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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Germany Against Itself

As published at Smirking Chimp, OpEd News, CounterCurrents, Unz Review, LewRockwell.com and Intrepid Report, 10/20/15:






Though American dissidents are often branded as “anti-American,” many if not most see themselves as opposed only to their government, not their nation or people. At the Occupy camps, for example, the American flag flew freely.

In Germany, however, the dissident crowd are often not just against the state, but their country and, perhaps only subconsciously, even their heritage. Many openly advocate for the dissolution of Germany. Even if this is only youthful, nihilistic posturing, its pervasiveness is telling.

In Leipzig, I’ve encountered this sticker several times, “NO NATION / FIGHT LAW & ORDER / NO BORDER.” All over town, there are versions of the same message, “NO ♥ FOR DEUTSCHLAND / REFUGEES WELCOME” on a bed sheet banner, “MOVE AGAINST STATE AND CAPITAL. NO PEACE WITH GERMANY!” “Germany, you lousy Piece of Shit!” “NO MAN IS ILLEGAL / RIGHT OF RESIDENCE / ANYWHERE.” Taken to its natural conclusion, a billion Chinese can move into Germany tomorrow if they so choose.

Holding a bicycle over his head, a man is ready bring it down on his already bloody victim, lying on the ground. The caption to this lovely sticker? In English, "GOOD NIGHT WHITE PRIDE."

More astonishingly, there’s this in five-foot tall letters on an otherwise handsome building, “I ♥ VOLKSTOD!! FIGHT THE POLICE.” “Volk” is both nation and people, for no matter how borders are shifted, the nation survives through its people. Even without a homeland, Palestinians can still count themselves as a nation, for example, as long as their collective identity remains. Granted, the above death wish for nation and people, I spotted in Connewitz, Leipzig’s hotbed for young radicals, or at least those who dig piercings, tattoos, dreadlocks and graffiti. Similar expressions of self-hatred are by no mean unusual in contemporary Germany, however.

Perhaps heeding the call for a more colorful Germany [bunte Deutschland], Connewitz’ malcontents have thoroughly marred their own neighborhood with messy spray paint, and even gorgeous, brand new buildings are not spared. These neo-punks are no Jean Michel Basquiat’s, that’s for sure, not that I prefer SAMO on walls instead of canvas. Just about every other part of town is also defaced, if not to the same degree.

Punitively flattened at the end of World War II and shamed for 70 years now, many Germans seem to welcome their ongoing erasure as an unending atonement. Japan doesn’t subject itself to such self-flagellation or, for that matter, Russia, whose Red Army committed widespread atrocities on subjugated peoples. In Dresden, I saw a sticker that showed a red flag over the razed city, with this caption, “8 May 1945 / DAY OF LIBERATION / OUR THANKS GO TO ALL THE ALLIED ORGANIZATIONS, PARTISANS AND RESISTANCE FIGHTERS.” Germany had to have Nazism bombed or raped out of them, according to this thinking, so vielen dank to those who chopped her in half and deformed her until this day.

From across the Elbe, Dresden’s famous skyline seems unchanged, but close-up, you can see that most of the stones of its landmark buildings are clearly new. The damaged lesser edifices were never restored. Many are replaced by ugly, Communist-era structures. Now, it’s claimed that only 25,000 civilians were annihilated when Dresden was flattened by American and British bombers, but many people, not just Germans, think the death count must be many times higher. Still lovely, Dresden was once painted by Canaletto.

In the popular mind, Nazism is seen in a vacuum. It’s as if there was no Treaty of Versailles that bankrupted and ultimately starved Germany. It’s as if your average German is, at best, a latent Nazi whose sinister tendencies will flare up if not constantly kept in check. As is, the word “Nazi” itself is ubiquitous in Germany but, ironically, it’s bandied about most liberally by those on the left, for you can hardly walk a few blocks without encountering stickers or flyers denouncing Nazis.

In 1990, a huge Berlin march against nationalism and racism featured on its leading banner a line from Paul Celan, “Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland.” Death is a master from Germany. Nationalism is conflated with death, and that’s why all guilt-racked Germans must fight against it, but the absence of nationalism is also death. It is the drawn out death of Germany.

A 2014 Gallup poll asked citizens of 65 countries, “Would you be willing to fight for your country?” Nations with the highest percentage saying yes were
Morocco (94%), Fiji (94%), Pakistan (89%), Vietnam (89%) and Bangladesh (86%). Forty-four percent of Americans declared yes. Japan (11%) came in dead last, and Germany (18%) is third from the bottom. The two countries with the fiercest martial spirit from the last century have been pacified, and perhaps wussified, and that’s why one hears of young Japanese men who spend all day, literally, in their childhood room playing video games and looking at porn, and grown men who have cute, wide-eyed little dolls as girlfriends. Some go to brothels only to get it on with sex dolls. Obviously, men who fear real flesh and blood can’t be soldiers.

Yes, many Germans will cheer their unwillingness to fight as welcomed proof that Nazism has been mostly purged out of them. Germany is still a purveyor of mass death, however, through its promiscuous arms sales to Israel and, more recently, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Along with the USA, those are the countries behind the continuing butchery in Syria.

Wandering around Leipzig and Dresden, I see plenty of slogans denouncing Fascism, Nazism, sexism, anti-semitism and homophobia, but no mention of Germany’s complicity in the Syrian War. The incessant discussion in the German media about the refugee crisis also sidesteps this gross, bloody stain on the country’s conscience. Fighting its master’s war, Germany lost 54 soldiers in Afghanistan, but with its passive allegiance to Washington’s scheme against Russia and Syria, Germany is running the risk of losing so much more, perhaps even itself.

In the past week alone, we have Berlin deciding to house 3,000 refugees in Langenlohnsheim, a village of 4,000. Neither its mayor nor citizens were consulted. At a town hall meeting in Lohfelden, official Walter Lübcke told citizens that if they didn’t like the huge influx of refugees into their district, they should just leave. “Who is against the values here can always leave the country. That is the right of every good German.” This country of 80.62 million people will accept 1.5 million refugees this year, and this was decided on without any input from its citizens. Next year, who knows how many millions will be welcomed by NSA-bugged Merkel. What’s in her closet, I wonder? To protect her own career, Merkel must obey her master.

As long as you have war, you will have refugees, and since it doesn’t look like the USA, with Germany and others in tow, is about to cease causing mass chaos and carnage, this refugee crisis is just beginning. When ordinary Germans dare to challenge Berlin’s diktats, however, they risk being branded as Nazis, Rechtsextreme, braune Esoteriker, Altnazis, Pack, Dunkeldeutschland, Faschisten, Neonazis or Neofaschisten, etc.

Just as with Germany’s self-destructive fealty to the US and Israel, there is no frank discussion here about its refugee policies. Those with questions or grievances, then, are forced to become increasingly strident as they scream from the fringe. Brushed aside and demonized, they might just become the hysterical berserkers they’re already caricatured as. Should xenophobic outbursts explode down the line, they can be traced back to this initial suppression of dialogue.

Since nationalism has become a dirty word among the German left and middle, only anti-immigration groups such as PEGIDA, LEGIDA and KAGIDA can evoke this most basic of concepts without apologies. At an August 31st rally in Leipzig, LEGIDA invited a black African to address the crowd. Son of a Cameroonian diplomat, Ferdinand was born in Germany, and he has studied here.

Speaking without notes, Ferdinand finished with, “In Germany one has to talk about resurrection, because the German people aren’t asleep—the German people are dead. And when you are dead, you need a ghost, some power to reanimate the corpse or resurrect it […] We want a particular force, and this force, which will cause the people to resurrect, is patriotism.

Without patriotism you cannot accomplish anything. However, with patriotism you can develop talents [and] this hero inside of each and every one of us can be activated. With patriotism, you can move mountains. With patriotism you can move, shake lakes—because I’m a patriot. This is a matter from the heart; it has nothing to do with your head. One has to be a patriot. You Fascists, you have to be patriots. You have to love your country. That’s my message today. Thank you.”

I suspect that most contemporary Germans would dismiss Ferdinand as a raving, rightwing simpleton. Nationalism, though, is judged by Elias Canetti as a primal force that gives meaning and purpose not just to each community, each nation, but to each individual, “We can take it for granted that no member of a nation ever sees himself as alone. As soon as he is named, or names himself, something more comprehensive moves into his consciousness, a larger unit to which he feels himself to be related.”

Since no two peoples see themselves as identical, there is no universal concept of nationalism, but a “crowd symbol” that galvanizes each nation. In times of war, this self-definition becomes akin to a religion.

Regarding the Germans, Elias Canetti observes, “The crowd symbol of the Germans was the army. But the army was more than just the army; it was the marching forest. In no other modern country has the forest-feeling remained as alive as it has in Germany. The parallel rigidity of the upright trees and their density and number fill the heart of the German with a deep and mysterious delight. To this day he loves to go deep into the forest where his forefathers lived; he feels at one with the trees.

Their orderly separation and the stress on the vertical distinguish this forest from the tropical kind where creepers grow in all directions. In tropical forests the eye loses itself in the foreground; there is a chaotic and unarticulated mass of growth, full of colour and life, which effectively precludes any sensation of order, or even of repetition. The forests of the temperate zone, on the other hand, have a conspicuous rhythm. The eye moves along lines of clearly visible trees into a uniform distance. Each individual tree is always taller than a man and goes on growing until it becomes a giant. Its steadfastness has much in common with the same virtue in a warrior. In a single tree the bark resembles a coat of mail; in a whole forest, where there are many trees of the same kind growing together, it suggests rather the uniforms of an army. For the German, without his being clearly aware of it, army and forest transfused each other in every possible way. What to others might seem the army’s dreariness and barrenness kept for the German the life and glow of the forest. He was never afraid in it; he felt protected, one amongst many others. He took the rigidity and straightness of trees for his own law.

The boy who escaped into the forest from the confinement of home, thinking to be alone there and able to dream, actually anticipated his entry into the army. In the forest he found the others waiting for him, true, faithful, and upright as he himself wanted to be; each like every other, for each grows straight, and yet quite different in height and strength. The effect of this early forest romanticism on the German must never be underrated. He absorbed it from countless poems and songs and the forest which appears in these is often called ‘German.’

The Englishman likes to imagine himself at sea, the German in a forest. It is impossible to express the difference of their national feeling more concisely.” [from Crowds and Power, as translated by Carol Stewart]

In 2015, this marching forest has been atomized into so many hand-wringing shrubs or graffiti-spraying haters of homeland. The tall, straight trees, though, are still extant, and their order, strength and steadfastness can still serve as a guide to this hijacked nation.

Just steps from my apartment, there’s Friedenspark, Peace Park, and sure enough, you can march straight for half a mile between two rows of sheltering trees. Though only a mid-sized city park, it feels like a forest. Blocking out much sunlight, the arched foliage overhead shrouds strollers in a solemn, nave-like ambience. At the far end, there’s a magnificent church that commemorates the 22,000 Russians who died during the three-day Battle of Leipzig in 1813. Losing 54,000 men altogether, the alliance of Germans, Russians and Swedes defeated Napoleon’s invading army.

When I showed a young Leipziger the poll about fighting for one’s country, he pointed out that it’s the former colonies that are most willing to defend themselves. “But isn’t Germany also colonized?” I should have said. When will she regain her autonomy and sanity?






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14 comments:

Rudy said...

Excellent observations acutely expressed – “Germany’s self-destructive fealty to the US and Israel”.

“But isn’t Germany also colonized?”
Indeed, Linh, indeed.

invisible woman said...

Drinking deep here. Linh - you refresh us.

x larry said...

canetti's summing up of national character should be amended. it should say that the english see themselves as PIRATES at sea.
very interesting article. i've never heard the tree analysis before, intriguing. wish you had been here tonight when our german friend was over, very good conversation. she wants to hang a bit when you're here

x larry said...

none of these european snob 'deep thinkers' takes america into account, where it is very common to encounter great generosity of spirit. it's a very skewed perspective on the world from here--they naturally assume that it revolves around them. but take england as an example. it is very crowded. it has, i've been told, the smallest average house size in the world (america of course has the biggest). it's crowded, it's mean. same for continental cities i think--certainly a paris. what canetti says is very true FOR EUROPE, especially england (i confess knowing nothing of many countries in europe, really only england and spain), ie they identify wholely with the nation feeling. i might add that they are more or less always on a war footing, and so take their nationalism as religion and all its deep misty feeling. i get a palpable reaction from people i meet for the first time here--they HATE americans. yes, then i win them over generally. but i'm very sick of it. i don't CARE to win them over--they should crawl back inside their little wwi bunker (or perhaps pirate ship cubby hole), close their eyes, and LISTEN--no talking now!--for about ten years. it might be a good beginning to changing the most offensive in every way national psyche here, so deeply engrained.

x larry said...

but what would they listen to? what would be said to them?
they would be told what is wrong with them. they would be pointed out all the terrible mistakes in their upbringing, which makes the extremely easy generational transition possible to keep this poisonous people highly toxic (but they already know it and PRIDE themselves on their meanness, so it's an extremely difficult task ahead) forever and ever. ah, but you don't get it, simpleton american, that is english humor--the english don't take themselves seriously, you see?
never mind this--i am sincere. they cannot understand what that means--CANNOT!!
thanks very much, rant over

Linh Dinh said...

Hi all,

"the alliance of Germans, Russians and Poles defeated Napoleon’s invading army" has been corrected to "the alliance of Germans, Russians and Swedes defeated Napoleon’s invading army." The Poles fought with Napoleon! Allied with the Germans was an "Army of Poland," but it was in fact Russian.

On a less embarrassing note, a German reader emailed me:

Dear Mr. Linh,

It was a pleasure to read your article and percieve your insights in the psych of our people. It is clear that these are not a sudden bright idea but the result of many years' careful observation and study. I cannot recall a line I didn't agree with which is rare but if measured by the standard you set, a certain patriotic raison d'etre, it is easy to understand why this is so.

From your articles I understand you are originally from Vietnam. I recall an incident from my youth while at university. My friends and I invited several trainers for tea at our house. This resulted in a "mixed party" of several nationalities fiercely defending their own yet without any aggressive attitude to other nationalites (present). My left-leaning German friend whose guest we all were had trouble following this which is also a guide-line in life. It is only today that he is beginning to wake up, the natural reflex to defend what is ours was buried that deep. The trainers were all from Vietnam and they never forgot that.

Pity the article was not in German. It badly needs spreading here!

best regards


And thanks to all for commenting. Must run now...


Linh

salish cedars said...

Let me first say that I really enjoy your blog. The photos are superb and the commentary trenchant.
Your observtions about Germany are quite interesting. Would you say there is more anti nationalist sentiment than pro? Judging from your photos it would seem that the "progressive" faction is more concerned about Nazis than it is the colonial power squatting in their midst. It seems that this colonial power is doing to Germany what the Nazis did to Poland: systematically degrading the culture of the subject nation via consumerism, pornography and dumbing down the language. While I sympathize with the progressives to a large extent it seems to me that they are enabling the excesses of the occupier by promoting the mass settlement of refugees. Perhaps they should be more aggressive in demanding that the occupier cease and desist with the disruption and/or take on the refugee problem in toto rather than fobbing it off on the vassals. What do you think?

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Salish,

You can only solve the refugee problem by stop generating them, so as long as the US and its allies sponsor the war against Syria, there will be refugees. When the US attacked Iraq, many Iraqis went to Syria as refugees.

I've talked repeatedly about why the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others are going after Assad. Here is an excerpt from a 2013 article:

"Syria has agreed to a pipeline originating from Iran, however. A much less significant source of natural gas than Qatar, Iran will hardly dent Russia’s profits, and since it’s also a Russian ally, the gas flow to Europe will still be controlled by Moscow. So Russia has Europe by the balls, so to speak, especially in winter, when enough people freeze to death as is. Many countries are entirely dependent on Russian natural gas, while France only imports a manageable 14%, and the UK, none, so they can afford to kiss Uncle Sam’s withered ass a bit harder, though the Brits, interestingly this time, have opted out of the current madness.

A war on Syria, then, is an attack on Russia itself, and that’s why Russian warships are patrolling the Mediterranean. Countering the American menace, Russia will certainly be no silent spectator [...]"

And yes, most of the "progressive" faction in Germany are more concerned about Neo-Nazism, racism and homophobia than the fact that their country is entirely manipulated by the US.


Linh

Linh Dinh said...

P.S. This refugee crisis will trigger many changes here, though with emotions so heated on both sides, I'm afraid Germany won't arrive at a calm and reasonable solution to this. It's not too farfetched to imagine street battles between Germans. A friend told me that opposing groups returning to Leipzig from Dresden last Monday almost came to violence.

The suppression of normal, healthy nationalism leads to the more extreme kind, but if German ultra-nationalists become more numerous and visible, people will say, "See! See! Those Germans are crazy like that!"

swindled said...

I understand what you're saying, and I'm not entirely unsympathetic. But even so, I don't think it's totally out of bounds to ask if the whole concept of a "healthy nationalism" might not be a bit suspect, oxymoronic. I remember the very day after 9/11 and as I was driving to work down a rural road where, at most, one might see a cow in the distance or maybe a lonely jogger, there were instead dozens upon dozens of flag-waving freedom-loving fully-patriotic Americans who emerged from--exactly where? I'm still not sure. There ain't no houses out there hardly. And though I suppose this vision, this American Pastoral replete with rippling Old Glory, should I suppose have filled me with pride and strengthened my spine, in truth, it didn't. Rather, it gave me shivers. It made me afraid. And nothing that has happened in the fifteen years since then has led me to think that my initial reaction was the wrong. To be sure, post-Bush post-Cheney post-Rumsfeld (the Unknown Unknown) post-Wolfowitz post-Bolton (of lightning from the sky) post-Richard Perle post-the dissolution of the Middle East into so many broken parts I'm more convinced now than ever that I was completely right!
Oh, the empty pieties (did I misspell that?) and hollow triumphalisms (and that?) mouthed by our most bigoted politicians--the Trumps of our Merde, if you will--make me remember fondly the words of Danilo Kiš: The nationalist is by definition an ignoramus.
Is it not at least possible that the disaffected "leftist" Germans you so bemoan with their avantgardistisch are on to something, after all? Surely we just can't go and on like this, closing the door to the Other, nodding sagely at our pragmatism, or good sense and wisdom?
Lebensraum, really? Late for work now I really gotta run)

Chuck Olroski said...

Linh: Here is Paul Craig Roberts writing on the Press & the refugee crisis; http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/10/24/presstitutes-at-their-work-paul-craig-roberts/

A question. I know you've only been in the country for about a month & you're learning the difficult language, but does the German Press seem to have as much freedom & fun manipulating citizens as the US Prestige does?

Linh Dinh said...

Yo Chuck,

Also from Roberts, a window into the controlled German press:

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/10/21/the-cost-germany-is-paying-for-washingtons-wars/

A while back, there were stories about German journalists being bought by the CIA.

Just got back from Prague. Will post Prague photos shortly.

Before I boarded train back to Leipzig, went grocery shopping in Prague to get rid of my extra Korunas. The Koruna is weaker than the Euro, so I got more canned food than I would have back in Germany. Cost of living is cheaper in the Czech Republic. Tonight in Prague, my dinner of mashed potato and ham with a pint of beer only cost $3.25, but of course I ate at a pretty grungy place. Still, my food was delicious.

Linh

salish cedars said...

Swindled,
Healthy nationalism might be something like a kind of land-soul-feeling, which all pre-modern peoples have felt. It is a kind of psychic bond with one's locale that doesn't preclude generosity of spirit toward the "Other". The patriotism which you describe seems to have more in common with hysteria than love of place and tribe. This hysteria, I believe, originates from the essential hollowness of the "American" psyche and culture, a hollowness borne from the extirpation of the indigenous people coupled with the celebration of rootlessness. By refusing to respect and absorb aspects of the vanquished peoples ways Americans, those of European origin at any rate, have cut themselves off from a source of vitality and groundedness, of rightful ownership of place. Lacking this sense of rightful ownership they lack a solid basis of solidarity with other occupants of the land, especially those who look different and hail from other homelands. Hence, they go around with a perpetual insecurity which is inflamed by the slightest whiff of threat.

Md Morrissey said...

I like this blog, utilizing photos and commentary. Some of the comments about nationalism go against my grain, however. It is a complex subject and many different (and contradictory) feelings are involved, but I am hesitant to express anything that might come across as "national pride." In the end, I think, it means absolutely nothing at all. Coming from a Vietnamese, I suppose a different viewpoint is justified! (Hic dixit an ex-US-draft dodger!) I would be happy to know about any interesting get-togethers in Germany (I live in Kassel).

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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.