© Mankyboddle

Warthe 23.8.98

Dear C.

I've been holidaying profusely, on and off for the last couple of months in order to
catch as much as possible of the summer which this year is even shorter than
the usual(sic!) german summers. 

I'm in one of the most remote  regions that Germany still has to offer and I
hope it remains so. The Landscape is gorgeous and less tamed than the rest of
Germany. Here some aspects sometimes remind me of Australia, because farming
is not so neat and doesn't use up every square inch of nature. In fact a lot
of areas aren't farmed or wooded at all which gives them that slight savannah
type of appearance. There is a perfect mix of forest, meadows, fields, moors
and most of all... the lakes. This countryside is riddled with the most
beautiful and often very clear freshwater lakes. It is the countryside that
my subconscious has always longed to be in.

But to my horror this tranquil semi-wilderness is populated with the most
hideous folk that this state counts among its citizens. We are around a 100km
north of Berlin, if you care to look on the map, in a village called Warthe
near the towns of Templin and Lychen (which bears a foreboding resemblance to
the word "lynchen" [to lynch] and "Leichen"[corpses]). Not far from here near
Fürstenberg is the former concentration camp and now memorial site of
Ravensbrück. During the last days of the war Warthe itself was defended by
the SS "to the last man". Not one building remained intact and the overall
feeling I have here is as if being faced by a beautiful body animated by a
damned soul.

This is born out by the appearance and attitude of the natives in these
parts. Sullen, unapproachable, susceptible to a hostile form of deafness,
with an almost paramilitary likeness in attire and body language. A shaven
fat-head wearing a sweater with Ku Klux Klan spelled on it in large Gothic type, 
I suppose in order to give a somewhat subliminal twist to the message which is 
hit home though by a pit bull he is holding on a leash. No outrage here, where the far
right enters into a federal election campaign with slogans like: "Give Work
to Germans first"; or: "Criminal foreigners out" etc. - slogans which translate 
under the counter to "Germany to the Germans", "Foreigners Out",etc. - and it is very 
easy to imagine the blind public eye when
a whole section of the community was led to extermination. All the while themselves claiming the status of a victim. It is in the victim-mode that atrocities can best be committed since it gives the perpetrators the illusion of committing something resembling revenge. At a "snack-bar"(I wouldn't dare walk in to find out what else the place might be) opposite the railway station arriving visitors are screened by a pack of dangerous looking skinheads equally waiting for the tiniest excuse to commit an atrocity of the kind which have been committed all over eastern Germany with increasing violence and frequency ever since the wall came down. Africans getting stabbed and thrown out of trams. Classes on school camp getting attacked and injured. Italian migrant builders getting clubbed to death. English migrant workers getting their car pushed off the road by a car occupied by neo-nazis etc. It's the children and grand-children of the people you saw crying in that documentary who commit these atrocities. They are blunt, callous and most of all hostile to everything perceived as foreign which doesn't imply they are frequently confronted with foreigners or migrants (a term not accepted into daily german usage). Far from it. In these parts there are no more than 2% migrants/foreigners of the total population. 16year old skinheads will claim to hate Jews even though they never saw a single jewish person in their lives. School kids in Templin appear on german television repeatedly stating they believe in the ideals of Adolf Hitler, picking up in a nostalgic fashion on german folk traditions as was done by the nazis during the third reich... All this is arduously explained, excused, justified (take your pick) with unemployment, post communist collapse confusion (CCC, I wouldn't be surprised if medicare payed for a treatment as opposed to RSI), lack of traineeships, and what have you. While there is some indirect truth to those arguments, one has to ask the parents of these children what environment they created that would turn their children into racists simply out of boredom i.e. unempolyment. Of course it has much more to do with an uninterrupted tradition of authoritarian structures that East Germans were exposed to until almost ten years ago. There is a strong wish in germany to be rid of the reverberations of the past, but the german problem is not one simply of generation, as most would like to believe who hope for a "return to normal" at the latest when the last eyewitness of the nazi era has died; it is much more a problem of language which perpetuates attitudes much more insidiously than mere opinions do. And within language it is the sound more than the words which convey feeling, compassion, courtesy etc. Germans manage to say "please" and mean "this is an order" far too often. As a german saying goes: "Der Ton macht die Musik" , the tone makes the music. But the tone of the german language is still hard, bureaucratic, pedantic, pedagogic and "rechthaberisch" (always right). Especially in the prussian heartlands. And the most successful german music export of the last decade has been "techno" which, with its rigid beat, aims to aid its fans to reach trance with something more akin to marching music than dance music. A particular species unique to the german landscape is also the type I call "Schlüsselgewaltsperson" which in English means something like "person with key authority" no matter if this authority is real or imagined, the key metaphorical or real. Often enough those "persons with key authority" will first make sure you realise that it is only by their grace, of which they display little, that you may proceed on your way of whatever problem you are trying to solve by way of them activating their "key". In this fashion problems are more often created rather than solved. It's a form of entertainment for the one, a matter of identity for the other because: how could "civilisation" survive if problems were solved easily perhaps even with the mutual joy of making them disappear. Thus the Germans are a problem unto themselves with their attitude of "it can't be done"... unless there are orders from above, and then only grudgingly. Even with otherwise liberally minded people I get into stupid arguments about immigration, refugees, drugs etc. and I'm happy to be able to point to some of the more creative aspects of Australian politics despite the recent Hanson debacle. Sure Germany has taken a large share of refugees from the total in Europe etc. But there remains an inconsolability with the idea of Germany being a migrant country. And there is the spectre of the blunt slogan, "GUEST(worker)S come, and GUEST(worker)S leave" hovering around the migrant, or rather "foreigners", debate. But most Germans prefer to bury their head in the quicksand of a dubious past when migrants were still called "guest workers" and Turks weren't prone to fundamentalism. Yet, inadequate immigration laws and a "blood and soil" approach to citizenship further enhance the appeal of the muslim zealots and it is a historic cliché of barbarism that it is the backward view that makes equals, - in this case of the religious fanatics and the racist supremacists. Attempts at integration are clumsy and half hearted and the german-born "Turks" are quickly becoming a generation lost to a pluralist society. It is these young "Turks" that Germany has failed to win over to and make at home in a Constitutional Democracy with its roots (sic!) in the "Age of Enlightenment". It is a volatile mix of current international developments and Germanys catastrophic past that is going to put Germany to the ultimate test of what place it will deserve in the league of free, democratic, enlightened and, yes, why not revive this admittedly idealistic term, "progressive" nations. If Germany rejects the United States or British attempt at "multiculture" then it should come up with its own model of a civil multi-racial society. So far its failure to clearly accept its place among the nations of immigration with all the problems that entails has led to a weak position in the face of international realities. To reject such an acceptance however would lead to the event that finally wipes Germany of the map. Germany is ill prepared for the changes it needs to undergo and thus Bertolt Brechts metaphor of the great Karthago that fought three wars to its doom still bears an analogy of considerable prophetic relevance. Its refusal to go with the flow is very likely to break its neck. But since fanatics of all persuasions would rather see their object of worship and themselves perish than to see it changed beyond their recognition we still have ample reason to fear the worst. Those who do not want to sit on a Nietzschean summit of disdain and for whom heroism means to fight for The Universal Human Rights in a Multiracial Society of Tolerance should regard the german dilemma with increasing concern. Many Germans like to deflect from their "multicultural" responsibilities by pointing to the colonial atrocities of their allies, which, they say, are only paying for past crimes when absorbing a great quantity of migrants into their commonwealths. But the extermination of an entire "ethnic" and/or religious community from amongst ones own ranks, of course, equally faces a people with a debt: A direct debt to those murdered and their surviving relatives, and a debt to its own humanity. It is the latter which many Germans are beginning to reject. It's all too difficult, too foreign, too hard. Well, much more so was the road to Auschwitz. In the end one has to become very philosophical to bear it all and I read de Sades "Justine" to give me back the feeling of "What a beautiful world we (the peoples of Europe) still live in"

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