In comments to my posting of a few pictures from Berlin, the indefatigable Mr. Moehling (where were you Friday?), who surfs the web for Kulturkritik so we don’t have to, points us to the Internet sensation that’s taking white America by storm: Stuff White People Like.
There’s a list of Stuff White People Like, including coffee, Asian girls, dogs, non-profit organizations, having black friends, wine, marathons, Barack Obama, film festivals, organic food, threatening to move to Canada, having two last names, The Daily Show, marijuana, free healthcare, irony, not having a TV, religions your parents don’t belong to, and Asian fusion food.
This sort of thing is shooting fish in a barrel, and has been done before umpteen times. Still, the site has its charms. And let’s face it, because fashions change so quickly, yesterday’s yuppie-mocking dates quickly. Of course, judging by SWPL’s standards, I am intensely white. White-hot, you could say. How could I not be? After all, I actually moved to the very source, the Pangaea, the ancestral homeland of whiteness — Northern Europe. I set foot here, and felt a stirring deep in my blood: "This is my Volk." The free healthcare, the farmers’ markets, the wine — they’re are all around you, everywhere you go.
And, unlike in the New World, they’re pretty much taken for granted. Europeans were designing "walkable urban spaces" before the New World was even a glimmer in Vespucci’s eye. Even if you do shoehorn what you thought was a sophisticated reference to wine in at a dinner party, you may be sitting next to someone who knows much, much more about wine than you do, because her family has owned a vineyard for 300 years. Further, northern Europeans nurture topoi of ultra-whiteness that will always remain out-of-reach for New Worlders: avant-garde (or, increasingly, any) classical music, anomie, hereditary royalty, Roman law, the word topoi.
Aside from these areas of ueber-whiteness, though, white Americans and white Germans have much common ground. As sociologists never tire of pointing out, elites from countries on opposite sides of the globe have more in common with each other than they do with poor people in their own country. Yet there are some uniquely German rules of whiteness. Here’s my list:
1. Furniture, in this exact order:
- "Discovered" at flea market. Bonus points if discovered abroad.
- Purchased at dusty antique shop
- IKEA (cachet almost totally expended, but still dimly flickering)
2. Friends with the following qualities (in order of desirability): Jewish, born in impoverished third-world nation, gay, born in non-EU country in Europe.
3. Balkan disco music.
4. Non-profit organizations. Bonus points if it operates in third-world countries, rather than at home. No points if it operates in Germany.
5. Custom-designed bookshelves. Bonus points if actually filled with books. Extra bonus point for every complete edition, deductions for books that have colorful spines or embossed titles. As in the U.S., Dan Brown is radioactive. Europe’s answer to Dan Brown is Paulo Coelho. One Paulo Coelho book can cancel out an entire library of first editions.
6. Playing an acoustic musical instrument normally found in an orchestra (piano, violin, recorder, clarinet). Bonus points for playing it together with other white people. Extra bonus points if playing music by obscure 18th-century court composer from the region you live in. This is called musizieren, and people did it all the time in the 19th century. Generally, anything people did all the time in the 19th century is something white Germans will like.
7. Writers who were born in non-EU countries. Bonus points if they now write in German, and enjoy gently teasing Germans for being so stuffy/car-obsessed/socially awkward.
8. Contemporary art/theater/dance. Bonus points if your apartment features works of art. Extra bonus points if the art features nudity or contains "social commentary."
9. East German design. Not the hairstyles, clothes, music, or politics.
10. Socialist writers who died long ago enough to no longer be controversial: Liebknecht, Luxemburg, Marx, Lassalle. Generally, if a leftist has had a public square named after him, it’s OK — and may be de rigueur — to say you admire his principles.
11. Paul Auster.
12. The European Union.
13. Arts subsidies.
15. (Being disappointed by) the Green party.
16. Speaking good English, but maintaining a "critical distance" from "Anglo-Saxon culture" and loudly denouncing English business jargon.
17. American roots music.
18. Reading Latin.
19. Max Goldt.
OK, that’s all I’ve got for now. If I’ve missed something, let me know in comments.