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Works and Days

The Limits of German Patience

June 3rd, 2012 - 12:48 pm

Worrywarts?

The EU crackup and the looming costs for Germany — are Germans to work until 70 or are they going to put off another bridge over the Rhine, or pass up building an autobahn? — seem to lead to other — how should I put it? — “exasperations.“ The Muslim population in places like Berlin and Cologne is growing and not being assimilated. Meanwhile, the good-life, statist Germans are shrinking and aging with one of the most depressing fertility rates in Europe. The angst grows because the Germans themselves brought Muslims in, kept them as permanent second-class aliens, and now are quite confused over their proper status — both not wanting them to become full Germans (there is still a word, after all, Volk, in their language, which, like Raza, denotes a solidarity beyond mere shared citizenship), and yet resentful of their chauvinism and often militant Islamism. As one of my conversationalists put it, “Oh yes, the Turks — how can their sons somehow afford our BMWs?”

Indeed, the list of other exasperations is growing. The once beloved United Nations’ UNESCO bunch is likewise picking on poor Germany by “red listing” some of their tourist treasures. Must Germans really tear down their new super-modern aerial tram over the Rhine — an engineering marvel which resembles a designer kitchen as much as a cable lift — at Koblenz, or postpone building high-rise office towers and apartments in Cologne just to ensure UN World Heritage status for their Rhine gorge castles or the cathedral at Cologne (e.g., “So an Iran or Syria is to be judge of our heritage?”)?

Then there is Angela Merkel’s proposed shutdown of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants in the wake of panic about the Fukushima tsunami disaster. Once minor German concerns about geological fault lines and obsolete designs have now snowballed into a hyped-up nuclear terror (e.g., if the Toyota-building Japanese can have a disaster, then even the BMW-building Germans in theory could, too).

But from where comes the replacement electrical power? (The Ruhr today looks like Detroit and Cleveland should have.) There is still plenty of coal, but the green Germans pride themselves on being model globing warming alarmists. The German countryside is dotted with enormous windmills, but they seem to the casual observer to turn slowly, if at all. I have enjoyed about three or four hours of sunshine every other day, so I don’t think solar is going to save Germans from blackouts. In other words, Germans seem again agitated over their dilemma: the greenest of Europeans cannot survive through wind and solar power; their coal is politically incorrect; they have little natural gas; and now nuclear, which used to be a non-carbon, non-heating approved energy, is discredited. What is a good pan-European to do? Perhaps buy nuclear-produced electricity from a cash-hungry France?

Be Careful About What You Wish For

Another grimace comes from mention of their beloved Barack Obama. He too seems lately to be adding to German angst. Make no mistake about it and let me be perfectly clear, Germans, could they vote in the U.S., would reelect Obama by a wide margin. I’ll spare you the reasons (Bush comes up in the conversation, of course). But they are edgy with him nonetheless: Is it really a good time to be drawing down NATO and redeploying Americans to “Asia”? (As in “who will pay for our defense or ensure NATO solidarity as the EU unravels?”)

Resentments, or so Germans fear, are building against Germany and Germans themselves sometimes sound as if they fear their inner demons as much as do the French in the Alsace. Does Obama — “Polish death camps,” Austrian-speaking Austrians, Berlin Wall anniversary skipped, the old demand for speechifying at the Brandenburg Gate — appreciate the contours of Europe politics and the pretensions of the Atlantic Alliance? Germans assume that we Americans grasp their old postwar two-step that allows them to snicker about Americans (e.g., McDonald’s, Texas, George W. Bush, etc.) publicly and count on us privately. In sum, concerning Obama, there grows a flicker of realization that Germany proverbially should have been careful about what it wished for.

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