Saturday, October 25, 2003
Cartoon of the day

American haters

from Cox & Forkum.

Thursday, October 23, 2003
It's the ecology, stupid - continued

...or, as Deutsche Welle puts it, "The Consumer's Can Nightmare Continues". I've posted on this issue before, which has now irritated the EU Commission.

As many will already know, Germany is fascinated with protecting the environment. Now, this is not a bad thing, it only becomes a bad thing if this usually sensible attitude becomes a fundamental ideology solid as concrete, defying all criticism, seriously harming the economy and lacking planning competency. And Jürgen Trittin, Germany's Green party environment minister, is such a fundamentalist, lacking all other fundamental traits a minister needs. He pushed through the new can deposit law, which commenced January 1st this year, even though a nation-wide collection system was not yet there, i.e. you could only give back cans and plastic bottles at the shop where you bought them (and not mentioning the job loss caused by this farce).

Now, the EU Commission, usually not a pool of competency, has given Germany time until October 1st to implement a nationwide collection system. This has to do with the fact that many stores have simply completely banned cans, which is a disadvantage for foreign producers who are not so familiar with the German deposit system. As EurActiv.com puts it (they provide the best and most succinct overview):
According to the Commission, the German deposit and return system for non-refillable drinks packaging restricts imports from foreign producers and is therefore not in line with internal market rules.
I'm not the biggest fan of the Commission, but I think they are right here. Trittin simply introduced the system without truly listening to the concerns of consumers, producers or even the EU. It was one of the prestige projects to please the Green electorate, and it had to be pushed through as fast as possible. I'm not against a can deposit in general, I'm against this method of realisation which, as a consequence, is nothing but an additional tax. I live in Aachen, close to the Netherlands. Recently, I talked to a dude from there who said he didn't care for the deposit, but he simply threw away the can in the Netherlands. But the shops, of course, cannot work with this unclaimed money (at least not with the whole of it), as they have to be able to pay back the deposits at any time. It's dead capital, and it amounts to 450 million Euro until the end of October, according to the Guardian.

Germany now has two steps to reply to the EU's request. If the EU judges the response inadequate, it can formally request a change of the system; if still Trittin is incapable of doing this, the next step would be the European Court of Justice.

Behind the scenes, many other European countries have been laughing at this dilletantic theater. And I agree with them.

On a more optimistic note (I've decided to occasionally mention some good news concerning Germany :), we have recently overtaken the US as the biggest exporter for the 1st time in 11 years. Germany is the market leader of machinery exports, is anybody wondering that we have such bands as Kraftwerk?

And in 2004, an economy growth of 2 percent is possible. This would be nice, because growth can only be perceived on the German employment market if it surpasses 2 percent - you know about our overregulation etc. - but I'm disgressing :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Why do we hate them?

I've received much criticism for my previous post, suggesting I'm self-hating, that guilt and excuse drips from every line I write and that I'm generally "anti-German". None of these accusations is true. I'll try - in one last post on the issue - to both clarify my position and analyse some deeper roots of German anti-Americanism in its many disguises, and why it has become so rampant only recently.

In some very good analyses, Russell A. Berman goes beyond the superficial observations of German and European anti-Americanism. He mentions (emphasis mine):
The genuine epicenter of anti-Americanism today is in Europe, not in the Islamic world. Indeed it can be localized even further as "old Europe," the continental Western European countries, especially France and Germany but Spain and Italy as well.
This sounds incredible and astonishing. The legendary "Arab street" is not the epicenter but Europe? And "old Europe", hasn't it been a staunch partner of the US in the past decades, not heeding some occasional disagreements among friends? Is not the current disagreement concerning Iraq rather unimportant because central values and ideas are shared? Not an easy question to answer. Berman provides three aspects of European anti-Americanism:

1. The first is (emphasis mine):
[A]lthough anti-Americanism may point fingers at the United States, it is primarily an expression of local identity problems. German anti-Americanism always involves escaping a troubled national past, hence the constant Nazi metaphors. French anti-Americanism, in contrast, imagines retrieving a former great power status through a special relationship to the Arab world, hence the prominence of anti-Semitism and the violent attacks on Jewish demonstrators and Iraqi dissidents.
It's the scapegoat method, one that Germany has utilized rather um... excessively in the past. It not only helps to focus on other people's "problems" instead of one's own, so real solutions are not sought for. It also helps to raise self-confidence by relativising the position of the only world-power left by perceiving them as a nation of stupid, shallow burger-munchers. Or, as Berman puts it in another great article (emphasis mine),
For those Germans who compare Bush and Hitler, the equation provides a perverse consolation: If they can show that today's Americans are as bad as the Germans once were, then today's Germans can feel absolved of any inherited guilt. This anti-Americanism is therefore less a sober response to current American policies - in Iraq or elsewhere - than an irrational symptom of a troubled German past.
The same could be said about the perverted comparison "Sharon=Hitler"; this as well serves to relativise Germany's guilt. Another facet is added by James C. Bennett (emphasis mine):
Overt fascism and national chauvinism were banned [in Europe], but a new Euro-chauvinism took its place, loudly proclaiming the superiority of European ways over crude American ones -- a new chauvinism on a wider scale, based like the old national chauvinism primarily on resentment.
To summarize these points, one aspect of German anti-Americanism is to create a "balance" to a subsconciously-felt guilt by applying the disgusting and ignorant Hitler comparisons to the leaders of the very two nations that Germany has special ties with. At the same time, the problematic German identity can dedicate itself to be immersed in a "European" identity (last year, the EU was more important than the US for 55% of Germans, while now it's more important for 81%), a very undemocratic, intransparent and overly bureaucratic identity that is, and an identity that ironically grossly exaggerates its own merits. Out of the frying pan into the fire... or, as Berman states,
A so-called democracy deficit has resulted; most Europeans experience the E.U. as a primarily bureaucratic matter, lacking any compelling ideals or deep principles that could stir the hearts of the public. Anti-Americanism has filled that gap; it has become the European ideology of the hour, providing an emotional underpinning for a unified Europe that stands for nothing of its own, except its distance from Washington. The incapacity of the Europeans to act in concert, particularly in foreign policy matters, only adds fuel to the fire. Anti-Americanism is much less about the character of American actions than about the European inability to act at all.
2. The second point that Berman mentions is also rather telling (emphasis mine):
[A]lthough anti-Americanism opposes U.S. foreign policy in the name of its presumed victims, there is no evidence of any particular solidarity with these countries prior to American engagement. The anti-American sector of the European public that has resisted, with increasing vehemence, the U.S. role in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq had previously expressed absolutely no interest in the misfortunes of the victims of Milosevic, the Taliban, or Saddam Hussein. [...] Anti-Americanism is not concerned with the particular issues at hand but only in adopting an automatic opposition to any U.S. role. There is apparently no regime so wrong than an American effort to right it would not provoke protests.
There is an eerie blindness to this issue in Germany. You can tell people about the enormous sufferings of the Iraqi people, they actually don't care; even if they care, this "does not justify war". Germans have - since attacking other nations in the past wasn't so successful - the deeply-rooted weltanschauung that only "defensive" wars are "just" wars, and lecturers as Germans tend to be, all other nations must comply to this iron rule or earn the deepest frowns of Joschka Fischer. The sovereignity of a state, as despicable and horrible its regime may be, is to be regarded as the highest priority regardless of what kind of government is ruling. This is one of the weirdest results of moral relativism, and it is actually much more inhuman than the liberation of an oppressed country.

3. The final point mentioned by Berman refers to the "conspiracy"-tendency of anti-Americanism (emphasis mine):
Third, like any other prejudice, anti-Americanism is characterized by an ongoing loss of reality. It has little to do with the reality of American life or U.S. policies, and it is equally oblivious to the lives of the Afghans and Iraqis, who only serve as interchangeable tokens, pretexts for an obsessive hostility to the United States. Anti-Americanism offers a securely ideological worldview that will simply not yield to facts. Hence we see the grotesque willingness of large parts of the European mass media to treat the Iraqi information minister seriously, while directing unrelenting skepticism toward American reports. For anti-Americans, any evidence of American success can only have been fabricated, just as expressions of pro-American support on the part of Iraqis are denounced as counterfeit.
This is probably the reason why the enormous progress in Iraq, if we compare it to the progress in post-war Germany and Europe, is practically absent in German media; but every time an American soldier is ambushed, it is reported widely. No reports have been made on the fact that the majority of Iraqis and Afghans are quite happy they have been liberated. German media seems to suffer from an enormously short attention span, and from a remarkable lack of strategic thinking. There has never been a detailed analysis of the Iraq scenario in any paper, just superficial, short-term predictions like "the new Vietnam", "the rise of the Arab street" and such. Peter R. Range remarks on the possible reasons (emphasis mine):
Throughout the spring and summer [2002], as a robust debate over Iraq policy emerged in the United States - leading finally to President Bush's decision to seek congressional and Security Council approval - Germany slept. The policy community barely discussed the issue, to the point that Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute Berlin, wrote an opinion piece in a German daily admonishing them to get involved. That never really happened, says one German journalist, partly because much of the country's policy debate is stifled by political correctness. "You could never publish an op-ed piece asking whether Iraq might become a democracy, or oil prices might go down, two years after a war in Iraq," he said.
Why exactly couldn't you do that? Again, the sovereignity of Saddam goes unchallenged, despite his deeds. To partly explain this, many Germans - though wishing for the EU to become a concurrent of the US - do not want Germany to play a major military role in the world. Germany does not perceive the reasons for the Dresden and Hamburg air raids that clearly anymore, but it perceives the still existing war damages, it still remembers and sometimes white-washes the "victims" (true victims and self-victimising victims) of war. [Self-victimisation, especially if indulged in by Germans, very quickly leads to a justification of certain deeds, and therefore is to be harshly criticised. German self-victimisation starts with forgetting about the reasons why Dresden and Hamburg were bombed.] Therefore, Germany does not want to create such a national trauma in any other nation's memory; no matter how much that nation is suffering and bleeding, no matter what that dictator does. This memory assymetry is dangerous, and it may be motivated by a whitewashing tendency again, as Henryk Broder (in German) notes (own translation):
If the air raid on Berlin was to be retroactively deligitimated as corresponding to the air raid on Baghdad, it is the suicide attacks of Palestinian terrorists against Israelis that shall retroactively legitimate the anti-Jewish terror of the Nazis.
Broder refers to those who think there is a right for terrorism (only granted to Palestinian terrorists against Israel, of course), but in my opinion many a Gutmensch's mind is subject to this subliminal rationalising.

James C. Bennett has a gloomy outlook:
The modern world was first carried forward by two great civilizations. The Anglosphere was one. The dynamic industrializing culture of 19th century Continental Europe, to which the spark of the Judaeo-Christian encounter was so important, was the other. That culture committed suicide in the '30s. Perhaps its successor is not the revival of that culture, but rather its zombie. [...] It would not be surprising if the twin anti-modernist themes of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, now rapidly coalescing into a single nasty mess visible in many of the pro-Saddam demonstrations of the past year, become once again the predominant political-cultural theme in Western Continental Europe, overwhelming the decent and positive forces there that had previously prevailed. And we should not be surprised if such people hate us.
I personally don't think this will happen, the anti-modern forces of every political shade, even though they chant the same protest tunes (e.g. Neo-Nazis and Attac) will, in the long run, be swept into the dustbin of history. The necessary economic adaptations are known and already implemented (see Schröder's reforms; they point into the right direction despite being incomplete). Still, I guess the political developments in the ME will define the core of future US-EU relationships. The EU, sponsoring Arafat's terrorism, has taken over the role of the former Soviet union in supporting the enemies of freedom in the ME. But then, the EU slowly but steadily (read the EU constitutional draft) has chosen the winding path away from freedom as well, at least right now. And this is the certain path to being the enemy of the US, if the current trend is extrapolated into the future.

To conclude - and to answer the accusations made against me - I say that I'm far from being anti-German; indeed I think it is Germany that should an can play a major role in healing the wounds that Schröder and others have created, and it is Germany that has far more potential to do good concerning educational, economic and political factors than it does now. To call me "anti-German" implies that the points I criticize, i.e. support of a dictatorship, anti-modern attitudes, whitewashing tendencies, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism based on guilt etc. - are part of "the" German identity. I disagree, I think a thorough, rational analysis of Germany's history and of America's values and aims only allow a different conclusion: the German identity of today should not contain ancient and historically detrimental parts anymore, they are relics of the past that should be buried once and for all.

UPDATE: An excellent analysis of the origins of America-bashing was written by Lee Harris (a German translation can be found here). It focuses on the central role of Marxism in all its mutations, and the core thesis of immiserization. A quote (emphasis mine):
This is the immiserization thesis of Marx. And it is central to revolutionary Marxism, since if capitalism produces no widespread misery, then it also produces no fatal internal contradiction: If everyone is getting better off through capitalism, who will dream of struggling to overthrow it? Only genuine misery on the part of the workers would be sufficient to overturn the whole apparatus of the capitalist state, simply because, as Marx insisted, the capitalist class could not be realistically expected to relinquish control of the state apparatus and, with it, the monopoly of force. In this, Marx was absolutely correct. No capitalist society has ever willingly liquidated itself, and it is utopian to think that any ever will. Therefore, in order to achieve the goal of socialism, nothing short of a complete revolution would do; and this means, in point of fact, a full-fledged civil war not just within one society, but across the globe. Without this catastrophic upheaval, capitalism would remain completely in control of the social order and all socialist schemes would be reduced to pipe dreams.
Highly recommended. Belmont Club has more, saying it is no coincidence that the Left is allying with Islam.