Thursday, February 15, 2007

Upon Passing By a Communist Rally in my Childhood Town

"Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff."
-Frank Zappa

picture of my childhood house in Münster

One sunny summer Saturday in 2006 I took a train out to visit Münster, Germany, the town where I spent a few years of my young life. My family lived in Münster, in theory, because of Communism—my dad was in the Army, and the American army had to be in Germany because… you know… because of the Reds. And as I was poking around the depressingly unfamiliar streets of my old town I stumbled upon a Communist rally in full swing. Now wait just one hot minute,” I said to myself in a moment of impulsive patriotic-nostalgic fervor, “I grew up in this town to get rid of you assholes.” But as I watched them enjoying their rally, the flash of anger cooled, and I walked on with shouts of “Down with the American butchers!” and “Israel has no right to exist!” pealing off the walls of the square, thinking to myself “Aww, let ‘em have their fun. Rallies are so much fun.

Though we spent the first years of our lives dumbly watching its spectacular headswell and collapse, Communism evokes a relatively weak and passed-on behavioral distemper in my American generation, not like the visceral fear and hatred of our foregoers. Sure, almost all Americans, regardless of age, share an essential dislike of the thing. The contemporary weakness of the communist ideology in America (especially in comparison to our cultural relatives, the Western European nations) is a running testament to this. Still, my generation learned its anti-Red catechism just and even as we learned to speak language—passively and without critical understanding—and right before we entered the phase of American life where we might have begun to regard its presence with synapse-setting, hormone-infused, culturally mediated intellectual loathing, it was gone, just like that, with a Wall. Unlike the previous three crops of Americans, we were a generation without a nemesis. This happy state of things would, of course, last only a decade.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don´t worry: I am not (really?) a communist. I have the impression that in the USA, only partly or not at all “communist” things are labelled that way. I have to add that my information about the US comes from reading austrian newspapers, I have never been there.

Reading the blog I thought that maybe there is a general mechanism working, when, in political debates in the media things are labelled with terms that people equal with “evil” or a very negative feeling. My theory is, that politicians use this technique sometimes to abort argument. It is a sort of emotion management. Take so called political correctness: Call an argument or a person racist/sexist/fascist etc. and you have successfully stopped any substantive rational discourse about the topic or person. What you get instead (by using emotionally hot ideological terminology) is a polemical debate without substance.

I like this debates to a point, and I think many people do. They are entertaining. But there will not be a useful outcome for society, because it is only hot air.

If you take the Austrian health care system, a TV - discussion about a reform proposal by a political party employing experts, or serious content oriented politicians would probably be boring. (at least the ones I have seen in Austria have been boring). People usually zap to some transmission involving women and/or ski races: In one ski race transmission last year they had this stage with brazilian samba dancers in the middle of the alps. The first time in my life that I voluntarily watched ski races.

Does serious politics have to be boring, or is it possible that it could be made interesting without losing its substance or oversimplifying beyond recognizance? Maybe by changing how you present it, into what form you bring it?

If the topics could be translated into a form that illustrate the everyday importance of the topic – say – the reform would have the effect that people would have to pay more for a treatment, maybe things would be different.