Monday, 19 August 2013

Getting Into Germany

The more I study German, the language, to better understand Germany the country, the more valuable to me is their weekly, “Der Spiegel” (The Mirror). It’s often dubbed their “Time” magazine of Germany, but the German weekly has far outstripped its American antecedent in both size and significance. 

What made me realize this disparity is their monthly student magazine, “Uni-Spiegel”, which frankly is designed to keep students subscribing after they graduate. Three regular features work their magic: aspects of student life, first jobs of recent graduates, and finally, an outstanding professor profile.

Campus” in July, 2013 tells the story of Abusar Ahmadi, a 27 year old Afghani medical student who has joined 15 other students in living in a home for demented old men. Cheap rent (250 euros a month) is the main motivation. But soon these young men learn to savour contacts with the Golden Oldies. Five hours each week Abusar spends social time with an 88 year old Doctor. 

Every evening they take a 50 meter hike. And once a month he prepares an Afghani meal for all the students and their charges. They regularly share a Shuttlebus into town with four women who work in the house, one of whom is a poet. Abusar puts copies of her work in their mailboxes. Often evenings he goes into the TV room and watches a program with the Oldies. Once an old lady complained that he used all the water in the water cooler. But mainly they make friends of the old regulars.

This civilized interaction between old and old reminded me of how most Germans deal with the problem of jobs for the young. They hire workers to learn a new job well and pay them. Compare how German businessmen invite union leaders to participate in their deliberations for the future since both sides have a common fate.

Compare this with the union busting President Ronald began when he was elected. He had been an official during World War Two in a Hollywood union, when “lefties” hassled him. So he broke the airport flight supervision union. And encouraged auto companies to move their operations to Southern states where racial anxieties weakened their unions. And he started offshoring to Mexico and China which has effectively destroyed the American middle class and its dream of upward mobility. 

German businesses and union collaborate in protecting their middle class. We’re now afflicted with the vile 1%/99% America. Such official ignorance destroyed Detroit and damaged other cities. The Germans have had the good sense to protect business and unions. “Der Spiegel” teaches university students civilized alternatives.

Similarly they tout the unusual graduates under a column named “Bizarre Professions”. This month the oncologist Julia Baer describes how she protects nature in isolated North Sea island where she spends a year gathering data then moves to another isolated island. It is a strange but invaluable job.

Finally under the rubric of “Germany’s best professors” we read about psychiatrist Katharina Domschke and her research into the biggest puzzle of her country, “German Angst”. This tradition of protecting the common good is an asset every complex industrial culture needs. “Der Spiegel” has created a style that protects essential attitudes if a country is to survive the uncertainties of the future.

Another version of this essay is published by Broad Street Review.

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