Support us

The case of Mesut Özil as part of an Established-Outsiders Figuration

Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1, Page 3

Germany’s withdrawal at the World Cup followed a debate over the “guilt”. Which of the players and coaches was responsible for the fact that the team had not done better. First of all: Anyone who uses such a term as “Mannschaft” as long as he is successful, but then beginning to distance himself from each other in a setback, is not authentic. He exposes himself as superficial.
What is particularly notable in this case is the fact that the debate is focused on one player. Mesut Özil is being blamed. Anyone who has seen the games, has noticed that other players like Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich have also shown a poor performance. But these players are not being attacked, just as these players are now silent when their teammate Özil is attacked. To justify the attacks on Özil a photo is used, which shows him together with the Turkish President. This photo was taken before the nomination for the tournament. Officials of the association had stated that this image was no reason not to nominate Özil. Now after the tournament, the same officials attack him. An unbearable witch hunt has begun.

Özil, who was born in Gelsenkirchen, was in their eyes “not a real German“. What the sporting value of a “real German” should be, is not explained. In France, no real German played and still, the team became world champion. And in 2014, the same Özil became Germany’s world champion. He was cheered. In essence, it’s not about whether a young man is a “real German”. It’s about whether he brings success. If he brings it, he is German. If he does not bring him, then he is being attacked. One person should not feel connected to another country. “Germany Germany above everything, About Everything in the World “- with this line of text, the German army moved into two world wars. A man who likes another nation is considered unpatriotic. That the internationals Podolski and Klose attended special events at the European Championships in their native country Poland, was tolerated. That Özil took a photo opportunity with the president of the home country of his parents, is considered a sacrilege. Again said: Özil has by no means called his support for his policy, he met him only again for a photo.
But he has exceeded the limits of what he as “German-Turk” allowed. Someone who, like Özil, grew up on the football fields of the Ruhr area knows that he did not start on equal terms with his classmates who had German names. No individual grows up without an identity being anchored to his group. For Özil, who had neither in the education system nor the labour market the same opportunities as them, football was a way out. Here he was able to show what he could, where he could develop his individual qualities, where it did not matter whether he was named Özil, Maier or Burdenski. It seemed all too good – becoming a professional football player in the age of 18, an international when being 19. For a moment, it seemed as if he had escaped the prejudice of his childhood. As long as Germany was successful at international tournaments, the players were untouchable. When the right-wing politician Gauland started an attack on the dark-skinned footballer Boateng in 2016 he had no success. Again here: A player of the German national team, born in Berlin, son of a German mother. But dark skin. And Gauland said he did not want to live next to the man. He should have refrained from doing so. Boateng played a strong season, was elected the best German footballer in the end. But what if Boateng would have scored a decisive own goal? Would we have had this debate already in 2016?
The mechanisms of discrimination have been described by Norbert Elias. In 1965 he published first his studies on established and outsiders. An individual is picked out, together they take action against him. “Common to all these cases is that the more powerful group sees themselves as the ‘better’ people,” Elias wrote. Attention is drawn to the secondary aspects of figuration and subtracting it from the main aspects. The decisive factor is that power is passed on to the discriminating group.
If the German Foreign Minister declares that “the case of a millionaire living in London” would not be “the fate of millions of Germans of Turkish origin“, it is precisely this kind of group dynamic. Özil is debarred, isolated, seemingly factually done. The signal to millions of Germans whose ancestors came from Turkey is: No matter how much you reach, we Majority Germans will get you pulled down. We work in the group to put you in your place. If you are a multimillionaire, you have to be thankful. Nothing you have achieved goes back to your personal qualities.
People who did their utmost to advance to the standards of decency and respectability experience that if they do not reach the needs of everyone else by reaching these standards, they will be singled out and attacked. From the side of the attackers, even people who are generally considered to be sociable and diplomatic in their role as individuals are unfriendly, hateful and inexorable.
Such an exchange always has two sides. A page that talks badly about people and other people being talked about. People can mute the people they talk about by giving them a polluting group name. “German-Turk” is such a word. Whoever is so called cannot fight back. Slander involving such an inferiority symbol mobilizes an apparatus of the ruling, socially dominant group. What emerges as criticism of a thing soaks the debate with collective national pride that excludes certain people.

Adrian Jitschin

For further reading: Norbert Elias, John L. Scotson: The Established and the Outsiders.