do not mention the war

Germany: The Accidental Empire?

In Germany, History on October 18, 2012 at 12:06

A whole series of articles published in the guardian newspaper investigate how the British (English?) views on Germany have changed over the last decade. The topics range from the german army finding it difficult to adopt its new role, to the World Cup 2006 which was the biggest factor in English media to alter the public’s perception of Germany.Further articles touch upon the low birth rate in Germany, the godless East of Germany and some pecularities of the German language, especially its ability to form long words such as Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen (speed limits) which has 30 letters. The author asks if any Latin language can come up with something similar in length.

Finding Friends

One of the articles deals with the perceptions of Germans and Germany since the 2006 World Cup where English football fans found the Germans very nice people, whom they would like to have beer with. Another sketches the changed situation of Germany’s army, Die Bundeswehr, since the fall of the Berlin Wall 1989. While the army was once a purely defence army and deployed on peace keeping missions, the situation in Afghanistan has led to a linguistic switch to ‘an armed conflict under international law’ to assure soldiers that they won’t face charges once they return from their missions.

In total there are 41 pieces put together by various writers for the guardian and the observer and is possibly the biggest collection for one single country under one headline. It shows that Germany is considered a major power in Europe and the UK, which indeed it is. It might also hint at some secret obsession the British/the English still have with Germany. So much, so good.

Made in Germany

The title however, is unfortunate. Why empire? Is there such a thing? A German Empire? If so, what does it look like? Is it ruled like the British Empire once: by a sea power controlling its oversea territories and installing governments and viceroys? No, thankfully no. Germany use their economic power much more subtle. Over the last decades, Germany has become the leading exporting country in Europe and for a time of the world. This certainly helped to boost the economy but the profits did not reach the workers. Therefore, the  construction of an ’empire’ came on the back of the workers who produced cheap goods to be exported to the rest of Europe and the planet. Pretty much methods England has used to build her empire. This in return led to an imbalance within Europe and is now one of the factors at the heart of the so-called ‘Euro Crisis.’ In other words, Germany has built its empire exploiting its own labour force while also eroding the industrial culture of Europe by offering quality commodities at dumping prices. The phrase Made in Germany therefore has to be seen with care.

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