Lesson 4: Stabbing People is Wrong

“The Judges’ Association of Lower Saxony demanded more integration programs for young refugees. The justice system can only intervene when a crime has already been committed…. More intensive efforts at integration are necessary until all refugees have learned that in Germany one does not, for example, just start stabbing people (mit dem Messer aufeinander losgehen).”

This delectable example of dry German humor can be found at the end of this article (g), which brings us the welcome news that the 24-year-old woman who was stabbed by a 17-year-old Syrian last weekend in Burgwedel, Germany has awakened from the artificial coma she was put in to save her life.

The crime is just one of a Germany-wide spate of knifings (g) last weekend — which, in turn, was just the latest of many Germany-wide spates of knifings (g). But it was notable for two reasons. First Burgwedel is a prosperous liberal hamlet of 20,000 near Hannover which had been celebrated for its “exemplary” efforts to accommodate refugees. Second, the alleged attacker, a 17-year-old Syrian, had arrived in Germany with his entire family in 2013. Many commentators have suggested that the crime increase caused by young male migrants might be countered by letting their entire families in, since the families, presumably, would exercise a moderating and civilizing influence on their hotheaded teenage members.

It doesn’t seem to have worked in this case. And the reason is telling: According to police reports, the stabbing came after a confrontation in a local supermarket between the victim and the 13-year-old cousin and the 14-year-old brother of the suspect. Presumably, they texted their older brother that their honor had been violated by some German woman, and he unsheathed his knife and sprang into action against a random unarmed woman.

That’s the thing about honor cultures: the more members of your family there are, the more people there are whose honor you might have to defend: “[H]onor is a central source of status, which largely explains the apparently trivial causes of many violent conflicts: the issue is not really the taking of a few cents of change but whether one can person disrespect another publicly and get away with it. Honor cultures too are typically antipathetic to law and legal officials: a man must stand up for himself and not rely on others to do so.” Apparently German policymakers have never encountered this concept.

But, as the judges note, all that’s needed is yet another integration course. After the mass groping event in Cologne on New Years’ Eve 2015-2016, various German integration experts called for classes to explain to young male migrants that it’s not ok to grope, beat, and rape women. These classes were, of course, entirely successful, and the problem vanished entirely. All that’s necessary is to create a new course unit called, I don’t know, “Stabbing People is Wrong”, and this problem will also vanish.

Or you could screen the people you let into the country, but what would be the point of that?

May No More Wälkens be Stripped of their Umlauts

In the bad old days of anti-German prejudice, many Americans of German ancestry were compelled, like Rapunzel, to truncate their long, beautiful names and circumcise Bildergebnis für christopher walkenthem of their umlauts to make them more plain-vanilla WASP-sounding.

Fortunately, those days are now long past, and we can all celebrate the triumphs of Americans with names like Zellweger, Rohrabacher, Suhrheinrich, and my favorite, Nancy Pfotenhauer (paw-chopper).

And just today, I learned that Christopher Walken could have — nay, should have, been born “Christoper Wälken”: “He is the son of Rosalie (née Russell; May 16, 1907 – March 26, 2010), a Scottish emigrant from Glasgow, and Paul Wälken (October 5, 1903 – February 23, 2001), who came to the U.S. from Horst, Germany in 1928. His father owned and operated Walken’s Bakery in Astoria.”

I’ve never been one for online petitions, but Im tempted to start one to convince this giant of screen and stage to re-insert the two dots into his last name. Times have changed, the Vergangenheit has been bewältigt, and it’s time for members of the Volk to show some ethnic pride. Without going overboard, of course. Pfotenhauers unite!

Where There’s No Will, There’s No Way, and Vice-Versa

In the center-left taz newspaper, a teacher of German “integration” courses for new arrivals vents her frustration (g) The courses involve over 700 “units” of instruction, which adds up to seven months of education: German language, German culture and customs and history, the German constitution, shopping, dealing with government agencies, etc. At the end, students must pass a multiple-choice test called “Integration in Germany”.

Right away, the teacher puts her finger on the problem (my translation):

At first, I thought seven months was plenty of time. I couldn’t imagine that integration required so much more than good will and knowledge transfer. Today, I even sometimes question myself whether such an enormously difficult plan will ever succeed. The idea that integration can be managed with courses, at any rate, strikes me as naive, considering all the experiences I have had.

She describes a typical day, in which the course begins at 9:00. Twenty students are assigned to the course, but by 10:30, only 13 have bothered to show up. At least nobody left after lunch that day. With every passing year, she says, she has had to get a little more strict, until she now finds herself in a “role I never wanted — a teacher to adults.” She says that one of her colleagues believes that the students don’t take the course seriously because they get it for free, and she agrees. The ones who have to pay come more often.

During her training to teach integration courses, she was told students come in one of two groups with euphemistic names, those with “educational experience” and those who “lack educational experience”. She notes that the ones who “lack educational experience”, many of whom are functional illiterates, have one main problem: abstract thinking:

A popular writing exercise reads as follows: You are going to visit your sister, who is sick, on the weekend. Please ask your neighbor to feed your cats. The cat exercise often results in confusion: What am I supposed to do? My sister isn’t sick, I don’t have a cat, I also don’t have a neighbor, I live in a shelter.

But the main problem lies in a different area:

But in addition to language there are other challenges which are much harder to evaluate than a German test. The most important of these is religion. Whether people are Muslim, and the differences between the Islamic faith and other religions, are a permanent theme in our courses. Again and again, minor incidents become major issues. Usually, it’s about honor, respect, and the observance of religious rules. Emotional debates break out, and I have to intervene.

For example, a male Muslim student refuses to read a language-learning dialogue with a female Muslim student. Previously, in the subway, the woman had snubbed him. “Bad girl”, he says, pointing at the young woman, who shifts uncomfortably in her chair.

That’s completely wrong, another student says. A Muslim man who sees a female Muslim fellow student in the company of a male may not even look at her, much less greet her: “You have no respect for women”, he says, in a rage, and a woman in a headscarf nods in agreement. I tell the students to continue the discussion in the break. Values, rules of conduct, world-views — they all smash together in our courses. A young Muslim woman without a headscarf? Impossible. Male gynecologists? They must be insane. It should be outlawed. The theory of evolution? The room erupts in laughter. Complete nonsense….

The fact that men can love men and women women is met with broad rejection in our courses. The most generous reaction to this “problem” is that these homosexuals must be cured; I don’t even want to repeat here the solution preferred by the hardliners. “You have to tolerate this, if you want to live here” — this is my small mantra for orientation courses.

She asked an Islamic studies graduate what to do about the problem, and he basically says nothing: If you moved to Saudi Arabia, when would you accept that homosexuals should be executed, or that your husband could bring home three additional wives? Never, of course.

She ends the piece on a note of resignation: “Integration, I now realize, is a long-term project which may well even need to be pursued for generations.” She declares that German should not accept people who “laugh at gays, harass Jews, or grope women between the legs in public places”. A harder line is needed, she says, to demand respect for German values. But of course, like most sensitive German liberals, she doesn’t actually get down to brass tacks and provide any policy solutions.

Are her experiences unusual? Nope — two friends of mine have forwarded this piece to me, each of them noting that it sums up the experiences they’ve heard about from many other instructors in integration courses.

I have a few observations:

First, I haven’t posted about immigration on this new blog, because there’s little need to. The euphoria of 2015 is long gone, and not a day goes by in which leading German politicians — of every single political party, including the Green party — do not address the issue of exactly what Germany is going to do with the 1.6 million or so people who have arrived since 2015. The tone ranges from sober second thoughts to calls for hard-line action to resignation. The fact that the taz published this piece is itself a statement, since the taz is basically the house organ of the Green Party, and was easily the most enthusiastic member of the “Refugees Welcome” bandwagon in 2015.

Second, The teacher’s comment on abstract thinking is revealing. There’s something she obviously knows but is loath to say, because it’s one of the main taboos in the education world: These students are slow. That is, they have low IQs, and, by the very nature of the thing, that will never change. The inability to grasp abstract concepts or counterfactual hypothetical situations (“Imagine you have a cat.” “But I don’t have a cat.”) is a hallmark of intellectual disability, and low intelligence in general. In a place like Nigeria, Syria, or Tunisia, people with low IQs can get along. They will never learn to read or write, but they can eke out a living as construction workers, street vendors, or delivery men. None of these professions requires much thinking, much less abstract thinking.

Their low IQs are going to be a huge problem in Germany, however. First of all, none of these people is going to learn good German. You can just give up on that right now. The probability that someone with a 78 IQ who is illiterate in his own native tongue will be able to learn proficient German is zero. The most that can be expected is maybe a vocabulary of 100-200 pidgin words. This is surely one explanation for why the idea of quickly integrating recent migrants into the German occupational-training system has largely failed (g).

The second reason this is a long-term disaster is that Germany is a highly complex, bureaucratized society with universal literacy. Countries with universal literacy make being able to read a prerequisite for even the most menial jobs. Being unable to read or write guarantees permanent exclusion. And there is nothing that can be done about this. There is no special trick or ingenious teaching method or motivational scheme that can increase a 78-IQ person’s intelligence to the point where they will be able to learn a foreign language. The attempt will always end in failure and frustration on both sides.

The other telling point of the article is all of the backward ideas the students have. They mainly come from honor cultures. Here’s a description of honor cultures from an Oxford bibliography:

Honor in this second sense can result in two types of violence. The first occurs predominately between men (indeed, honor is often equated with masculinity). An honorable man will not hesitate to use physical force to combat any assault, theft, insult, or other attempt at subordination of himself or his group (family, gang, or nation). For honor, unlike the more stable value of dignity, can be won or lost. Honor rises and falls when one man (or group) publicly challenges the willingness of another to physically defend himself, his intimates, or his property and hence his right to be treated as an equal. To uphold his honor a man need not beat his opponent, but he must display a willingness to fight him. Cultures of honor (those in which actors compete for status based on physical force) are far from uniform, but work by anthropologists, historians, sociologists, criminologists, social psychologists, and others reveals several shared characteristics.

One is that honor is a central source of status, which largely explains the apparently trivial causes of many violent conflicts: the issue is not really the taking of a few cents of change but whether one can person disrespect another publicly and get away with it. Honor cultures too are typically antipathetic to law and legal officials: a man must stand up for himself and not rely on others to do so. Traditional honor cultures tend, also, to be highly patriarchal, subordinating women and treating their sexuality as family property. In such cultures, a second type of honor violence may be found—men beating or even killing their female relatives for loss of chastity or other conduct that threatens male rule. These acts of violence committed in the name of family honor likely have a long history in human societies. Today, they are concentrated in predominately Muslim nations and among their emigrants to Western countries. In short, all honor cultures have high rates of violence principally among men; some also have high rates of violence by men against their female relatives.

There you have it, in a nutshell.

The problem is not that these migrants are Muslim, or that they come from countries with backward value systems. The problem is that they are the kind of people who cannot imagine modifying or rejecting these value systems. They are like the uneducated masses of medieval Europe, trapped in a self-defeating system of ancient, irrational taboos and commandments.

One of the stalest but truest cliches in sociology is that the educated elite in every country has more in common with the educated elite in any other country than they do with the uneducated masses in their own countries. There are millions of Muslims in the world, some of them even devout, who ignore the stupid strictures of honor culture, abhor physical violence, and treat everyone with respect. They are the people with relatively high IQs, who have obtained college degrees. These folks are no more likely to beat someone up than a Japanese marketing executive living in Düsseldorf.

Alas, that’s not who Germany imported. Will all these thousands of new arrivals who think all women should wear headscarves engage in long, painful introspection, and cast off their entire world-view? Of course they won’t. First, they’re too intellectually limited to do this. Second, they have no desire to change their values — who does? And third, they have no reason to change their values — they will immediately slip into ethnic enclaves, where they will live their entire lives.

Which brings me to the third point: free courses and welfare. As I pointed out a time or two on the old blog, the model of integration in countries which do it successfully is the “gift basket” program: “We’ll give you gift basket and a little help at the beginning, and then you’re on your own. You’ll have to learn the language, and pay for the privilege. You’ll have to find a job, and a place to live, or bunk with friends or roommates. No, you don’t get the same welfare benefits as citizens, because you’re not one (yet). And if you commit a serious crime, you go back to wherever you came from. And you should be grateful for this, because even life as a second-class resident of our rich, peaceful country is immeasurably superior to life as a full citizen of wherever you came from. Which is why you came here. Always remember that.”

By and large, they do. Because they have to.

This approach may seem cruel, but, as Nick Lowe once observed, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. The gift-basket approach does two important things: it fosters a sense of self-reliance, and it reduces resentment of foreigners from the native population, because the native population sees that foreigners have to work just as hard as they do, often even harder. And the gift basket model uses the best kind of integration training, which is forcing new arrivals to get along with people in the workplace. You can think whatever you want about women and headscarves privately, but if you make a big stink about it in the warehouse or Starbuck’s where you work, then you’ll be fired, and will have to go back to the 6-man flat in the ghetto and eat cat food until you find a new job — which will be hard, since your previous employer will warn people not to hire you, because you’re some kind of religious fruitcake.

The German approach, on the other hand, is almost ridiculously indulgent. The state pays for your food, lodging, clothing, healthcare, and education. It pays for your “integration” courses. And if you never (bother to) find a job, it will pay you modest but livable social welfare benefits until you die. Currently, there are 1.6 million (g) non-EU foreigners on “Hartz IV”, the main  welfare system in Germany. And that doesn’t count the EU foreigners, or the various other government benefits systems.

The majority of new arrivals to Germany since 2015 will never successfully integrate, period. This is because they don’t have the skills and abilities needed for this, and because the German social welfare system, along with the existence of ethnic enclaves, removes bottom-line incentives to integrate. Integrating into another society is hard, and most people won’t do hard things unless they’re forced to. Germany lacks the will, the laws, or the institutions to force them to.

The sooner Germans face up to this blunt truth, the better.

Bavaria Passes Sweeping New Law to Give Adorable Blond Angel Cops More Powers

The German site Netzpolitik reports (g) that the Bavaria is about to pass a new police law which will give law enforcement in that state sweeping new powers of surveillance, and illustrates the article with this picture:

The report raises a number of fascinating policy issues which — dear God that is a hot cop. The high cheekbones, the soulful eyes, the sensual pout, the disheveled blond hair — that’s the whole package alright.

If that’s how Bettina — I’m sorry, Officer Bettina — looks in a uniform, imagine what a bombshell she must be in a little black dress? Wait, no, then she’d be just another hottie. It’s the uniform, and especially the job, which give her than indefinable Night Porter je ne sais quoi. As far as I’m concerned, the Bavarian state legislature can give her all the power they want.

And it’s not just Bavaria. I see plenty of toothsome female cops here in Düsseldorf. Come to think of it, I find many of the young male cops good-looking, too, although I don’t swing that way.

What is it that drives these bombshells to enter the mildly dangerous world of German policing? Is it the stable salary and generous pensions? The chance for professional advancement? A desire to assist their fellow citizens? A longing to exercise authority?

Whatever it is, I hope they keep it up.

Security Cameras Coming to Germany Soon

In the peculiar German debate over security cameras, opponents often argue (g) that they can only help solve crimes, not prevent them in the first place. They’re rarely challenged on this argument,  perhaps because Germans are more comfortable with arguing about abstract principles than nitty-gritty empirical reality.

But the argument is easily and instantly refuted by the simple and true observation that solving crimes prevents crimes. The latest case-in-point is the Austin serial bomber, who terrorized Austin, Texas with random package bombs which detonated all over the city, killing several people. Here’s how the police found him:

It was not much — surveillance footage in and near an Austin-area FedEx store showing a man in a disguise dropping off packages. But for investigators from federal, state and local agencies who had been hunting a mysterious and prolific bomb-maker, it was what they needed — their first big break.

Up to that point in a two-week investigation, officials had never laid eyes on the man they believed was responsible for terrorizing the Texas capital since March 2. In the security footage, a red 2002 Ford Ranger could be seen, officials said. Because the authorities did not have a license plate number, they began combing through records — all of them, for every vehicle with the same make and model in Texas. Investigators then began trying to match the records with a white male, possibly in his 20s.

And there was another, more unorthodox clue from the surveillance video: the suspect’s hands. He was wearing pink construction gloves. Investigators determined the same type of gloves were available at Home Depot, and they began going through hours of surveillance video from Home Depot locations in and around Austin. They got a hit: security video from one store appeared to show the same suspect.

Officials had now whittled down the number of potential license plates and began tailing a handful of people. One of them turned out to be Mark Conditt — the man that the authorities now believe was the Austin serial bomber.

So security camera footage was the crucial key to stopping a man who was literally on his way to deliver another bomb when he saw the cops were after him, and blew himself up. It’s impossible to say how many people were saved from death or mutilation by security camera footage, but there’s no doubt some were.

People who oppose something on principle also like to claim that it doesn’t work, just to cover all the bases. In this case, though, that’s false. There are principled arguments to oppose camera surveillance in public places, but its opponents shouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying it doesn’t prevent crimes. It does.

I predict security cameras will be installed in more and more public spaces in Germany in the coming years. Germans are, at bottom, a pragmatic people. They may initially oppose some dastardly innovation from America on principled grounds — I still remember the hundreds of German opinion pieces in the 1990s ridiculing American smoking bans in restaurants and bars — but they will eventually cave in and quietly adopt policies which actually work. And security cameras work.

Church Politics and Buildings

My business affairs took me to the prosperous Düsseldorf suburb of Pempelfort the other day, so I decided to drop by the Kreuzkirche (g) one of the landmarks of this area.

At first glance, the Dorf appears to be full of ancient churches, but it ain’t so. Most of the churches which appear antique were actually built at the end of the 19th or early 20th centuries in various historical revival styles, mainly neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque. Back then, confessional differences between Catholics and Protestants were still important, and affected architectural styles. The Catholics tended to go for the neo-Gothic style when they built new churches, the Protestants chose neo-Romanesque, since Romanesque was the earlier style (ca. 700-1200), and thus reflected the Protestants’ claims to be returning to an earlier, “truer” form of Christianity stripped of Papist fripperies.

Let’s be frank about this: this is all a horrible missed opportunity. The late 19th century was a time of innovation all over Germany, but Düsseldorf’s bourgeois classes were too conservative to finance Sezession or Art Nouveau  or Jugendstil-style churches, which would have been more interesting than a bunch of copies of 500 or 1,000-year-old models. Kaiser Wilhelm the II hated Jugendstil, and loved neo-Romanesque buildings, so prosperous Düsseldorf Protestants built largely in the neo-Romanesque style. The fact that KW II was a thoroughly mediocre reactionary who certainly didn’t give two shits what kind of churches Düsseldorf burghers built doesn’t seem to have dimmed their enthusiasm. What an odd institution monarchies were.

Anyhow, the Kreuzkirche is a fine example of a neo-Romanesque church. It was designed by Carl Wilhelm Schleicher, a local architect, and built between 1907 and 1910. Here’s the view from outside:

Bildergebnis für kreuzkirche düsseldorf

The church was built as a Protestant parish church, with financial support from the prosperous merchants living in what was then a leafy northern suburb of Düsseldorf. They spared no expense, outfitting the towers with expensive green copper cladding, and filling the interior with marble accessories and lavish church implements. They hired local artists to decorate the interior domes with Byzantine-inspired reliefs. The church itself is in the shape of a Greek cross, with equal-length arms. Because of the unusual dimensions of the piece of donated real estate (the church is at a crossroads where 5 roads meet), it is not pointed toward the east — which, in German, is called being “easted” (geostet).

Much of the interior decoration fell victim to World War II bomb damage and various restorations. In 1974, the massive marble altar was removed from the chancel, and replaced by a simple lectern. standing in front of the chancel. The pews were removed from the ground floor and replaced with ordinary chairs. The naves both feature raised galleries to accommodate more visitors. The windows were designed in the late 1950s by Ernst Otto Köpke.

I took the old wide-angle lens for a spin, here are a few of my photos:

Kreuzkirche view of SW window
Kreuzkirche view of organ loft and SW facing window from NE gallery

I wouldn’t exactly call it beautiful, but it’s handsome. The unadorned sandstone is historically accurate, and in keeping with Protestant aversion to decoration (although the crucifix is a copy of Donatello). The regularity and repetition of the forms makes a harmonious overall impression. The church has been a designated historical landmark for decades now, which seems like a proper decision.

You can visit the church every weekday from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, just to pray, meditate, or look around. A friendly church lady will greet you, and you can basically have the run of the place. Nobody else visited while I was there, which seemed a bit unfortunate. But then again, Germany’s official Protestant church has been hemorrhaging members at an alarming rate, so there’s no surprise there.

The Diffuse Fascist Association Problem

The Atlantic interviews Harvard geneticist David Reich, one of the anthropologists whose DNA-influenced work is revolutionizing human history. He relates this interesting anecdote:

Reich: Archaeology has always been political, especially in Europe. Archaeologists are very aware of the misuse of archaeology in the past, in the 20th century. There’s a very famous German archaeologist named Gustaf Kossinna, who was the first or one of the first to come up with the idea of “material culture.” Say, you see similar pots, and therefore you’re in a region where there was shared community and aspects of culture.

He went so far as to argue that when you see the spread of these pots, you’re actually seeing a spread of people and there’s a one-to-one mapping for those things. His ideas were used by the Nazis later, in propaganda, to argue that a particular group in Europe, the Aryans, expanded in all directions across Europe. He believed that the region where these people’s material culture was located is the natural homeland of the Aryan community, and the Germans were the natural inheritors of that. This was used to justify their expansionism in the propaganda that the Germans used in the run-up to the Second World War.

So after the Second World War, there was a very strong reaction in the European archaeological community—not just the Germans, but the broad continental European archaeological community—to the fact that their discipline had been used for these terrible political ends. And there was a retreat from the ideas of Kossinna.

Zhang: You actually had German collaborators drop out of a study because of these exact concerns, right? One of them wrote, “We must(!) avoid … being compared with the so-called ‘siedlungsarchäologie Method’ from Gustaf Kossinna!”

Reich: Yeah, that’s right. I think one of the things the ancient DNA is showing is actually the Corded Ware culture does correspond coherently to a group of people. [Editor’s note: The Corded Ware made pottery with cord-like ornamentation and according to ancient DNA studies, they descended from steppe ancestry.] I think that was a very sensitive issue to some of our coauthors, and one of the coauthors resigned because he felt we were returning to that idea of migration in archaeology that pots are the same as people. There have been a fair number of other coauthors from different parts of continental Europe who shared this anxiety.

So, instead of allowing modern, reliable scientific techniques to improve our understanding of human origins and modern population patterns, German scientists back out — because the results might tangentially lend support to a theory which was propounded by a man who died before Hitler even took power, but whose theories were cited by prominent Nazis.

The issue of whether Kossinna was right on the science doesn’t come up.

This is a good example of what I call, for lack of a better term, the Diffuse Fascist Association Problem (DFAP). Of course, it’s found in its most intense form in Germany, which had the most intense form of Fascism.

The mechanism of DFAP is simple: At one point, National Socialists became interested in some aspect of scientific inquiry, public policy, and/or culture. This represents the Original Sin, the taint, the ideological infection. Over the decades since World War II, this area of science, policy, or culture changes drastically: the laws have changed, the original generation of scientists or composers or officials is long-dead, German society has been revolutionized in ways which would have been inconceivable in 1935.

Yet the taint still exists — but it is now diffuse and unfocused, like a tattoo on someone who’s gained 100 pounds. It still pops up in the most unexpected areas, sometimes inhibiting sensible policies. A few examples:

  • Because the Nazis deported millions of innocent people, many German citizens, from the territory of Germany, deportation, as a whole, has a DFAP problem. In fact, you cannot even used the word “deportation” in German. So Germany has the most lax deportation laws of any country, even though now, no German citizen can possibly be deported under German law, and there are large numbers of illegal immigrants to Germany whose asylum claims have been denied. Any other country would and does deport these people as a matter of course, but Germany still has a DFAP problem with the very concept of deportation, so it permits hundreds of thousands of these people to remain in Germany for no reason.
  • Because German policies during World War II created large numbers of people who needed political asylum because they were in imminent danger of being imprisoned or murdered for no legitimate reason by the National Socialist regime, Germany adopted Art. 16 of its post-war constitution, which promised every human on earth a personal right of political asylum in Germany. Merely mentioning the word “asylum” automatically grants an illegal immigrant to Germany the right to start a long and expensive court proceeding to determine their eligibility for political asylum. The policy proved to be so lenient, and subject to abuse, that Germany completely overhauled its constitution in the early 1990s to restrict the process and improve its integration with European law. Yet it is still unwieldy and bureaucratic.
  • Germany euthanized the mentally ill against their will, without their families’ consent, during the notorious T4 program. Therefore, euthanasia has a DFAP problem, even though it is now inconceivable that anyone would be euthanized in Germany under these conditions. It’s possible to disapprove euthanasia for logical policy reasons, and some Germans do, but debate on this issue in Germany is routinely shut down with a simple hand-waving reference to history.
  • Because the Nazis were interested in intelligence measurement, the general consensus in Germany is that IQ testing is, in and of itself, immoral. Opponents also claim it is inaccurate and misleading, just to try to warn off anyone who might be interested in it. The entire field is radioactive, and few German scholars and researchers are prominent within it. This means that the debate about human intelligence in Germany is decades behind where it is in the Anglo-Saxon world. The majority of educated Germans still thinks that IQ tests are inherently biased and tell us nothing valuable, simply because that’s the consensus which developed in the 1970s, and most Germans are uninterested in updating it, or are afraid to do so.
  • Both the National Socialist and East German regimes created vast, intrusive internal surveillance and spying bureaucracies with nary a thought to personal autonomy or privacy. As a result, there is still a vocal minority of Germans who are militantly opposed to installing video surveillance cameras in high-crime areas, even though this is a proven, safe, effective, and cheap crime-fighting tool used routinely in other countries. Although the attitudes of ordinary Germans have changed — 79% now favor more video surveillance (g) — the dedicated opposition of the people who oppose it has often prevailed. The situation is like gun control in the USA: Most Americans favor it in the abstract, but it’s not a high priority for them. The minority of people who oppose it oppose it fiercely — and in a democracy, a policy favored by a fanatical minority will usually win if the majority’s opposition is unfocussed and half-hearted. The same goes for using rapidly-advancing DNA technology to create profiles of suspects in serious violent crimes: this is illegal under German law, believe it or not.

The example of deportation and video surveillance also involve another aspect of DFAP: bureaucratic inertia. Even when a policy is now legal and permitted, if there is still a controversial DFAP “taint” to it, it is likely to be implemented only slowly and partially, if at all.

In order to deport someone, for example, many officials, from judges to bureaucrats to government purchasing agents (who need to buy the plane tickets or charter the flight) to social-welfare workers to police, all have to work together to make it happen. The process requires active support and coordination, and is only as strong as its weakest link. Since there is an inherent tendency to be skeptical of deportation among some of these people (especially government officials and social workers), it’s not regarded as a catastrophe if a deportation doesn’t come about. Nobody is held accountable for failed or stalled deportation proceedings, and the risk of deporting someone wrongfully is considered much more important than the risk of trying but failing to deport someone who has no right to be in the country.

The same thing is true of video surveillance: Even when police and local leaders decide that cameras should be installed in high-traffic public areas, they quickly become outmoded, delivering videos too blurry to be useful (g), and are subject to dozens of restrictions on how they can be used. When it comes time to update them to the latest technology, that will mean yet another fight with the dedicated, unpersuadable opponents of video surveillance (g), so the process will again take months, if not years. Who wants all the hassle and aggravation? As with deportations, no one specific person will be held accountable if the policy fails: if a camera was pointed at the location of a murder but had been broken for months because nobody bothered to fix it, nobody will get in trouble, since Germans have been conditioned to (1) not expect video surveillance to help solve crimes, and (2) not demand personal accountability from civil servants.

To be fair, there are many positive effects of the DFAP. Germany has enshrined human rights and human dignity in its constitution, is extremely wary of deploying troops, has robust free-speech protections, and has eliminated the death penalty. I find these policies admirable. But all of these can be maintained while we trim away the most problematic excrescences of DFAP.

Dear German Kurds: For Your Own Good, Shut Up

Would you be delighted if disputes in a country thousands of miles away led to a wave of arson attacks and violence in you country?

That’s what is happening in Germany right now. There are something like 600-800,000 persons of Kurdish descent living in Germany right now, the majority of whom hail from Turkey. They entered Germany gradually, over years, as a result of chain migration, without anyone ever making a conscious decision to make this happen, or, for that matter, justifying it to the German people.

As most Germans are dimly aware, Kurds in Turkey have been staging an armed separatist insurrection for decades now. The main force behind this revolt is the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), founded by Abdullah Ocalan and a few others in the late 1970s. It started out as a Communist group, but has changed its orientation to be somewhat more accepting of Islam, to try to attract more Islamic members. Its ideology is now a murky mix of socialism and elements of Islam, held together by Kurdish nationalism.

The Turkish government has responded to the PKK with repression, some of which involves human-rights abuses. The PKK has responded with bombing attacks which have, on occasion, cost many civilian lives. Human-rights groups regularly condemn both the Turkish government and PKK for abuses and atrocities. The PKK has been declared a terrorist group by the European Union, and displaying its flag or propaganda is illegal in Germany.

If you’re interested, here are the main propaganda points for both sides, as distilled from dozens of conversations and written accounts I’ve heard or read over the years:

Kurds say they want only autonomy, not to destroy Turkey. Turkey has repressed their language, culture, and legitimate national aspirations brutally for decades. The PKK is the most legitimate and active Kurdish nationalist group, and it primarily targets Turkish and government military officials. The declaration of the PKK as a terrorist group was a political result of Turkey’s strategic importance to Europe as a trading partner and NATO member. Turkey has used illegal and brutal tactics to suppress Kurdish groups, and has committed numerous human-rights abuses.

Turks, on the other hand, condemn the PKK as a straight-out terrorist organization, similar to the separatist Basque ETA in Spain. The Turkish state has made many concessions to legitimate Kurdish interests, but will not tolerate extreme demands, just as Spain and France do not tolerate separatist agitation. The PKK is waging a guerrilla war and intentionally mixes with the civilian population to generate civilian victims and sympathy. The PKK has carried out numerous bombing atrocities which have intentionally targeted civilians. Therefore, its designation as a terrorist group is well-earned. Talk to any Turk or Kurd (except for cosmopolitan elites), and you will hear these arguments repeated ad infinitum. Gather nationalist Turks and Kurds in one place, and conflict will inevitably break out.

Right now, the Turkish government is prosecuting a military campaign in the city of Afrin, which has inflamed Kurdish passions. So what have Kurds done? Well, many of them have staged more-or-less peaceful demonstrations to protest this action. I say more-or-less because once Kurds begin protesting, it is only a matter of time before gatherings of nationalist Turks appear to start a fight, in which the Kurdish protesters are eager participants. As Deutsche Welle reports:

In a sign of how quickly things can escalate, Kurdish protesters demonstrating at Hanover’s airport on Monday clashed with Turkish passengers exiting their flight. Separately on Monday, unknown assailants vandalized two mosques run by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.

The incidents come as Der Spiegel reported that some Turkish mosques and imams in Germany invoked prayers for the success of the Turkish military against the “terrorists” in Afrin. The prayers were the same as those read at some 90,000 mosques in Turkey.

Because pro-Kurdish demonstrations routinely generate mass brawls at the edges, German taxpayers must pony up millions of Euros in police overtime, not to mention interpreters for the ensuing court proceedings. Many demonstrations are also broken up by police for displaying PKK flags or propaganda.

And then there are the illegal actions. There have been a wave of mosque bombings in Germany in the last few days — almost universally of mosques which are partially funded by the Turkish government and generally preach a pro-Ankara line. Kurdish militants within Germany are claiming credit for many of these attacks, and doing so by the pretty convincing method of posting videos of themselves actually conducting the arson attacks. One of these videos, purporting to show the bombing of a mosque in Lauffen am Neckar yesterday, can be seen here (not embeddable, for obvious reasons). This website, a German-language portal for Kurdish militants, features dozens of reports and often videos of arson attacks against cars and buildings owned by “Turkish fascists”, conducted by young Kurdish militants in Germany.

A spontaneous, illegal protest at the airport in Düsseldorf yesterday also devolved into a brawl, because Turkish passengers (who knows, perhaps even airport employees) attacked (g) the illegal protesters. The police had to use pepper spray and evacuate parts of the airport. There were injuries.

Here’s a report on spontaneous fights between Kurds and Turks in Stuttgart in January 2018:

There are hundreds of videos like this.

So, are these violent actions and illegal protests helping the Kurdish cause? The answer is a loud, emphatic no. Under every newspaper report, there is a seemingly endless stream of comments from German readers which basically boil down to ‘a plague on both your houses‘. Germans wonder why buildings and cars are burning in Germany, German airports and inner cities are being turned into mini-Thunderdomes, and police and security services are spending tens of millions of Euros — all because of some squabble occurring in a corner of a country thousands of kilometers away. Instead of sympathy for the Kurdish cause, you’re likely to read demands for mass deportations of Kurds — and for that matter, Turks — since they apparently can’t figure how to live alongside one another like civilized people.

Why is this happening in Germany? The answer, of course, is that Germany imported this conflict. Operating in a fit of absent-mindedness, not pursuing any conscious, logical policy, it imported such large numbers of Turks and Kurds that both communities are now massive and self-perpetuating. This guarantees that the Turkish-Kurdish conflict will continue to have considerable knock-on effects in Germany for generations.

You would think Germany might have learned some valuable lessons from this experience, but it seems to catch them by surprise every time.

UPDATE (later that same day): How about a constructive suggestion? Young Kurds, if you feel so strongly about the Turkish military operations in northern Syria, you could go join one of the Kurdish groups fighting there.

That’s what this man did, and he’s not even Kurdish:

Icelander Reportedly Killed In Action In Afrin

An account from the Reykjavik Grapevine:

Icelandic activist Haukur Hilmarsson was reportedly killed in combat in Afrin, Syria. He was 32 years old.

According to a post from the International Freedom Battalion (IFB), a group of international fighters working alongside the YPG in Syria, this was his second tour of combat in the region. After first being deported from Iraq after trying to enter Rojava, he returned shortly thereafter and distinguished himself in Raqqa, where he rose to the rank of commander. After helping rout the Islamic State from the area, he later joined the fighting against encroaching Turkish forces in northern Syria. It was in Afrin, a Syrian city that has seen heavy casualties lately, where he ultimately fell in combat.

“In death we say he has become immortal,” IFB writes of him. “For we will never forget his struggle, his name, and his example – and we shall never give up his fight.”

If an Icelander can volunteer to fight the good fight, I’m sure a young, healthy German Kurd would be even more valuable. Same culture and language. And the offer isn’t just good for males, since the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units are world-renowned.

What’s more likely to help the Kurdish cause: brawling with random Turks in cold, rainy Dortmund, bombing a mosque in the Neckar valley, or actually taking up arms to bravely and valiantly defend the Kurdish homeland? Or put another way, if a 32-year-old Icelander can die for the glorious cause, what’s stopping you?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

The Americanization of the German Palate

The Washington Post writes of peanut butter, which the EU might impose tariffs on if there’s a trade war:

The spread, nearly ubiquitous in the United States, barely registers beyond North America. As Northwestern marketing professor Brian Sternthal put it to the HuffPost, “in many parts of the world, peanut butter is regarded as an unpalatable American curiosity.” One New Yorker writer described his acquaintances from Northern Ireland responding to his jars of Skippy with disgust, “as if peanuts were synonymous with maggots.” In a 1981 essay, William F. Buckley Jr., described the students at his British boarding school tasting the nutty treat, then spitting it out. (No wonder, he wrote, “they needed help to win the war.”)

As a result, it can be tough to get a Jif fix outside the USA. “Finding peanut butter abroad is nearly impossible,” one Vice article declared. “Just about every country has peanuts, and just about every country has blenders. Why is it so desperately difficult to find real-deal peanut butter outside of the US? Blame local tastes that just don’t understand the American yen.”

This just ain’t true, as you can see by the photo used to illustrate the article:

This is the store-brand variety of peanut butter sold by the large German discounter Real (“original from the USA”).

When I first landed lived here for stint in 2001, peanut butter was impossible to find. If you wanted some, you had to go to a specialty American/British food shop and pay outlandish prices.

Today, you can get peanut butter in at least 75% of all grocery stores — even the discounters — here in Düsseldorf. The same goes for other delectable treats such as genuine maple syrup, real Cheddar cheese, and “breakfast bacon” which you fry up with eggs.

HERTA Breakfast Bacon feiner Frühstücksspeck

When I first came here, nobody had heard of “bacon”, and they reacted with puzzlement when I told them I planned to fry it up — why would you do that to a nice cut of smoked pork? I told them: “because frying it makes it 100 times as delicious.” And then proved it by giving them some.

Now you can get “Breakfast Bacon” in any store. When I go to the farmer’s market, the nice lady offers to cut my pork “bacon style”, and I’m not the only one ordering it that way.

Maybe this is just Düsseldorf, it’s a pretty cosmopolitan place. But I bet the trend is bigger: with modern transportation and logistics, it’s pretty easy to make and sell a niche product, even in a fairly small store in a small town.

I find this is all good. Bacon, cheddar cheese, maple syrup, and peanut butter are objectively delicious, which is why some Germans end up liking them when they try them. Just as most Americans and Britons fall in love with German bread and sausage.

If there is a trade war, I am sure some enterprising German firm will learn how to make peanut butter well, and immediately fill the gap. One of the things Germans are very good at is imitating the culinary delights of other cultures. And peanut butter is the simplest thing in the world to make. Maybe I’ll just make my own, and begin selling it on the streetcorner.


Will the Bilk Horse’s Head Survive?

It’s local history time! Which is easy, when you live in Bilk, a neighborhood in Düsseldorf which is actually older than Düsseldorf itself: Bilk was first mentioned as ‘Villa Bilici in a document from February 14, 799.

But now to more recent history. If you walk down the street where I live, you will notice something fairly odd: a horse’s head:

Horsehead General view

As you can see, the building has a sign for “paper processing” and a few names and very old telephone numbers. But the most striking feature is the horse’s head. I attached my camera to a long pole to get some close-ups of it:

Horsehead Brunnenstr. 27 rightHorsehead Brunnenstr. 27 left

Did people look at me strangely while I was holding a 3-meter pole with a camera attached to it? Nope. This is Düsseldorf, a town which is lousy with artists and photographers, both amateur and professional. You can’t swing a dead cat here without someone taking a picture of it.

The story behind the horse’s head is told in the latest issue of the local magazine devoted to the history of the neighborhood, the Bilker Sternwarte (g, pdf).

The building, which is now Brunnenstr. 27, was constructed in 1888/1889 by Jakob Torney, a construction foreman and developer. The building was later acquired by one Anton Schmalscheidt in the late 1890s, who installed stalls for ten horses on the ground floor, and ran a carriage business from the house. (The house is known as the Schmalscheidt house). This is probably when the horse’s head you see above you was made. We don’t know who made it.

The main client of the carriage business was the Julius Schulte and Sons paper factory founded in 1886, which still exists (g) and lends its fragrant aroma to the neighborhood every summer. They used horses to transport their paper to a nearby train station, until the paper factory finally bought a tractor for this purpose.

Unfortunately, plans are now afoot by Holatec, a business which currently owns the building and operates from it. They want to tear it down and make it into student apartments. Local politicians filed a petition to have the building designated a historical landmark, but the petition was denied on December 5, 2017. The local landmark commission found the building did not have enough historical value. There have been demonstrations (g) by local residents who want to preserve the building. They stood outside it, making “clop-clop” noises with coconut halves.

The local Green party representative for District 3 of the city said (g): “We are very much interested in allowing people to continue to live in Brunnenstraße 27. We also expressly support the idea of student apartments here. But why does the entire building need to be torn down, instead of integrating the new construction into the existing building? For many residents of Bilk, this will mean the disappearance of a piece of their neighborhood which makes it a great place to live.”

Will the horse’s head building be saved? Stay tuned — I will keep you informed of every twist and turn in this utterly fascinating (by German local-history standards) story.