German Kanzlerin Angela Merkel created a lot of hoopla Sunday last when she said at a party meeting that “attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany have utterly failed” (BBC) abd went on to add that “those who want to take part in German society must not only obey German laws but also master German language” (Deutche Welle).
Die Kanzlerin (source)
This goes to the very heart of what can, for the lack of a better expression, be described as “post-war values” (keep your shirt on, we’ll get there). That nationalism is on the rise is, of course, hardly news. That public’s disillusionment with mainstream politics is invariably giving rise to extremists of all sorts is plainly visible (the latest examples being Austria, Sweden and The Netherlands). Wherever this starts happening, mainstream parties almost without exception start mimicking those hard-liners who are “stealing their electorate”, using their rhetoric, imitating their rituals and trying to re-establish themselves as points of reference for their wayward voters.
Same old story
This is not new. We’ve seen it time and again and the political menstrual cycle (where parties promise to bleed to the last drop of voters’ blood) is replete with such attempts all over the world, democratic or not. What is new is the fact that this phenomenon has transcended the normal constraints of a political arena and has taken on wider sociological and cultural connotations.
What we are seeing today is parties trying to stay in power not by adjusting their political platforms, but by adjusting their values to accommodate voters which have defected to the extreme poles of either left or right. As a result relatively small groups of fringe voters are increasingly starting to dictate the debate on scores of issues at the expense of those voters who are (from parties’ points of view) “already in the bag”.
Thus we have a triple fuck-up: moderates are disillusioned and increasingly refuse to take part in the democratic processes, thus leaving room for hard-liners. Their importance is amplified even more by mainstream factors – not just political parties, but also opinion leaders, media, and so on – trying to regain legitimacy with hard-liners by “talking the talk and walking the walk”. But what almost invariably happens is that the above mainstream factors loose out on both ends, since moderates will not see them as representing their morals and/or ethics, whereas hard-liners will only see it as proof that they’ve been right all along and will stick with their original leaders.
So, what Angie M. said the other day is not just your ordinary “hey-I’m-one-of-you” act. It represents a marked shift of proclaimed values vis-a-vis the outer world. The fact that the fields in which this change of values has taken place are 19th century classics (language and ethnicity) makes it all the more worrying. I don’t want to go into a rant on how 19th century romantic notions of national supremacy paved the way for Europe to be raped twice over, but alarm bells are ringing. Especially since this is Germany we’re talking about. No offence, but both World Wars had a lot to do with Germany trying to forcefully “take its rightful place on the world stage”.
What is even more worrying is that Merkel did not say this at a congregation of some Lederhosen-clad old farts munching over an inhumane amount of beer, but to a congress of young party activists (Junge Union) who are always plenty eager to prove themselves in the eyes of the leadership, usually by ways of defending party positions with extreme prejudice and over-zealously executing party politics. I for one would hate to see Junge Union becoming Jugend Union, if you catch my meaning.
An added bonus, so to speak, is the timing of Merkel’s statements. Only weeks after Thilo Sarrazin, member of the board of the Bundesbank published a book where, among other things, claimed that “all Jews share the same gene” and that “Muslim immigrants across Europe were not willing or capable of integrating into western societies.” (HufPo). Sarrazin was forced to resign from his post (and is laughing all the way to the bank as his book became a bestseller) and condemned by top German officials, including Merkel. And yet, she found occasion to say basically the same thing only six weeks later.
So, what of Multi-kulti?
Pengovsky is out of his comfort zone here, as I have never lived in Germany, but I imagine patterns are the same all over this part of the world. The usual game-play is that other cultures are fine as long as they don’t bother the established order. Doubly so if the term “other culture” comes to imply “other religion” as is mostly the case in predominantly Christian- or even Catholic-conditioned Europe. Whenever the concentration of people with “other culture” reaches critical mass, the majority starts having “problems”. These problems are of course nothing but a veiled form of sense of superiority, chauvinism and even racism. Since European nations practically butchered themselves to death in the 20th century and somehow realised that they do indeed all bleed red, a new enemy was found. Or rather, an old one was rediscovered. Islam. With Turks comprising most of Germany’s four million immigrants (5% of total population), it really isn’t such a long walk, no?
But what Merkel describes as death of multiculturalism, is in fact its victory. Members of other cultures have (in this case in Germany) grown so strong, that they became impossible to ignore. Sure, until now these cultures existed parallel to one another and never really integrated, but – if you don’t mind my saying so – this is as much the immigrants’ fault as it is of the German state.
Merkel said that the bulk of these people came to Germany in 60s and 70s and then never left, contrary to Germans’ expectations. Duh? Seriously? You expected that? A woman from East Germany who (let’s be nice and fuzzy here) had to endure Communist propaganda and hardship in order to earn a living and was – due to her belief in a better life and freedom of man – heavily involved in democratic movement in a country with one of the most ruthless regimes of the entire Eastern Bloc is now feigning ignorance as to why immigrant workers came to Germany? C’mon!
Immigrants came in search of a better life (or at least in search of a better pay). Apparently they got it. Or at least got something close enough. And they brought their culture with them. I won’t go into all that All Different All Equal crap, but fact of the matter is that immigrants’ culture now is a part of Germany. It is a part of their cultural production, it is a part of their economy, of their sports, of their politics even.
The perils of a short-lived victory
Multiculturalism succeeded as it put Germany where it is today. A country and a society which can stand on its own two feet and throw its weight around a bit. It’s just that other cultures didn’t go sit quietly in a corner somewhere and remained respectful, but are questioning the world around them as they bloody well should. With this an until then commonly-accepted set of taboos is coming down and is making some people nervous.
But as reactionary forces do what they’re best at – react – there is a clear and present danger of a real defeat of multiculturalism. And with that of Europe as we know is. As this German debate is implicitly aimed against Islam, it may take on the form of a wider lash-out against Muslims in Germany and across Europe. But the continent (and Germany in particular) has a sad history of starting with a specific religion and then pointing their finger on a map of Europe and saying “I sink ve should go zhere.”
Fearmongering the Slovenian way
What’s the connection between the economic engine of Europe and a sorry excuse for a nation of two million, you ask? Why, the youth organisation of Nova Slovenija (NSi), of course. The youngsters from this ChristDem party were proud to take part in the gathering of their German brethren in Potsdam and upon returning to home soil issued a scorching press release saying that what Merkel said for Germany goes for Slovenia as well. Only more so.
Because if Germany has problems with cultural co-existence, in Slovenia the nation and the country are at peril if immigrants will continue to refuse to integrate fully. This kind of multiculturation (not my word!) must be stopped immediately, sayeth the NSi.
Obviously, this kind of death-to-all-things-not-Slovenian writing is aimed primarily against immigrants from former Yugoslav republics. That they are mostly of Muslim faith is probably not a coincidence. Ditto for the fact that NSi is a Christian Democratic party. Fearmongering, you see. They refuse to speak Slovene. They will take our jobs. They will take our women. “They” being loosely identified as Muslims. Yesterday it was the Croats. Tomorrow it’ll be the Chinese. Or maybe just Slovenian socialists. There’s always someone you can blame for your own incompetence and inability to provide solutions for mounting problems.
Not all is lost
But there are a few rather humorous points in all of this, which show these fearmongers (at home and across the border) for what they really are: small-testicled windbags.
As a rule, defenders of all things Slovenian have a problem with Slovene grammar and syntax. NSi’s press release is no different. Words that don’t exist (multiculturation), wrong punctuation, incorrect syntax and extremely poor style all point to the fact that these people would probably bankrupt a even gold-mine let alone come to power by means of sparking mass hysteria and bigotry. At least they got the dual form right this time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other, more capable people waiting in the wings.
Oh, and Thilo Sarrazin’s surname is probably derived from the word “Saracen“, which was a common descriptor of Muslims during the Crusades. A late Austrian psychiatrist would probably go: “I sink hez got issuez…”
P.S.: Some people are probably truly offended by now, if they even managed to read the whole text. To you I apologise. I tend to exaggerate to make a point. I also do not think all Germans are either xenophobic, racist or anti-Muslim. In fact, I think most are definitely not. But those who are, are becoming more and more mainstream. So for fuck’s sake, get off your sane German asses and really reclaim the space invaded by extremist loonies. And yes, this goes for Slovenia as well.