What’s the German for ‘mission civilatrice’?


Old joke:

Holger, from Frankfurt, arrives at the Athens airport.
Customs official: Name?
Holger: Holger von Alteboesefeind.
Customs official: Occupation?
Holger: Not ziss time. Chust visitingk.

A few more elections like the recent ones in Greece, and I may have to reconsider some long-held opinions. Oh sure, sure, I know, what will come of it, all a big fizzle, no doubt, no doubt, but it’s been pretty damn exhilarating up to this point. Mostly because of what it implies about how public opinion can change dramatically after a few years of what the new Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, called “fiscal waterboarding”. If nothing else, Syriza’s willingness to use blunt and accurate language is a breath of fresh air, or rather, what a breath of fresh air would be to… to… well, to a person being waterboarded.

Will Amurricans ever stop trying to be ersatz Romans and start learning from the Greeks instead? I know: sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Not least among the pleasures in this recent turn of events is the constipated rhetoric effortfully squeezed out by various solemn hard-money Germans. It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but here’s a good one, from Martin Jaeger, identified as a spokesman for the German finance ministry:

“We are prepared to work further with Greece … But we will not force our help onto Athens.”

And Athens is no doubt very grateful to Berlin for its manly restraint. That forced help is a bitch, and particularly a bitch when it’s Made In Germany.

Another, less Pecksniffian and more in the old Pickelhaube mode:

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the Greeks should abide by their commitments, adding: “There’s no arguing with us about this and, what’s more, we are difficult to blackmail.”

As if all this weren’t enough to gladden my gristly old heart, Syriza has entered into a coalition with the small right-wing party ANEL, which really makes me giddy with delight. ANEL has the usual anti-immigrant craziness and a deep romantic attachment to the established Greek Orthodox church, but it is also solidly anti-austerity and has no use at all for the Germans. So here we have realized the terrible specter of a left-right populist alliance leaving the respectable, responsible centrists and liberals high and dry.

This splendid and exemplary piece of opportunism — in the best sense of the word — on Syriza’s part has disappointed a few of my more beautiful-souled Lefty comrades, of course, but surprisingly few. Most of us seem to get what a brilliant move it is.

Comment cartoon by Ellie Foreman-Peck

12 thoughts on “What’s the German for ‘mission civilatrice’?

    • They deserve our wrath. Germany benefitted the most from this unification of Europe. We mostly talk about their banks that looted the southern Europe but let’s not forget about their manufacturing sector. For the most part, they kept the manufacturing within their own borders while enjoying the benefits of no frontiers for selling their goods. To top it off, they now have this Pegida movement originated in the old East Germany. Imagine the absurdity of the previous East Germans demanding the immigrants’ hands off from what “they’ve built”! What’s their contribution to the greatness of Deutschland in the past 25 years? For the most part, it was already “built” when they joined in. Sixteen millions of them were the beneficiaries of the largesse of West Germany and now they’re all indignant about a few hundred thousand here and there.

      In short, fuck ’em! Ostie d’austérité!

  1. The Greeks did a little flirting with corruption on a dark Saturday night; and it turned out to be very expensive.

    The West Germans had a real cool Kraftwerk industrial productionality machine until they absorbed the corrupt East Germany; a move that cost them big time. They still hold all the industrial and work-ethic productional cards though. (They never went down the dead-end NAFTA trail.)

    So the corrupt “Unified” Germany could not bail out the ancient corrupt Greeks if their life depended on it anyways.

    But the Greeks who fell down may be able to get back up on their feet after all with no “help” from the Western Powers. Maybe a little from the Russia/China SCO. (NATO be damned.)

    All we have to do is get the Washington/CFR mob to vacation in Vegas for a week. All those campaign bucks will vanish, and we will be set free!

      • He’s an odd duck, all right. Very much of his time but he also wrote the startlingly somber Recessional for Victoria’s jubilee, and as my man Auden said — before he tried to unsay it —

        Time that is intolerant
        Of the brave and the innocent,
        And indifferent in a week
        To a beautiful physique,

        Worships language and forgives
        Everyone by whom it lives;
        Pardons cowardice, conceit,
        Lays its honours at their feet.

        Time that with this strange excuse
        Pardoned Kipling and his views,
        And will pardon Paul Claudel,
        Pardons him for writing well.

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