Germany

The shock and awe of the Röttgen Pietà

Thursday, 18 April, 2019

Gothic art sought to create an impact. The Röttgen Pietà, sculpted in wood circa 1300 and now in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, succeeded in spades. It was created expressly to evoke an emotional response in its viewers. What did they feel when they saw it? Shock, awe, terror, horror, disgust, distaste, fear, fascination… It’s obvious that this Christ clearly died from his crucifixion, but it’s also obvious that this undernourished man led a hard life. The message is that he’s one of us mediaeval folk.

Then, there’s Mary. What does her expression convey? Traditionally, she’s often depicted at peace because she’s aware of the impending Resurrection so her son’s death, while tragic, is temporary. This Mary, however, appears to be bewildered and aggrieved There’s no hint that she’ll see her son alive again. Again, the intent of the artist is to show that God and his mother experienced enormous pain and suffering.

Röttgen Pietà

Our week of pietà meditations began on Monday in Spain and that’s where it will end tomorrow with another graphic work that seeks to get viewers to feel a personal connection to the pain and death of the divine as painted by “El Divino”.


Myles & More: April Fool’s Day

Monday, 1 April, 2019

The great Brian O’Nolan, aka Flann O’Brien, spent much of his life creating surreal humour and it was in keeping with his wry world view that he died on April Fool’s Day. “Evil is even, truth is an odd number and death is a full stop,” he said, wryly.

Along with novels and plays, he wrote a weekly column for The Irish Times titled “Cruiskeen Lawn” (from the Irish crúiscín lán, “full/brimming small-jug”) using the pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen (“Myles of the Little Horses”). As a columnist, he deployed a mix of Irish and English, with occasional splashes of Latin, French and German, to pour scorn upon four major targets: the Dublin literary elite, the government of the day, the “Plain People of Ireland” and Gaelic language revivalists. The following Cruiskeen Lawn snippet is topical in that it makes reference to Germany, the Chancellor of which country will visit Dublin on Thursday.

Curse it, my mind races back to my Heidelberg days. Sonya and Lili. And Magda. And Ernst Schmutz, Georg Geier, Theodor Winkleman, Efrem Zimbalist, Otto Grün. And the accordion player Kurt Schachmann. And Doktor Oreille, descendant of Irish princes. Ich hab’ mein Herz / in Heidelberg verloren / in einer lauen / Sommernacht / Ich war verliebt / bis über beide / Ohren / und wie ein Röslein / hatt’ / Ihr Mund gelächt or something humpty tumpty tumpty tumpty tumpty mein Herz it schlägt am Neckarstrand.

A very beautiful student melody. Beer and music and midnight swims in the Neckar. Chats in erse with Kun O’Meyer and John Marquess… Alas, those chimes. Und als wir nahmen / Abschied vor den Toren / beim letzten Küss, da hab’ Ich Klar erkannt / dass Ich mein Herz / in Heidelberg verloren / MEIN HERZ / es schlägt am Neck-ar-strand! Tumpty tumpty tum.

  • The Plain People of Ireland: Isn’t the German very like the Irish? Very guttural and so on?
    Myself: Yes.
  • The Plain People of Ireland: People say that the German language and the Irish language is very guttural tongues.
    Myself: Yes.
  • The Plain People of Ireland: The sounds is all guttural do you understand.
    Myself. Yes.
  • The Plain People of Ireland: Very guttural languages the pair of them the Gaelic and the German.
    Myself. Yes.

Tumpty tumpty tum.


Spoiled brats blame Trump for Europe’s failings!

Saturday, 16 February, 2019

“Spoiled for 70 years with an American security blanket, and for the past 20 by a common currency that artificially boosts its export market, Germany has most overreacted to Trump’s unorthodox views concerning NATO and trade. Yet Trump is not to blame for the fact that Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 project is a blatant violation of E.U. competition rules and an abject moral and political betrayal of its Eastern European allies. Trump is not to blame for the pathetic state of the German military. And Berlin has the gall to complain about Trump’s hasty retreat from Syria, despite not having committed a single soldier to the mission.”

So writes James Kirchick for The Brookings Institution in a piece titled Blaming Trump for their problems is the one thing Europeans can agree on. Kirchick has nothing but righteous contempt for Europe’s effete elites:

“In response to Russia’s blatant violations of the INF treaty, which puts the strategic stability of Europe at grave risk, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reflexively called for a global disarmament conference. ‘The minister and his cabinet,’ writes Gustav Gressel of the European Council on Foreign Relations, ‘are detached from military realities.’ You could say the same about Germans generally, 55 percent of whom believe the United States is a threat — twice as many as those who view North Korea as one.”

The absurd Maas and his sycophants will spend this weekend declaiming their mantras at the annual Munich Security Conference but their bleatings are pathetic and transparent. James Kirchick nails it here:

“But as long as Trump remains in the White House, expect most European thought leaders to continue using him as an excuse to avoid contending with the continent’s serious, systemic and structural problems, or pretend that these challenges are somehow the fault of the ogre in the White House. After all, Europeans can agree on so few things these days.”

The sting is in the tail there.


The sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018: June

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Football didn’t quite “come home” after this year’s World Cup but England did reach the semi-finals and lost, valiantly, to Croatia, who were beaten in the final by a superior French side. Our review of the year has reached the month of June.

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Back in June 2015, the former German Federal Minister for Finance Wolfgang Schäuble lost patience with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Isch over,” he said. The context were the interminable talks about talks about talks to keep Athens funded and within the Eurozone.

Three years later, somethings have changed and more remain the same: “Tsipras Vows to Stick With Greece’s Euro Deal” is today’s Bloomberg headline. One thing has changed dramatically since 2015, however. Germany has lost its nimbus as a football power. Yesterday’s humiliating defeat by South Korea and the terrible performances against Mexico and Sweden mean “Isch over.” Over and out of the World Cup.

Apropos, in the Guardian, the former German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger says, “This was not the Germany we are used to – I feel completely empty.” He also places a finger in a fatal self-inflicted wound by team manager Joachim Löw:

“I’m aware there has been a lot of talk in England about Leroy Sané’s exclusion from the squad following his excellent season with Manchester City and, for me, he is a player who should be reintroduced immediately. He is exactly the calibre of player Germany needs, someone who is young and has raw, dangerous pace.”

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Since June, Löw has sobered up and Sané is now a regular fixture in the German team, where his ability and agility are beginning to add sparkle. Tomorrow, here, the seventh post of pre-Christmas 2018 dwells upon the new Empire of Evil: China.


Merkelism II: aka AKK

Friday, 7 December, 2018

Dreadful decision by the CDU. Replacing Angela Merkel with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is a vote for dullness, tedium and monotony, but with a name that’s more difficult to pronounce. On the other hand, it’s a triumph of the art of cloning, just like Zalando is an unexceptional German clone of Amazon. Zalando doesn’t offer as much variety as the original, but it keeps the home crowd happy.


Merkelism grounded. A metaphor is needed

Friday, 30 November, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will miss the opening of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires today after her Airbus A340 plane made an unscheduled landing in Cologne last night when it developed technical problems. The German government aircraft plane turned back while it was over the Netherlands and Mrs Merkel will now travel on to Buenos Aires today via Madrid in the company of the huddled masses. Well, Business Class, of course, but still it’s a bit of a come down.

By the way, the very same plane was grounded in Indonesia in October after rodents gnawed through its electrical cables during a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. It would be insensitive at this point to make a joke about rats boarding a sinking ship instead of leaving it, so we’ll leave that to others, but these aircraft incidents offer rich pickings for those seeking metaphors. Merkel’s ebbing chancellorship is the obvious one, but there’s Airbus itself. President Emmanuel Macron’s recent plea for an EU army was welcomed by most factions in Berlin, and Franco-German co-operation on the development and production of Airbus aircraft was cited as example of what can be done when the neighbours agree to bury their bloodied old hatchets. The elation didn’t last long, however, because reality, in the shape of Putin, has given the fantasy army a nasty knock on the head. Despite all the lauded EU mediation over the years, Russia continues to violate Ukrainian sovereignty by waging a brutal, slow-motion war in eastern Ukraine, and Moscow’s thugs took the aggression to the sea at the weekend when they upped their harassment of Ukrainian ships transiting the Kerch Strait.

In response, Merkel and Macron made the usual bleating noises, of course, but boots on the ground in the Donbass region and Ukrainian sailors being paraded before a Crimean kangaroo court show that in the world’s wilder places the belief that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, as the Chinese mass murderer Mao Zedong once said, continues to rule the airwaves.

Maybe it’s best to stick with George Orwell’s dictum: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”


The beginning of the end of Merkelism

Tuesday, 30 October, 2018

Prediction: Angela Merkel won’t be Chancellor of Germany this time next year and the shambolic coalition government she leads will be history. And how will history regard Angela Merkel? Very critically, very harshly, in fact. Her decision in 2015 to demand that Germany and, by default, its neighbours, absorb a vast migration on an unprecedented scale of cultural difference was based on the illusion that Germany’s past sins could be forgiven with a reckless modern humanitarianism. The damage done has been immense. Germany is polarized as never before in its post-War phase and brittle members of the European Union, such as Italy and Poland, are riven by divisions that they claim have been sharpened by Merkelism.

But the Merkel miasma was not confined to Germany. Shortly after 9 November 2016 and the election of Donald Trump as US President, the deranged elites crowned her “Leader of the Free World”. Not content with naming her “Chancellor of the Free World” earlier, they upped the ante and beclowned themselves even further. Still, an upside of the Merkel era will be the introduction of urgently-needed term limits in Germany. Two terms should be the maximum. The 12 years of Merkelism were much too much.

Merkelism


Aristides the Just in Bavaria

Saturday, 13 October, 2018

Bavaria is booming. Unemployment is under three percent and the sun has shone almost every day since April. Easy peasy then, you would think, for the CSU, which has ruled the southern German state with an absolute majority for most of the post-war era. The party won nearly 48 percent of the vote at the last regional election, in 2013, but change is in the air. For the first time in living memory, the CSU appears almost certain to fall well below the 40 percent mark in tomorrow’s election, an outcome that would send shockwaves all the way from Munich to Berlin.

What’s up? Frustration with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s moralistic migration policy is one issue; infighting within the CSU and in the coalition government in Berlin is another. People are looking for alternatives. Despite the extraordinary prosperity and stability that the CSU has helped bestow upon Bavaria, the voters are restless. The situation reminds one of an incident recounted by Plutarch in The Life of Aristides the Just. Note: An ostracon (plural ostraka) was a shard of pottery upon which the ancient Greeks wrote short messages:

“Now at the time of which I was speaking, as the voters were inscribing their ostraka [to determine which politicians would be expelled from the city], it is said that an unlettered and utterly boorish ostrakon fellow handed his ostrakon to Aristides, whom he took to be one of the ordinary crowd, and asked him to write Aristides on it. He, astonished, asked the man what possible wrong Aristides had done him. ‘None whatever,’ was the answer, ‘I don’t even know the fellow, but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called ‘The Just’. On hearing this, Aristides made no answer, but wrote his name on the ostracon and handed it back.”

In the most recent polls, CSU support has fallen to 33 percent. In much of Europe today, that would be a dream result for a centrist party, but given the CSU’s almost permanent reign, such an outcome would be treated as a disaster. Stay tuned.


A German writes about Germany and Trump

Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Jochen Bittner, a political editor with the German weekly Die Zeit, addresses the enormous hypocrisy of Europe and, especially Germany, in a New York Times op-ed titled What Trump Gets Right About Europe. Snippet:

“Mr. Trump’s anger at America’s allies embodies, however unpleasantly, a not unreasonable point of view, and one that the rest of the world ignores at its peril: The global world order is unbalanced and inequitable. And unless something is done to correct it soon, it will collapse, with or without the president’s tweets.

While the West happily built the liberal order over the past 70 years, with Europe at its center, the Americans had the continent’s back. In turn, as it unravels, America feels this loss of balance the hardest — it has always spent the most money and manpower to keep the system working.

The Europeans have basically been free riders on the voyage, spending almost nothing on defense, and instead building vast social welfare systems at home and robust, well-protected export industries abroad. Rather than lash back at Mr. Trump, they would do better to ask how we got to this place, and how to get out.

The European Union, as an institution, is one of the prime drivers of this inequity. At the Group of 7, for example, the constituent countries are described as all equals. But in reality, the union puts a thumb on the scales in its members’ favor: It is a highly integrated, well-protected free-trade area that gives a huge leg up to, say, German car manufacturers while essentially punishing American companies who want to trade in the region.

The eurozone offers a similar unfair advantage. If it were not for the euro, Germany would long ago have had to appreciate its currency in line with its enormous export surplus.”

What sort of lives do people/nations, who pose as being moral, lead? Jochen Bittner has posed the question and answered it, too.

Language note: The word “hypocrite” came to English from the Greek hypokrites, which means “actor” or “stage player.” Hypokrites is made up of two words that translate as “an interpreter from underneath,” and that makes sense when you know that actors in ancient Greece wore masks to represent the characters they were playing, and so they interpreted the story from underneath their masks.

Hypokrites took on an expanded meaning to refer to anyone wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone they were not, and this meaning was imported into medieval French and then into English, where it appeared with the spelling, ypocrite, in 13th-century religious texts to refer to those who pretend to be pious to deceive others. By the 16th century, hypocrite had gained its initial h-.


Murderous Marx @ 200

Saturday, 5 May, 2018 0 Comments

They’ll be celebrating the 200th birthday of Karl Marx in his hometown of Trier today and, no doubt, many fancy speeches will be made praising his “relevance” to our 21st century. Naturally, the enormity of the crimes committed in his name will be ignored and the millions of Marxism’s victims will not get a mention. A classic example of this dishonesty was provided earlier this week by the New York Times, which published “Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!” by Jason Barker, an associate professor of philosophy at Kyung Hee University in South Korea and author of Marx Returns. Snippet: “The idea of the classless and stateless society would come to define both Marx’s and Engels’s idea of communism, and of course the subsequent and troubled history of the Communist ‘states’ (ironically enough!) that materialized during the 20th century.”

Note there the use of “troubled”. No one would ever say that genocidal fascist dogma had a “troubled” history, but ideologues like Barker get away with praising Marxism as a virtuous philosophy, detached from the nightmares of the GULAG and Pol Pot’s killing fields. In his summary of the estimates in The Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia suggested a death toll of between 85 and 100 million people, and all this murder and suffering was done in the name of Marx’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, violence as the midwife of history and individual rights as a bourgeois crime.

The most surreal defence of this evil was served up yesterday in a Reuters article titled “No regrets: Xi says Marxism still ‘totally correct’ for China.” It’s totally fitting that the autocratic leader of a country where a ruling class ruthlessly exploits the masses and where no labour movement is allowed legitimizes his hegemony with Marx.

Karl Marx belongs in the rubbish bin of history. Our thoughts today should be with the innocents murdered in his name.

Marx and his pupils


Merkelism 4.0: Stasis

Monday, 5 March, 2018 0 Comments

Keine Experimente (No experiments) was the promise made in 1957 by Konrad Adenauer, a founding father of postwar Germany. That was the year his CDU party won more than 50 percent of the national vote, which turned out to be its best ever result. Sixty years later, Keine Experimente is the preferred way of doing things in Germany and the new GroKo (Grand Coalition) government will be every bit as dreary as Adenauer could have hoped for. There will be no experiments because if there were, the coalition parties, the CDU the SPD and the CSU, would have too much to lose. Last September, these “partners” achieved their worst electoral results since the 1950s and that’s why Angela Merkel’s fourth term as Chancellor will be a time of cheerless stasis.

Writing in The Spectator, Fredrik Erixon is unsparing of the perennial Chancellor. Snippet: “Merkel has been Germany’s dominant political figure for a dozen years. It is her policy — and her style of leadership — that has paralysed the country’s politics and threatens to see the far-right become the main opposition. For those who are angry with the German power establishment, there is only one person to blame.”

The Spectator