Thursday, September 9, 2010
Who can feel sorry for Thilo Sarrazin, who lost his cushy Bundesbank job after the publication of “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (Germany is deleting itself), a diatribe against the lower orders, but probably would have held onto to it had he avoided talking about Jewish "genes". In nine chapters of pop science with graphs and pie charts, Thilo proves that the lower orders are getting stupider, and that one of the reasons for this is the influx of mainly Muslim, mainly Turkish immigrants into Germany. Turks, as Thilo puts it “have no productive function other than in the fruit and vegetable trade." “"I don't want the country of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be largely Muslim,” he froths, “or that Turkish or Arabic will be spoken in large areas, that women will wear headscarves and the daily rhythm is set by the call of the muezzin.” Eventually, Germany will become a stupid country, Thilo concludes, and no-one will know how to make Mercedes Benzes, or nice beers, or something. It’s not clear.
Thilo is a member of Germany’s SPD, formerly the 20th century mainstream standard bearer for human liberation in Germany, if not Europe. Now that it’s abandoned its working class base like New Labour in the UK, or the PS in France, it’s wondering like them why the working classes are awful, so prone to populist demagogues, so prone to not being middle class like Thilo, eating crap food and emitting carbon dioxide and not speaking German correctly. Thilo somehow fails to mention any correlation between the decline of the German working classes and the utterly vacuous, idea bereft, bobo ghetto that is the latter-day SPD though.
For centuries conservatives and the wealthy have asked why the poor and marginalised are poor and marginalised, unlike themselves, and, surprise, they invariably hit on the reassuring idea that it is down to their own stupidity. Conversely, they attribute their own high standing to their “hard work” and their superior “values”. But basically, this is ideology. Conservatives see the world as static and history as cyclical. They will always find a posteriori arguments that reinforce their own standing in the world, while expressing their own fears about the world in the making.
Taking a wide-lensed view, though, history is basically a series of population movements. Thilo, with a surname like that - Sarrazin, as in Saracen - should be aware of this. Once upon a time, a Muslim went to Europe and fathered kids, and so on, who eventually fathered Thilo. Over the years they lost their faith, converted, while the place they lived in became Germany. That is, Thilo’s great-great etc grandpa became something he wasn’t. One day, Germany will no longer exist, then Thilo’s descendants will be living in a different place but maybe they’ll still have that evocative name. But they’ll be different. In some way it’s an astounding testimony to humanity’s capacity for change and mutation that a descendant of a Turk who was probably besieging Vienna in 1529 could now sneer at those with whom he shares the same genes.
But genetics, schmenetics. Every age produces daft ideas that try to seek genetic/physical/hereditary causes for impoverishment, criminality, sexual preference, social unrest. In the nineteenth century people like Thilo would have palpated criminal skulls to detect which lumps and protuberances denoted the longing to acquire other people’s goods by illegal means, and often at night. Phrenology looks stupid now. Several years from now, Thilo’s book will also look stupid, if it isn't that already.
But what’s really stupid also is that a bitter clapped out leftie should ruffle so many feathers that he gets booted out of the Bundesbank. Having worked for several years in the French financial world, I came across a fair share of wild reactionary opinions, including one man who wanted to keep the borders of France safe by conscripting the country’s 3 million unemployed. If they were little more assertive about what our values were, the German elite would have laughed deluded Thilo off, and invited him perhaps to spend all that venom on fiction à la Michel Houellebecq, with whom his rants share a similar nutjob flavour. But they’re not. And because they’re witch-hunting Thilo the Saracen, they are also taking him more seriously than he should be taken.