Magazine article The Spectator

Germany Isn't Working

Magazine article The Spectator

Germany Isn't Working

Article excerpt

THE British monarchy is ridiculous and the Queen will probably be the last of her line to reign over us. For all her sense of duty, she has never known how to win her people's love, and she is disastrously resistant to change. She has lost her empire, and the younger members of her family are a catastrophe, unfit to succeed her because they are 'incompetent, unwilling or on drugs'.

It was in this somewhat disobliging tone that Der Spiegel, Germany's leading weekly magazine, chose to mark the Jubilee. The article was very long and was buttressed by comments from Christopher Hitchens, who described the monarchy as 'incurably absurd', and Norman Davies, who said its 'chosen way of life' - that of the British aristocracy - was nowadays seen as 'at best old-fashioned, at worst parasitic'.

On occasions like this it is virtually impossible to restrain the editor of this magazine from clambering into the cockpit of his Lancaster bomber and heading off across the North Sea to give the Jerries hell. He knows quite well that many Britons, including some readers of this magazine, will think it is an insufferable cheek for the Germans to attack our beloved Queen. Who saved the Germans from fascism? Who saved most of the Germans from communism? Who led them in the ways of justice and truth after the war? Who bought Mannesmann? Who beat them 5-1 at football?

Germany, in the opinion of many Britons, is an insufferably dowdy country, inhabited by perpetual students with bumfluff moustaches and satanic fetishes, who cannot even get out of bed in the morning, who are alternately hysterical and depressed, and whose layabout lifestyle is paid for by a dwindling number of diligent metal-bashers who, unfortunately for them, are expert at manufacturing heavy goods for which there is less and less demand. The Germans are the second fattest people in the world, and yet the food is poor, the service in restaurants is unbelievably slow, the shops are shut half the time, the schools are mediocre, asylumseekers are burnt alive in their hostels, the motorways are jammed, and only a few years ago one of their trains crashed killing 100 people, which makes Hatfield look like a tea party. German jokes are thin on the ground. As for that gangster Helmut Kohl, he was bankrolled by arms dealers and others who secretly handed his minions brief-- cases full of banknotes.

Far be it from me to seek to undermine the finest traditions of British journalism, or to disagree with much of the above, especially the bit about Mr Kohl, but I am an admirer of Germany and have many German friends, and what follows is written in sorrow rather than anger. It seems to me only fair to let us acknowledge that the Spiegel piece in no way reflects German public opinion, which looks on our monarchy with at least as much respect and affection as we do ourselves. Nor does Spiegel's effort reflect the generally high standard set by the German journalists who report on Britain, almost all of whom are perfectly well aware that in recent months this country has seen a revival, not a decline, in monarchist sentiment. Yet the article is still fascinating for the way it betrays, with an almost touching unselfconsciousness, the fears which members of the German intelligentsia have about their own democracy. It is a common human failing to accuse others of one's own worst faults - those, for example, who level the charge of 'snob' usually turn out to be raving snobs themselves - and seldom has this characteristic been more clearly visible than in Spiegel's attack on the Queen.

For, as anyone who looks at the two countries dispassionately ought to be able to see, it is German democracy that is ridiculous. It is there that we find the truly miserable triumph of duty over natural human inclinations, the outcome of a system of government that has never won the people's love. The absurdity of Germany's so-called democracy lies in the plain fact that it is astoundingly undemocratic. …

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