Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Healing and History, discussed

Re: Healing and history

“Healing and history,” Patrick Hazard’s account of the benign multiculturalism of the new Europe, leaves this reader a little skeptical.
To be sure, Europe has a lot of history to digest, and the experiment of creating a united continent out of long-warring nations has a long and perhaps rocky way to go. But the current spectacle of Germany and France ganging up to squeeze Greece to the pips over its debt (a debt German and French banks quietly colluded in) is as ugly in its way as the former traditions of military aggression were.
Those good German taxpayers who resist a bailout of the Greeks because of their alleged moral turpitude are the same ones who funded the Nazis when they flew the swastika over the Parthenon. Which sin was really the more grievous?
The current North-South divide over the crisis of the euro is economic warfare, and the losers will find themselves occupied territory, perhaps for generations. The Turks are probably thanking their lucky stars they didn’t get invited to join the Club of Europe. The Greeks might well think hard about the desirability of leaving it.
Robert Zaller
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
October 26, 2011

Patrick Hazard replies: The Greeks’ tax-avoiding, bloated state amenities are a potential fatal drag on the euro, not to forget Greece itself. Give me the stolid German sturdiness any day.

Robert Zaller replies: The extent to which the Greeks are responsible for their own woes is debatable, but the Greek work week is one of the longest in Europe, and the vast majority of Greeks are the victims rather than the beneficiaries of the corruptions and redundancies that beset their economic system. I have seen this at first hand.

Patrick Hazard replies: Your take on the Germans “reoccupying” contemporary Greece as in Nazi Germany is about as relevant as their occupying Lorraine in 1871. They will be paying the most, after all, for Greek improvidence and pervasive tax avoidance. It is my considered opinion after a decade of close observation that the Germans have almost entirely absolved themselves from your absurd implication they remain the same old Nazis, however nice.

Robert Zaller replies: Your spirited defense of your second country clashed with my defense of mine. I don’t know how virtuous contemporary Germans are, but I wouldn’t want the burden of living with the Nazi past. There is a line that connects Bismarck and Hitler— that of German history. Bismarck built a great country, however perilous its foundations, and Hitler destroyed it along with much else. That the Germans were able to rebuild themselves materially is much to their credit, but the job of moral repair is simply a longer task. I wish them well with it, and I certainly don’t mean to suggest that people who want others to pay their bills are neo-Nazis, whatever their flag. But there is a certain amount of insensitivity, not to mention bullying, in the way the Greek situation has been handled.

I was enjoying Patrick Hazard’s article about healing among countries, but, darn it, remembered that I can’t trust myself. I’m a bit slow, and I thank him for reminding me, but am I semi-literate because I’m monolingual? Or, comparing trilingual to monolingual, am I tertio-literate?
Oh, I just got it: I’m semi-literate because I’m an American, right. Or, wait, is it because I’m an American who hasn’t moved to Germany? You see how difficult this is for me to figure out.
Kile Smith
Fox Chase/ Philadelphia
October 26, 2011

Patrick Hazard replies: I chide intellectually lazy Americans because I deplore their imminent loss of a great country. I’m living in Germany because I fell in love with a German woman. As a retired professor of American literature, I’m ashamed of my countrymen’s fatal ignorance of their great writers. Incidentally, the Germans are retrieving their culture from the dead end of Nazism: business executives here worry about their workers, defend unions, strive to give the young the skills that will support their industries.

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