Nationhood is not dead. It's thriving

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

No one watching the victorious Spanish football team arriving at Madrid airport yesterday could be in any doubt about the boost such a sporting victory gives a nation. Everyone beamed from ear to ear, even those who seemed to be trying hard not to. Those not in national strip, including many whose playing days were clearly long over, almost burst with pride as they walked along.

But you didn't have to be there, or even to watch the return on television, to appreciate the effects of such national success. Travelling across London on Sunday evening was a colourful experience. I had to thread my way through groups of young people, big and small, decked out in red and yellow, and other groups of all ages clad in bright orange. They were shouting and laughing and mostly sober. By the time I reached home, the match was well underway, with the Dutch team resplendent from head to foot in the same age-old orange. The Spanish wore their dark strip, but at least even I was able to tell one team from the other.

Since satellite technology facilitated live global broadcasting, each World Cup has produced small-scale reflections of the matches on London streets, as the many diasporas descend to celebrate victory or mourn defeat. The most memorable shows of allegiance were in 2002, when the time difference with Korea brought a good-humoured relay of mini-armies to Trafalgar Square from early morning to claim their vicarious lap of honour.

This year, I dare say, the divide was as great as ever between the real sports enthusiasts and the rather less engaged spectators like me – for whom style meant not ball-skills, but the rather gorgeous socks displayed, all too briefly, by France, and post-match analysis meant vague musings about geopolitics (rather than the intricacies of off-side). But if I still need to mug up on my goal-line technology, I don't think football aficionados should knock geopolitics either.

What of the irony that took the Netherlands – almost the only nation whose fans would understand Afrikaans – to the final in post-apartheid South Africa? What of another irony, that the Dutch and the Spanish should contest this year's final, after their mutual history of protracted wars? With the difference that this time the Spanish won. I would also note that when this war finally ended in 1648, it was resolved in the Treaty of Westphalia, which is widely seen as establishing the pre-eminence of the nation-state.

The perfect world is often regarded as one where all national borders have vanished and all national identities are subsumed into a common humanity. Some see the European Union and the United States as prototypes tending in that direction. That's not how I see it. All my travels, all the post-Cold War border changes and, on a small scale, all the positive effects of British devolution suggest to me that the nation, and the nation-state, will not be so easily erased. The EU has tamed, but will not destroy, the Westphalian system, nor does it have to. Big or small, the nation is thriving. And I rather suspect that, for a few more days at least, the Spanish would not have it any other way.



A toxic confusion of genius and the law



The US request to extradite Roman Polanski aroused ferocious emotions, as will the Swiss decision to refuse it. On the one side, a vast congregation of artists and film people argued that genius was entitled to play by other rules. On the other side, supporting the US authorities, were those who insisted that everyone, genius or not, must face the consequences of their actions.

I fall into neither camp. I do not believe that genius, however great, absolves anyone of legal or moral responsibility for what they do. But I absolutely support the Swiss in their refusal to deliver up Polanski. Why? First, because the charges go back more than 30 years; even in the morally conservative United States, the 1970s were different times. Second, because his conviction, for unlawful sex (with a 13-year-old), was part of a plea-bargain – an aspect of the US court system that does justice no favours. It allows serious criminals to accept a lesser charge so the prosecution can secure a conviction, while encouraging the innocent to admit guilt to get everything over with. I don't know which category, if either, covers Polanski. What I do know is that this is an iniquitous system that, alas, is gaining ground here. And third, as I understand it, Polanski had a certain reputation. The charges were brought after a photo-shoot. It is not to blame the 13-year-old to ask how it was that she came into his company and who was responsible for her at the time.

The Swiss rejected the US extradition request on the technical grounds that information about Polanski's sentencing was incomplete. The only question I have is why it took them so long to make up their mind.



Time to add a fourth French virtue



Tomorrow the French will celebrate Bastille Day, without – for austerity reasons – the usual big party at the Elysée, but with the probably much more expensive military parade that precedes it. As always, there will be much self-congratulatory talk of Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité. In France recently, however, I found a fourth French virtue that austerity was bringing to the fore. Visiting the open-day at a favourite vineyard, we were greeted and praised for our fidelité. We were paid the same compliment at a hotel we returned to, where the proprietors regretted that dinner would be a little late, as they had had to go to town to sign all the documents to transfer ownership. Monsieur had a heart complaint and they had decided, regretfully, to retire. Fidelité might not seem an obviously French virtue when it relates to romance. When it means loyalty in a broader sense, it undoubtedly is.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Chelsea players celebrate winning the Premier League title  

Success isn’t enough if you’re going to be boring

Simon Kelner
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd save small businesses from the negative influence of banks

Anil Stocker
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power