Last weekend we watched the French lift the World cup trophy. We witnessed a wonderful French team built from players of different backgrounds – All distinctly French – brought together by meritocracy.
Those on the left who hang onto the group identity of some of the French players making jokes thanking Africa for French victory and those on the right who use the skin colour of the French players to claim they are not really French are two sides of the same coin. They both refuse to see these players as individuals. Refusing to simply see them as wonderfully talented footballers of one nation.
We forget sometimes that the nation-state unlike the physical traits of us as individuals is a construct of the human mind. It is not a physical thing that one can touch, it exists only in the collective imagination of human beings. Knowing this then we have a choice. A nation can be anything we want it to be. Do we want to define our nations by the things that separate us i.e. race or class as in its most extreme forms The Third Reich or The USSR? Or do we want to create inclusive nations based on freedom liberty and for want of a better word a shared sense of identity. Surely it does not take much argument for most of us to want the latter. The simple fact that we know the resulting outcomes of nations based on identity should be enough.
Of course the nation-state is not perfect, personally I would love to see a world where our shared identity transcends borders but that is a long way off, for now the best we have is the nation-state. And what a wonderful example football is of how this would work. The French national team is not the team that is without Paul Pogba, without N’Golo Kanté and indeed without Hugo Lloris and Antoine Griezmann. A team that draws from all of France based on merit has delivering victory.
When we think of this then let us not forget that the bigots on the left and the bigots the right are one in the same, they symbiotically feed into each other. The correct path is the liberal path of individualism. No nation is yet to get this 100% right (the closest example in the modern world is the United States) but we know our destination and we have an idea from our history of some of the red herrings on the way.
Right now all we can all congratulate the French on a brilliant victory. Allez les Bleus !