Monday, December 8, 2014

Speak German! You Immigrants

Most western democracies are characterized by the antagonism between right and left, e.g., Conservatives and Labour in the UK. In France the two camps are bitterly opposed while in Germany they live through a grand coalition. Whereas in the US there is a two party system in other countries the spectrum is usually enriched with right and left wing parties. German history has shown that if the extreme parties become too strong a country becomes ungovernable (Weimar Republic).

Germany's party spectrum is quite colored as I explained in a previous blog. It started with the success of the Green Party (11%) taking away quite a number of votes from the Social Democrats (SPD). The left wing party Die Linke (at 9%) meant another drain such that the historically grand SPD now stagnates at about 24% of the votes while the other major party, Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), is going strong with 41% having absorbed a good part of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP presently at 2%).

Recently a new party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD at 6%), was formed. In poaching votes at the right wing of the CDU the AfD made it into a number of state parliaments. This populist party would like among other things quit the euro. They advocate a national instead of a European foreign policy, ignore the climatic change, and demand compulsory German lessons for immigrants. So far nobody has chosen brown as color code for the AfD; they are presented in charts by a light blue instead.

The CDU and in particular its Bavarian wing, the Christian Social Union (CSU), do not like to have the ground cut under their feet. In moving their party platform to the right the CSU hopes to stop the drain of votes to the AfD avoiding the depletion the SPD had suffered from Die Linke.

CSU party leaders old and new:
Edmund Stoiber and Horst Seehofer with their wives (©dpa)
With so many people fleeing their war stricken countries and looking for a safe harbor in Germany their integration into our society has become a big issue. Recently the CSU forwarded the following idea: Wer dauerhaft hier leben will, soll dazu angehalten werden, im öffentlichen Raum und in der Familie deutsch zu sprechen (Those who want to stay in Germany permanently shall be urged to speak German in public places and in their families). That sounds in Bavarian dialect that zuagroaste Hansln, die wo fia immer in Deitschland bleim wolla, dahoam gfälligst Deitsch ren. Strangely the CSU means a saubers Deitsch and not the Bavarian dialect. There are exception to the demand as a political stand-up comedian stated: Selbstgespräche sowie unter der Dusche gesungene Lieder bleiben auch weiterhin in einer anderen Sprache als Deutsch erlaubt (Talking to oneself as well as singing songs in the shower are still allowed in another language than German).

The demand of the CSU started a shitstorm. Even the secretary general of their sister party CDU wrote on Twitter: Ich finde ja, es geht die Politik nichts an, ob ich zu Hause lateinisch, klingonisch oder hessisch red (I think it is not the business of policy whether I talk Latin, Klingon, or Hessian dialect at home).

Other parties used stronger wording: Nicht auszudenken, hätten die Amerikaner einem Thomas Mann verboten, daheim deutsch zu reden (That the Americans had put a ban on Thomas Mann to speak German at home is unthinkable). A Green Party member used a hefty German expression defying translation: Was ich zu Hause spreche geht die CSU einen feuchten Kehricht an (It is none of CSU's business what I speak at home). and he continued referring to Germany's past: Welcher Blockwart soll denn das kontrollieren? (Where is the "block leader" to check this?).


P.S.: Today (December 9, 2014) the CSU modified their demand in changing the phrasing: shall be urged to speak German in public places and in their families to shall be motivated to speak German in public places and in their families.