I was trying to cheer up a Greek friend, who was lamenting that his country is now being dictated to by those serial over-achievers, the Germans. Frau Merkel is tut-tutting about Greece's numbers; GDP, debt, tax revenue, etc. and telling them how to put their house in order. And I couldn't help reminding him that despite everything else, the German people have one flaw: they can't dance.
Don't get me wrong. I lived in Germany for several years and loved it. I have so many good things to say about the country and people that it's embarassing. But there is no way of getting around this. Germans can't dance.
This may not seem very important if your country is facing bankruptcy. Worse still, just after I made my comment, Germany defeated Greece 4-2 in the European Football Championship. "They sure can score goals," replied my friend. But still, I think I'm onto something.
You see, the Germans are good at anything you can do by numbers. Sports, like wars and economics, require strategy and tactics, evaluations and analyses. The German "mittelstand," is a supreme example of good management, in which processes and systems have been perfected to create an economic "miracle" that leaves the rest of us watching in amazement. Football, like industry and government, is a team sport in which individuals can be sacrificed for the good of the team.
Dance is like entrepreneurship - it's hard work and you have to figure it out for yourself. It's a constant experiment to find the way forward, an adventure, just like real life. And you can't dance by numbers, dancing comes from passion and the ability to improvise, a willingness to take risks and maybe shock people. If you can't dance, you will always be a cog in a machine, measured and managed by people who want to improve your performance.
Where in Germany (or anywhere in Europe's political leadership today) is the creative genius, the innovative leap that propels new ventures to greatness? With the possible exception of 99 Red Balloons, Germany has not made a single meaningful contribution to global popular culture in my lifetime. Where is the inspiration? Where is the unrestrained creativity, the willingness to disrupt and challenge the status quo?
The world needs dancers as much as it needs people who do things by numbers. The Greeks have never done things by numbers, so maybe it's time for them to do what they're good at instead?
Let the passion out, malaccas. Let the world see what you can do. You're not good at big industrial-style management, so why not dance to your own drum?