Friday, August 03, 2012

Disaster imagery and whining the way toward the waterfall (we're talking the EU crisis here)

Henryk Broder writing in the conservative Welt Online likes the boat-headed-for-the-waterfall metaphor for the current course of the EU in the euro crisis, Euro-Krise. Nordeuropa arbeitet – und zahlt für den Süden 03.08.2012. And he adds a 1914 reference:

Der Untergang des Euro erfolgt in Zeitlupe. Man kennt solche Szenen aus Filmen. Da steuert ein Boot auf einen Wasserfall zu, die Besatzung weiß, welche Gefahr ihr droht, unternimmt aber nichts, weil die Kommandostruktur an Bord unklar ist. Ein Offizier möchte gerne wenden, so lange das noch möglich ist, ein anderer wäre dafür, das Boot auf eine Sandbank zu setzen. Schließlich aber setzt sich der Kapitän durch. Er sagt, es gebe zu dem eingeschlagenen Kurs "keine Alternative". Wie die Sache ausgeht, kann man sich denken.

Künftige Historiker werden Jahre, wenn nicht Jahrzehnte brauchen, um die Abläufe zu rekonstruieren, die zum Zusammenbruch der EU geführt haben. Noch länger wird es dauern, die Schuldfrage zu klären. So wie heute noch darüber gestritten wird, wie es zum Ersten Weltkrieg kommen konnte.

[The downfall of the euro is proceeding in slow motion. We know such scenes from films. A boat is heading toward a waterfall, the crew know what danger threatens them, but does nothing, because the command structure on board is unclear. One officer would prefer to turn around, as long as that still is possible, another would favor beaching the boat on a sandbar. But in the end the capital has his way. He says, there is "no alternative" to the established course. You can imagine how the the thing turns out.

Future historians will need years, if not decades, to reconstruct the sequence of events that led to the EU falling apart. It will take even longer to clarify the question of guilt. Just as today it is still disputed how the First World War came about.]
There are limits to using metaphors to discuss political and historical events. As Jeffrey Record has repeatedly reminded us, setting policy by metaphor and analogy can lead to really bad policy and results of similar quality.

In this case, Broder is using his analogies, which actually do fit the situation, to bitch and moan about how he doesn't like all these here foreigners coming into Germany. That's part of the problem with metaphors and analogies: even xenophobes and cheap nationalist can use them. Often prefer to use them rather than talking about the real, practical and ethical issues involved in immigration policy. In Broder's dumb and ugly view, homeless immigrants are why the euro is collapsing.

And one of Germany's most prestigious papers, the Springer empire's Die Welt, is happy to provide him space for his nasty little rant. This article is a classic example of affluent white people whining. It's never very attractive, although it has a lot of practitioners. Not only in Germany.

In fact, you might say that Broder is only of the passengers on his metaphorical boat, standing on deck whining about homeless immigrants while the ship heads for the waterfall.

And that's something for anyone following the European economic crisis to be alert for. Some writer like Broder who seem superficially to recognize the risk either don't care or don't know or have no sense of responsibility for the enormous failure the collapse of the euro and possible of the European Union actually represents.

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