My response to Sarrazin

A German book that's red, black, and white? Sounds good!

Those of you who do not follow German news as closely as I do (which is probably all of you) may be unaware of the hullaballoo that was caused last week when Thilo Sarrazin, a German politician and member of the Executive Board of the Bundesbank, published  a book, Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany is abolishing itself).  In this book he describes what he sees as many problems in Germany, most of which revolve around immigration.  He states that immigrants (and by that he means mostly the Muslim immigrants, and by that he means mostly the Turks) have a higher likelihood to be on welfare, a lower likelihood to obtain an education, a higher likelihood of not being integrated into society.  He also states that, along with their lower inclination to get higher education, or even to complete high school, they have a “high fertility”.  Muslim immigrants in Germany are less intelligent, but they have more kids, where the more intelligent in Germany are having fewer kids.  That is one of the causes he sees for Germany destroying itself.  The other is that with the influx of Muslim immigrants, and their inclination to hold onto their culture, Germany is losing its culture.

At first reading excerpts from this book made me angry.  I was appalled that someone in the position of Thilo Sarrazin could not only believe this about another group of people, but publish it.  Especially in Germany which is not exactly known for being open and forgiving of those of different heritages and cultures.  Just when I thought Germany was beginning to be able to put its Nazi past behind it, someone steps up saying that Germans are better than Muslims and that Muslims are ruining Germany culture.

I will grant him that it is true that Muslim immigrants in Germany are not well integrated.  They do have their own religion, language, culture, customs, etc.  that are different from Germans.  But is the answer to publish a book that blames Muslim immigrants for the inevitable downfall of Germany? Are they going to feel more motivated to integrate in society when they are being blamed for destroying German culture?  And is it a bad thing that they are bringing their own culture into Germany?

I guess as an American I have a very different outlook on immigration and culture.  America has not culture of its own; we are entirely a conglomeration of peoples and cultures. You cannot define a ‘pure’ American.  But in Germany, there’s a history and a culture that is thousands of years old.  It is established, and is only recently been challenged by immigration and diversity of culture.  But especially in Germany, people should be aware that a small subset of a group does not define the entire group.  In the same way that Sarrazin is generalizing all Muslim immigrants by looking at what some of them are doing, the Allies could have completely wiped Germany off of the map in 1945, and been justified because Germans should not be allowed to exist.  In the space of 25 years Germany was the cause of two world wars.  If ever there was a gene pool that ‘deserved’ no second chance – it was Germany.

But of course we didn’t think that way.  For one, that is not the American way of thinking.  The whole country is not responsible for what a few crazies do.  (If that were the case I would fear for America, we’ve certainly produced more than our fair share of crazies!) But that is the difference between East and West Germany.  After WWII, the Allied Forces poured money into West Germany to help rebuild that nation.  Debts were forgiven, infrastructure was rebuilt, people were helped.  In East Germany, the Soviets came in and took over and they blamed the Germans for everything they had done in WWII.  East Germany was stripped and sent back to mother Russia.  In essence, America and the Western Nations sought to make Germany as wealthy as they were, but the Soviets sought to make Germany as poor as they were.  And that was the difference between East and West.  In the West there was prosperity, leading to Germany becoming one of the top exporting nations, with successful companies like VW, Audi, BMW, Porsche (and that’s just the car companies!).  Name one company from East Germany.

I guess my point is that the more we help others the more we are helped in return.  By helping West Germany become a successful, producing nation the Allies gained a powerful trading partner.  Someone to buy their goods and someone to buy goods from.  Everybody was helped, everybody prospered.  I seem to write a lot about this theme lately, but I find it so prevalent.  We need more acceptance and understanding of other people, and we need to focus less on the things that divide us, but more on those things that bring us together.

Thilo Sarrazin has some valid points.  It is true that there is a large influx of immigrants in Germany, and they have more children than Germans do.  That is quickly redefining German culture.  But the answer is not negativity, is not antagonism, is not blame.  We need to reach out to those who are not of our culture.  If they are living in our country we need to reach out and help them understand our culture, understand how to become integrated.  I see this same thing in America with our influx of hispanic immigrants.  So many are quick to blame and be angry at hispanic immigrants who do not learn English.  Rather, we should be trying to find ways of helping them integrate.  Our lives, our culture will be richer because of it.

4 thoughts on “My response to Sarrazin

  1. I heard about this book as well. I think that a moderate view somewhere between Thilo’s view and the view of the bleeding hearts is best. Whereas blaming problems entirely on poorly educated, unintegrated immigrants is overly simplistic, so too is the idea that the native population should accept the immigrants on no conditions. You see, immigrants come to the new country because it offers a better way of life than their home country, but if they don’t leave the negative aspects of their culture behind, the new country will become more and more like their old country, the very place they tried to get out of.
    So yes, encouraging integration by ensuring that immigrants learn the language and respect the law and culture of their new country is paramount.

  2. This is exactly why I’m upset that the EU won’t accept Turkey. Bah.

    I don’t even know if making sure immigrants assimilate into German culture is the answer. Germany’s culture’s continuity is thousands of years old (and even that can be debated), but Germany’s culture as-is right now is not thousands of years old. You can trace certain elements back, perhaps, but unless they still have fiefdoms and men must be given dowry to marry, I would say Germany is definitely changed.

    Flexibility, not enforcement, is the key to a culture’s success. The newly immigrated families’ children will assimilate into German culture soon enough (take it from a second-generation Korean; it’s inevitable) and soon, the Turkish immigrants will grow up to be old and grumble about how Germany just isn’t what it used to be, like the generations of Germans before them.

    I would posit the key is to just vigorously enroll as many immigrant children into public school as soon as possible if you want integration. Trust me, nothing converts immigrant children to the home culture than public education. My parents still probably rue the day they enrolled me. My Korean disappeared almost overnight, and immigrants do sit up at night fretting about their children assimilating (not only that the children lose their “original” culture, but also how to assimilate the children more so that they can take advantage of the new nation’s cultural benefits). The initial shock of two cultures smashing into each other can be rough, but if Thilo thinks the problem is they’re not educated, well then educate them, duh, instead of wringing his hands and profiting off of purposely controversial books.

  3. Also, don’t mean to pull the race card wildly, but seriously. I speak better English than most Americans, believe ardently in American traditions and institutions, and try to participate as much as possible in American culture. It’s not my education or my language skills that make people stare or pull a double take or take a long time to warm up to me as “just another American.” It’s very much the genetic phenotypes that I’ve inherited from my parents. Nobody likes to admit it, but it’s true.

  4. Maybe I was a little harsh on Sarrazin. I agree with the basic message he has ‘Germany has a lot of immigrants who are not integrated well and that is causing problems for Germany’ – I just don’t think the way he went about getting that message out was good. If there is an integration problem the answer is not to publish a book blaming immigrants for Germany’s problems.
    But then again, publishing this book has caused a lot of discussion on this topic. People are talking about it openly now. Maybe now changes can be made. I hope.

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