Category Archives: Germany – Allemagne

20 years down the drain

I have been a Europhile for the past 20 years.

When I was 11, I decided that I was not a Frenchman born in Versailles rather a European born in France.

I have believed in Europe. I have loved Europe. I have fought for Europe. I have defended and argued in favour of Europe. In 2005, I shouted, cried and ranted so much in favour of a Yes vote to the French ratification of the European Constitution that it seemed I had taken the weight of a continent on my shoulder.

I have believed in Europe for I have been convinced that we indeed had finally put our fratricidal past behind us. That we have learnt from it. That we have learnt to stop pointing fingers at each other, constantly trying to get pay back and to avenge something that was done to us before.

I have believed in Europe because we were ready to try and work together so we can truly help each other and find new ways, new solutions, new beginnings.

I have believed in Europe because I have had the conviction that after our centuries-long enterprise of bleeding and burning the whole world to its knee, we had matured, changed our ways and now have had to show the world that our past selves were wrong and we can indeed live together in solidarity and peace. Because at the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters, and only dysfunctional families are ready to disown and let their kin die alone.

I have believed that these dark times were behind us.

Why? Because that’s what I was taught Europe was for.

Ever since I was born, I have listened to teachers, politicians, philosophers, journalists, writers, my mother telling me about the mission Europe has: to defend democracy against its enemies, whatever their shape or disguise, to protect its citizens against the peril of misery, humiliation, famine, economical decadence for our past had shown all too well whither such plights always lead.

I have argued for the past 20 years that Europe is humanity’s one chance to show that the world is not the unforgiving, ruthless jungle the neo-capitalists like to portray to justify their murderous greed. I have argued that being together and talking about problems, rather than bringing each other down to brutal and silent submission with weapons or bank account closures, is the proof that we are actually naturally inclined to working together, to helping each other.

For the past 20 years, I have fought for a Europe that would finally put the people in charge of their fate above politics and money. A place where the everyday man, woman and child will not have to suffer from the bad decisions that were made from above, without or against their consent because everything will be in their hands.

I have had a dream of a Europe where we, the people, could genuinely decide our fate in a truly democratic system. A system that would value, respect and listen to the opinion of the citizens it relies on in order to ensure the life they live is the life they actually choose.

For 20 years, I have replied to its critics by saying that yes, it is not perfect, but we are working on it and that everything that is being done is for the good of the European people. I have said time and again that at the end of day, the European Union is and will be true to what it preaches: a transparent democracy dedicated to us, to our better life and better future. A genuine democracy that will only serve the genuine interest of the people.

Today, it’s 20 years down the drain.

Today, I am shattered, angry, disappointed and ashamed.

Today, I can’t believe I bought into all these fancy concepts politicians had been throwing around to get us on board a project that, eventually and again!, turned out to only serve the rich and powerful.

Today, I cannot believe I fell for it. I feel like such a fool.

Today, Europe has proven to be ruled by money. Again. It’s nothing new. And I have been used, abused, deceived and mislead.

Today, in the name of democracy and the better future, the people of Greece, a democracy itself, will see €50bn worth of “valuable” public assets taken away from them and from their democratically elected politicians forever. They will never see them again because investors are refusing to embrace the monster they are themselves feeding, they are refusing the first rule of capitalism as defined by their beloved Adam Smith: you have to take risks and tough beans if you fail.

Today, the democratically-based European Union has made the decision to turn a blind eye and to forsake its fundamentals and ideals of democracy, citizenship, freedom, sovereignty, equality, solidarity to give way to the Eurozone and its unelected and unaccountable, financial ilk: the Eurogroup and the ECB, seconded by the almighty IFM, where Washington holds 16% of the vote when 85% are needed to reach an agreement.

Today, the European Union has made the conscious decision to disregard the voice of the Greeks, to betray all of its citizens and prove its enemies right by what it calls the Monetary Snake destroy a hard-earned democratic sovereignty.

The European Union is now nothing less that the League of Nations Wilson had created after WWI to ensure “peace and prosperity” in Europe but which silently oversaw Germany being sacrificed on the shrine of peace because it was in fact dominated by France and all the other winners of said war and they all had a bone to pick with the evil Germans.

It did not matter that Germany was a young and fragile democracy, like Greece, which, like Greece again, had become the complete opposite of the autocratic regime it was before the war. It was not enough. We needed more to soother our grievance and the League of Nations gladly let Germany suffer to oblivion in the hands of its creditors. All because everyone seemed to agree that they were at the time the biggest threat to our peace and prosperity.

Like Greece today with its bailout, the puny democratic power was forced to accept every single humiliating, undermining and dangerous clauses of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This treaty would legalise further humiliation and would force the country’s economy to its knees as it faced having to literally pay back all the damaged it had caused.

I remember reading about the rise of Hitler and the fall of Weimar when I was 15. I remember reading about the invasion and occupation of the Rhur by the French in 1922 that triggered the spiralling downfall. A unilateral and unstopped decision made on the basis that Paris was not getting the money Berlin was supposed to pay back on time.  I remember reading about the endless vicious circle of the young German republic’s economy, its hands tied in the back by this peace-preaching League of Nation led by vengeful winners.

In history lessons, we are repeated again and again that all these measures to ensure Germany would rightly pay for what it has “alone” caused was one of the main cause of WWII as it pushed Hitler to be democratically elected in 1933. In the name of peace, the League – like the EU today – never lifted a finger, on the contrary, it became the accomplice.

I have believed in Europe because I have thought we had understood this. And we had, for a moment. After WWII, all countries, including Greece, agreed that the stupid war reparations and the finger-pointing at one people and blaming it above all others were creating nothing but ever-growing antagonism, hatred and resentment. It was making us ever weaker. We needed to work together so we cancelled the debt. We had matured. I thought…

 

However, today it’s Versailles and the occupation of the Rhur again. The people of Greece are facing with exit and misery or endless misery in the hands of the people they were taught and told to trust.  In the 1920s, the League of Nations just watched as we pushed Germany down the drain and now, in the 2010s, the European Union just spectates as we push Greece down the drain.

The banks want their money back after eight years of bad investments they gladly jumped on and austerity they happily championed, all without results they swore would show. Regardless of all the hurt they have been doing to Greece since 2008, no matter that Greece is now enduring a situation akin to the US before Roosevelt decided to make the State intervene, they are now going to get what they want and dismantle the State even more. End of.

How? By using the one bit of Europe that has never been touched by democracy yet: the Euro and its institutions. These have been called to openly overrule Greece’s democratic regime, like we did with Germany in 1922 as the banks are getting ready to open the tilt and take whatever they think ought to be theirs whether the Greeks agree or not.

When it comes to greed and destructive capitalism, history has taught us nothing. Once again, we have set countries against each other, people each other, North v South in a flourish of damaging, uneducated stereotypes feeding endless xenophobia for throwing their people against their people is the best way economics has found to hide the fact that we actually have nothing to say on the matter.

20 years.

Until weeks ago, I was still arguing that we were truly looking for a solution that would benefit the people above all but now that “we have a deal”, I don’t believe it anymore. Until weeks ago, I was still arguing against the people who were saying that our leaders were not interested in working for the great and good of everyone, rather just for themselves. But today, I am not sure especially when I see the ones shouting victory in the name of the union.

Wolfgang Schäuble, for instance, is righteously standing there telling us that it’s all about saving the union, it’s about fairness and doing the right thing, it’s about the sake of the other millions of us but then it turns out that the tax heaven-based private company which will be handling the Greek public assets and managing the burning sales is chaired by him.

To me, this man’s commitment into ensuring Greece pays every single cent given with interests is actually driven by his desire to get a piece of the cake. The biggest one, in that. And no one is lifting a finger! The fate of millions of people, from new-born babies to ageing grandmothers is resting in his sole hands, despite the Greeks refusal and I hear “Bravo!”.

Junker, as the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, spent years resisting, fighting and lobbying against clearer, better defined, more integrated European tax laws that would put an end to his country playing with the system and remaining a tax-heaven and now he’s standing there on his plinth of hypocrisy telling us that the Greeks are only reaping what they sowed by not playing by the rules. And no one is lifting a finger!

And our leaders. They have been calling us to vote during European elections because it is “our future”. We have been told that our voice matters and will make a difference. Yes, that’s until money is involved and suddenly there are superseding considerations we cannot possibly understand so our voice is irrelevant. Is that their idea of democracy? You serve the people unless you get scared, ignore us, serve the markets alone, screw it up but because we did vote for you, it’s actually our fault so we pay the prize for generations to come.

I have come to understand they are calling us to vote just to be able to lecture Russia or China from their high horse when shit hits the fan. “At least, I am here by the will of the power…I don’t care for it says but I am better than you.”

20 years that I have been defending a fraud, the building of a union that clearly puts its cherished, richest few before the livelihood of millions of its citizens because they have convinced themselves and trapped themselves in an economic understanding where they have reduced the States to irrelevance so these very few are now the only, untouchable, precious key to our well-being.

Today, however, it’s not time for me to argue for the destruction of the union.

I am now a Euro-sceptic because I trust what is accountable to the people, which the Euro institutions are not. There are the enemy of social-democracy.

I am not however a Europe-sceptic. I still want to believe in the dream because I am socialist. Call me utopist, drag me in the dirt, frankly do your worst if it makes you happy.

If democracy cannot express illusions and crazy hopes; if it cannot contain narratives of emotion and ideals, it dies. – Paul Mason

The time has come to make the union accountable to what it has been preaching: democracy, solidarity, equality, peace and well-being of its people above all else.

It is time to change properties: to fight against the Euro and for the European Union.

They see Nazis everywhere.

There is a quite interesting study showing that when an argument breaks up between two people who don’t know each other (well), there is about 70% chance one party will bring up Hitler to justify the validity of their argument against the other. Something on the lines of “Hitler thought the same as you so that proves you are wrong”. Usually, it tends to close the argument. For all the wrong reasons, obviously.

Interesting but I went to check on that years ago. I wish I had kept all the links of my research but that was not something I was doing at the time, unlike today. So I went to check this research and it turned out, when the researchers tried to broaden their findings into population whose first language was not English, the percentage of probability that Hitler pops up decreased dramatically. There is something there.

Back in 2008, when living in Blackpool, I was browsing Youtube for a good rendition of “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” of the Queen of the Night and came accross the Tölzer Knachenbor. It’s a Bavarian choir of boys who sing famous opera pieces. This year, for instance, they performed for FC Bayern München at their Christmas dinner. One of their most famous boys is Robin Schlotz who was singing that Mozart aria. He was also singing Stimme des Waldvögels, a short aria in one of Wagner’s operas. I love that little interlude so I copied the lyrics and posted them on Facebook. Sigfried is mentioned in the lyrics so almost all my English friends told me I was “having a little Nazi nostalgia.”

I played dumb and I asked why they were saying such a thing. They replied that “it’s because Hitler was a friend of Wagner” – he wasn’t. Wagner’s operas are the essence of German romantism that came with the birth of Germany as a nation and the need they felt to find common roots after centuries of fratricidal wars and struggles. They, and Wagner too, went to find them in Germano-Scandivanian mythology along with Odin, Thor, the Valkyries and Sigfried as the half-god hero, a tracing paper-made Germanic Hercules.

The issue is that Hitler followed the same movement and the Nazism rely heavily on this symbolism of German romantism, therefore the mythology. The swatiska cross is the symbol of Thor, after all, whose nickname was Barbarossa (ginger beard), which was also the code name of the invasion of the USSR. So today, in England, any mention of these symbols or Wagner or any author, composer, writer, musician that inspired Hitler will make you more or less a Nazi. There is something there. Certainly no common sense.

Still looking for classical pieces on Youtube, I came across, in Mars this year, a rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria sang by Maria Callas. The comments were littered with accusations and insults directed towards her: she was a Nazi, a Nazi-sympathiser, she was glorifying the Nazism…The name attached to these comments were all English-based. Mostly English names the likes of Sean, Billy, Bob, Britany, John…Once again, the fact that she was singing in German meant that she “was a Nazi”, she “was advertising Nazism” by speaking the language regardless of the fact that it’s a religious, catholic hymn to the Holy Virgin. They could not see behind the German language and, for them, everyone living in Germany before 1945 is a Nazi. Schubert, Göthe, Schiller, Beethoven, all of them. There is something there.

Last August, I found a picture of the European monarchs together at Queen Victoria’s funerals and I posted the pictures on Tumblr. I really liked the picture, some of them, like the King of Belgium, were bloody handsome. Yum! And as a tag I made the mistake of saying what I thought: “Loving the boots!” For the rest of the week, it was a torrent of abuse from various anons accusing me of being a Nazi. For some, you see the bad English but mainly the endless diatribes accusing of wanting Jews to be killed were in very good English. Same kind of reaction from some friends when I asked them if one could find such horsemen boots nowadays and all, expect one, of my English friends told me: “Yes, in a Nazi shop.”  There are boots worn by European kings of all nationalities at the beginning of the 20th century because they rode horses! What the fuck does it have to do with the Nazis? “They wore the same kind of boots”. Yeah, they also were all wearing military outfits, does that mean that all soldiers are Nazis?

And why is Word forcing me to put a bloody capital letter to that dreadful n-word?!

The only way I can explain this obsession with finding, seeing Nazis everywhere is, what I mentioned earlier, the fact that they still cannot get over their victory over them 69 years ago.

In the UK, and especially England, “the War” is mentioned constantly to such an extent that even the German ambassador got fed up with it. Only to be called a “sore loser” and a “kill-joy”. That’s English international diplomacy for you.

Every year, “the War” is the first thing the boys in the school I used to teach use to taunt the German students when we went to German and when they came to England. Boys who were as young 11, 12 years old were stopping what they were doing, purposely going to see German students in the playground to ask them “How does it feels to lose the War?”. In present tense. Not in the past. It’s still happening right now.

You have to go more than three generations in their family for anyone to have actually experienced WWII but still the kids in the playgrounds of England find nothing better to do that asking young Germans about their country’s defeat in 1945. The same kids who asked me what USSR was.

The second question is: How many people are Nazis in your family? (present tense again!)

The third: How many Jews did you kill?

And parents never understood why we never managed to convince German parents to do an exchange with our grammar school. The school had to satisfy with a visit. It’s a common problem with boys all over England.

In the media, if you mention Germany to say they are in some way “worst” than the UK, everything will be fine because in their minds, this is how it should be. The winner takes it all and the loser has to forever suffer. Where it cracks is that the reality is different and it annoys the English. When Germany reinvented itself, made amends, has been fighting its demons for 70 years which allowed the Germans to move on, to find the confidence to be strong again, to use their qualities for the good, the English have not. There are still stuck in 1946. Stuck in a world where they set the tone.

It looks impossible for them to move on because this victory is everything. It finally lead England, its lesser partners in the UK, its former colonies, its colonies and dominions to be the ones who were going to rule the world. Before London and Washington were just another player along with Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo but with France and the Netherlands humiliated and irrelevant, Germany and Japan in smoking ruins, and Canberra raising from the ashes of Indonesia, they took the reins on what would become the Western World. The world order we are living in today is the one of Yalta where “the winners of the war” decided on what would become of the future. And the winners were solely London, Washington and Moscow. With Moscow “defeated” in 1991, today’s crackling world is what English-speaking London and Washington created between 1945 and 1960 politically, economically, sociologically. Moving on from 1945 would mean moving on from this order, moving on from their dominance towards a fairer leadership.

In England, Churchill is still everywhere.  Politicians of all beliefs are using and abusing his spirits. He doesn’t matter how much he drank, how many cigars he smoked, how horrendously sexist and cheap as a man he was, he’s the victor. He’s the man every mean should aspire to, every woman should want to serve and marry. When Scotland was about to vote on independence, one of Westminster’s main arguments was “We defeated the Germans together, we can’t let our little differences tear us apart”. The victory still serves as a gathering call for the English and the like-spoken world.

When it comes to the Germans, the English have this schizophrenic attitude towards them. They admire them, they envy them, their work ethic, the stability of their political system. They envy their comfort, their way of life, and German high-skilled manufactured products are a sign of wealth in a country that advertised de-industrialisation as a way forward. For the upper middle-class whose imperative is to show its status, buying a German car is the door to acceptance: they are expensive, they are stylish, they are luxury cars the poor cannot afford but they don’t have this old-fashioned, old farty geezer or cheap footballer feeling about them like Jaguar or Aston Martin. And they remain affordable for them, unlike Rolls Royce, which is owned by BMW anyway.

The English also try to relate to them by all means now that they are the powerful. Every week, you will hear that their monarchy is German because they are descending from the House of Hannover. They are as German as the Tudors were French but they share something. When it turned out Angela Merkel was nothing like the “silly minger” the English tabloids were depicting her as, the English jumped to remind the world that they too had a “strong woman Prime Minister who changed their country and the world for the better”. Oh dear…

Now, try talking about how well Germany is doing right now and you will see the discussion end quite quickly with an annoyed: “Yeah, we kicked their arse and we will do it again if we have to!” or “Hey, they lost and we won so…”

So what?

“Well, we got Hitler at the end.”

There we are…

The bottom line is that next year, it will be 70 years since WWII – or the War. People who can talk about the realities of “the War” will have to have been born in the early 1920’s so that about…no one. And still, mentioning German culture makes you a Nazi in the UK.

“Without freedom from the past, things can only get worse.”