Monday, 18 October 2010

A melting pot-pourri

A few random observations on Germany's never-ending "immigration debate",  which has flared up again in recent weeks:

-  It would help the Germans immensely if at least their leaders,  i.e.  the people in the best position to know and to educate others,  would realise that there is an important distinction to be made between:
(a) unskilled/poorly skilled immigrant workers who are not what the country needs to fill its desperate labour shortages and who are always the first to be sacked when the economy goes into a downturn,  and who therefore are very likely to be unemployed or poor and who therefore are inevitably going to have a very hard time fitting into German society and feeling comfortable in Germany,  and
(b) highly skilled immigrant workers who walk into highly paid jobs as soon as they arrive and who therefore have absolutely no trouble integrating and feeling comfortable in Germany because anyone with huge amounts of cash always tends to be fairly welcome anywhere.
Unfortunately,  just about all German politicians,  whether pro- or anti-immigration,  fail to make this distinction and spend all their time talking about  "Christian-Jewish values"  instead,  as if religion and not money were the most important thing in determining someone's success as a member of society.

-  Things like Merkel's little speech on the weekend,  which received an extraordinary amount of attention around the world  (topping the  "most emailed story"  lists on, and for example*),  will have done tremendous damage to Germany's ability to attract the kind of highly skilled immigrant workers that it needs.  Why go to a country that clearly doesn't want you when you can go to one that does instead,  like Britain,  the USA,  or Australia?

-  The presence of the  "Jewish"  in  "Christian-Jewish"  –  such as in the words of Horst Seehofer,  leader of the most right-wing party in the governing coalition,  talking about  "unsere deutsche Leitkultur,  die von den christlich-jüdischen Wurzeln  [...]  geprägt ist"  (our German core-culture,  which is based on its Christian-Jewish roots  [...])   –  is amusing.  There were people in Germany like Horst Seehofer saying not dissimilar things about a hundred years ago,  but they left out the Jewish bit.  Mainly because they had the same view of Jews that Horst Seehofer now has of Muslims.

-  Ill-defined terms like  "deutsche Leitkultur",  "Integrationsfähigkeit"  (capacity for integration)  and  "Integrationsverweigerung"  (refusal to integrate)  scare the living bejesus out of me.

*  -  not at The Times of India,  however, where the readers,  who are presumably mainly Hindu and seem to be even more Islamophobic than most Europeans,  not only completely failed to notice that the German animosity to people from  "alien cultures"  (as it is reported there)  extends equally to them as well,  but also were fully supportive of Germany's perceived desire to be rid of its Muslim population,  blithely observing that the Muslims should behave themselves or they'll go the same way as the Jews who also  "could also not fully get integrated into the societies in foreign lands,  resulting in a holocaust in Germany".  "What is the need to allow Muslims when Germans hate them so much.  I ask these Muslims dont they remember how Jews were treated by Germany,do they want to have the same fate?.Afterall muslims are also semetic people"  (number of other readers clicking  "Agree":  47,  "Disagree":  6,  "Recommend":  21,  "Offensive":  0).  Horst Seehofer would be delighted.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Don't ask don't tell...

... about the other 300:

Gorgidas,  according to some,  first formed the Sacred Band of three hundred chosen men,  to whom,  as being a guard for the citadel,  the State allowed provision,  and all things necessary for exercise:  and hence they were called the city band,  as citadels of old were usually called cities.  Others say that it was composed of young men attached to each other by personal affection,  and a pleasant saying of Pammenes is current,  that Homer's Nestor was not well skilled in ordering an army,  when he advised the Greeks to rank tribe and tribe,  and family and family together,  that- 
"So tribe might tribe,  and kinsmen kinsmen aid."
but that he should have joined lovers and their beloved.  For men of the same tribe or family little value one another when dangers press;  but a band cemented by friendship grounded upon love is never to be broken,  and invincible;  since the lovers,  ashamed to be base in sight of their beloved,  and the beloved before their lovers,  willingly rush into danger for the relief of one another.  Nor can that be wondered at since they have more regard for their absent lovers than for others present;  as in the instance of the man who, when his enemy was going to kill him,  earnestly requested him to run him through the breast,  that his lover might not blush to see him wounded in the back.  It is a tradition likewise that Iolaus,  who assisted Hercules in his labours and fought at his side,  was beloved of him;  and Aristotle observes that,  even in his time,  lovers plighted their faith at Iolaus's tomb.  It is likely,  therefore,  that this band was called sacred on this account;  as Plato calls a lover a divine friend.  It is stated that it was never beaten till the battle at Chaeronea:  and when Philip,  after the fight,  took a view of the slain, and came to the place where the three hundred that fought his phalanx lay dead together,  he wondered,  and understanding that it was the band of lovers,  he shed tears and said,  "Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything that was base."

(From Plutarch,  Pelopidas,  in John Dryden's translation.  Minor correction:  archeologists excavating the tomb of the Sacred Band at Chaeronea found only 254 skeletons, so we can conclude some survived.  The great marble lion placed over the tomb by the battle's survivors still stands.)