We did it again! We gave the Greeks another insane amount of money. Such suckers, us Germans. Why on earth would we dip into our painfully earned savings to save the street cred of a few boozy calamari-eaters? All just to save that wannabe Deutschmark – the so-called "euro".
On my search for an answer, I found this article in the New York Times (one of the world's most famous newspapers, in case you haven't heard of it) by an astute writer and Germany-specialist based in Solana Beach, California. A real “think piece” with some hard facts, no doubt gleaned from hours of interviews with average Germans on the streets of Berlin.
Todd Buchholz, esteemed author of the book Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race, explains why we saved that useless nation of Zorbas from financial devastation.
Germany’s real motivation to help Greece is not cash; it’s culture. Germans struggle with a national envy. For over 200 years, they have been searching for a missing part of their soul: passion. They find it in the south and covet the loosey-goosey, sun-filled days of their free-wheeling Mediterranean neighbours…
Okay, I finally get it. The reason why we throw our hard currency at the lazy Greeks like it was confetti on Silvester is plain obvious: E-N-V-Y. Sun-envy. Passion-envy. Zorba-envy! We, "hard-working, disciplined, punch-the-clock-on-time Germans" envy them, those Italians, Greeks, Spaniards who "loll around in fertile fields of lemons and olives". Those mañana types are, after all, all the same, aren’t they? Great weather, wine, bedroom talent, cool folk dances. Which we Germans are so painfully lacking. And so we shower them with money!
Todd, thanks, you really hit the nail on the head there.
But wait a second, dude. What about all those “loosey-goosey” Spaniards and Italians clogging up the streets of Kreuzberg year-round? Kreuzberg is a neighbourhood in Berlin and is practically the most popular place on the European continent to party.
Last time I checked it was full of Mediterraneans looking for a missing part of their souls! Every weekend you see them there, lining up, desperate to get into Berlin’s sweaty nightclubs where anything goes, where they can get drunk on German beer and thrash their bodies to spiritual Teutonic techno with a wild abandon, which is frowned upon back home where people still have to live with their parents at age 30 or 35.
Then there's Oktoberfest, a big beer party in Munich. Todd – a Germany expert – has heard of it. He mentions it in his piece. Every year the fest is mobbed by Italian men, all overjoyed to escape their homeland for a little laid-back, beer-fuelled romp. Hopefully with a free-loving German blonde. Not quite sure how that plays into Todd's theory, though.
Midway through the article, the author rolls out some cultural heavyweights to support his idea. What the hell? Thomas Mann liked Venice (where his fictional character could really let loose and stalk that Polish boy), Goethe liked Italy a bunch, Nietzsche said we should drink more wine and less beer. Freud – whose name translates as “joy” (thanks Todd, it’s only one letter away from the truth, but it is definitely enlightening. Come to think of it, take away a letter from your name, Todd, and you get "death" in German) – believed “Italy and the south offered a tantalizing ‘softness and beauty’ that could save the Teutonic psyche.” Wait a second; I thought we were talking about Greece here? Italians and Greeks = apples and oranges. Whatever...
But I liked this sentence:
The superego is that German librarian-frau with her hair tied up in the bun telling you to ‘shush!’
I have to ask, where does Todd get this stuff? Movies from the 1940s? I must say, though, that all the librarians I know here have rather short, dyed red hair and are pretty smiley! I’m beginning to get the sneaking feeling Todd hasn't yet visited Germany. Or spoken to a German. Except himself. Which is fine. Being a German American, he's a perfectly good source for this in-depth analysis of the German psyche.
On the map of Germany you can find quite a few towns with my family name of Buchholz. My wife once scolded me for acting too uptight, saying “You take all the fun out of everything." Wow, I felt both powerful and bad. I could take all of the fun out of everything. Forget Apollo – even Zeus didn’t have that much power! But a starchier-than-thou power sickens the soul.
After that introspective tour de force, Todd applies his hypothesis of genetically induced fun-destruction to the entire German nation. I mean, why not?
So today Germany has the power and the discipline and yet still feels bad for its neighbours. Germans are simply unwilling to sever the emotional bond they feel with their unhurried but passionate brothers and sisters to the south.
Get it? I almost feel like hugging a Greek after reading that, telling him it's okay, you’ll get the money, just carry only being passionate and swarthy with your goats and olive trees and stuff… don’t worry about working and paying the bills, we’ll do that. You just preserve Europe’s soul.
But wait, Todd’s not finished yet. He ends his ground-breaking cultural essay with a gem:
Despite a history of proclaiming their superiority, deep down Germans are not sure they’ve got it right, after all.
Way to go for the jugular! You tell those dour, know-it-all Germans! That Nazi stuff really gets their goat! Er, our goat.
One thing preoccupies me, though. What about the French? Didn't they also vote to bail out the Greeks? Are they also envious? Do they have a hole in their soul as well? And are they just as German as the Germans? Get back to me on that, please, Todd.