Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Word of the Day: Ostalgie

Meaning: Nostalgia for East Germany, combination of the German word for East and nostalgia.

We'll get to this phenomena in a sec, but first Steven Green talks of his experiences in West and East Berlin. He recalls how shoddy, impoverished and oppressive the whole experience was:
Later, Doc Kalmar — our German teacher and tour guide — told us all something very simple and very profound. “That was the wealthiest city in the wealthiest communist country in the world.”

East Berlin was the height of Communist achievement. That was their shining city on a hill — a place where a bunch of rowdy teenage boys were hard-pressed to spend a dime each. And every other communist city in the world was even worse off. Typically, much worse.

Now go look through Koppelkamm’s entire photo essay with that in mind. Remember, too, just how quickly capitalism was able to repair decades of communist mismanagement. These photos weren’t taken decades apart. Some of them showed the difference less than ten years could make. Just ten years to lift 17 million people out of 40 years of grinding poverty.

And from a comment: “Communism is powerful, powerful stuff. So powerful it managed to spread laziness, poverty, and hideously poor engineering in a country populated entirely by Germans.”

You'd think that with an almost scientific example of a culture a people split into two test cases 1 Communist, 1 Not that the effects of Communism would be obvious. Korea is another prime example.

But no, some people miss it.
For example take this line in the Wikipedia page on Ostalgie: "Before 1990, there was no unemployment or poverty in the eastern part of Germany."

Get that? Don't believe your lying eyes, there was no poverty and no unemployment. See mandates work! People will do the jobs they're given if the penalty for not doing it is prison or worse.

What's scary is this nostalgia is not just for naive useful idiots and fellow travelers who never felt the communist boot on their throats:

The renowned West-German magazine Der Spiegel asked former GDR-inhabitants whether the GDR "was the better state" (compared to present-day Germany), 57% of them answered yes. To the statement of the interviewing journalist that "GDR inhabitants did not have the freedom to travel wherever they wanted", Germans replied that "present-day low-wage workers do not have that freedom either".

Get that? The State making it a crime for a person to travel at their pleasure is morally equivalent to a person not being able to afford to travel at their pleasure.

I guess some find the boot on their neck to be a comfort. Sure they may be impoverished and oppressed, but at least everyone is equally impoverishment and oppressed, save for the nomenklatura but they've got the people's interests in mind.

I'm reminded of this Soviet-Era joke:

A Frenchman, and Englishman and a Russian were each granted a wish.

The Frenchman says, "My neighbour has a beautiful teenage mistress, and I haven't even got a girlfriend. I would like a beautiful teenage mistress too."

"No problem," says the genie.

The Englishman says, "My neighbour has a Rolls Royce, and I haven't even got a car. I'd like a Rolls Royce too."

"No problem," says the genie.

The Russian says, "My neighbour has a goat, and I have no goat. Kill my neighbour's goat..."

The poor worker can't afford to move to a better city? The solution is simple: make unauthorized movement illegal.

The poor worker has no job? The solution is simple: tell everyone what their job is and make it illegal to quit.

The poor worker is poor? The solution is simple: Declare that he's no longer poor.

There are people that when released from prison will go out and commit another crime to get back in. There are people that want to be treated like babies and will pay others to indulge their fantasies.

And then there are those that dream of putting all of society in such a crib.

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