Germany is becoming more open and diverse. It could be a model for the West. Our cover this week pic.twitter.com/2UfEnIEt4l
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) 12 april 2018
On 12 and 14 April, English magazine The Economist strutted onto the stage to fret for its hour, describing the ‘modern Germany’ in the older article, and using the newer article, presented as “Germany is becoming more diverse and open. It could be a model for Europe“, to sing the praises of its ‘special report’.
“Germany is becoming more diverse, open, informal and hip. (…) Many of the country’s defining traits—its ethnic and cultural homogeneity, conformist and conservative society, and unwillingness to punch its weight in international diplomacy—are suddenly in flux.”
The article goes on to praise Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ‘open door’ policy towards refugees, bringing in 1.2 million new migrants in 2015-16 alone, which The Economist says had “confirmed” the transformation of Germany into a melting-pot.
This, of course, is nonsense. The ‘melting-pot’ metaphor was originally intended to symbolise the exact opposite: the coming together into a homogeneous society of heterogeneous elements within a political unit. Quite apart from the failure to use the metaphor correctly, one does not get a melting-pot if the elements do not mix. Simply adding a large number of people in an existing society, does not make them mix. The Economist labels this segment of its article as ‘promising signals’, which says a lot about the ideas with which it was written. It praises the disappearance of “a patriarchal culture” because the share of working-age women with jobs has risen from 58% to 70%, while one of the ‘promising signals’ it observes is the fact that “Germans are divorcing more and marrying less.”
Meanwhile, the wonderful ‘melting pot’ is characterised by “opening cultural divides“. So not actually melting together, but rather breaking apart, as “the country is grappling with the rise of a more plural society.” Yet The Economist seems unable to grasp the meaning of this, and cynically opts to use migrants as tools for “preserving [German] prosperity“, writing that
“the flow of newcomers to Germany can help cushion the demographic crunch, especially if immigration procedures are streamlined, education is improved to break the tight link between background and results, and the strictly regulated German professions are made more accessible.“
So if you change everything, you can keep things the way they are? That does not seem logical. Neither does assuming migrants are willing to just fit a German mould in order to serve German prosperity. Does The Economist believe they should just adapt and serve? Or is that part of the “more open, fragmented country” Germany is becoming, which requires “rethinking many ingrained habits“?
The Economist‘s special report opens with a highly biased rendition of a news story from January, about aggressive migrants being banned from attending food banks in the German city of Essen because their presence was, rightfully so, experienced as threatening by its long-time visitors.
In the version of The Economist, Essen’s food bank executive Jörg Sartor’s reasoning is warped beyond all recognition, while it carefully removes all references to the broad political support Sartor received: from the Left and from Merkel’s own party. Just Compare the story The Old Continent wrote on the basis of German sources, with The Economist‘s version, and more importantly its conclusion:
“In January a food bank in Essen, an industrial city in western Germany, unwittingly caused a political storm by requiring each new claimant to present a German identity document. Three-quarters of users were foreign, explained Jörg Sartor, the food bank’s boss; surely that was unfair to locals. First came protesters who daubed ‘racist’ on his vans. Then the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party threw its (unsolicited) support behind him. Cameramen and reporters arrived. Other politicians waded in on all sides. Even Angela Merkel gave her verdict: it was ‘not good’ that Mr Sartor had chosen to distinguish between Germans and others. In early April he lifted the ban on foreign users.
The incident reflects a widespread feeling of what Mrs Merkel has called Unbehagen, not easily translated but meaning anxiety or unease.”
A very special report indeed. The German poor and vulnerable are being displaced by migrants and The Economist suggests racism and calls it ‘unease’, uncritically following Chancellor Merkel, while hiding the fact that much of the criticism was aimed at her. “But not everyone approves,” the report writes about the ‘changing Germany’, disapprovingly suggesting that those who do not approve are ‘more conservative’ and not getting in the swing of new, cool and hip Germany. And all that right before writing:
“And rising crime rates and cultural battles like the one in Essen are making society feel more raw. On New Year’s Eve 2015 in Cologne some 1,000 women were sexually assaulted by a crowd made up largely of immigrants. A year later an Islamist terrorist from Tunisia drove a hijacked truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12.“
Those darn conservatives, disapproving of sexual assault and terrorist attacks. Get with the program, you squares! Isn’t it great society is getting less patriarchal after importing more than a million people from a deeply patriarchal social fabric?
The ‘special report’ ends with a question:
“As the old Germans give way to the new sort, the questions mount. Guntram Wolff, the German director of a Brussels-based think-tank, Bruegel, speaks for many when he asks: ‘Who are we, what kind of a country are we?’“
German publication Der Spiegel however, begs to differ radically. One can argue that their April 19 staff editorial answers The Economist‘s closing question as follows:
“Germany has obviously become a country of immigration – and one that is changing rapidly. And although economists and politicians are fond of emphasizing all the positive aspects of this development – Germany’s aging society, for example, has been an issue for decades – there’s also a large segment of society that is anything but pleased by the development.
These people are asking themselves what their heimat, or homeland, will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years. They harbor doubts that the government is able to solve the problems already arising out from the lack of integration among some immigrant groups. Some fear that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is leading the country toward a bleak future with an aimless immigration policy – a policy that allows migrants to come to Germany and apply for asylum rather than a policy that actively seeks to bring in highly skilled workers. A policy that ultimately means that even those whose asylum applications are rejected are ultimately allowed to stay anyway.”
Under the paragraph called “Swapping out the Germans” it continues:
“At the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015, that many people were arriving in the country within just a few days. (…) Too often, the debate is driven by people more focused on showing off their own worldliness and tolerance than actually addressing the problems. But hopes that the conflicts created through poorly managed immigration might somehow disappear behind the optimism have been dashed.
Large segments of the German population are suffering from a kind of stress relating to identity. Germans without any immigration background in their own families fear that immigrants could strip them of their Heimat, their sense of home.”
A country, peopled by peoples who do not melt, but pass as ships in the night. In which The Economist is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is hear no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (*).