Dr. Thomas de Maiziere, the Germany Federal Minister of Defence. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman DeAndre Curtiss
Thomas de Maiziere
It's hard to know what exactly the average German voter cares about. It's definitely not net neutrality and online privacy – as Sascha Lobo said this week, despite the colourful smoke screens, the Merkel government is busy destroying both.
But that's just the top of the list of what Germans are not bothered about. They're not bothered that the BND decided some time ago that it was a subordinate branch of the NSA. They're not that fussed about gay marriage – Germany is now officially more backward than Ireland on that one. They don't really care that much about the bit of the NATO agreement which says you're supposed to defend any members if they come under attack. (But then I agree with them on this one.) On the other hand, they care very much when someone wants to build an underground railway station or introduce a "veggie day," and they go apeshit when someone wants to put a bit of cloth on their head at work. But other than that, there's not much that gets Max Mustermann from Mannheim to look up from his pot noodle.
One thing they're definitely really not arsed about is how well their army's machine guns work. The Heckler & Koch G36 affair is something you'd think could spark outrage across the political spectrum – for the right, there's the evidence that the government has for several years allowed its troops to do battle with a gun that doesn't shoot straight in hot weather. For the left, there's the suspicion that the reason they carried on buying these melted, broken guns was because Heckler & Koch, one of Germany's biggest gun manufacturers, had too many lobbyists in high places. You'd think someone would get pissed off.
But no, apparently none of it matters. The populace sleeps. Not only that, the Merkel government, faced with the G36 revelations, didn't rush to find out how it could happen that it kept using precious taxpayer's money to buy a crap gun for its troops. Instead, we learned this week, the government used even more taxpayer money to deploy its military intelligence agency (called MAD) to find out how the press had got hold of this information – in other words, who was leaking the fact that it is doing such a shitty job.
In the end, you have to wonder why it always takes some deranged activists and overzealous public prosecutors to guard the nation's conscience. In this case those people are Jürgen Grässlin and Holger Rothbauer, who this week pressed charges against former Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere and current Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on suspicion of "serious breach of trust" – i.e. fucking over German soldiers and the German taxpayer. I mean, they're probably not going to go to prison because of this, but you never know. In the end, everything is about time and pressure. If only the average German would feel it a little.