Germany, a country near-enough destroyed, along with most of Europe, by a war started by the German belief in Nietzsche’s idea of the Übermensch. That theory, the idea of a superman, struck a chord with Austria’s most infamous son, Hitler. Hitler, a man who the Austrians have successfully repackaged as a German, took Nietzsche’s idea and ran with it, convincing Germans that they were better than anyone else, with predictably disastrous consequences that left deep, deep scars on the world.
And then everything fell apart for the Germans and they were forced to take a long, hard look in the mirror and report to the global community on every last wart they found on their person. By way of compensation, the global community dug deep into their pockets, and threw money at the Germans. The result was that post-WWII Germany was able to swiftly stand up on its feet and put the war it was responsible for in a large part behind it.
Germany, ably assisted by the money that was pouring in, grew in leaps and bounds and redefined itself for every new generation as something that was synonymous with order, efficiency, and organisation. That is nothing short of stunning: a country that was responsible for starting a war which ripped Europe and then the world apart, a few decades after losing the war, was once again in a position of almost absolute power on the continent.
Nobody really ever seemed to explore the potential moral swamp which lay behind the decisions which saw various countries of the losing side after WWII being given a boost by various members of the winning side, enabling them to lead the economic charge out of the chaos of the war they’d started. Presumably there’s a conspiracy lurking there somewhere. Another day, perhaps.
Recently, Germans have had a mirror held up before their eyes, once more. At the end of March, the Financial Times ran a story about Germany’s response to the coronavirus with the surprising title:
In the article, it was revealed that the very things that the world had come to associate with the Germans: order, efficiency, and organisation, turn out to be the very things that the Germans don’t do well at all.
Some of the facts reported by the FT, facts involving the amount of red tape that the German authorities demand in connection with the inoculation of German citizens are Kafkaesque. Others are just frightening. Once more, Germans have had to take a look in the mirror, and the image that was reflected is anything but positive.
Of course, the writing has been on the wall for some time now. Some of that writing spells out the name of one woman. One of the main reasons for the hopeless response from the EU to the coronavirus can be found in the person of Ursula von der Leyen. For me, her incompetence came as a surprise: I had no idea that someone so incompetent would ever be selected for any form of public office. But my ignorance was my own. In Germany, ‘passion fingers’ von der Leyen had already long carved her name into the hearts and minds of Germans with a spectacular series of fuck-ups connected to the German army. Regarding the ‘efficiency’ of the German state’s response to the pandemic, it seems almost unbelievable that in Germany, when mobile vaccination teams set out to inoculate the elderly residents of care homes, six people were required to complete a single injection. One filled the syringe, one stuck the needle into the patient’s arm. While this was happening, someone else explained what was going on, and three others filled in the paperwork.
That, as anyone can see, is anything but a shining example of efficiency.
One of the other problems with the German state is that their bureaucratic masses are deeply attached to paper, and have so far resisted the somewhat lacklustre attempts made by various actors of the state to ramp up the speed of digitisation.
Merkel herself is aware of the problems, not that that fact has caused anything to move any faster. A contact-tracing programme developed by the Germans to use against Ebola was planned to be used to fight the coronavirus. That plan had to be scrapped when it became clear that deadlines were never going to be met. Irrespective of how the rest of the world is communicating, the Germans, astonishingly, are still keeping in contact with each other by fax. Fax. In practical terms, that’s like sending a telegram in lieu of an e-mail.
That is where Germany currently finds itself. I was surprised. But I wasn’t nearly as surprised as the German public were. Having had the wool pulled delicately over their eyes for decades, the fiasco that is the German state’s response to the pandemic has forced the Germans to deal with their supposed superiority.
German media tend to an insular nature. Although this is true of the media of many nations, with the Germans it appears that this does lead to informational problems. Think back to the events of New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main, and Hanover. Whilst the world stood aghast, our German friends were unaware of what was happening in their own country. In the first few days of the new year, 1,210 criminal complaints were made, more than 500 of them involving sexual assault. And yet, while the world wondered whether the German nation’s eyes would finally be opened to the folly of Merkel inviting every bored young African to come to try his luck with the Europeans, the Germans seemed to be unaware of what was going on.
German media have long decided what the German nation need to be informed about. This is reflected in the repeated distraction tactics that German media regularly employ with Hungary, for example. By pointing, ad nauseum, to a non-existent extreme right-wing state located to the East of Germany, the media have contrived to maintain that German attention is focussed on others, not on themselves.
This policy has now been undone by the accumulated problems of the German state’s dedication to all things analogue. The shit has hit the fan, and the Germans, suddenly aware of a world within as well as without their borders, are experiencing a new feeling.