Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Thursday, August 26, 2010

German funk

When I was in Germany this summer, I found the country in a strange funk. I say "strange" because this mood is in contrast to a booming economy, which is bucking the world-wide trend: Unemployment is lower than it has been in years; the carmakers are running extra shifts to meet world-wide demand etc. And besides, the young and inexperienced soccer team did much better than expected during the World Cup. But still, the Germans seem to be unhappy—more in my first comment...


Ulrich said...

Now, the fact that the Germans are unhappy, by itself, is nothing new. I’ve said many times that the Germans seem to be happy only when they are unhappy; i.e. when confronted with a situation that has positive and negative aspects, they tend to focus on the negative, and since they do this out of their free will, I can only conclude they prefer it, that is to say, are happier, that way. But the current funk, in the face of much to be happy about, seems to have specific causes that I, too, cannot dismiss.

Services are not what they should be. Especially the famous trains suffer from mismanagement and cost-cutting at the wrong end. In the winter, the heating system failed in some cars. This summer, the AC failed in some, and since the windows cannot be opened, the inside temperatures reached levels so high that some passengers collapsed with heat stroke and had to be hospitalized, once the operators finally decided to stop the train. (They do this reluctantly because keeping trains running on time is a high priority, after much public criticism.)

But the particular scorn of Germans this summer appears to be directed at politicians, at the incompetence, corruption, and mismanagement found at all levels, and I must admit, the current crop of politicians is not impressive compared to former generations. I was shocked when a well-informed and politically engaged friend told me recently that he will not vote again, out of sheer disgust with the alternatives offered on the ballots.

This starts at the federal level, where Angela Merkel’s government got off to a horrendous start from which it has yet to recover. A particular disappointment has been the foreign secretary, a post traditionally reserved for the leader of the “junior partner” in a coalition government. The Free Demacrats are currently in this role, and they have produced great foreign secretaries in the past (Walter Scheel, Hans-Dietrich Genscher). But these key players in the reconstruction of post-war Germany do not seem to have a worthy successor in the current occupant of the office, Guido Westerwelle. I was initially excited to see him become foreign secretary because he is openly gay, but it seems as if he really doesn’t know what he is doing.

When it comes to incompetence at the local level, I could tell sad stories about the situation in my beloved home town, Cologne, but that would be really too depressing.

Now, if the Germans had won the World Cup, all of this could be overlooked, but they didn’t, and that’s why we are are where we are☺

Jonah said...

Now, if the Germans had won the World Cup, all of this could be overlooked, but they didn’t, and that’s why we are are where we are☺

Wow, if that were true, then it'd be more cost effective to pump money into the sucker team than to spend money in any of the German economic endeavor.

Dare I say that I wish the Germans never win the World Cup again. So they can be unhappy enough to look at their problems?

They say ignorance is bliss. It appears to me that bliss is the cause of neglect.

Ulrich said...

@Jonah: Unfortunately, spending more money on soccer does not always produce better results. I think the Germans do everything already that can be done--i.e. put money and effort into discovering promising players early and building them up. That's why they were able to field such a good young team: Two of its stars got immediately hired after the World Cup by Real Madrid, which paid their respective clubs ca. 10mio Euro each for releasing the players out of their contracts early.