Deutschland: Doubtland


The Volkswagen brand, along with the Germany Inc. brand, is worth a lot less than it was before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused the company of rigging the emissions data on almost half a million of its diesel-powered cars sold in the United States between 2009 and 2015. Volkswagen admitted that 11 million of its cars worldwide had been rigged to fool air-quality regulators, making a mockery of Volkswagen’s “clean” diesel technology push.

Deutsche Bank is broken. It might be able to extract itself from the 7,800 lawsuits it is currently involved in, or it may shrink to the point that it will no longer pose a systemic risk, or it may manage to find investors to help it scrape together sufficient capital to fulfil legal requirements. In the most extreme case, it may even be bailed out by the German state. But it is broken nonetheless when compared to that which it once was: a brand, a symbol, a German icon.

Germany’s relationship with the USA is broken also. President Trump’s lack of a handshake with Chancellor Merkel last week in Washington may have been unplanned but it underlies a thorny relationship between Berlin and the White House. Suddenly, after years of freeloading on NATO’s coat-tails and sitting back fat on a huge fifty-billion-dollar annual trade surplus with the US, Germany can sense the USA’s unwillingness to accept anything less than the target of 2% of GDP that NATO members all agreed to way back in 2006, which Germany has been falling way short of for many years. The love affair between Merkel and Obama seems a distant memory.

Germany’s faith in the EU is now also wavering. Not so much in the German population’s desire to break free from the EU in a Brexit-style escape like the UK. More in that the EU has been the great antidote to our German post-war guilt. While Franco German relations helped underscore the post war peace, it was the last fifty years of British involvement in the European project which gave Germans confidence that the British counterweight would keep German ghouls in the box. Now Britain is leaving we look at the rise of parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) – a right-wing populist and Eurosceptic political party in Germany – which embrace the Communist-hating zeitgeist of the 1930’s and play to the fears of so many Germans about Merkel’s open-door policy towards refugees and migrants; so many of whom are Muslim; some of whom will never integrate into German society; some of whom are terrorists. Pandora’s Box, shut tight for years, seems now to have a working set of hinges.

Now Germany’s political system itself – the toast of post-war Europe – seems cumbersome and defunct. Where mainstream parties must link up with parties like the Greens, who espouse crazy ideas, like disabled and seriously ill people being able to claim back public money if they pay for sex, while furiously demanding the increase of immigration from Muslim hotspots to aggressively wipe away the shameful German white culture which twice in the twentieth century, they say, destroyed our country. Of course, such parties are well-infiltrated by Islamists.

The national response to the rape of our children and women by refugees and migrants has been pathetic. Local governments have spoken out against these crimes but their responses have been softened by social workers who produce ridiculous pamphlets to help educate our immigrants not to touch, to respect others and respect other religions. Police are scared to intervene for fear of upsetting their political masters. The immigrants are laughing in our faces and see our lack of a response as another sign of an ageing, weak Germany, which needs youthful men from abroad to continue the German economy in the future and replace the weak German men who are no longer managing to even reach the replacement rate in having babies.

How did we get here to this uncomfortable place?

Germans are very good at working towards a well-defined goal.  We can communicate effectively, we can design quickly and efficiently, look at errors as our mortal enemies and attempt to prevent such situations from occurring. We also realize that life is more than working and sleeping and put in considerable effort to enjoy life (the whole work-life balance thing). This thought process is also our weakness.  If the goal is fuzzy or changes frequently, we get frustrated.  It takes us a long time to realize that someone we are dealing with is duplicitous or is using the same words with different intentions.  We are so afraid of loss that risk taking is extremely limited.

This constant throwing of curve balls at us Germans has us unnerved of late. Our European partners collapsing or leaving. The change at the White House. Our once rocks of banks like Deutsche and Commerz showing terrible weakness. The Volkswagen saga. The immigration catastrophe. The rise of Pegida and the AfD. The sudden appearance of terrorism on our streets. The threat of disintegration of the Euro and even the EU. The decline of Merkel. Even minor issues, such as the rise of RB Leipzig with its Red Bull-fuelled commercial structure (we like our football teams to be owned by the fans) has us annoyed and foreigners can see we are anxious.

A friend who works in the diplomatic corps of a foreign nation joked with me the other day that “You Germans have been forgiven for the World Wars. It’s time to get that out of your system. You should not feel that you are obliged in some endless reparation to the planet to welcome in millions of migrants and throw away your German culture.”

Therein lies the rub, as you say.

The AfD says it is time to move on. The wars were years ago. Let us be confident and refuse to allow the guest workers German passports and let us send far away those who have no intention of working. While the huge majority of Germans are too scared, after many years of wearing the monkeys of two world wars on our backs, to be so resolute and illiberal.

I understand Brexit. I comprehend why a proud, independent nation such as the UK would not want to cede its identity to globalism; to wash away its past in some stain-removing soup. I do not blame the UK for unsettling us. But I will miss the counterbalance you gave us in Europe. It was good while it lasted. I hope that a friendly outcome can be achieved for our exiting British friends.

I worry more about Germany.

There is an old German saying Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei (Everything has an end. Only the sausage has two). My worry right now is that we are, for the first time in 80 years, unsure of which end of the sausage to address and, while we wait, the sausage is at risk from burning.

Max Velten is a Country Squire Magazine Guest Writer. Educated in Frankfurt then in Durham, Max currently lives in Cologne where he works as a financial analyst and police service volunteer.