First we had the Germans who wanted a return to the happy, comfortable values of the 1950s. They wanted a Neue Buergerlichkeit (roughly: "new bourgeois sensibility"). People like Udo di Fabio, a judge on the Federal Constitutional Court, who wrote a book praising patriotism and good old family values called the Culture of Freedom (subtitle: "The West is in Danger Because a False Idea of Freedom is Destroying Everyday Common Sense"); Eva Herman, some sort of TV hostess who told German women to "shut up once in a while," and return to cooking and decorating; and TV star and Bild columnist Peter Hahne, who wrote a book called "Forget about Funny: The End of the Fun-Society." He apparently wants Germans to end their addiction to fun and laughter, and return to tried-and-true notions of duty, honor, country, and family. Or something like that. (I haven’t read these books).
Now comes the backlash, in the form of Christian Rickens’ "The New Squares: On the Fatal Yearning for an Outdated Society" (He actually uses the word Spiesser, which I’ve translated as "Squares." More on this word here).
Courtesy of Themenblog (G), the book blurb (my translation):
Family, Faith, Fatherland: the advocates of the ‘new bourgeois consciousness’ tirelessly trumpet their views throughout the country — and nobody challenged them. Until now. A long-overdue debt.
The new squares are on the attack. They want us to believe that the Zeitgeist of our times is conservative, and a return to bourgeois values and virtues is absolutely necessary — otherwise, Germany’s collapse cannot be stopped. But is there really anything to these ideas of the ‘new bourgeoisie’? How much of it is provocation, how much of it irrational doom-mongering? Where are Schirrmacher, Hahne, and the others wrong? With analytical precision and clear-headedness, Christian Rickens, for the first time, looks behind the ideas and positions of the prophets of the new bourgeoisie and points out their prejudices, myths, and mistakes. His thesis: the New Squares are attempting the impossible: solving the problems of today with the recipes from yesteryear.
I heard the interview (G) with Rickens yesterday on WDR5, and I must say, I think he’s on to something. His problem with the New Squares is not that they prefer to live a life determined by traditional bourgeois values. He has no problem with that. His problem is that these people insist, loudly and repeatedly, that everyone should live this way — otherwise, Germany will collapse. It’s this intolerance that spurred Rickens to write the book. He reports as well that the New Squares have exaggerated the various problem facing Germany and, in any event, never actually show why returning to traditional values would solve those problems.
Anyway, I found the interview interesting and will probably read the book and tell everybody what I think. For now, though, it’s off to lovely Wiesbaden to visit friends. Active blogging will resume on Monday, probably.