Friday, May 6, 2016

The All Cultures Are Compatible Essay

If you watch enough German state-run chat forums, you will reached a moment of ecstasy where you almost think for a moment that all cultures are compatible.  You can refer to this moment as a multi-culty moment.....a diversity stage.....an intellectual flash....or a multi-ethnic occasion.

Then at some stage....you stop the intellectual guy talking and ask him if he minds if you light up....meaning smoking within his presence or within a room.  At this point, he will seem distressed and try to encourage you to quit smoking....that'd be better for your health and no, you can't smoke in his presence.

Then at some stage....you stop the same intellectual guy talking and ask if he minds that you down four shots of Scottish whisky and rattle off a Scottish ballad on whores and wicked women.  At this point, he will seem distressed and try to encourage to lessen your drinking and avoid ballad of any type because they all are a bit risque or naughty.

Then at some stage.....you ask if everyone in the chat forum will stop for a moment while you pray to your Roman demigod or demon to help you over a moment of stress.  At this point, he will seem distressed and try to encourage you to lessen your prayers to demons because it'll confuse or scare other people at the chat forum.

Then at some stage.....you remove your shirt and expose your manly chest hairs to the chat forum members....noting that your culture respects fat chubby guys who don't wear shirts.  At this point, your host will be a bit distressed and encourage you to put your shirt back on.....for the sake of women on the panel.

Then at some stage....you pull out some good Spanish-grown marijuana....offering a bit to the chat forum people.....before lighting up a joint for yourself.  At this point, your chat host will be a bit distressed and encourage you to put the joint out, because others on the panel are anti-weed.

After a while, you will reach a stage where you realize that all cultures simply aren't compatible.  They never were.

It's nice to talk about such things, and keep some fantasy alive that cultures could be compatible...but it's like believing in Unicorns, fairy tales, and dragons.

Life isn't a compatibility game.   If it were.....we'd all be singing Scottish ballads, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon from the bottle, and be Grand Prix racing freaks.

What If You Didn't Have a Muslim Friend?

Sometimes, you can sense when some German state-run news group has taken some platform to square away an agenda....which supports a direction that they'd like to take the public.

Today, there's this oddball story appearing in most German newspapers and across both state-run news and commercially-run news in Germany.....about Germans not having many Muslim friends, and therefore....logically, rationally, and brilliantly....they just don't know Muslims in general.

All of this is based on a survey performed in the past ten days by an agency called YouGov...who was given the task or poll deal by the German Press Agency (DPA).

What is said in the general story is that roughly two-thirds of adult Germans (non-Muslim of course) don't know anyone who is Muslim within their 'circle' of friends.

One trend that did come out of the poll is that from the younger generation polled (18-to-24 years old)....about half of them did say that from their circle of friends.....they did know of some Muslims. But the details of this poll went to one other degree....the more educated you were on the youth scale....the more likely it was that you had at least one Muslim associate or friend.

So the logical side of the intellectuals conducting this went to another assumption.....that greater openness to multiculturalism, diversity, and education.....lead onto a better inclusion factor with immigrants.

It's one of those moments when you'd like to raise your hand in the audience and ask the really stupid question....so how many PhD and higher educated Muslims have flipped into being radicalized and dangerous.  My guess is that the German intellectuals and journalists would prefer you not ask this question because it'd drag out a topic of lesser education and lesser intellect putting you at some disadvantage of dragged off toward radical Islam.

The poll also went one step further.  From this crowd of roughly 2,000 Germans polled....just over half noted that they had minimal background or knowledge on the shape and form of the Muslim religion.  Twenty-percent even said they had zero knowledge.

From the Muslims in the group polled, roughly seventy percent of them said that they had a good or decent knowledge about Christianity.

At the end of this article....they wanted you to know that most all Muslims live in the western side of Germany (98-percent), while only a small number live in eastern Germany (former DDR for you Americans).  This was another one of these little slams to suggest that western Germans are more accepting while those former DDR-Germans weren't as accepting.

It would have been nice and curious if they'd substituted the poll and instead of Muslims.....worked in Russians, or French, or Chinese, or Americans.

If you asked 2,000 Germans about their impression of Americans.....how many Germans don't have an American friend, and therefore....are anti-American?

How many Germans don't have a British friend.....and therefore are anti-Brit?

How many Germans don't have a Russian friend.....and therefore are anti-Russian?

How many Germans don't have a Bavarian friend.....and therefore.....are anti-Bavarian?

I always harp on the problem with polls....in that they can be used as a manipulation tool by the press, and in this case.....I'm strongly thinking that.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Polling Story for May

ARD (Channel One from the state-run media) wrapped up another poll survey this week and published it this morning.

Nationally, both the CDU and SPD slid another point.  The CDU is down to 33-percent, and the SPD is down to 20-percent, with AfD picking up a point (15-percent).

With two state elections heating up and six months away....it's hard to see the public sentiment going back toward the two significant parties in German politics.

At some mythical point, I think in the month after the two German states conclude their regional voting....the SPD and AfD will hit even numbers (probably around 18-percent).  This likely will be the point of worry for the news media and intellectuals.  I think some SPD voters will discuss the future and evaluate whether their vote remains with the SPD or moves to the Green Party.

All of this will create an intense chat forum for the early part of 2017 and the three state elections slated for mid-spring.

Based on the coalition requirement, it's hard to see the AfD Party (the anti-immigration folks) reaching some point where they could lock in the leadership and control of the government.  No one will dare suggest some partnership with the AfD.  The only likely wild scenario is where the CDU slips down into the low twenties, and the AfD mounts some big campaign to get near thirty-percent, and hopes to talk the CDU Party of Bavaria into some partnership....but it'd still leave them short on the fifty-percent requirement for a coalition situation.

So, my feeling is that the AfD wants this federal election in 2017 to be about reaching a simple 2nd-place finish, then forcing the CDU into a weak and marginalized position as the winner.....where their partnership is so screwed up with whoever they select as their coalition partner....that it only further weakens the political establishment in Germany, and brings the 2021 election up for a major change in German politics.

It's hard to imagine a majority of Germans reaching some far right extreme state of mind and reaching a near identical point of 1932-thinking but a series of events led to the weakened state of politics in Germany in the 1920s, and resulted in the radical election in November of 1932.

Whether the news media likes it or not.....they've kindled enough of a 'flame' to keep the public energized on a couple of topics now.

Twain and Heidelberg

One of the sites that I made a point in visiting was the Hotel Hirschgasse, on the north side of the river and near the old bridge.

There are two hotels in Heidelberg that Twain visited in 1878.  The original stay was at what today is referred as the Crown Plaza....about ten minutes walking from the train station.  In 1878, it was the Hotel Schrieder....a three-story hotel rated as four stars and had an enticing garden in the front with a water fountain.

The Hotel Schrieder, at least in those days, had a great view of the castle, and was noted in some travel journals as having a great kitchen (something that Americans seem drawn to when on trips).

As most historians and journalists tell the story of Twain's visit to Heidelberg....it was supposed to have been for a night or two, and this was connected to the trip where he was working through a writers block and doing research for other writings (newspaper and essay-type).

Something clicked, and the short stay in Heidelberg turned from a few days to three months.  My guess is that the cost factor of the Hotel Schrieder played into this, and he made some decision to move over to a gasthaus/tavern on the other side of the river....the Hotel Hirschgasse.

Why the attraction to stay?  There's not a lot written by Twain himself.  Most historians think he seemed to connect to the city by the river, it's university students, and the cozy atmosphere of Heidelberg.

When you go back and examine the thousands of quotes attributed to Twain.....you reach a point where you start to think that he sat and listened to enough comments by the soon-to-be-intellectual crowd there and picked up some witty sayings.

Some examples:

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."

"The two most important days in your life are the day that you are born, and the day that you find out why."

"A man who lives fully.....is prepared to die at any time."

"The secret of getting ahead....is getting started."

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education."

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

My guess is that Twain found himself in the middle of some human laboratory of sorts.....where wit and wisdom were being discussed on a hour-by-hour basis by the Heidelberg University students that he socialized around.....with a serving of beer to help avoid thirst.....and the charm of the river in the background.  These one-liners that were dropped onto him.....probably written down in his notebook and were part of his research material.

In 1876, Twain wrapped up Tom Sawyer, and was at a pivotal point in his life.  Rarely do most writers who write a five-star piece at age forty-one.....then come back to write anything that measures up to the original five-star wonder.

It's after this 1878 trip that Twain does return to America, and settles back to write various books and essays which match and maybe even exceed Tom Sawyer.

So if you happen to be around Heidelberg one afternoon, you might want to yourself into Twain's shoes and see what happens.

The 500-Euro Story

The ECB (European Central Bank out of Frankfurt) made the decision yesterday that the 500-Euro bill will be 'retried' as of 2018.

Reason?  Their belief that it is used to a great extent in terrorism financing and money-laundering.

After 2018, the largest bill that you will be able to attain (for the Euro) is the 200-Euro bill.

One might sit and ponder upon this change and what will happen.

My suggestion is that you've got two entire years prior to 'end' and those who do money-laundering....will simply shift over to another currency.  Some other country in the region (unassociated with the EU) will simply be the supplier.

As for the opinions of most Germans on this?  Some think that this is to stop or erode cash-purchases where someone buys something with twenty 500-Euro bills and the transaction is not recorded or reported.  An example would be renovation work on a house where the craftsman gets paid in cash but never reports the income, or someone buys some cattle in cash.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

On the Topic of Art (Heidelberg)

Being from Alabama, I was 'deprived' as a kid with art.  So I have been told.

To be honest, I have some appreciation with art today....but it's a case where I could admire bad art and think it was worthwhile art of some value.

About a block down from the Heidelberg Bergbahn, there's this piece in a square where it looks like the city had some money to spend, and some artist had eight pieces of marginal art that he welded together onto some steel ball, and some critic gave it all a thumbs-up.

About a kilometer away, in the mid-section of town, there's this one building which I stood there for a while and admired.

If you look up at the mid-section....there's four chunky and bodacious Greek Goddess gals in some pose.

Naturally, I'm the only one standing there and admiring this scene.

In this case, some guy probably spent a good year or two designing this and getting the deal done.

Today, it's some fashion related building.  But...seventy years ago?  I'm guessing it was a store of some type.

Today, you could bring up the building and probably less than forty people in town would recognize it and note where it was in town.  People simply walk by and never notice the goddesses.



Heidelberg Bergbahn

The Heidelberger Bergbahn is a two-step railway that takes you to the mid-section and the top of the hill overlooking Heidelberg.  Total cost of a round-trip ticket is seven Euro.

The first section runs for roughly 1,550 feet and was opened in 1890.  It was originally built by the same guys who built the water-fed ballast system in Wiesbaden at the Neroberg.  It's been updated greatly (it has to carry a ton of customers up to the castle), and makes the trip in five minutes.  It's an electric train today.

It's one of the five big things in Heidelberg to experience.

The second station runs another train from the mid-level of the hill to the top.....over 3,000 feet long, and has run since 1907.  It's basically the same train (1907 model) with no upgrades or heat.  This takes about half-as-many customers and while very scenic in nature....there's nothing else at the top except for a small beer and soda stand.

If you are a technology geek or historian type....it's worth the trip to the top and you ought to ride on both trains.

The suggestion of walking down from the mid-point (castle-level)?  On a nice day, it's a short walk (maybe an hour) and would be a good way to end the day.  I wouldn't drag kids along on this type of outing.  Walking from the top of the hill down?  Don't even think about it.

Saturdays and Sundays are hectic and crowded with tourists.

A final note, there's no place around that I'd suggest for lunch (at the castle or at the top)....the food is such that I'd recommend you wait until the end of the trip before eating lunch or bring along a snack.

Mass Believers, Tribes and Hoffer

Around twenty years ago, long after my college days, I picked up the book....True Believer, by Eric Hoffer.   Hoffer wrote this as his first book.....on the track of an intellectual (without a degree) and published this in 1951.  It's his personal study of fanatical mass movements and how they get started, and where they start to run out of hype or enthusiasm.  Oddly, someone recommends True Believer to President Eisenhower at the time.....he reads it....and soon recommends it to each member of his staff.
Hoffer was a guy who read a great deal of history, with works by literally hundreds of different historians.  He was also a guy who sat down and spent a great deal of time assembling the information, and asking himself what all of this added up to and where it went in terms of society and our remarkable world.  

I read True Believer before 9-11, and in recent months....I kept going back to read portions of the book, and finally decided that I'd read it from cover to cover once again....this time from the prospective of radical Islam, and the multicultural environment of Germany within the background of Hoffer's vision.

I've come to this vision of the society's interactions, within a "lab" of sorts, and would like to add one single chapter onto the end of Hoffer's book.  My vision would add the term "tribalism".  

Tribalism typically means a state of being.....organized or advocating for.....a tribe or group of tribes.  This is usually where people think or act-up or behave in a way more closely associated to their tribe, rather than their friends, their country, their culture, or some 'other' social grouping.

In the case of Germany today, there are a number of 'tribes'.

There's the multicultural tribe, which talks up a rather large group and tries to stay focused on the happiness of this large tribe.  There's communications and fellowship going on, where everyone seems to share in this vision ahead.  There's limits to "multi-culty", but you keep reinforcing the discussions with a party-like atmosophere and hope that people will drain out their personal culture enough, and water things down enough.....that things just continue to slide forward.

There's the Germanic tribe, which talks up only Teutonic and Germanic values.  It's Kaiser this, and Weimar-Republic that, with a sprinkle of enthusiasm for good side of National Socialism (Nazi), and a liking anything that is pure Germanic in nature.

There's the Turkish tribe, which really isn't Turk anymore but people visit the relatives once in a while, remember five-hundred words of Turkish, like Turkish-German comedians, and go fairly lite on religious talks, culture, or social business.

There's the elite and intellectual tribe, which owns most the authority over state-run TV, hypes up opera, ballet, classical music, and literary classics.  They can never understand why you aren't attracted to their message or enthusiasm for whatever they hype this week.

There's the mild form of Islam tribe, which wants to point off bad stuff to their associates in the bad form of Islam tribe.  They try to keep their conservative edge....whine about radical lifestyles, utter criticism over too much boobage being shown, and get negative about far-right extremists.

There's the wild and far extreme Islam tribe, which just wants everyone non-Muslim to get whacked and fantasize about a world that is set to 700 AD standards and mostly features cloaked women.

These tribes are all in conflict....around the clock....twenty-four hours a day, and those who don't fit into these tribal 'theater' groups....are mostly sitting there and shaking their heads over fake nature of warfare being waged and conducted by the tribes.

Americans aren't much better....our tribal conflict mess is treated more as entertainment than anything else.

I think if Hoffer was around today....he'd probably work a revision of his book and you'd see tribal conflict as the centerpiece of mass believers.

So, anyway.....I advocate a reading of True Believer as a book because it probably will bring you to a fair amount of pondering.  It's a book you can purchase off Amazon's Kindle Reader unit for 99-cents and read over a long week.  If you questioned how so many people have fallen into a mass movement and why it's so enticing.....the book would help you in understanding the mess.