A World of Hope

When you spend a lot of time in conflict zones, where people nurture grievance, you become a sucker for change.

Comments: 42

  1. Very nice, Roger! Very, very nice. My wife and I taught for 19 years in international schools in Europe, South America and Asia. We raised our three children in the international cultures of these schools. Every birthday party was magical. The current members of the German World Cup team could have been the guest list to one of these parties 15 or 20 years ago: coming from many faiths and ethnic groups, diverse as could be, but united, purposeful, forward looking, clever, and ultimately having a great time of it all. I'm their fan also. I'm just hoping that a lot of people can perceive what you and I have noticed and decide that we Americans, and the people of many other nations, really need to get out more. We all need to appreciate just how amazing this world can be.

  2. When people believe in a religion full of calls to murder, revenge, presided by a jealous, homicidal god, it is only natural that they would act like him.
    Thus the Aztec religion, and the Aztec way of life. Reciprocally, secularism, allows to live, if not in the moment, certainly in the age (as the etymology has it).

  3. When I look at the world, I sometimes alternate between hope and despair. Having lived in many countries and spent time in even more, I am always inspired by so many of the ordinary people in each. Yes, Germany has faced its past with courage and thoroughness. Yes, it is wholly admirable that it has become competitive through sport and so pacifist by culture that it makes its NATO partners uncomfortable. I also am pleased that the Dutch, with their cosmopolitan nature, competence and open-mindedness, are doing well, and as someone who remembers Spain under Franco, I see a country which may have transformed itself even more than Germany. I regret seeing Brazil go home, as a country which seems to finally be living up to its great potential, both economically, and idealistically. Argentina has also come a long way since Peron and the military dictatorship. For a country which, before WWII, was at a Western European standard of living, I am delighted that it may be coming back to life. In fact, South America as a whole is providing some of the most exciting political and economic change. Of course, South Africa has shown it can well host a huge global event, and even though its team has ended its run, it and the other African teams have shown a huge advance vs a decade ago. The USA, along with New Zealand, may have had the most likable team, which played more for honor and fun than for personal gain. I wish that Asian countries such as China and India would play a larger part, but one day they will. I do wish that the fiction that England is so good that it must be handicapped by playing separately from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, would end so that the Scot or Welshman could have a team in the final round for which to cheer. Of course, electronic line devices would enable the World Cup to catch up with Tennis and other sports. I only hope that next year's Rugby World cup gets a small part of the attention from the US public that the Football World Cup has. Perhaps Invictus will have had some effect!

  4. This is the best that Sport can do for us. Give us a place to show our national loyalties, but in a way to become the best that does not involve the spilling of blood; the devastation of war; the horror of lost opportunity. What will be needed is that the mood forged here does not end when the games do. As always, some nation, through skill, luck, and the sheer karmic validation of being in the right place at the right time will emerge the winner. And they'll get their fifteen minutes of fame on the world stage, perhaps a half-hour in their home country, then it all begins anew.

    As should our work for peace, our working at breaking old paradigms that are so resistant to change, our willingness to wallow in the status quo and not go the extra distance. If it can be done in South Africa, change can be done anywhere. Believe in it first, then act upon it. Let the games, and our lives, continue!

  5. I think the German footballers do well because of skill, but skill expressed with zeal. Germans have a lot still to prove to the world. English footballers looked like a bunch of lost waifs. Their country in the doldrums, their last beacon carrier a 19th century throw-back, the Iron Lady who had no forward vision to offer. More sauce with your baked moneterism?

    I'm not happy that a collection of footballers should be called a "nation," as many commentators do, but it's impossible to ignore the outpourings of pride and sorrow that follow a World Cup match. And Ireland still hates the cynical French foul that put the Irish team out of the competition.

    When I was there last, one store was had an offer on flat-screeen TVs, a rebate to be paid when France exited the World Cup. I loved it. Schadenfreude reigns, staving off weldschmertz.

  6. I've always hated Germany (the soccer side, certainly not the country) since they brutally, physically trounced us in 1998. They're so clinical, tough, and pass well, but they lack the individual flair and seem more a machine than a team.

    Beckenbauer can also be a bore, he rather pointlessly insulted both England and Argentina before the matches. Still, I can see how this German team has won over so many people. Also, consider their group: the way Ghana was cheated, potentially you could have 2 teams in their group in the semifinals, and Serbia was the loser of that group. It was the true group of death this WC, and the USA should feel no shame losing to Ghana.

  7. Dear Roger,

    Like Yourself I too was in South Africa. The Vibe took my breath away. I watched the Ghana Game and I could not believe how Everyone was rooting for them and through that Proxy The African Continent. Being an Economist, I beg to differ with Finance Minister Gordhan, who claimed the World Cup was worth 0.4% on GDP. The Feel Good Factor, the sense of Unity might be worth a whole lot more than that and I think it is set to gain real Traction.

    I was watching the Germany Argentina Match at Tasha's in Melrose Place and This Fellow tells me I am supporting Germany because they have two Muslims in the Side and I think it is a breakthrough Moment for them as well best symbolised by the Smacker that Angela Merkel laid on Zuma's Cheek. I wont let mu imagination run away with me but I thought that a Political Statement entirely in sync with this c21st Team.

    Aly-Khan Satchu

  8. Sports, music, the arts all seem to have the power to strip the false robes of religion, color and state from our bodies and souls. In all cases, it is the inherent joy of sharing a common love of creativity, team work and uncensored expression of the human spirit. Human spirit - not crass political or religious or material spirit. It is a true tragedy that once proud American spirit has been cast aside in the pursuit of wealth and power both individually and as a nation. Power to the Peaceful.

  9. I've been a fan of Germany (the country) for many years and for many of the reasons you so eloquently state (i.e. "I love Germany for changing in its own way, earnestly.") I, along with most of my English and American soccer friends, have also been won over by the new German brand of soccer. The disciplined team play is beautiful to watch, especially under pressure near the opposing goal and during those explosive counterattacks. Thanks for your insights, soccer and political. And be sure to enjoy the rest of this "magical" World Cup with the rest of us.

  10. Anyone who believes his God wants him to occupy a certain piece land is very difficult to deal with. No wonder we are all in a world of hurt.
    As for our economy, I don't see any respite from the downward spiral until we stop waging these horribly expensive, self destructive wars and settle fairly the well known central problem which lies in in the middle east.
    And you can take that to the bank.

  11. You see, the funny thing about Germany's history is, it didn't begin in 1933, much to the astonishment of pretty much the entire population of my former Heimat, the U.S. of A., which really does have a very brief history in comparison and, perhaps for that reason, has trouble understanding things like historical context.

    Same applies to its approach to the Middle East, and Asia as well, I suppose.

    Perhaps if Hollywood had made as many films about Goethe (one example out of maybe 500 possibilites) as it has about Hitler, people would understand the region and its people a bit better.

  12. Excellent article. With globalization, hopefully there will be more and more democracies with separation of religion and state, and this world will continue to be a great place to enjoy different cultures, food, traditions etc etc. That is what President Obama brings to our country. And it was painful to see media attacking him that he is not tough and not showing his anger etc etc. There is a big disconnect. If you are "tough" and push around other people, and their cultures and preferably begin few wars, you are considered a true American, as opposed to giving our best values of freedom, separation of religion and state and rule of law.

  13. Instead of Schadenfreude, a not so new German word: Gemeinsamfreude. The joy of togetherness or being part of a team that functions as one — as professed in the final movement of Beethoven's 9th. Of course, that sensation of communal orgiastic togetherness transgressing old boundaries had a very bad, very dark spell in German history a not so long while back. Perhaps now, in the age of rave, we're ready to see a brighter, even if a much more limited, more contained, side?

  14. What a splendid vision.
    Will there ever be a Nelson Mandela in the Near East ?
    There was much hope with the election of Barack Obama. I hope he can achieve like he has done for health care what all the previous presidents had tried and not succeeded.
    But he has so much to do and so little support to do it.

  15. Change is always happening. The exercise is to choose good change over bad change.

    A good change would be to bring the economy home.


  16. Your comment, "Americans are the most creative inventors of those networks and the most stubborn in resisting their nation-dissolving impact. Therein lies a good measure of the world’s tensions.", could use a little explanation. The point is not completely comprehensible and, to the extent it is, doesn't seem accurate.

  17. Great article and good observation. It is great to see Germany play well with the best players irrespective of their ethnic background. But be careful. Don't pass any judgement now. Judge them not when they win, but when they lose. France, too, embraced their ethnically oriented players with all their hearts when they won. But when they lost, they "brought shame to La France".
    I still embrace the world and teach my children to do so, too. But if you want to be am immigrant, be one in America.

  18. if defenders of Argentina could play a bit better (or Maradona would invite Zanetti) or Germany was in a death group, or any unexpected event occurred, everything would be different now. I dunno why everybody try to analyze the world with world cup.

  19. As an American living and working in South Africa for the last decade, I just want to thank you for your positive and spirited coverage of the country during this World Cup. I wish more Americans in particular knew what a special place it is, and took the time to step out of their comfort zones to find out. It would help if there were a lot more press coverage of the many many positive aspects (rather than merely the negative) of this beautiful continent.

  20. When I get dreaming I hope for the same world.

    A world beyond nation states, where cultures, traditions and values coexist peacefully, where new synergistic solutions are born, out of powerful combinations of diverse influences, greater than the sum of their parts, the best, really, of all worlds.

    Deep down inside, I even hope globalization leads to this outcome, eventually. Just like this World Cup more than ever before features Benneton-colored teams, not just Germany's (the Dutch and others have had them for decades) which for all those bone-headed, conservative Germans and non-Germans to see, is the strongest in at least 20 years. Due to teamwork and diversity, e.g. the new, fresher combination of Turkish touch and German organization...

    This World Cup is so worth it, far beyond the beautiful goals, if it represents just one more way to show how team-effort, selflessness (to which even Maradona alluded) and normalcy of diversity can bread success.

    And it just may become another inspiration that can help the world community tackle its humongous problems with a little more open-mindedness, more creativity and speed -- like Die Mannschaft of 2010.

  21. Thanks, Mr. Cohen, for your kind words regarding Germany and the German team. The former comes as a bit of a surprise, the latter doesn't really - I live and work in Poland, and even here, most (!) of the soccer afficionados are now rooting forthe German team, "because it is such pleasure to watch", as a couple of friends have told me, begging me not to return to Berlin for the final but have a "German soccer party" here, in Poland. (I guess this means Poles are good at changing their ways, as well;-)!)

    Now, if a German soccer team even wins over the hearts of the Poles, I am not suprised it can also enchant you;-).

    I still think the Netherlands will win the Cup, and Spain against Germany in the semi-final, but am grateful for the joyous, playful, yet technically disciplined performance of the German team so far - even if the buck stops here.

  22. We have been much acustomed to empty superlative such as HOPE and CHANGE. We never checked "hope for what?" and "change to what?" We argued that the situation is so bad that we need hope and change. The same happened with the Bolshevic revolution when Russians were in social, economic and corrupt government turmoil. In Germany the defeat in WW 1 and the massive depression brought the National Socialism that initially corrected the economy and gave pride to Germany, yet the rest, dragging Germany into WW 2, could have been anticipated. Apartheid was abolished only to create a worse situation for Africans and reverse discrimination. Hope and Change were always empty words that address the uninformed, naive, wishful thinkers and the die heart party members who cannot be influences by facts. This is what happened in Russia, Germany and now in USA. Yes, I believe that Germany will win it all, but it does not change the dire social and economic situation in South Africa, Europe or USA.

  23. As regards an earlier Roger Cohen column titled the Loose Vuvuzuela celebrating the Diego Maradona coaching style: Score 4 for the scripted life, 0 for the unscripted life. You know - Argentina probably had several non geniuses in their coaching ranks that could have done a much better job leading the national team. Several, and much better. But that's what happens when much leeway is given to genius.

    Uruguay, Germany, Spain, Netherlands. I'm happy with any of them. It's been a great World Cup. Keep up the columns.

  24. Couldn't have said it better myself.

  25. Lovely, poignant article.

    I'm also loving Germany--as a nation, as a football team--and amazed, surprised, to be loving it. A little while back you wrote, can countries change? Well, obviously, some can. Most, probably, cannot. Isn't a country a group of people? Can a country be seen as a person? And can a person change? As you pointed out, a country only changes after immense trauma (in Germany's case, Nazism) and the genuinely honest, authentic dealing of such trauma (again, Germany). The same can be said of people, of course. But the truth is, not ALL countries/people change even after immense trauma, so special praise must be given to those who indeed do, and face such trauma and conflicted past head-on.

    @Richard, #3: you're entirely wrong about Argentina, and most of South America (though not, on some levels, Brazil). My father and his family are from Argentina, a place I know well, and my father was actually part of Alfonsin's government (exiled during the military dictatorship). Argentina has NOT changed (other than superficially) other than , not a small thing, democracy. You saw that in their football team, you saw that in Maradona--chosen, by the way, by the Argentine football association's president, a controversial figure who had been in cohoots with the worst of the dictatorship. Most would agree that Argentina has some of the world's best football players (plus Messi, 'the best in the world) and yet did they ever become a team? Faced with Germany, a true team, the answer was clear, no. And football is just one small thing, a representation of a bigger social malaise. Argentina, unlike Germany, has never faced its past, not in the properly authentic, genuine way which is necessary for true change.

  26. Dear Roger,

    nice to hear that you have become a fan of Germany lately. I did not get that impression in your other recent posts, but while you are at it, you might as well try to get an idea of the country's history (other than the two world wars). This way your comments (whether about "völkisch" citizenship after WW II or other flat right incorrect statements) might lean more towards reality than propaganda.

    Sincerely yours


  27. Your comments and perspectives on South Africa was insightful. Come back soon!

  28. It's all about breaking old barriers, old entrenched ways, that continue to be divisive,...why we cling to old comfort zones of inward looking nihilism is beyond me,...You have identified and pointed the way forward,...!!

  29. Utter drivel.. as ever, wittering on without purpose. How, once again, did we get to Israel here? The fact is "old Europe" has 3 of the 4 teams that comprise the semi-finalists and every one of them, as usual, has an esssential immigrant contribution. Cohen has been so out of touch - the Dutch teams of the 1980s and 1990s were at least 50% immigrant. Wake up Cohen and write something useful for once - perhaps an article on the non-jewish immigrant contribution to the Israeli national team.

  30. Roger, you're so ignorant of history. In the good ol days Arab traders also sold African slaves to European traders for an obscene profit. It's also not a surprise that you're a German fan. Can't imagine why.

    Enough World Cup overkill already. You've seen Invictus one too many times and Netflix wants it back.

  31. For the past month Roger Cohen has managed to juxtapose modern world history into the context of a sporting event. Well, it's hardly the first time politics and sports have collided.

    I just heard that the Mohamed Oudeh, mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacare, died peacefully after living to a ripe old age. (The same can't be said for the athletes he had slaughtered) But since his victims were Israelis, that doesn't count for much does it? In the last Olympic games Iranian wrestlers were pulled out of competition because they refused to wrestle their Israeli counterparts. Can you imagine the uproar if Israel were in the World Cup?

    It's a shame Roger viewed events of the past month or so through his rose colored glasses relaxing at a major sporting event.

  32. You are certainly a 'philosopher-journalist', of a rare and most valuable combination that one doesn't come across so easily, Mr. Cohen. Every time I read your column, not only do I learn so much, but also get a deeper perception on how to look at things from a fresh point of view. For that I commend and thank you.

  33. Excellent article! I wish more Americans would have a less insular approach to the world around us and truly learn from the lessons of other cultures. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such an eloquent way ... have a blessed day!

  34. Oh, dear, Roger Cohen - alas I cannot agree with you about loving Germany. As you said, "I'm a sucker for change", which might explain while you love Deutschland and its inhabitants now. Germany is a Dr. Fell to me ("I do not like thee, Dr. Fell"). The word "friedensmacht" resonates with a shudder - too close to "lebensraum" and "raus" and the Thousand Year Reich (sic.13 jahren, zu fiel)for my taste. the Germans didn't change before WWI; they were beaten like a drum. The Germans joined Nazis and Hitler before WWII. Grotesque Grand Guignol change. They were beaten like a drum. Now the Germans have changed? Have morphed into the good guys? I don't think so. I have been to Germany and speak "etwas Deutsch", and each time looked forward to leaving that land of millions of nightmare memories. Germany reminds me of Edvard Munch's "The Scream", not the jolly fine multi-ethnic football/soccer team they are cheering on in "Invictus" land. Imagine the multi-ethnic German athletes at the 1936 Olympics! Not. Just wall to wall skull-mesured blond aryans. Not the neat folks you now love, who have "changed" so much for the better. I am not a curmudgeon, but I shall have to see a lot more of the good stuff before I grow some big hurrays for the Germans.

  35. Germany. Not only does it take a lickin' and keeps on tickin', it has become the new 'America'.

    Meanwhile, war-mongering, Reagan-worship, Bush-idiocy, Obama-perfidy and Wall Street in-your-face corruption and thievery is the face that the Consumption Zone formerly known as America shows to the world.

    I remember the former America, but the memory is fading fast.

    Germany! Yeah, a country to believe in!

  36. Nice column, but the Roddick slant is a little unfair. He's changed his game a lot. If he makes an easy backhand volley, he beats Federer at Wimbledon in 2009. I'm not the biggest Roddick fan, but his game has really grown over the years.

  37. Again, I adore this new article also. Not because it is a Liebeserklärung to Germany, it is a Liebeserklärung to people, the world and the different cultures. Thank you.

  38. nice writing the germans are a sight to behold.......but you are backing the wrong side....HUP HOLLAND!!!!!

  39. Roger

    Thank you for another excellent and heart warming article....

    We need more optimist and honest brokers to make the world a better place....

    I think a German World Cup victory may be the beginning of the end for the great recession we are in and if you noticed Chancellor Merkel's body language and cheering Germans at the Brandenburg Gate during the Germany-Argentina match, it may prove all the doom and gloom pundits wrong....

    "World Cup Fever Fuels German Growth Hopes"


    The beautiful game may end up saving the world from yet another catastrophe in the making....

    Lets hope so.

  40. Friedensmacht, What a Great Word Mr. Cohen! You get full credit for starting to use a postive and hopeful word to push back against schadenfreude or damage joy.

    Excellent Word choice Mr. Cohen!!! I love that word Peace Power or Friedensmacht---Hope it begins to be used in common parlance!!!

    Great piece Mr. Cohen.

  41. Wonderful column and comments, Mr Cohen!

  42. Thank you!