“Wir Schaffen Das” (We Can Manage)
“WIR SCHAFFEN DAS,” OR DRAGON BLOOD AND TOUGH SKIN
She is modest. Powerful. Thoughtful. The most influential politician of Europe, no, in the world, as US magazine Time stated in a cover story, declaring the German as “person of the year” — in 2015. Often this powerful woman does her grocery shopping without a bodyguard, and only really dresses up for one annual gala, the Wagner-festival in Bayreuth. She enjoys opera, a sharp contrast to her speeches. Richard Wagner, the composer is loud and confusing, sinister and bombastic. His opera, “Parsifal” for example, may take five hours, a great joy for Angela Merkel, who also enjoys football games and is not hesitating to follow the players of the national team directly into their changing room after the match. Last July, she went to see “Tristan and Isolde.” Her dress was as green as the trees in the northeastern Italian Dolomites Mountains, where she often goes tracking with her husband, who is as discreet as a ghost.
Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, daughter of a protestant pastor, who grew up in the dull communist Germany, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (which was as democratic as North Korea) is a measured, reflective and loyal politician, which in our cynical, corrupt world, is a rare species. No touch of hysteria, hardly ever excitement. Neither tears nor anger. Since her father was assigned as pastor to a Lutheran church in a communist country, a close ally of the Soviet Union (Putin was active as a KGB spy in the GDR), daughter Angela learned to speak Russian and was active for Marxist organizations, for example as Secretary for “Agitation and Propaganda.”
During her student years at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig, the then Angela Kasner (her family is partly of Polish descent), met her first husband, a physics student, whose name she kept after her divorce and remarriage with her second husband (a chemistry professor), Joachim Sauer. Her doctorate in quantum chemistry apparently influenced her scientific, analytical approach to politics, and her, at times, hesitant process to reach decisions. Mrs. Merkel does not react to difficult problems immediately. She sits them out. In comparison to Trump, the German politician is a dead body walking.
At times the chancellor surprises—when she decided last month not to fight to be leader of her party anymore,after 18 years in power (and leaving politics in three years altogether), when she decided, without much preparation of public opinion, or her conservative party, the “Christlich Demokratische Union”(CDU), to fade out nuclear power stations, 17 in all — a fundamental policy reversal. The reason: the dramatic, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan 2011. Another of her unpredicted, unexpected and more dramatic decision, were the chancellor’s words, “wir schaffen das,” we can manage. Germany opened its borders to more than a million refugees, mainly Syrians, facilitating an “Islamic invasion of Europe,” as her critics are still insisting to this day. For Frau Merkel, Germany does not suffer from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.” She believes in God and religion is “also my constant companion and has been for the whole of my life.” Her decision to open the gates to heaven for the desperate refugee masses “marked the zenith of her status as a protector of humanitarian values and Germany’s reputation as an open and tolerant nation,” praised the New York Times, but it also “gave rise to a resurgent far right.”
“A NEW NATIONALIST MINDSET”
“Decades after they were supposedly banished from the west,” argued associated professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and John Ikenberg, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University in a think piece published by Foreign Affairs, “the dark forces of world politics — illiberalism, autocracy, nationalism, protectionism, sphere of influence, territorial revisionism — have reasserted themselves. Across the world, a new nationalist mindset has emerged, one that views international institutions and globalization as threats to national sovereignty and identity rather than opportunities.”
The conclusion of the academics: “The recent rise of illiberal forces and leaders is certainly worrisome.” In the year 2000, 10 of the then 15 national governments within the EU had left wing parties in power. Today? Six of 28. A growing number, as Hungary or Poland, are attracted by illiberalism, a reduced, partial democracy, pretending, through elections, legitimacy, but in reducing in reality freedom of speech and the independence of parliament and the judicial system.
“LOVE THEM AS YOURSELF, FOR YOUR WERE FOREIGNERS IN EGYPT”
Leaders and citizens of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and, yes, in Germany as well, mainly catholic nations, obviously erased the verses of the bible, Exodus 12:49 from their minds: “The same law applies both to the native born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
Or even Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
The pope in the Vatican, his cardinals, the archbishops in Warsaw and Budapest, Vienna, or in these days, Rome as well (where radical nationalists in government have closed Italy’s harbors to any rescued refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea) are in open conflict with their church, refusing to accept more immigrants. Poland and Hungary, which agreed with the EU in 2015 to relocate 160,000 migrants to lighten the burden of Greece and Italy, refused since then to receive any refugees, stubbornly willing to accept legal procedures and possible punishment by the European Court of Justice for “noncompliance with their legal obligations on relocation.” Germany, today, has the second highest percentage of immigrants after the United Kingdom, 12.1 million, more than 14 percent of the German population.
Ever since Frau Merkel, in her better days, admired by a German majority as “Mutti” (mother), dared to accept the miserable masses, bombarded, and starved to death by a dictator, the 64 year-old Merkel, first elected to the German parliament following the reunification of Germany (voted to be the CDU leader in 2002, elected to chancellor in 2005) is facing a political, uphill fight for survival as leader of her coalition government, a reality she admitted just by renouncing further leadership in the CDU and her eventual retirement. Her party decides in December of this year who will follow her, a choice equal to the choice of future chancellor, a replacement for Merkel. Three candidates, among them the secretary general of the CDU, a woman, have announced their interest in the job.
Some of the EU-leaders (and colleagues) resent Mrs. Merkel, and look forward to her early retirement, ever since the German chancellor did not really consult them about accepting a million plus migrants, which were to be relocated, after later consultations, into each of the EU member states. No debate, initially just a human reaction by Angela Merkel and, possibly, also an opportunistic idea—Germany is an ageing society with a shrinking population and might benefit from an influx of young, highly motivated workers. [Workers] Who, one day in a not so far future, will pay the taxes needed to secure the impressive social services of the German society, pensions and hospital care included? The debate is raging and is touching the foundation of the democratic system in Germany.
GRUENE, LINKE, CHRISTLICHE, LIBERALE
The so-called Volks-Parteien, the major center right party, like Frau Merkel’s CDU, or its partner, the CSU (Christlich Soziale Union), which only is represented in Germany’s wealthiest region, Bavaria, as well as the SPD, the “Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland,” the left leaning social democrats (which together are forming the present coalition government) are deeply touched by their fading power.
In 2013, the CDU won 34.1%, CSU 7.4%, SPD 25.7%, Gruene 8.4%, and Linke 8.2 percent of the vote, the liberal FDP, a coalition partner of the conservatives prior to the election, did only gather 4.8 percent, 0.2% under the threshold after which parliamentary seats are allocated. Frau Merkel and her party decided to enter into a coalition agreement with the left leaning SPD, with disastrous consequences at the elections four years later. 76.2% Germans voted in a migrant debate-injected election in September 2017. The CDU/CSU lost 8.6 percent of its electorate, the social democrats 5.2%. Suddenly the right wing AfD registered 12.6 percent, a gain of 7.9.% The liberals entered parliament again (10.7) the ecologists, the Gruene, collected an honorable 8.9 %, while the radical left 9.2 percent.
The SPD, disillusioned under chancellor candidate Martin Schulz, just able to conquer 25.7 percent of the vote (Schulz is no longer their leader), decided to rejuvenate in opposition, recuperating from the electoral disaster, a party which used to be one of the beacons of German politics, symbolized by Willy Brandt and his “Ostpolitik,” an opening towards the Soviet Union and its allies, including the German Democratic Republic. Mrs. Merkel needed new partners to govern, for example the FDP, the liberals and the ecologists, whose leader Cem Oezdemir is of Turkish descent and one of the most popular politicians in Germany. These small parties were ready to negotiate the needed compromises on various differences of politics and philosophies. A new direction seemed possible with new, younger leaders, ready to introduce new ideas and solutions. For four months, almost Italian realities, Germany was searching for a government, and Mrs. Merkel was on hold, reduced to caretaker.
After weeks of discussions and days of negotiations the liberals of the FDP decided they would prefer the opposition than join the government and their rivals, the ecologists. “The greens are the only German party,” confirms Arne Jungjohann of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, “in which the pro European, refugee-friendly, liberal democratic attitude is undisputed in times of rising populism and growing Nazi violence. Other parties have been hesitant to take a clear stand.” Clarity by the green party was not enough, their votes alone, added to the CDU/CSU parties, were not sufficient for a majority in parliament.
Only the intervention of the nation’s President, who usually stays out of the political debate, changed the position of the SPD, which had sworn its members they would never again join Mrs. Merkel in government. It was obvious that their contributions, particularly their engagement for the working class, would not be honored by votes. The social democrats would also have to share the responsibilities for unpopular decisions on pensions or health insurance issues by the coalition government. The right wing, partly fascist, AfD was certainly willing to join the negotiations for a participation in a new government, but Germany’s major political parties had agreed not to collaborate with the disturbing AfD. Its leaders, some university professors included, are anti-Europe and look (just like other members of the new populist right in Europe) nostalgically back at fading national cultures that were based on ethnicity or religions and flourished in societies that were largely free of immigrants.
THE MOST SUCCESSSFUL PINOCHIO IN HISTORY
The popularity of a nationalistic populist party in itself is not a new phenomenon in Germany, others, decades ago, tried to cultivate the lost values of Hitler and his incorrigible followers, and failed. The Alternative fuer Deutschland (Afd), the alternative for Germany, a radical, certainly racist, brazen party, cultivated its anti-asylum seeker rhetoric as a main ingredient of the party platform and, bingo, touched the Zeitgeist, a current of our time. The right wing, attached by some members to delirious figments of their imagination, the return to the Reich and their ever adored dictator Adolf Hitler (the greatest mass murderer of all time). Others, destabilized between cyberspace and globalization, irritated by Europe’s bureaucratic approach and continuously arriving refugees, are dreaming of a return to the older values of their nation, a country without migrants, dominated by Christianity and trusted cultural values. A confused, often violent group of people, chiefly against migrants with whom they only associate if they demonstrate and look for victims, Arabs or blacks, any color except white. The success of Donald Trump, the most successful Pinocchio of all American Presidents in history, whose xenophobic messages certainly encourage the global radical fringe, just as Hitler did, irrational and calculating, incalculable and unreal. Eventually the Fuehrer convinced the German bourgeoisie and the working class (except communists and socialists) that his National Socialist Revolution (and oppression) would make Germany great again (sound familiar ?) and catapult the Aryan Germany to be the rulers of the world. For a thousand years, Hitler was certain in a speech in 1937, he had his sources. Probably in Dante’s hell.
INTIMIDATE THE PRESS, ACCUSE THEM OF FAKE NEWS
Yesterday, the Jews were singled out. Today, they have been replaced by Africans, Arabs, and in the US, by Latinos, who Trump generalizes as criminals and rapists. The characterization of migrants by European fascists are copied from history books and Trump, a dangerous clown to some, a threat to the future of the globe for others. Stop migrants with troops, as Washington at the border, let children and women drown crossing the seas to survive in another land. The death penalty should be reintroduced in states which abandoned cruelty and inhumanity in their justice. Deport illegals without trial, take away birthrights of children born to illegal citizens in the US. Intimidate the press, accuse them of fake news and call judges corrupt , accuse the FBI of treason. The social media is used to spread illiberal ideas and invented criminal behavior by migrants, calling their troops to demonstrate and engage provocations against innocent foreigners. Just as they did in August, in Chemnitz - 6,000 answered the call. Violence erupted, street fights, inflamed by xenophobic comments, false information and conspiracy theories posted on social media by right wing groups, including the anti-Muslim Pegida.
A large number of attacks on immigrants in Germany have taken place in the five states that once made up the former communist Germany, the German Democratic Republic. In the early years of their arrival, 47 percent of racist assaults in Germany were recorded in these eastern regions, although only 16 percent of all asylum seekers have been allocated to the so called “neue Laender,” the new regions of the Federal Republic of Germany. In Goerlitz, a city located in a border area between the German state of Saxonia and the Czech Republic, 44 percent of its citizens voted for the AfD. Thousands of AfD members, or their political friends of the radical Pegida movement (an acronym for “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West”) are provoking the bourgeois society by marching in swastika decorated Nazi uniforms, denying the holocaust, the death of millions of Jews, or minimizing its importance, as one of the AfD leader’s, Alexander Gauland, declared at a meeting of the youth wing of AfD, Young Alternative: “Hitler and the Nazis are just a drop of fly s***t in over 1,000 years of glorious German history.” Gauland, years ago, was a member of the CDU, Angela Merkel’s troubled party.
“PERCEPTION OF INVISIBILTY”
Masses shrieking with delight at Trump’s verbal venom against journalists or politicians, applauding his mild reaction to murder accusations against the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who apparently ordered the elimination of an irritating author. Freedom of speech, yes, but are these fanatic Trump-Americans any different than those Nazi masses whom Hitler promised greatness and the ownership of the world, ignorant, frustrated, vicious people, ready to be led into ruin and global disgrace? They rejoice and feel empowered since suddenly their voices are heard, and they believe, their interests are considered by their President, the self-centered billionaire — good luck. Francis Fukuyama, an American political scientist, author and Senior Fellow at Stanford University, argues in his book, Identity: The demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment,
“Perhaps one of the great drivers of the new nationalism that sent Trump to the White House (and drove the United Kingdom to vote to leave the EU) has been the perception of invisibility. The resentful citizens fearing the loss of their middle-class status point an accusatory finger upward to the elites, who they believe do not see them, but also downward to the poor, who they feel are unfairly favored,” immigrants for example.
“Economic distress,” the author believes, “is often perceived by individuals more as a loss of identity than a loss of resources. Many members of the white working class see themselves as victimized and marginalized.”
“Such sentiments,” argues Francis Fukuyama, have paved the way for “the emergence of a right wing identity politics that, at its most extreme, takes the form of explicitly racist white nationalism.”
THE SOURCE OF ALL EVIL
For the AfD and its followers, asylum seekers are the source of all evil, including rapes and murder. In 2016, the authorities registered more than 3,500 anti-migrants attacks, last year 2,200, but in the first six months of 2018 a decline in these hate crimes was reported — 700 aggressions. This year, German criminologists also published the result of a study to prove the fake news spread by the Nazi-Ersatz —the crime rate of migrants between the age of 16 and 30 is within the same range as Germans. But crime by foreigners has a different significance and is used as an excuse for violent demonstrations as in Chemnitz, some demonstrators singing Nazi songs (long forbidden by law) after a 35 years old Cuban-German man was allegedly killed by two asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq. These embittered neo-Nazis, estimated by the counter intelligence service as about 25,000 nationwide, salute like Hitler’s insane disciples —the right arm stretched toward the sky, old and young, boundless in their inhumanity, soiling culture and provoking hate. The NGO Jugendschutz.net, started in 1997 to protect the youth from the influence of right wing extremism, registered 1900 websites dealing with the idea of Nazism. About 10,000 users read daily neo-Nazi blogs or are visiting platforms with similar content.
“THE MOTHER OF ALL PROBLEMS”
From 2015 to the end of 2017, 1,356,600 asylum seekers were registered in Germany, a difficult task for any country and the relevant institutions. Angela Merkel is not intervening often with powerful arguments, condemning the excited masses or calming them, because she needs to stop the hemorrhage her party suffers, much of her former support deserting towards the right wing AfD. Like many of the European countries, touched by the same populism, France for example, even Sweden, once the bastion of social responsibilities, politicians try to absorb the frustration and anger of the electorate by following radical streaks, mainly in their refusal to admit Muslims into their society. For Germany’s contested minister of the interior, Horst Seehofer, migration is “the mother of all problems.” The Bavarian, leader of the Merkel ally CSU, almost caused the collapse of the coalition government in Berlin when he threatened to resign because of the liberal immigration policies implemented by the chancellor. Angela Merkel did not react publicly against her blackmailing political friend—silence instead of a bar room brawl. She now decided, enough is enough. She wants to concentrate on her job a chancellor. A few years to go…
TANKS AT THE BORDER
The political plagiarism is not a method to succeed, as the CSU has noticed, a few weeks ago in the state elections in Bayern, one of the so-called German Bundeslaender, federal states. The party leaders competed with the AfD for votes, by concentrating on the evil invaders from Islamic lands and faraway places like Afghanistan or Ethiopia, Nigeria or Mali. They demanded to quickly deport illegals to their countries of origin and stricter border controls of each EU nation, just as Hungary does since 2015, including a fence to protect the nation against intruders. Some German CSU politicians argued like Trump, ready to deploy the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, to stop the flow of immigrants, which has been considerably reduced over the past months.
If tanks are needed, that was the message by some populists in the CSU, they will be deployed. To remind the electors that despite the reactionary rhetoric the CSU was indeed still Christian, the governor (Ministerpraesident) of Bavaria ordered Christian crosses to be hung in all public buildings. Even priests were confused by the electoral ploy. All the rhetoric, all the lamentable arguments against foreigners, demands of building fences, did not help —the Bavarian election this October turned into a disaster—for the CSU, the coalition partner of the chancellor in Berlin, and Frau Merkel herself. The Bavarian conservatives lost their absolute majority, their votes reduced to 37.2 percent, a drop of 10.5 percent.
The SPD, the other coalition partner of Mrs. Merkel in Berlin, a decade or two one of the great political, progressive parties of Germany, was reduced in Bavaria to 9.7 percent, a dramatic loss of 10.9 percent, a signal towards the social democrats in the Berlin government, although the party never really had a chance to win any majority in the catholic state. But, the SPD was overtaken by the ecologists, the Green party, which now counts in Bavaria 17.5 percent. The election result meant to many analysts, that the Bavarian voters not only judged their local leaders (Horst Seehofer,the national minister of interior), but the work of the coalition government in Berlin.
SIEGFRIED THE DRAGON KILLER
Angela Merkel was partly blamed for the Bavarian and the recent Hesse disaster. The chancellor seems to some of her cabinet members as tired, exhausted and out of inspiring ideas after 13 years in power. In the state of Hesse, a few weeks ago, the CDU plummeted to 27 percent, a drop of 11.3 points since 2013. “Mrs. Merkel is facing,” British The Guardian predicted, “a fresh crisis.” The chancellor tried to belittle the results by arguing, “not every regional election can be stylized into a little national election.” The SPD, her coalition partner, secured just about 19.8 percent, a sobering drop of 10.9 percent since Hesse last went to the polls. This vote “could be a shock that finally prompts the SPD leadership to withdraw from Merkel’s coalition in Berlin,” speculated The Guardian. The result of such a scenario: new national elections.
Even if the SPD remains in the government (since new elections could reduce their electorate even further), Mrs. Merkel has clearly been weakened, her authority is questioned more than ever before. Her announced resignation as party leader is a confirmation of her expected end. The green party added to its triumphant Bavarian result another impressive result and is threatening the social democrats as a possible alternative. The CDU has to fight off the AfD, which for the first time ever is present in the Hesse parliament, with an estimated 13.1 percent of the vote. The green party received as many votes as the Merkel coalition partner in Berlin, the SPD, obtaining 19.8 of the votes, which were casted by 67.3 percent of the eligible voters.
Soon we may witness her own "Götterdämmerung" the Twilight of the Gods, another Wagner opera. The chancellor appreciates Brunhilda, a powerful female figure from Germanic heroic legend, certainly on stage — drama included. It is possible though that the destruction of the gods in a final battle with evil powers, may remind her too much of her own political reality —no singing, but evil conspiracies for sure. Where is her Siegfried, Wagner’s famous dragon killer? Remember, he bathed in the dragon blood, and as a result received a skin as hard as horn that makes him invulnerable.
That’s what Mutti needs in Berlin these days. Dragon blood and tough skin.