FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Refugees in Germany

“I don’t have roots, I have feet.”

— Ruth Klüger

What’s known as the refugee crisis continues to dominate public discourse in Germany. Is Germany faced with the humanitarian challenge of formulating and implementing appropriate public policy to manage the large numbers of refugees trecking through the Balkans? Or is there an urgent need to defend Germany’s borders against the tired, unwashed masses of losers yearning for a free ride from a mentally handicapped nation of naive suckers? Some seem to be looking for a final solution. Let us hope they don’t find it.

Recently, the editors of a German daily, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (October 10, 2015, No 233, entitled Zwischen den Zäunen), invited authors (novelists/poets) from various East European countries to contribute short pieces about attitudes and public policies in their respective countries regarding increased immigration.i They are all worth reading for the simple reason that they provide the political and social backdrop necessary to understand current populist tirades in their respective countries. However, no one needs to read these pieces to understand that immigration, even on a large scale, need not be viewed as a misfortune for Europe, much less a catastrophe.

During last Thursday’s edition (October 22,  2015) of Bavarian television’s “Quer” (political cabaret)  the moderator Christoph Süß noted, in an aside, that we can be grateful for rightwing demagogues, because indirectly they make us feel good about ourselves, at least we are nowhere near as bad as that. In any case, the threat to the countries of Europe is not posed by refugees but by the right-wing parties and groups claiming to rise to their defense   (UKIP, Front National, Pegida, AfD, Jobbick and the Finns Party, among others). The extent to which these parties can successfully present themselves as independently critical friends of the average man is a measure of the failure of mainstream politicians to understand and address the resentments lurking just under the surface of daily economic life “Listen, Little Man!” (W. Reich).

Hate language and xenophobia are the topics of a call-in program on the radio today (Deutschlandfunk). In the news: Another building accomodating refugees, this time in Lampertheim, has been torched (Lampertheim report on fire in accomodation for refugees). Occasionally you can get the feeling that there is still a yearning in the air for heroism and poetry. But poetry and politics are a poisonous mixture and heroism is merely a cause of death. Modern reality (at least since the Enlightenment) is prosaic and what is needed are plainly worded, well-founded answers to such questions as: Can Germany benefit from this immigration demographically? How can Germany (Europe, etc.) successfully integrate immigrants? Are the costs of integration greater than the benefits? The presence of refugees merely underscores a long-standing need for low-cost housing, day care, education and public health. Perhaps this is just what is needed to kick-start more spending in these areas. Finally, in concrete terms, how important is it to rule out any new public debt? Given low interest rates, isn’t this principle absurd?

Personally, I would like to think that helping newcomers to learn German may help volunteers to appreciate their own language. And perhaps the notion will gain favor that representative democracy is in need of further democratization. Many have no difficulty imagining some form of apocalypse or “all the people living for today” but they are incapable of imagining a change in how public education in the USA is funded so that property values cease to determine the amount of money available for schools. They can imagine that there is no heaven, but they cannot imagine a reliable municipal public transportation system. They can imagine there are no countries, but they cannot imagine an international trade agreement that fosters economic growth without triggering massive unemployment or contributing to environmental disaster. And so on.

Having taken the time to read this commentary to the end, you might reward yourself by watching “Go West”, a 1925 silent movie on YouTube by Buster Keaton. I saw it at home  recently, munching on cookies and drinking coffee with guests, refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.

More articles by:

William Hadfield is an American translator residing in Germany.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 23, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Why Boris Johnson is Even More Dangerous Than Trump
Christopher Ketcham
The American West as Judeo-Christian Artifact
Jack Heyman
Whitewashing American History: the WPA Mural Controversy in San Francisco
David Mattson
Through the Climate Looking Glass into Grizzly Wonderland
David Macaray
Paul Krassner and Me
Thomas Knapp
Peckerwood Populism is About Political Strategy, Not Personal Belief
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange and His Wiki Wicked leaks
Howard Lisnoff
What Has Happened to the U.S. Since the Kids Left Woodstock?
Victor Grossman
“How Could They?” Why Some Americans Were Drawn to the Communist Party in the 1940s
Gary Leupp
Minnesota, White People, Lutherans and Ilhan Omar
Binoy Kampmark
Lunar Narratives: Landing on the Moon, Politics and the Cold War
Richard Ward
Free La Donalda!
July 22, 2019
Michael Hudson
U.S. Economic Warfare and Likely Foreign Defenses
Evaggelos Vallianatos
If Japan Continues Slaughtering Whales, Boycott the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Mike Garrity
Emergency Alert For the Wild Rockies
Dean Baker
The U.S.-China Trade War: Will Workers Lose?
Jonah Raskin
Paul Krassner, 1932-2019: American Satirist 
David Swanson
U.S. Troops Back in Saudi Arabia: What Could Go Wrong?
Robert Fisk
American Visitors to the Gestapo Museum Draw Their Own Conclusions
John Feffer
Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Landscape of Anguish and Palliatives: Predation, Addiction and LOL Emoticons in the Age of Late Stage Capitalism
Karl Grossman
A Farmworkers Bill of Rights
Gary Leupp
Omar and Trump
Robert Koehler
Fighting Climate Change Means Ending War
Susie Day
Mexicans Invade US, Trump Forced to Go Without Toothbrush
Elliot Sperber
Hey Diddle Diddle, Like Nero We Fiddle
Weekend Edition
July 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
The Blob Fought the Squad, and the Squad Won
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
It Was Never Just About the Chat: Ruminations on a Puerto Rican Revolution.
Anthony DiMaggio
System Capture 2020: The Role of the Upper-Class in Shaping Democratic Primary Politics
Andrew Levine
South Carolina Speaks for Whom?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Big Man, Pig Man
Bruce E. Levine
The Groundbreaking Public Health Study That Should Change U.S. Society—But Won’t
Evaggelos Vallianatos
How the Trump Administration is Eviscerating the Federal Government
Pete Dolack
All Seemed Possible When the Sandinistas Took Power 40 years Ago
Ramzy Baroud
Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis
Ron Jacobs
Dancing with Dr. Benway
Joseph Natoli
Gaming the Climate
Marshall Auerback
The Numbers are In, and Trump’s Tax Cuts are a Bust
Louisa Willcox
Wild Thoughts About the Wild Gallatin
Kenn Orphan
Stranger Things, Stranger Times
Mike Garrity
Environmentalists and Wilderness are Not the Timber Industry’s Big Problem
Helen Yaffe
Cuban Workers Celebrate Salary Rise From New Economic Measures
Brian Cloughley
What You Don’t Want to be in Trump’s America
David Underhill
The Inequality of Equal Pay
David Macaray
Adventures in Script-Writing
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail