Thursday, 24 January 2013
I had not realised "The Speech" would come so early on Wednesday. As it was, it managed to spoil my day completely and utterly. The proposition of an in/out referendum for Britain, the ghastly formulaic "We wanna bedder deal" (i.e. more money), and the general bellicose and aggressive demeanour of the speaker churned my stomach.
You know the branding exercise "If this product were a person, what/who would they be"? I've always found it very useful to clarify my thoughts. So let's think. If today's Britain were a person what would they be?
The image of a dirty old man living in a run-down shack comes to mind. He shoots wildly at his neighbours whilst shouting obscenities and accusing them of trespassing. He lives on his own, maybe with a flea-ridden dog. He has no job and no obvious income. He spends his time watching TV, and throws the remote at it when something is not to his liking or he thinks it's a foreign program. For food he slops a can of baked beans over some soggy toast. The leaky roof of his hovel is adorned with a tatty flag to which he salutes when he goes out. He is unkempt, aggressive, and thoroughly unpleasant.
Clearly, in my personal life I would not have any dealings with such a person. I abhor any form of nationalism, xenophobia and racism. Sadly, in today's UK, xenophobia is so institutionalised and socially acceptable, people aren't even aware they're practising it. And small wonder: Lack of foreign language skills, (i.e. no ability to read or listen to foreign media) little experience of foreign countries (apart from artificial tourist resorts - the "Costas"), and an inherited belief that "Britain is best" make for a society that is perennially chasing its own tail. Unable - and unwilling - to look across the parapet. Proud of its ignorance ("I don't like eating foreign muck"), its tribalness, and its provinciality. Only British people who are living abroad find all this embarrassing and off-putting.
It's a country where hatred reigns supreme. Everybody there hates everybody. Men/women, northerners/southerners, Tory/labour, car drivers/pedestrians/cyclists, families/childless, old/young, rich/poor. There is not a group that hasn't got an aggressively pursued anti-group. (I've written about this quite often, for example here http://britishandbritains.blogspot.de/2012/04/britain-at-war-with-itself.html So it's hardly surprsing that the whole lot collectively hates all its European neighbours. Hatred comes naturally, and a certain historical invasion paranoia doesn't help. All psychologically logical and understandable, but off-putting nevertheless.
The European idea favours mutual support, trade, exchange of ideas, know-how and talent. Countries forging links and living peacefully together, striving for a maximum level of affluence for as many people as possible. It eschews tribalism, and prejudice. The original idea was conceived in the Enlightenment, and in the 21st century has been augmented by a common desire to be linked up, belonging to (cultural or economic) networks, and a general drive towards a more integrated, modern, and mutually beneficial society.
40 percent of the UK populace reject those ideas and are in favour of exiting the EU (with only 34% opting for staying - the rest doesn't know, hasn't heard of Europe, or doesn't care). Two thirds of the over-60's want to leave the EU. Those figures clearly indicate that it isn't about power-politics, or even rooting for cash-backs. People want their "sovereignity" back, they don't want to be "governed by foreigners", they don't want to exchange ideas. people, and goods. They want to live in their hovel, and hate everybody. Just like the dirty old man.
For me, that is unacceptable. I prefer not to have any dealings with such convictions. I find them abhorrent, deplorable, and really quite disgusting. British voters might be put off by Europe. I am put off by the old man - I know I should be feeling sorry for him, but I'm too disgusted by his ways.
Sorry, no comments - my openness for dialogue with Euro-haters is over.
Monday, 14 January 2013
Intercultural Musings doesn't normally comment on journalistic ongoings. There are so many, and a few weeks later nobody knows what the whole thing was about. But in the case of the unspeakable J. Burchill, I will make an exception. If only to raise my eyebrows that somebody like that can peddle her dirty tricks campaign for so long - and hitherto unchallenged.
It goes wiithout saying that her ramblings about transgendered people are abhorrent and shocking ( I will not quote her awful comments here, look it up if you're interested). One can only hope, she was (as seems quite often to be the case) drunk when she wrote such abysmal, crude, and rude stuff.
What perturbs me slightly, however, is that this horrible woman only gets taken to task now. Her hate-campaign against all sorts of groups has been going on for years. In particular, she writes the most inflammable hate-filled xenophobic stuff. She hates all foreigners, is rude about the French, the Irish, the Americans. She is however particularly disgusting about "the Germans".
You can read her unacceptable, vile and ridiculously badly-written stuff here (if you can stomach it)
That The Guardian decides to publish something like that, makes me wonder about that paper (but not for the first time). Imagine somebody would write a piece like that about black people, about Pakistanis or any other ethnic group. But the Guradian obviously thinks that "The Germans" are fair game. (The Daily Mail of course is the runner-up for Euro-hating and -bashing of any kind.)
Maybe it took that below the belt twaddle about the transgendered community to make the British public wake up to the fact that writing brutalised hate-filled stuff is absolutely unacceptable, and that xenophobia is as disgusting as homophobia, or the hate-targeting of any group.
Friday, 4 January 2013
A seismic shift is rippling through the intercultural perspective. Germany has suddenly become the country people move to. For work, yes - but not just. For a more agreeable and relaxed lifestyle. For going to university and not having to pay. For living in an exciting and culturally vibrant environment (Berlin) whilst not having to fork out masses of money for a flat. For understanding that it's not necessary to lumber yourself with a mortgage all through your life - and yet still be able to live ina nice flat or house -because in Germany renting is the genrally accepted norm. And for safety. And for a thousand other reasons...
The once frowned-upon country which never even featured on the travel pages of magazines (despite having some the most spectacular scenery in Europe) has suddenly become the go-to place of choice Maybe Germany had just been overlooked for some time. Maybe there didn't seem to be a particular reason to go. People had it down as solid, but boring, unexciting - just sort of there.
The deteriorating economic climate in many European country turned out to be the intitial spark that made people aware of Germany. But suddenly it's quite literally on the map. Tourist numbers are up, people - especially Britons - are suddenly very knowledgeable about Germany, discussing export figures (up?) versus retail sales (down?). And who would have thought - they're even reading German novels that had been all but forgotten in Germany were it not for the boost from Britain, yes I'm talking about Fallada's Alone in Berlin which became a bestseller in the UK! http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/may/23/hans-fallada-thriller-surprise-hit
Quality standards improve quality of life - it's as simple as that. And not just for those who can afford it - in Germany, class inequality is a lot less pronounced than, say, in the UK. Decent standards in all wakes of life (housing, transport, food are available to all. Concomitantly, there is much less (or actually no) class hatred, and a lot less crime.
Nobody's saying Germany is the new Eden. You will still have to put up with a certain staidness, with hermetically shut shops on Sunday, a strong regionalism, and an often technological way of thinking. But these disadvantages are far outstripped by the enormous benefits and the pleasures of living here.
If you have any specific questions about life in Germany, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm also on twitter @Margit11