Oh Germany, an essay series

Oh Germany – Introduction

„What’s wrong with Germany“ has been a question occupying me for a while now (some 1, 5, 7 months at least). It is a fuzzy question, with a questionable assumption to start with. The question was raised, vaguely, first in a discussion with a friend, when we shared each others’ frustrations. It crystallized later through a presentation I gave at her salon. Both the salon and the talk carried the question as its title.

Despite its rather scientific character, it is a personal question, of course. It is an attempt to intellectualize my emotions after leaving Europe, standing in for other questions like “what is home,” “what makes it home,” “does my home feel like home?”. I am too much a child of the enlightenment to not distract myself like that – and too much a student of post-modernity not to know it.

And yet, even if it the question “what’s wrong with Germany” is “just” about home, “just” motivated by me living far away from there, that doesn’t make it “just” therapeutic. My particular experiences might not be common (nor special), the underlying feeling of alienation can yet be a shared anxiety. A vague idea that something might be wrong with the place and people we call home, or at least our relationships with it and them. Aren’t we all losing our roots while still trying to grow our wings? Aren’t ideas to “take back control” and “make (my country) great again” not just the flip side of this? A more brazen attempt to identify with “it” and “us”, a less careful attempt to make “them” the problem? A courageous, somewhat hopeless attempt to chose a nostalgic ideal over reality?

Or am I, are we who we follow humanist ideals of liberty and justice again just cynical? Are we with our pretty pegasus-unicorn wings flying too close to the sun? Is drilling our roots into our mother country really the best option we have? (And is there a “we” here beyond the I?)

During my attempts to start writing about all this, I again and again stopped, feeling confused and much-too-self-conscious. The intellectual question I started with was emotionally dishonest, but at least by choosing such a theoretical angle, I wasn’t projecting my own frustration on the world in the way that characterizes most of social media. Still, it felt quixotic.

I was thus happy when I stumbled upon an entry in the unlikeliest of places: the song “Deutschland” by the German metal band Rammstein, which gave me not an intellectual question, but emotions to start with:

Deutschland - Deine Liebe ist Fluch und Segen
Deutschland - Meine Liebe kann ich dir nicht geben

(Germany – your love is a curse and blessing
Germany – my love I can't give you)

As the bands’ riffs drove into by bones throughout my weekend-long obsession with their song, I figured that the fascinating cultural, mythological angle to all these questions about home and belonging might be a good place to start. Or rather, breaking that angle might leave us with the pieces to get somewhere interesting…

Share your thoughts