Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Party is over - Germans to the front?

It’s about time to finish this little blog, its name has passed its time. I will surely start a new project and if you’re interested, just leave your email below or write to and I will notify you.
These lines should have been written much earlier but history doesn’t stop because of a World Cup in Germany. So I was (once again) distracted by the events in the Middle East and engaged in some activities against the emanations of German ideology on another front (for a glance, see here).
In fact, it is impossible to separate the symbolic articulations of the new German pride shown in the World Cup from the concrete politics perpetrated by Germany – for example concerning the actual war between Israel and the lebanese Hezbollah. You can see a first evidence on the right picture of an anti-Israel-rally in Berlin these days: on the black red and gold poster in the middle it says “show your flag – not only in football”. “Flagge zeigen” in German means something like “stand to your values”. So our anti-imperialist demonstrators hope for a stronger German imperialism – “not only in football” - as a vital support for their anti-Zionist and anti-American cause. But let’s get back to the World Cup first.

The nationalist delirium and its public resonance during the World Cup were not inspired by the far right in Germany. The feeling of regained national innocence dominated the liberal middle classes – and they and their media were the ones who mainly promoted and justified the “new” German nationalism. I will cite three examples here:

A holistic approach
Peter Reichel is professor for politology at the University of Hamburg. He is an expert in the research of the history of Nazi-Germany – especially in the aesthetic politics of the Nazi cultural industry in the service of fascist propaganda. Here is what Reichel wrote about the relaxed Germans and their national anthem:
“The Deutschlandlied is a German place of memory like few others. Even in its limitation to the first stanza [“Deutschland über alles” – in Nazi-Germany only this first stanza was sung] - which obscured the initial meaning – there is still something preserved of the utopia of freedom and unity of this romantic popular song.”
I have pointed out before that the Führer was the first one to protest against the misconception of “Deutschland über alles” as an imperialist phrase by foreign critics.
But Reichel is no Nazi. He just wants to say that Germans have to see national history in the “continuity of breaks and contradictions” and acknowledge that it is “in parts bloodstained, in others admirable […] and amazing” and that “we” have to “deal with it as a whole”.
Note the difference to the negative approach of right-wingers, based only on repression: The conservative government of the region of Hesse has forbidden to spread an antinationalist pamphlet of the teachers union at schools – one of the arguments of this pamphlet which angered the government was that you can't separate the first stanza of the national anthem from the third, the “democratic” stanza.
Reichel, on the contrary, has a kind of Yin and Yang vision of Germanys past and present – it’s all one, but that doesn’t make the actual Germany suspect but it requires to see the good sides also in its past and to stop “demonizing” freedom phrases like “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”.

The night of the living dead
If that did sound strange to you, than what do you think about the following sentences, written to describe German feelings during the world cup?:
“We know, in twelve years already hardly anyone will be able to tell how he felt as a participator of the war under other participators of the war, when the victory of the German national team in Bern [World Cup 1954] went over the European airwaves. […]
Our strongest feelings let us feel for a short period that we are the coming dead. That’s why it is […] especially touching to live them in a community of people who are feeling similar. Singing together, we enjoy ourselves as the coming dead.”

Again, this is no skull-and-bones-poetry but party-fun written by a German poet born in the fifties for the left-liberal newspaper “Frankfurter Rundschau”.

Our honor calls itself loyalty
That Germans think their nationalism is only a football-party doesn’t mean that they find it wouldn’t be a serious matter or subjected to such profane things as business:
“What I find beautiful at the Germany flags is the fact that they are not brand signs. I would find it a thousand times more disturbing and actually shameful, if the people in the football stadiums began to wave Nike or Adidas flags. Germany is not anything that one can buy. To be German is nothing that one selects for image reasons. Therefore I think, if I see the flag waving people that they have, at best, a spark of idealism glowing in them, something like loyalty, like devotion, like stability. All of these are virtues, capitalism hasn’t much to do with, but which however belong to a pleasing life.”

This quote from the “Tagesspiegel” leads to the “social” component that German nationalism has always had. A radical critique of Political Economy has never been very popular in Germany – at the same time Germans have always misunderstood their resentments against “selfishness” and "materialism" on a national and international level as a critique of capitalism (as if self-interest wouldn’t be the necessary basis of every true solidarity). An observer noted from his exile:
“National narrow-mindedness is everywhere repellent. In Germany it is positively odious, since, together with the illusion that the Germans are superior to nationality and to all real interests, it is held in the face of those nations which openly confess their national limitations and their dependence upon real interests.”

Israel and the “patriotism-trap”
German troops at the Israeli border – this would have been unthinkable some years ago. But looking only some more years back, no one would have believed that the German army could be allowed to bomb Serbia for a third time in the 20th Century. Yet, it could happen and while other nations had their own interests in this worst case coalition, Germany was fighting “the grimace of its own history” as the former German war minister Rudolf Scharping – a Social Democrat - put it, i.e. fighting its own Nazi past reincarnated in Milosevic and defending the values of the Anti-Hitler-Coalition against Belgrade. It is this capacity of pathic projection which differentiates Germany still from other nations. “A German is someone who cannot tell a lie without believing it himself.” (Adorno)

“The peace movement is silent to the attacks on Lebanon. Is the Israeli left caught in the patriotism trap?”
That was the headline of an article on the website of channel 1 of German TV. If German patriotism exhibits the feeling “that the Germans are superior to nationality and to all real interests” than it has its logic that German patriots see “patriotism traps” virtually everywhere except in Germany; especially if the members of the denounced nations defend real – that is for a German “selfish” – interests, for example the interest not to be killed by islamist eliminatory antisemites, which chains Israeli leftists to the war against Hezbollah lead by their government.
German ideologues like to see themselves as “honest middlemen” (“Ehrliche Makler”, another German term hard to translate) mediating without any “selfish” interests between two conflicting sides. But this honest neutrality always arises preferably when there is nothing to mediate - as between the wish to wipe Israel off the map and the Israeli attempts to let this not happen.

It may sound strange but the German fantasy is to protect Israel against itself and this is the basis for the ambivalence of the German claim to be part of a future “peace corps” in southern Lebanon. Conservatives generally fear the risks – that Germany and the European Union could lose their pro-arab and pro-islamist reputation if they were seen as a mere protection force for Israel. The ones who are most eager to break one of the last barriers to German “normality” by intervening in the Middle East are once again coming from the liberal specter: The weekly magazine “stern” published a title “Israel – what makes this country so aggressive”. One week later, Hans-Ulrich Joerges, a die-hard neoliberal and German nationalist pleads for German troops in the Middle East under the slogan “Our protection for Israel” and is dreaming about a German-European superpower.

Israel is not Yugoslavia – at least as long as the United States consider the Jewish state as an important ally. But if a so-called peace-corps lead by France and Germany would show reluctant to hamper Hezbollah from further attacks on Israel by force and Israel would strike back – then “protection” for Israel could quickly turn into open hostility against Israel.
And this could give a better reputation for final fantasies like the one of the former undersecretary of the German foreign office Helmut Schaefer, who said: (a legitimate) “pressure would be to do to Israel the same that is done to other states. [...] What was right for Serbia, must be good for other states. We can't divide human rights.” The threat couldn't be formulated more clearly.

As Horkheimer wrote somewhere: The realization of a state of affairs which can be deducted from a concept gives the idealist a sense of satisfaction while it suggests a feeling of indignation to the materialist, who wishes to be proved wrong by a reality which is not following its fate.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Watch this - again and again and again!!

But... Germany remains world champion - in hospitality and fair play (that's what I was told in the streets).

In the end, it's only about sports!

Germans stay completely relaxed and optimistic (but don't mention the ball!)

Italians sang "Wir sind nur ein Pizzalieferant" ("We are only a pizza-service") after Germans had boasted: "YOU are only a pizza-service" during the game.
The relaxed German answer: "Nie wieder Pizza! Nie wieder Spaghetti!" I guess you understand: At least four years of KRAUT-diet, that's the German future. This is gonna bring those Pasta-Mafiosi to their knees!

A bad day for Germany - and even our colleagues from Our Little Corner of the World didn't look very enthusiastic at the perspective of a significant reduction of the German flag-torture in the coming days.

But me and a bunch of friends had a real good time (reflecting about the temporary return of the Weltgeist to our ranks) and cheap drinking - in one of the bars where you get a drink in exchange for a Germany-flag collected on the streets. Funny sport!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Teacher Conspiracy - Relaxed Krauts Pt.2

As you'll have noted it's not easy to keep up with the speed of events surrounding the World Cup. But sometimes it has its advantages to lag behind a bit in time. Especially when something unforeseen happens in Germany, it is amazing to view the rash transition from hysteria to perfect normality, eliminating all traces of uncertainty.
The German education and sciences sector trade union, the GEW, dared to republish a pamphlet criticizing the content and history of the German national anthem, the Deutschlandlied, arguing that you can't separate the first stanza ("Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", not used on official events) from the third, the "democratic" stanza.
The reaction was relaxed as always in Germany: a unanimous campaign by media and state against this vile denigration of the national anthem through historical facts to spoil the enthusiasm for the World Cup! The minister of education of the region of Hesse even has forbidden to spread the paper in schools. Kids – hands off this antinational poison!
And it didn’t take long until the GEW understood its mistake and apologized deeply for this unforgivable mistake. There are other fields for German trade-unionists to prove bravery: standing up against american capitalists, or learning from history by organizing boycotts against Israeli academics, like the colleagues in Britain and Canada do.
But back to the Deutschlandlied: it is a democratic and even a revolutionary song, we can read in every German newspaper these days. So it’s a pity that the whole masterpiece is cited so seldom. It’s revolutionary not only for its third stanza ("Unity and law and freedom for the German Fatherland") – its other two stanzas are the expression of a romantic revolution, as even American bloggers admit. Or did you ever hear more poetic rhymes than “German women, German loyalty, German wine and German song, to inspire us to noble deeds, our whole life long”?
And speaking about “Über alles”, I have learned something: “The Allies also pumped up the distorted meaning of Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt as part of their propaganda, which is why so many people in the U.S. think it means what they think it means.” The Allies were nearly as undifferentiated as the GEW, but in reality, “über alles, über alles in der Welt is not meant as a literal 'over all,' as in Germany 'ruling over all in the world,' but more of a 'before all others.'”
Got the difference? No? “We Germans” are rather introverted romanticists – and have to make that clear to the rest of the world from time to time. Here’s a quote from a man who got rather frustrated about the global misunderstandings about German feelings but tried his best to correct them:
The Deutschlandlied “is a great song of the longing. Many from other peoples do not understand it. They want to see in that song just something imperialistic - which is furthest distant from their own imperialism nevertheless. Because what can be a more beautiful hymn for a people than the one which is a confession, to look for its salvation and its luck in its people and to place its people over everything, which is on this earth.”
The name of this romanticist is Adolf Hitler.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Relaxed Krauts

Do you know this guy? Perhaps not, if you're not residing in Germany. It is Matthias Matussek, the chief of the culture department of the German news magazine "Der Spiegel". He has not only a fancy taste for fashionable colour combinations, he has also something to say. Matussek has written a book about Germany and is now a renowned Germany-expert and a perfect example of a relaxed German nationalist.
I haven't had the time to read the book, but I can cite a newspaper review: Matussek writes "marvelous sentences in his book, for example 'Schiller speaks of the German culture nation' or 'Mozart's music is beautifully and often completely simple', or 'in a mysterious way Poschardt lives his house, that is noble and factual and quiet' or 'Sartorius remains nervous in my proximity'."
Sounds weird? If you want to have it a bit simpler: asked to give a spontaneous and short definition of what he likes most about Germany, Matussek answered: "roast pork".
According to the press, this book is in part another pamphlet against the "narrow-minded antinationalists" of the generation of '68. One of these people apparently sat in front of Matussek some days ago in a TV debate about German patriotism. When this stubborn left-winger proclaimed that he couldn't stand the narrow-minded nationalism of Matussek, it was time to teach him a lesson: According to the daily newspaper "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" Matussek not only complained verbally about this infamy, but grabbed the arm of his opponent after the show and shouted: "You diehard lefty! I'll bring you down!"
Facing "anti-German provocations", there was no alternative for Matussek.
It's hard for German Patriots, they are facing an indissoluble contradiction: On the one hand fighting against Political Correctness which is beating up the national conscience by reminding "us" constantly of the "freak-accident" (Matussek) Hitler and against cosmpolitan intellectuals ridiculizing Germany and Germans.
On the other hand and at second view, it's the other way round: No one dares to laugh, when Germans expose the German forest, the allotment, the garden gnome and roast pork as their authentic contribution to the history of humanity. The quote "But, what difference is there between the history of our freedom and the history of the boar’s freedom if it can be found only in the forests?" is very old, as I pointed out already before.
And in fact, now, when the old-school Nazis nearly have died-out after happilly consuming their pensions, it becomes more and more clear that the German Nazi past can also be a treasure: Remember the flaming speeches of Joschka Fischer and others for war against the "new Auschwitz" in Kosovo and against the "Serbian Nazis" or another only apparently contradictive history lesson: the mass protests from below and from above against the "Nazi-style american warmongers" when it comes to sanctions against dictators who are really threatening to wipe the Jewish population of the middle east "off the map". Even conservatives in Germany acknowledge the good job that the despised "antinationalists" of the former red-green coalition have done for German expansion in the world.
So after reconciling with Germany, Matussek should perhaps also think about reconciling with his past as a Maoist militant. Concerning a relaxed attitude to Germany, his party was a model already in the seventies, when the Communist Party of Germany/Marxist-Leninist wrote a declaration claiming "Germany to the German people" and asserting that "we draw strength from the psychological kind of nature of the German people, we draw strength from its work diligence and its sense of order, from its scientific and artistic genius that our people has proven so often and that justified the fame of the German nation."
Sounds like a red-hot smack in the face of unrelaxed Germany-bashers, doesn't it?
By the way: The diehard left-wing national nihilist who offended Matussek was Roland Tichy, deputy chief editor of the "Handelsblatt", a leading German business paper.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Encounters in Frankfurt

I passed the last two days in Frankfurt; Neo-Nazis had announced to hold a rally in solidarity with the Iranian regime and president Ahmadinejad ("President Ahmadinejad as a guest among friends") on the 17th of June, the day when the Iranian Football team played against Portugal in that city.
Although the Nazi-rally was forbidden by the local authorities, the organizers of two counter-demonstrations decided not to skip their meetings. On Friday there was a small but loud demonstration of antifascist groups under the slogan "Against Anti-semitism and Anti-Zionism. Stop the German Counter-revolution!" (for an extract of the text, scroll down for the English version) The most moderate reaction from ordinary Germans was ignorance ("Hey, Israel isn't participating in the World Cup"), most often we heard standard phrases like "Damn Reds. Go to work!" Not to forget a handful of German Nazis running around with palestinian scarves.
Interest or even sympathy came only from foreigners: journalists, tourists who wanted to discuss a more "constructive" approach of Israel-solidarity, claiming that we're too harsh with Germany; last but not least exiled Iranians: only once we encountered shouting supporters of Ahmadinejad. The reaction of the overall majority were smiles and support - against Ahmadinejad, thumbs up for Israel! Students from Iran have written two (a bit naive) open letters to the Nazi-Party NPD and the Iranian ambassador in Germany, protesting against the claim that Iranians and Nazis should be natural allies.
On the day of the match, there was another rally of the liberal politcal spectrum, different persons of the Jewish community were speaking - among them Arno Lustiger, survivor of the Holocaust and historian of the jewish anti-Nazi resistance movements in the 30ties and WWII - and members of the Iranian opposition in exile. The majority of the speakers claimed that the government and the civil society of Germany are on a good way but should be more "consequent" in their protest against Holocaust denial and death threats against Israel from Teheran. A more realistic picture was only drawn by Iranian communists who pointed out in their leaflets the tiny detail that Germany is officialy cooperating with Iran in the creation of a friendly atmosphere for the Iranian islamists and the repression against Iranians in opposition to the regime: "When the Iranians fear a threat, they will tell us their reasons. Then our evaluation will flow back to Teheran" - as Germany's Deputy Minister of the Interior August Hanning put it.
Finally we had dinner at the Adorno-Square in the university quarter. My friends from Hamburg kind of forced me to watch the football game of the Czech republic against the team from Ghana. I must admit that Ghana played fantastically and although it would be ridiculous to give up my anti-football-reservations for superficial political reasons, we all were stunned and delighted by a totally unprecedented event at the end of the game:

PS: It was too nice to be true - after Fury in Egypt over Ghana's Israeli flag waver, after some papers described Paintsil as a "Mossad agent", Ghana's Football Association apologized for Paintsils behaviour on Monday.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Our Little Corner of the World

These pictures are taken in the "Schanzenviertel", a multicultural, alternative, left-wing quarter in Hamburg. On the billboard you see a comment of the "Rote Flora" - the alternative community center - to the World Cup ("You are germany. As a guest among 'friends' 2006"). It depicts a celebrating German in the tricot of the German Football League. The foto was taken 1992 in the eastern-German town of Rostock-Lichtenhagen, were Germans had their own reunification fiesta – celebrating a three day pogrom against refugees and Vietnamese immigrants. The "Rote Flora" made a good point with that poster, but, as you can see, the antinational liberated area ends about 15 meters from the building.
You can argue that it would be suicide to take off all the national flags hanging around in this city quarter and I could agree or, the other way round, you could take it as a proof that nationalists of different flavours can co-exist completely relaxed (about that later) in this place… only that all this reminds me of scenes from only two years ago which were a bit different.
On the 31st of January of 2004, Neo-Nazis had a demonstration in Hamburg against an exposition about the crimes of the "Wehrmacht", the German army of WWII. Of course there was also an anti-fascist counter-demonstration – and a group of demonstrators wearing flags of Israel and of the allied Anti-Hitler-Coalition was immediately kicked-out violently under the pretext that the organizing coordination committee hadn’t allowed any national flags on the rally. Intifada outfit didn’t come under that ban.
This event sparked a big discussion about anti-fascism, anti-nationalism and anti-Semitism in the left-wing scene of Hamburg. But despite (or because) of all the pluralism showed in this debate, in the end it became clear, that the majority (for statements of the minority see here and here) of the participants wouldn’t back demonstrators who were "provoking" violence by organized "Anti-Imperialists" beating up people who thought that Israeli and Allied flags would fit in an anti-fascist demonstration.
It's not always that relaxed in Our little Corner of the World.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden"

... is the official slogan of the World Cup in Germany. In English, this would be something like "the world as a guest among friends" - the official English version of the FIFA slogan sounds a bit more modest: "A Time to make Friends".
Many people considered "un-german" would perhaps prefer to be treated with ignorance instead of the "warm welcome" experienced by persons who do not fit in the scheme of the "normal" German.
When Ermyas M. - a German citizen of Ethiopian descent was beaten half dead and fell into a coma in the eastern-german city of Potsdam in the end of april, the public reaction was stronger than normally. This was the wrong signal shortly before the World Cup! What would the international opinion say?
The aftermath of brutal racist and antisemitic attacks in Germany - if they get public attention at all - has been similar in the recent years: first there is an "outcry of public opinion", suspects are arrested, local politicians fear for the image of their town. Then, suddenly, "new evidence" is found (or simply rumours are spread) to "prove" that the victim may not be a victim, at least not a victim of a racist attack, because "blonde, blue-eyed people are also the victims of violence, sometimes committed by attackers who may not be German citizens" as Wolfgang Schaeuble, the minister of the interior in the German government, put it.
In the case of Ermyas M. the police initially presented mailbox grabbings whith racist insults from the night of the attack; at the moment Ermyas M. - who can't remember anything because of his head injuries - is presented as an aggressive drunkard who got beaten down by two other drunken guys after he tried to hit them.
Now worse dangers to the German state of affairs have been detected: Last week the Africa Council, an umbrella organization of African migrants in Germany published an advice for foreign visitors how to prevent racist attacks. After harsh critiques against their supposed intentions to create "scare stories" which would demolish the German reputation in other countries, the Council has refrained from publishing a map with "no-go-areas" in Germany, dangerous for people with dark skin.
After being attacked for his alleged anti-german intentions, Moctar Kamara, chairman of the Africa Council replied that this no-go-area-map has been already existing for a long time: "it's author is the Verfassungsschutz" [a German secret service of the interior].

Thursday, June 08, 2006

German patriotism is harmful to your health

Germans, dump your Goleos, Germany-flags, -T-Shirts and -bedclothes !

This one time, the Hegelian "Weltgeist" might be on the right side:

"The 2006 FIFA World Cup Mascot Could Cause Cancer

Goleo VI was proven to contain harmful substances
By: Ovidiu Panzariu, Sports Editor

Goleo VI is giving a lot of headaches to the German organizers of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. After its poor selling performances in the past few months – which was the main cause of the financial disaster of Nici – the world cup mascot seems to create more trouble… this time, to ecologists from around the world.

According to the German ones – Oekotest Ecologic Organization – the mascot contains dangerous substances that could harm the buyers. The small lion contains a chemical compound that is considered to be very harmful to the human body. “This is a very dangerous substance, that affects the defense system of the human body and reduces the fertility”, stated the Oekotest representatives.

More, another ecological organization – still German – has made the same observation to the World Cup organizers. “Bund” has stated that the mascot should be retained in the future and that the German football officials should do anything in their power to stop it from being sold.

Oekotest also discovered another product – this time manufactured by “Van Dillen Asiatext” – that has the Goleo VI image on it, and that is harmful for the human body in terms of … cancer danger.

These ecological issues arose only a few weeks after the main manufacturer of the mascot was forced into filing for bankruptcy, due to poor incomings from sold products. But something more was added to the financial disaster that drove his firm out of business, as the owner of Nici is now being investigated of falsifying the annual balance, recording losses of more than 80 billion dollars."