music: Are you a fan of Milli Vanilli, Rammstein, Kraftwerk or Boney M? Argentina is a tropicalised Germany -- a precision industrial and farm power. Methodical Messi is no Neymar, but may have a dash of Candomble. Argentina is the EU in the New World. They are all there in the culture, food, mindset -- Do Africans thrive in Argentina? The German team has blacks, but did I cheer for them? I chose the New World team.

So why are the Germans so good at what they do? Their work is play and their play is precision. At the end of WWII they were devastated. They got aid and rebuilt on their spirit -- no cliché. You can't keep great people down. We need to migrate our sports ethic to work as they did from work to football and be great. Germans do not seem intuitive, balletic, but they have the best football team and build the best cars. The mantra "Vorsprung durch technik" is not just an icon of Audi, it is a symbol of German design and precision. We believe "creative" people plait straw, gouge wood, sing, daub paint on canvas, but the greatest creations of mankind are in science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) used every day. They run the best economy and gave a master class on the football field. They lost a war, humiliated with more young people under than above ground; we brindle when we are dissed -- get over it; you want revenge, be successful! They rebuilt in one generation and paid off the 1940's American loans. Let's open our hearts and brains to imbibe German excellence as we too have a super spirit and can pay off the IMF and go to the World Cup quarter-finals in four years' time? Yes, we can!

German motorways have no speed limit and none on the football field. With discipline, precision they make excellent cars -- who needs speed limits? Germans love to be naked in public. Many are naturists, some 40 per cent sunbathe topless and "free zones" for nudists exist in cities. They are comfortable with their bodies and you feel strange at first, but you are among friends, and the cigars and conversation are the only hot things. Should we build havens to attract them as tourists? The Germans do not allow society to break. In recent anti-capitalist riots the protestors were assigned one street. The media interviewed, took pictures; the police talked in the adjacent streets -- no assets were destroyed. Is it a joyless society? No! They drink beer, enjoy the outdoors, F1, cycling, and more. Germans are proof that STEM education and discipline does not inhibit but builds creativity. The notion that creative people are those who sing, indite, dance, smoke weed is flawed -- check your Audi. German teamwork and precision won the World Cup. Many knew it would happen by the form book, but like me followed their hearts.

Dying with dignity

We need help to be born, so why not to die? The Dignitas clinic helps with dying and, as the world turns, let's be ready for it. In the UK the conversation about assisted dying deepens. Do I have a right to decide when and how I die? How can I die with dignity faced with wasting and humiliation? On Sunday, The Gleaner cited a woman who had made preparations for death: the will, wake, plot, tomb, last rites, the works. As bodily functions go south, when you do not remember that you do not remember, is this the time to be signing a DNR affidavit?

In the UK, a vote on assisted dying is due as many endure a life sentence in a wasting body. Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury, once opposed assisted dying -- not now. Bishop Tutu changed his mind too. He saw how a fragile Mandela was used to boost political agendas and photo ops; public spectacle, not die with dignity. Many old people don't want to be moved from familiar contexts, but the noveau riche, degreed kids cart them to Bronx or away from the lively Jones Town tenement to insipid Norbrook to die. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Whelby opposes assisted dying. Women bishops are in, assisted death next? What say you? Stay conscious, my friend.

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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