Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The German and European Self-Image

Opernhaus in BerlinGermany often seems to be on the front lines of European dhimmitude.

The recent controversy over the decision of the Berlin Opera House to withdraw a production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” — the ending of which featured the severed head of Mohammed, among others — is a case in point. Muslims had not yet become offended. No one had rioted. No cars or flags were burned. No one torched any German embassies.

Still, Deutschen Oper felt compelled to surrender pre-emptively to the anger and violence of Islam, and cancelled all the performances of the opera.

The big surprise is that the German public didn’t like this craven behavior. Below is a translation of part of an editorial from last week’s Die Welt (I ran into so many mysterious idioms in the last paragraph and a half that I couldn’t finish the job):
- - - - - - - - - -
German society is stronger than one thinks

Broadly and across all political camps there is indignation among the citizens of Berlin because of the Mozart kerfuffle. That’s a hopeful sign. Our democratic instinct and cultural self-confidence have been sharpened by the debate surrounding Islam.

By Eckhard Fuhr

Alexander Kluge spoke of the art form of the opera as a “powerhouse of feelings”. The effect on the audience is, above all, emotional. And opera often depicts the power which feelings and passions have over human understanding and the social order. As an expensive cultural institution, the opera also evokes feelings, not always positive, particularly with local politicians. It is, however, a novel experience when opera suddenly becomes the focus of a liberal society’s self-understanding about what is essential, and a hotbed of democratic emotions. In Berlin this is exactly what is happening.

Once again it is confirmed that history moves forward in dialectical leaps. It all began with fear and cowardice. Because of vague references to the possible hurt feelings of Muslims and the resulting security risks, Kirsten Harms, the Director of Deutschen Oper, pulled Hans Neuenfels’ production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” from the fall season. In November, the 2003 version of the production would have been taken up again. The Director surely did not make decision lightly, weighing artistic freedom against the security of the public and the employees. It is a safe bet that she didn’t reckon on the firestorm of indignation ignited by her decision, made with a heavy heart, in favor of their security.

The political class and cultural public reacted as one, which vitiated all her strategies of pain-avoidance. She shouted and took them to task. No trace of diplomatic restraint in the choice of words in her statements, no retreat clauses: “crazy”, “nonsensical”, “intolerable”, thus no longer discussable — such judgments arose from the rush to obedience and the self-censorship of the Director.

Politicians of all parties, artists, cultural functionaries and spin doctors were seen in a rare shoulder-to-shoulder stance. Some found that quite sinister and attributed it to the dynamics of a positive feedback loop, from which no one could extract himself. But even if that describes the applicable social-psychological mechanism, nevertheless the cause of the excitation does not remain indifferent: The point of pain, Frau Harms — the Good Fairy in White, who wanted to avoid all unintended excitement — is that the liberal minimum, which finds a simultaneous material and symbolic expression in artistic freedom, is not negotiable. Artistic freedom exists for its own sake and not as vehicle for secondary purposes.

For this minimum and its dangers there is obviously a well-trained instinct in the German public. While debates about this question under the references “cultural leadership” or “intercultural dialogue” or “reason and religion” or “values” often lead into the fog of the approximate or into the disinfected sanitary area of the banal, the democratic instinct cannot be lured there. In addition, one feels that if much noise is not made, then without any bad intentions liberty is betrayed quietly, and surely completely.

One should take the controversy, which one can experience now in Berlin, as a chance to think once about whether our German and European self-image is not darker than the reality. Our cultural self-confidence, it seems, looks paradoxically to be stronger than we ourselves often believe. We are faced with all our relativism and rationalism, with our self-doubts and our doddering religious unbelief, and must pull ourselves together, or the faith-strong followers of Mohammed will prevail permanently.


Hat tip: Reader C.A.

My knowledge of German is minimal; I did my translation with the help of babelfish, a German-English dictionary, my knowledge of Common Germanic etymology, and some educated guesswork. Fluent speakers of German are welcome to correct me where I have strayed from a reasonable translation of the original.

19 comments:

Archonix said...

Forgive me if I sound harpish and gloating when I say this but: I told ya so.

Sort of anyway.

Things like this are only a surprise if you base your judgements off what the media and the so-called elite portray of the state of Europe. The actual people are a lot more sane than most give them credit, and anyone with knowledge of the germanic character (that is, any of the peoples north and east of france) should know that they are not likely to be, or ramin, cowed for very long. And better still (or worse depending on the situation) they are ruthless when roused.

Germany is in an interesting political situation right now. Many of the reasons for its membership of the EU are disappearing, ro have disappeared over the last decade. Its putative reasons for staying within the EU were to control French ambition on the continent and provide a garaunteed export market for its manufacturing industry. Its actual reason was as part of the grand project to remove the idea of the nation state from the consciousness of western europe. With the unification of east and west germany this idea, that the nation state was dead, seemed to be on the rise. The paradox is that the reunification has actually increased the strength of the german state, and people there are starting to ask very serious questions about the need for Germany to remain within the EU framework. Merkel's government may well be a lame duck but it raised the possibility of more powerful representation of the east in german affairs, as Merkel herself was an "ossie" I think is the term. Now that the unification has reached its final expression, Germany may well start to seek its own fortune again; the "elite", to whom the idea of the nation state is anathema, will be thrust aside, and their ideas about Islam, immigration and all sorts of things will go with them.

Archonix said...

"ramin" should be "remain". I won't bother with the rest... My spelling sucks. :D

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dymphna asked me to take a look at this translation. You might ask a German about this passage:

-----------------------------------
Die politische und kulturelle Öffentlichkeit reagierte wie ein Körper, der alle Strategien der Schmerzvermeidung ausgereizt hat. Sie schrie und rappelte sich auf. Keine Spur von diplomatischer Zurückhaltung in der Wortwahl der Stellungnahmen, keine Rückzugsklauseln: „verrückt“, „unsinnig“, „unerträglich“, also nicht mehr diskutierbar – so lauteten die Urteile über den vorauseilenden Gehorsam und die Selbstzensur der Intendantin.
-----------------------------------

I think it might better be translated as follows:

-----------------------------------
The political and cultural public reacted as a single body that has exhausted all strategies of pain-avoidance. It screamed and picked itself up. No trace of diplomatic restraint remained in the choice of words in its statements, no retreat clauses: "crazy", "nonsensical", "intolerable", thus no longer discussable — such judgments were loudly expressed at the Director's anticipatory obedience and self-censorship.
-----------------------------------

Or so I would translate. But you'd better check with a German on this.

As for the rest, it looks okay to me, but I've run out of time to check closely.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Pastorius said...

Baron,
The German canceling of the opera doesn't seem nearly as pathetic to me as the fact that Spaniards en masse are deciding against celebrating the Reconquista by setting fire to Mohammed effigies.

The production of the opera was not consistent with Mozart's message, and was not a part of European tradition or history. The celebrations of the Reconquista, on the other hand, are an integral part of the history and traditions of Spain.

Thank God the German people are standing against their leaders here. In Spain, as far as I can tell, it is the people who are giving up. That is strange. I'm with Archonix, I believe in the people of Europe. They will defend their land if they have to kill their leaders in order to do it.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Germany is stronger than it seems. Their expression of nationalist tendencies have always been very much restrained by the burden of history, and lately the leftist Schroeder has queered (frenchified? chiracized?) their foreign policy which was rock stready for decades before that. Also, they have never granted quick citizenship en mass to immigrants. Last but not least, Germany in unique in the west that reunification has given them former east Germans, who have suffered under real communism, and are somewhat innoculated to subtler cultural marxist influences of PC.

MrSmith said...

I'll try and pick up the last paragraph. Sort of:

"We see ourselves with all of our Relativism and Rationalism, with our Self-doubr and our religious [Unbehaustheit seems to be untranslatable on web sites, my guess is - ] homelessness weak against the fervor of the followers of Mohammed and demand of ourselves that we must at long last pull ourselves together. The one [group] suggest, again more to believe, the others are of the opinion, that we should not apologise so often for ourselves, and yet more voices hold all Therapy to be pointless, as we have pre-emptively capitulated.

Now it turns out, that conservative CSU-politicians like Peter Ramsauer and leftist artists like Klaus Staeck, from whom one actually expects poisonous attacks on each other, have common ground in feeling the unacceptable boundary-crossing of the Opera director to be a scandal. Christian politicians are strong advocates for the freedom to criticise criticism of religions. And earlier advocates of a romantic Multiculturalism demand that the requirement of tolerance be written into the very spirit of any clearing up of the situation. Taking of offence and the reference to religious feelings that may not be injured, are not taken by anybody as unquestionable.

Thus does small courage grow to greatness."

ENDE

I'm scribbling in parts and without my dictionary to hand, but I think I've done ok with Babel Fish.

MrSmith said...

And, of course, 'Self-doubr' should be 'Self-doubt'

Papa Bear said...

Seventy years ago, the German people got the feeling that they faced an existential threat from Bolshevism. Their response wasn't pretty

If they feel that Islamism poses a comparable existential threat, I have a hunch the response will not be pretty this time around either

Asger said...

As I see it, Germany is the determining force in the war against Islam fascism.

I travelled to germany last winter, I am a part of a small theatrical group - and I asked around. I noticed a few things:

1. I talked to a waiter in a bar, the bar is probably 500 - 600 years old, with immense walls. He said, the muslims wont take us, the walls are thick
2. When germans have fun, they march. My danish group had a lot of fun, got drunk and where basically pretty free of spirit. Not the germans, they just went on in long rows, banging drums - and then got drunk. And they really started yelling at us danes when we did not march in tact
3. The Germans are actually very nice people - a little provincial in a way. They like beer, fleich and potatos.
4. The muslims crawl along the walls - we played in a restaurant owned by some muslims. They were so ashamed of it that they told us that they were italians. The mayor of the city, that joined our party, were pretty harsh with them. Giving the impression that they were not allowed any space
5. Germany is regaining its posture, after the worldcup the are beginning to feel proud again
6. There were no tendency towards nazism were we were

Basically you would not want to be an enemy of the germans - and if the muslims continue with their hostility towards the western world. One day the germans will be provoked enough to start fighting again. Well I think a determining factor is also the fact that the pope is german - he is a good a friend of the intellectuals of Germany, among other the philosopher Jürgen Habermas.

MrSmith said...

Asger,

Where in Germany was this? I need to start planning holidays soon and need somewhere to give me a breather from Londonistan.

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Archonix, Asger.

From the street, the view here in the UK is as you imply for Germany. We are getting sick and damn tired of this Islam business; also sick and damn tired of our social, political, cultural and media elites pandering to an alien ideology.

And the Germans are ruthless, you say. Yes, maybe so. But go ask the citizens of Dresden or Hamburg what the British are like (and I don't mean to arouse bad feelings in saying this - just making a point) when it comes to ruthlessness. Slow to arouse, but once aroused ...

But I do agree, Germany will lead on this one.

Asger said...

MrSmith,

It was the city of Braunscweig in mid-germany:

http://maps.google.de/maps?oi=eu_map&q=Braunschweig&hl=da

To Sir Henry Morgan,
Out of curiosity: What do you do actually? Do you have any tips for the danes?

MrSmith said...

asger,

Danke schön.

Steve Harkonnen said...

A question for any German visitors: has Germany learned her lesson from allowing mass immigration, legal or not, from the Turks? I see that Belgium still lets them come in by the masses. My daughter lives in a town called Maasmechelen in BE and the place is crawling with Moroccan muslims.

Bostonian said...

"6. There were no tendency towards nazism w[h]ere we were"

If you say so.

A Jewish friend of mine has a German girlfriend and so spent some time in Germany. He didn't say much, except that "it's not pleasant being a Jew in Germany."wrt

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Asger

Apologies for not getting back sooner. I did post you a good comment this morning bit couldn't get it in. I was warned in my email yesterday day before yesterday that I seemed to have attracted "someone's" attention because of my own blog. Then this morning I made the mistake of going out of Firefox and into IE to do something. After that my comms became intermittent - lost email too. I think everything's all right now, but I've lost all my bookmarks. Never mind - start again.

What do I do? These days I do this. In the past I was military - public, and private contracts - from the age of 15 (you could join that young in UK back in 60s). after that I got an education. Now in upper middle age I'm retired hurt, so to say - not in particularly good condition after subjecting this body to a lifetime of hard abuse. So now I engage like this - and started a new blog with Spengler. I should have been putting a new post up tommorow night, but after today's problems it'll be a day late.

My opinion on what Denmark should do? the same as what I think every other country in the Western world should do - deport all Muslims back to the Ummah. In their place we'll accept the Ummah's non-Muslim minorities.

Of course, that's not going to happen until things get an awful lot worse than now. In the meantime, educate the people with all the info. that the MSM doesn't tell people about. I've got a few other suggestions too, but I'll be posting them on Reconquista over the coming weeks.

The good news? well, there is some - my experiences of talking with people on the street, so to speak, is that people are getting sick and bloody tired of Islam - they are just scared of getting the racist label by speaking out. If you approach the subject with the strangers you meet as you go about your everyday life, you'll find the same. Of course, who listens to the people from the bottom of the heap - where I live.

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Should have said GandalfGandalf

Sorry 'bout that.

We need some co-ordination - yes. I know it's difficult - here in UK we here about UK issues, in Germany German, etc. And because we don't hear in the msm about all the problems other countries too are having with Islam it makes us pause when our politicos, msm, cultural elites tell us we have our problems because WE are racist. So we (When I say 'we' I mean the broad mass of the population) never get the picture that EVERYWHERE Islam is present in large numbers, there is trouble - and the trouble can never be bought off with appeasement; it only ever stops when they win, become dominant, and subject everyone else to conversion by force, dhimmitude, or death.

The one common factor to all the strife is Islam. But we don't see it because we are kept fragmented. Deliberately, I believe. I hope to live long enough to one day see a calling to account of all these elite groups who brought this trouble onto us.

Phanarath said...

Bostonian

*A Jewish friend of mine has a German girlfriend and so spent some time in Germany. He didn't say much, except that "it's not pleasant being a Jew in Germany."wrt*

Makes me wonder if people where hitting him in the head for being a jew or maybe he didnt like the food. Could be he missed his mom.

We have had a lot of talks here on GoV about antisemitism in Europe. And I think its a pretty serius topic. It seems a little counterproductive to throw something out like that, without even a hint to what happened to your friend.

Unless your point would be that any bad things that happens in Europe will not come to the US, since you are not the antisemetic scum that we are. And now that your friend had some bad saurkraut, you can fell all good about yourself.

I am sorry about being so negative. But I am realy tired of these charges of antisemitism being thrown around so lightly.

wesley said...

ahem... berlin isn't germany. berlin is surrounded by the former communist germany. east germans still have the communist indoctronation and are very anti-west. i lived in germany and i know that most germans can't stand muslims(turks, etc). i wouldn't write them off just yet.

let a bomb go off in the former west germany and see what happens.