Checking on Germany
September 21, 2004 12:49 AM   Subscribe

Interesting article on The Loneliness of Being German: "Germans have turned their back on the arrogance of nationalism.. But if nationhood is obsolete then so is identity. It would mean that there is no such thing as being German and that they possess no individuality." Meanwhile, far right wing party growing support in German elections: "It's a great day for Germans who still want to be Germans" -- Holger Apfel, NPD leader in Saxony. Germany's government has described the NPD as a latter-day version of Hitler's Nazi party.
posted by stbalbach (12 comments total)
Guess I have no identity either, because I'm embarrassed to be an American so long as George W. Bush is President. I find flying the stars and stripes offensive now that it is a symbol of oppression and tyranny to the rest of the world. Will it ever stand for freedom and justice again?
posted by banished at 6:07 AM on September 21, 2004

Being German, I consider the first article as mostly incisive. I remember reading Irisches Tagebuch a few years ago and I support the author's thesis that it was not a book about Ireland at all, but a book about all the things that were missing in Germany.

However, the success of the NPD is a completely different subject. The welfare cuts (Hartz 4) triggered a lot of uncertainty and protest in the east, since a lot of people were used to the thought that the government takes care of all their needs. The relationship between "east" and "west" has become very tense, since politicians begin to admit that the reunification is far more expensive than expected and there won't be equivalent living conditions in the near future.

The fact that the NPD (in Saxony) and the DVU (in Brandenburg) got into parliament is seen as an act of revenge against the public parties CDU and SPD who lost most of the votes. It is however not the first time they got into parliament, the NPD was voted into seven Landtage. The results of the DVU are listed here.

The reason why the german media is not too upset about the results is that both parties, the NPD and the DVU never stayed in parliament for more than a single legislative period. After a short time, people realized how incapable those bald idiots have been and did not vote them again. Additionaly, the major parties do not cooperate with them so they hardly have the opportunity to make any changes.

Nevertheless growing hostility towards foreigners is a problem (mostly) in rural regions in the east, where the unemployment rate is about 25%, so the government has to take action.

The minister of the interior tried to ban the NPD in 2002/2003, but the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany refused the interdiction because the party was infiltrated by agents of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz. It turned out that the top-level of the party mostly consisted of agents.

The NPD is a compound of bully boys, often represented by succesful self-employed people from rural areas. The DVU is organized differently. It is masterminded by a wealthy publisher called Gerhard Frey. He made (and makes) a lot of his money by selling stuff related to Nazism. Frey is the only one who makes any decisions in the DVU, nonetheless he tries to avoid the public. I consider him and his party more dangerous than the NPD.

To sum up, I consider the success of those extreme right wing parties (not to forget the success of the left-wing party PDS in Brandenburg) as a result of the problems between the government and the people who are suffering from unemployment and who are afraid of the the welfare cuts yet to come. The government missed the opportunity to make those people believe that the reforms are implacable. The politicians of the public parties have lost a lot of credibility and have become the scapegoats in a time where unpleasant reforms are necessary. France had a similar situation a few months ago.
posted by tcp at 6:16 AM on September 21, 2004

The problem is not loneliness at all — it's humorlessness. Laughter is infectious and I think it triggers certain antibodies in the German body politic.
posted by subpixel at 7:30 AM on September 21, 2004

subpixel, are you referring to that article or to the elections? The word "problem" does not encounter in the Guardian article which deals about a german peculiarity. Furthermore I don't think the "problems" which lead to the election results are a matter of political style.
posted by tcp at 7:57 AM on September 21, 2004

I have heard this sentiment expressed about the lack of a German "identity" since I moved here a few months ago. As an outside observer, I find it a bit strange, because it seems to me that there is German identity all over the place, it's just that the people who grew up here don't see it. Sure, you don't find people slapping the black, red, and yellow on every car bumper, t-shirt, and baseball cap they can get their hands on, but a lack of nationalism is not the same thing as a lack of identity. You certainly aren't going to confuse the country or the people for anyplace else.

I've noticed that if you ask a young local in the U.S. what they think of their home town, and they will often tell you that "it sucks" or that there "is nothing to do here." It often doesn't matter what the facts are; since they are local and since everything is familiar to them there is no novelty and therefore it isn't any good. This article, and the people that I have talked to who have bemoaned the lack of a German identity, remind me of those kids. The identity is there, they just don't see it.

Identity is not defined by nationhood. People had identities and cultures well before there was ever any such thing as a nation-state.
posted by moonbiter at 8:04 AM on September 21, 2004

Nationalism is among the worst of all human diseases of the spirit, among them racism, sexism, religious intolerance and homophobia. What makes it most dangerous is that it is the most acceptable.

The Germans don't need an 'identity'. Neither does any citizen of any other country. Identify with yourself. Each one of us is different and is influenced by many things. Our differences should bring us together, not set us apart.
posted by PigAlien at 9:14 AM on September 21, 2004

Nationalism is among the worst of all human diseases of the spirit

The Germans should try social nationalism.
posted by kindall at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2004

The Germans should try social nationalism.
They did. Guess what the "s" in "nsdap" stood for.
posted by tcp at 12:11 PM on September 21, 2004

tcp, thanks for your perspective.
It turned out that the top-level of the party mostly consisted of agents.
whoever said Germans don't have a sense of humour heh.
posted by stbalbach at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2004

Thank you for the post, especially the Guardian article is very interesting.
posted by tcp at 1:00 PM on September 21, 2004

Yeah, see, that's what we call a joke. I suggested they try social nationalism, since they'd already tried national socialism.
posted by kindall at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2004

Aww I see. My bad. My english skills haven't been good enough for that one.
posted by tcp at 4:02 PM on September 21, 2004

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