Merkel and multiculturalism
What to make of Angela Merkel and her comments on modern Germany? See the response from the Guardian and the Telegraph. This is a rather complicated situation with several powerful ingredients. There is Merkel herself, the symbol of a united Germany. The multiculturalism of which she was speaking can be seen as either a race or religion based concept, or perhaps both. Then there is the economic aspect behind her comments, modern Germany, the EU and the collapse of world markets that are giving Germany the jitters. In other words it's something for everyone, something to latch onto or to reject. Always a darling of the liberal/left Merkel will have upset many of her fans. Much as the liberal/left have created Obamamania, they have drooled over Merkel. Born behind the Iron Curtain and now the leader of the largest country in the EU. Thus assumed to be the de facto champion of the EU and a woman. Solid serious credentials that Guardian readers can sink their teeth into and be happy.
As she's from the old East Germany the dreamers might have seen her as an incomer herself, but here she is speaking as a traditional German, complaining about life. In fact we should have a great deal of sympathy with the people of what was once called West Germany. It was their politicians who sold them the idea that reunification would be all good with no problems. This chimes with the Irish politicians who told the Irish that membership of the EU and the adoption of the euro would be trouble free, a topic dealt with HERE. Consider the life of a German born in the late 1940s. There was visible bomb damage in some UK cities into the 1960s but the situation was far worse in Germany and there were always the occupying forces to help remind you of the past. You worked hard to repair many things and wash away the guilt heaped on you by history.
But what were your politicians up to? Eventually there came the opportunity for reunification and then you found out. All along anything to do with the EU had been supported by West Germany. This was especially true of the costs, West Germany always paid up, they gave a huge contribution without complaint. There had been a sort of contact with the East all along. So while West Germany boasted to all who would listen how clean and green and superior it was, a vast amount of the industrial waste it produced went eastwards across the border. So after reunification not only did the Westerner have another country to rebuild, this one not only damaged by the war but by communism too, there was a cleanup operation to pay for. And they had already paid the East to take the waste from them!
So heads down and back to work. It was at this point that the politicians of the 'new' Germany allowed immigration to soar. Eventually the Westerners voiced their disapproval and at that point Merkel gets the message and speaks out. There can be no sympathy or praise for Merkel here. She did not inherit a bad situation and do her best, no, she has been part of the problem. Speaking out now is too little too late. She bathed in the glory of the new Germany so if now she is out of her depth it's too bad. Her late, very late conversion, won't convince many Germans. The multiculturalism of which she complains was typical of the sort of policy that her political generation forced onto others. They knew best then so why the wavering now?
Merkel as a champion of the open border concept of the EU can't be expected to be taken seriously now, having suggested that cultural differences make this impossible. If millions of Muslims come to Germany and make life worse not better for the host population this must be the case if millions of Spaniards came too. Merkel's attempt to hide behind the religious aspect of it, 'they are Muslims we are Christians' is a weak argument. With multiculturalism we were all supposed to pretend that race, religion, cultural and language differences simply did not matter, that any number of people could come to a country and retain all of these things from their own country and all would be well. For Merkel to complain that immigrants don't integrate begs the question from the citizens of the host nation "so why did you invite them to come"?
It could also be said that if new immigrants to Germany don't want to integrate perhaps this is a 'human right'. This concept is the sort of thing that the EU has forced onto member states despite considerable opposition, do they regret that now? Also, if on a person to person level integration and multiculturalism does not work, then why does the EU insist on 'an ever closer union' at state level? It really does look like muddled thinking all the time. The new Germany has long been held up as an example of how to do things right. If only this were so, if Germany as a social model now seems to be a myth it is economically too.
The rather stereotypical view of modern Germany, liberal, intellectual and hard working carries the implication behind this image of a nation who can do the right thing in banking and finance. However, in 2007 when the USA based Countrywide Financial mortgage lender got into trouble we saw that German banks had been taken in by what was going on. They had bought the 'complex financial instruments' with the same level of eagerness as other banks. A lot of the latter kept quiet but the German banks complained. This was foolish as subsequently it was shown that the German banks had bought these complex financial instruments without understanding what the risk was, so should have kept schtum like the others!
Since the start of the current financial crisis the spotlight has fallen on Germany to reveal that all is not well on a number of levels. There have been domestic bank and mortgage lender difficulties much as any other EU country. The problems in Greece are not the fault of Germany but are not helped by the trade imbalance between the two countries. As we wrote in this post with the title 'Some things come in pairs', it is all well and good Germany being the model of efficiency and the exporting powerhouse of the EU, but the exports have to be bought for this to work. Any comments on this has led to the German response of "they (the Greeks) should be more like us". This takes us back to the current Merkel comments! But the Germanification of all other EU countries is not the solution.
The supporters of Gordon Brown would have us believe that he and his financial savvy saved the world. Funny he lost the election then? Cynics have wondered if Merkel is out to save her political future via these remarks on immigration. Putting delusion and self aside, if Merkel wants to save Germany she could do well by admitting that not only has multiculturalism failed but so have many of the building blocks of the entire EU project. Germany would be best served by leaving the euro for example. When pushed on this Merkel gets very defensive and supports the currency. But judge her by her actions and she has made a mess of leading EU support for the euro see HERE.