I am finding myself endlessly fascinated by the current Germany-UK scrap. As the EU spectacularly explodes andthe edges of its future blur into pure uncertainty, I have been devouring what the British media has been serving up for one reason; the bitter, complex history between these powers, the most recent chapter of which was the unmentionably mentionable WWII.
Germany is asking the UK to pitch in and help save the union of which they are a member. German politicans are calling the UK out for permanently sitting on the fence, a fence the UK is more than happy to perch upon and has been since the beginning of the union. In turn, the UK is saying what Germany is proposing is unfair and economically crippling and it won’t play ball.
Beneath the reporting lies the sniping. Subtext simmers in sensationalist headlines that describe Merkel’s ‘plotting and planning’ and her ‘secret deals’. Generations-old prejudices are quick to rear their ugly heads as it is all but said that the last country England would like to see have such a position of power and influence, has it all. And the icing on the cake? The fantastically provocative ‘the world needs to speak German’ comment, taken out of context and splashed about as a sure sign of Germany’s wicked intentions.
On the German side of things, it’s difficult to gauge public opinion, not least because my English analytical skills are a touch better but also because the German media is a different beast to the British media. The latter is incredibly vocal and relentless and visibly gets its back up, taking the hackles of its consumers with it.
However, what I was directed to, which was quite insightful, was this article, Euer Empire und wir – Your Empire and Us. It was a retort, an angry one, and the first time I’ve heard/read someone come out and say it … it being a whole lot of things.
I had a marvellous friend translate the article, of which you will find an excerpt below:
Since Angela Merkel has become Europe’s Iron Lady and Wirtschaftwunder Germans have taken the lead in Europe, British editorials are going mad. The recession-ridden island’s blood is stirred up by the Euro crisis in a way that has only ever been seen at football matches. It’s always about Winning or Losing and unsettled historic debts.
First of all, those islanders are clearly relieved to not really belong to Europe. They’re sitting on the fence. Foreign minister William Hague called the Euro a “burning house withour doors, a delusional system”. A number of Tory MP’s want to leave the EU today rather than tomorrow.
Our British neighbours still consider themselves a world empire, even though the world went missing. They compensate, however, by blissfully going to war(s), alongside their American cousins.
As far as I can tell, the island is divided into two camps. One camp says: thank God we still have the Pound. The others: serves the continent right. All of them unite in saying: somehow it’s Germany’s fault.
At this time, British advice remains quite disparate. Some ask the Germans to save the Euro (quietly hoping that the Krauts will get their fingers burnt).
Basically, however, the “Telegraph” leads the public opinion: not Greece but Germany is the problem and has to be excluded from the Euro zone. Seriously. Why? Because the Germans destabilised the Euro zone with their disciplined wages, their reckless productivity that gives away their known “Panzer mentality”. Similarly the “Spectator”: don’t blame the Greeks. The “Financial Times” moans Germans “don’t know what they want”.
“Vanity Fair” author Michael Lewis analyses Germany’s soul for the island’s public – it consists of “money, excrements and their Nazi past”.
You, dear Niall Ferguson, however, have come up with the funniest contribution since you have corrected Germany’s contribution to Europe. You classified it historically. And, of course, you mentioned the world wars!
Under Helmut Kohl, Germans “still felt it was their moral duty” to pay for Europe. That must be over now. The thing with the morals. And the duty. But, good talk, we love talk about it, always, no matter the context – be it football or the Euro.
In class the other day, we were reading an article that highlighted the cultural differences between British people and German people – a topic that is endlessly interesting, as this blog routinely attests to – and Norbert, one of my all time favourite students sighed and said, ‘it’s like cats and dogs.’
He’s right. They are as different as, they fight just like, and their relationship will always, seemingly, be defined by an inescapable history.
And this little Antipodean waits, with breath that is bated, to see what will happen next.