Did you see the game at the weekend?
As a Wales fan, I’m clearly over the moon but I’m also happy as a rugby fan. I was at work for the game but watched it on a recording when I got home, and I think that it was the most ferocious battle on a rugby field I’ve ever seen Saying that, we’ve all seen more violent matches, where players from both sides just seem to have decided that they’re going to have a fight and lay into each other for as long as they can before they get caught and sent off, but this game was far from that.
There was a study done by the IRB a few years ago which showed that there was an average of twenty penalties conceded per match but in the game at the weekend, there were a total of twelve. The two sides looked as if they were going to do everything in their powers to destroy the opposition such was the brutality of the collisions that were happening over and over again but that they were going to be doing it all within the rules of the game. There were no brawls, euphemistically called ‘hand-bags’, no extreme violence and a consistent appreciation of the law.
Yet, at the final whistle, after the initial explosion of emotion from the Welsh players and the despondency from the English, all of the players made their way around all of the others and shook hands, some embraced, but a great many were smiling and talking as friends. At one point, Alun Wyn Jones, the Welsh captain, could be seen smiling and talking warmly with Kyle Sinkler, the English prop who’d given a penalty away but holding the Welsh captain by his throat in a maul.
Now watching the exchanges after the game had finished, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the madness which preceded it can’t have been all that bad but I felt that it came down to shared experiences.
A great many of the players on the field that day had toured together with the British and Irish Lions to New Zealand in 2017. Alun Wyn Jones and Kyle Sinkler had been a part of the same team when they’d gone into battle in the land of the long white cloud. They’d worked together and had shared the ups and downs of a tour to the home of the best team on the planet and they’d fought side by side. They may have been adversaries but on that tour, they’d worked together against a common foe and they will forever share a bond because of it.
How many stories include the idea of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’? The idea has been in existence for almost as long as the human race in one form or another but working together against a common foe means that everyone gets stronger. In the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher, there are different races of fantastical beings, all warring against each other and telling tales of the horror that the others will visit on any and all who cross their path. This continues for generations until the arrival of the Vord, a new race of monsters who don’t care for the issues between the other races, they just want to conquer everything. Every race then has to work together in some way or at some time to be able to drive back the shared enemy and a great deal of forward movement in terms of diplomacy grows from the efforts.
Working together highlights that we all have similarities, rather than just highlighting the possible differences. We all have to face the same things really but it’s so very often easier to show that if there are differences, that means that they must be bad.
School yard bullies have always picked on the person who’s different. People clamour to ‘fit in’ for fear of the eye of judgement turning on them but we all know that we’re all going through the same things.
In the UK, during the whole Brexit debate, we’ve all been treated to the almost unending torrent of ‘they’re coming over here’ and ‘they aren’t like us’, yet deep down, we know that they, whoever they are, are actually very much like us. There may be different languages or religions but deep down, we all want to look after our family and make sure we have food and shelter. Outside those facts, that’s where the differences can be poked at and highlighted as somehow wrong.
We all have shared enemies of hunger and loss but we’re having the ‘real’ enemies painted as each other. To come together and work together will mean that we all prosper rather than there being the haves and the have nots. Maybe we all need to have a more overt shared enemy.
Alien invasion could unite the planet but, then, the aliens could just be looking for a place to raise a family too. It really is just easier to all get along.