The word diversity has been much overused lately, utilized as a magic word to make non-progressives fall obediently into line. To be fair, the word “nation” and “national” have also been evoked perhaps too often, used to defend certain political positions and to discredit others.
In fact, both terms express undeniably positive concepts. Just think about it: biodiversity is essential in keeping our planet healthy. Also, a diversity of opinions is a basic tenet of modern democracies. And when it comes to nationalism, as the Israeli public intellectual Yuval Noah Harari says: ‘without nationalism we would be living in “tribal chaos”.’
And of course, without nations, there would be no European football championships! Just think about it: who would be competing against whom if there were no national teams? Leftist liberals might dream about a world without competition in which people are assigned all resources according to their needs, but also depending on how low they are on the imaginary scale of oppression – the lower they are, the more they are entitled to at the expense of everyone else.
The truth is that people of all colour, creed, and ethnicity love to compete, just as much as most also recognize the need to cooperate. People instinctively relate to the idea that the best should win. Also, it is—at least for the time being—given that the overwhelming majority of people have a national identity, or at least they identify with a nation when juxtaposed to others, especially when it comes to their mother tongue. The Spanish are unique with their charming lisp when they pronounce the city name Barcelona. It is hard not to recognize the distinct accent of the Scots, or the unparalleled sound of Portuguese. But there are other dimensions to the diversity of Europeans – the rich variety of national and ethnic cuisines, or that of folk costumes and folk songs.
The European football championship is indeed a celebration of diversity.
There is a fantastically colourful selection of European nations who are taking part in the tournament. One can only rejoice when they recognize the incredible variety of languages, national anthems, and flags that are used and displayed in the stadiums that host the matches across the continent. It is also obvious for all well-meaning people that identifying as a member of a nation and, for many, being proud of belonging to a nation, does not mean being adversarial towards another nations, and it certainly does not follow that one nation is better than another. As far as I can tell, the attitude and behaviour of fans so far have indeed been exemplary, without any instances of animosity.
The strength of modern Europe is the diversity of its nation states. Imagine a Europe from where these distinct national characteristics suddenly disappear. Imagine a Europe where there are no longer Italians with the unmatched elegance of Italian men in suits, or there is no Croatian checkerboard, or Danish hygge. This diversity of European nations is best shielded, nurtured and passed on by nation states, that cooperate with each other while preserving their distinct national character and sovereignty. And it is this kind of diversity that makes Europe stand out in the world, and which also constitutes the backbone of the European Union.
So let us cheer on our national teams without second thoughts or remorse, but never forgetting about the obligation of showing respect to others! While it is obvious that the better will win and the best be victorious in the end, Hungarian hearts are still beating for our national eleven, a group of players whose combined worth expressed in Euros is less than that of a single French, Portuguese or German player. They clearly stood no chance against their superior opponents, and yet managed to score against the standing world and European champion, against all odds. May the fans of all the national teams represented at the championship share the same love for the game and the same excitement that Hungarians did while watching their teams play, and experience the feeling of oneness with their compatriots, even if for a brief moment only.
- Zsófia Tóth-Bíró, online editor of Hungarian Conservative, Danube Institute research fellow