martedì, settembre 13, 2016

Mantras for the land that wasn't quite promised but will do

To hark back to something a cousin-by questionable-marriage said to us several years back, F-word and I indeed spent a good chunk of our lives looking for the Promised Land, and we didn't find it, and that's fine, and we're done looking, and that's fine too. Here is a good place to end up, with all its great schools and reasonably priced groceries and hospitals with low caesarian rates (BTW the German word for caesarian or c-section is "Kaiserschnitt". Isn't that awesome? I need to use "Kaiser Schnitt" as somebody or something's name in some work of fiction at some time). We aren't moving. Or at least, not until we're old, or until we have to.

All the same, once a week or more, I have to employ a specific calming mantra to reconcile me to life here, beyond my typical go-to of "two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it" (thank you, you beautiful woman, and goodbye):

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

The mantra works because it's true. No one likes Germans. There are historical reasons for nobody liking Germans and those historical reasons all come back to the present reasons nobody likes Germans once they spend time with a certain type of German who seems to illustrate those historical reasons, because they do illustrate those historical reasons, and it has to do with a strange relationship to RULES.

And it's something that resonates with me as a Canadian, because Canadians have this reputation for really enjoying doing things by the rules, but almost everybody likes us (even though there are a lot of reasons they shouldn't). And the reason nobody likes Germans is because they really enjoy rules too, but perpetually seem to be using them as a stick to beat the people around them with.

It's on my mind today because usually I only have to pull out the mantra once a week, but just now I've had to do it three times in 24 hours, and in between those times I listened to part of Dan Carlin's "Blueprint for Armageddon" Hardcore History* podcast about the first World War. The bit in question is when he talks about how clueless the German state was about the brutal collective punishment of civilians during the 1914 invasion of Belgium affecting opinion in countries like Britain and the US that hadn't yet involved themselves in the war, and weren't obliged to by treaty. Carlin argues that since the idea of collective punishment was popularly accepted as a reasonable way to wage war within Germany, there was no serious thought given to what the rest of the world was going to think of it. That is, the Germans were obeying the rules, so no problem was envisaged.

Which would be fine - except rules are NOT. FUCKING. UNIVERSAL. They're applied as the powerful choose to apply them, and that means sometimes rules are transparently instruments of oppression. And you don't make something okay to everyone by making a rule about it. The Roma and Jewish genocides of the second world war were by the rules. The way the German political and business establishment has been choking the life out of Greece for the last several years is by the rules. Murder is "against the rules", and credit being extended with zero risk to the creditor is also "against the rules", but when the rules are enforced by the powerful - in these cases, the Germans - they can cherry-pick, and still feel like the are OBEYING THE MOTHERFUCKING RULES SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Anyways, nobody has been oppressing me that badly. I just have a bad cold and a massive, massive pregnant belly with all the attendant physical and mental discomforts, so the little things that happen get magnified and I need to pull out my mantra to calm down. In this case, the trifecta of "people like you are the reason nobody likes Germans" was:

a) trying to take my lightly-sick son to a local playground to get some fresh air (and myself some peace) but having to turn tail almost immediately, because there was a festival this weekend, complete with weird traditional shorts and oompa music and banners. That meant the playground was festooned with broken beer glasses and bottles. Even the sandboxes. Fuck knows how those pigs managed to break glass in a fucking sandbox.

My neighbourhood, statistically, is one of the most "German" in the city. And the amount of sheer fucking BITCHING I've heard from these true-blue Germans about how filthy Turks, Arabs and Roma people are in their public habits is what makes this particularly frustrating. There are RULES about public comportment, rules that don't apply if you're native German and having a good time, even when it means filling up a fucking PLAYGROUND with jagged glass.

b) taking the bus home late last night from a local hospital, where I plan to hatch the next baby, the driver blew past my requested stop. I'm sort of an absent-minded idiot at the moment, what with being seven months pregnant, so it took ten or fifteen seconds for me to realise what had happened. And then when I started yelling at the driver, he didn't pull over - instead, he continued on at speed for a good half-minute, yelling back at me that I should have reminded him to stop immediately.

If there weren't other people watching my pregnant belly sway around the bus, I'm sure the fucking bastard would have just continued on to where the fucking "rules" said there was another fucking bus stop.

c) this morning, I was biking Godzilla to school. On the route, there's a section of about 60 metres were the bike path disappears, the road narrows, and cars go fast around a roundabout as they anticipate the speed limit being about to rise. And at that point, at least when Godzilla is on the bike with me and I'm massively pregnant, I go on the sidewalk. The fuck I or anyone remotely sensible will do anything else. I've had too many near-misses there, and that strip of road is notorious for near-misses and not-misses not only of bikes but of pedestrians using zebra crossings. I go slow, watch out for pedestrians, and give them a wide berth, up to and including stopping for them, because I'm not an asshole.

This morning, I stopped for a pedestrian who was walking his dogs, to promptly get fucking jawed at from him about how I'm on a footpath. I gesture at the roundabout and start explaining why I'm on the footpath, but he interrupts, saying to me, my three year old on the back of the bike, and my big, pregnant belly, while we're stationary to let him pass - "you're on a footpath, and that's that."

It's one of those times where at the moment I deeply regret not knowing enough German to argue with him, but ultimately saying "okay, you don't want an explanation" and biking away from him was the best thing I could have done. He had the rules on his side, and I had my mantra on mine:

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

People like you are the reason nobody likes Germans.

*It's fun. Conversational, interesting, and I can follow it whilst pregnant and exhausted.

4 commenti:

Anonimo ha detto...

Yup. They are fucking constipated by rules.

I loved the Germans I met (except that scowling cunt of a woman behind me in the restaurant in Leipzig who wouldn't move an inch to let me out (and I was jammed to my table by her big arse) and pointedly said to her companions - in the most fucking contemptuous scornful voice ever - 'Englisch! Englisch!'). I loved them mostly.

I fucking hated their madness on their mad roads. And those fucking traffic light things that give you a green AND AT THE SAME TIME give a fucking cyclist/pedestrian a green - but on a sideways attached indicator that you need a fucking swivel neck to see. And the unwritten rules that say who opens doors or goes first or...

But I am unfortunate enough to be thought of as 'Englisch' wherever I go. (and that makes me so angry)

So maybe being German's not really so bad. Not when the fucking UK fucking ruling elite are lifting their fucking social policies from Mein Campf...

Anyway... so... you really are getting to the 'need to pop' stage, aren't you? I'd recognise the impotent raging frustration of imminent childbirth anywhere. And it makes me smile a nostalgic smile.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I'm willing to wager that even though I sound indistinguishable from a USofAer, I get more benefit of the doubt than you do in terms of the "Englisch! Englisch!" thing before people here start treating me or thinking of me as an Ugly American.

Maybe because of the proportion of Canadians who travel versus Americans, or because of whatever causes the terrible embarrassment Europeans evince whenever they get caught out treating a Canadian like an American (I don't think mainland Europeans, for however little they like the English, would dream that being considered English could be as offensive as being mistaken for an American).

I really don't think many mainland Europeans have wrapped their heads around the UK being a bunch of seperate countries. Not even in a federal place like this. Even less so in a shitty behemoth of a place like France or Italy, where the idea of nationality only serves a sort of empire, and more local identities are shat upon.

But I don't blame local practices or ideas of identity, really; I blame simple fucking European pig ignorance. Which doesn't exceed or even usually approach North American pig ignorance, except in this case. The quantity of British and Irish people who settled in North America kept enough of their identity that you'd have to be an extra helping of clueless to not get that there's some profound differences and oppositions there, even if you can't narrate the terms of the Acts of Union or the Darien Scheme.

Anonimo ha detto...

If we were overheard talking dialect between ourselves I must admit there were some folk (maybe folk who were reasonably fluent in English) who hesitated and then asked where we were from/what nationality. A Glaswegian/West of Scotland accent is pretty strong - and though I'll do the typical thing of shifting between registers depending on circumstances/who I'm talking to, when it's with the family the accent and even the lexical difference is very obvious.

You are 100% right - there is very very little conception of the UK as anything other than as a single country (aka 'English). Though when we were there, Scottish politicians (Nicola Sturgeon and Angus Robertson - Angus' mother is German so he is fluent anyway) were being interviewed left right and centre on German tv/news. There seemed to be a real appreciation/admiration for them - but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.

I just wish that the sympathetic hearing the Scots were getting post-Brexit had been there during the Independence referendum. We knew (here in Scotland) that England would take the UK out of the EU - it was obvious. The stench of xenophobia was overwhelming even back 2 years ago (started ironically with the Labour Party and their 'British jobs for British workers' shite).

I'm not good company.

I am consumed just now by a fury that scares me into this dreadful paralysis. I am frightened as to where the bastard Tories are taking everyone. The rhetoric here proves to me that the EU Referendum was about immigration. I have always felt England was vulnerable to the forces of far right nationalism - and it seems to me that it has started.

But I fear another Indyref here in Scotland - it was bad last time round and if 'Yes' lost again then that would be it for the next 50 years.

My new neighbour is working in Toronto just now - she spent 2014 there. She loves Canada.

So many folk I knew or went to school with emigrated to Canada. It was the preferred option for so may of us during the Thatcher years... and certainly seems attractive even now.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I think people paying attention know the difference and are more aware of it now post-Brexit referendum, but that's the same 30% of people who pay attention anywhere. Germany's pretty great but it's not Utopia and like anywhere most people are just fixed on what's crappy in their own lives and whose fault it is.

These days, brown people are the usual suspects, as though they're the ones sending inflation through the roof, causing the nation's neglected infrastructure to crumble around our ears, and facilitating a suite of laws and a culture of law enforcement that shrugs at the abuse of women, etc.

I guess I'm saying that it looks pretty shitty and racist and worrisome there, but things are shitty and racist and worrisome all over. Canada is having a bit of a shining moment right now but a big part of that is that it swings a little out of sync with the rest of the world; our racist right wing douchebags struck out a year ago and now we're basking in some Trudeau-esque feelgood light.

And a HUGE part of that, and what makes Canadian cities simultaneously so seemingly heterogenous and so harmonious, is that it's a nearly totally bourgeois place, outside of neglected backwaters and the wilderness ghettoes so many of the natives got chased off to. The points system and the way refugees are selected for entrance combined with restrictive professional associations gave us a country full of doctor/lawyer/programmer cabdrivers who have all the normal bourgeois aspirations and expectations of their kids.

I criticize and the roots of the system are pretty shitty but yeah, Canada is actually a great place to live in most ways. If you can stand the weather and the shortages of medical specialists, which doesn't sound worse than most NHS catchments.