The last time that Berlin’s leaders decided to prick-tease us with all this airport talk, I wrote here that the latest round of delays were not just a sorry tale of incompetence and mismanagement, but an insight into Berlin’s id – a subconscious urge (perhaps growing more conscious as each missed deadline fell on us with heavier significance) to kill the airport like it was our father, because we didn’t really want it. Because the Berlin psyche is essentially conservative – it likes things to stay as they were, in the old days, some time in the past, maybe when David Bowie lived here, i.e. when it was a bit shit.
That’s why, I argued, we Berliners kept voting for that feckless cheery buffoon Klaus Wowereit – he was the mayor the city deserved – a soft, mild-mannered lover of the grape who lived happily without ambition or vision, a Lebenskünstler, you might say. Sure, theoretically Wowereit wants a new airport, because, you know, of the economic advantage and erm something something business park something Treptow redevelopment something mumble something, but really he is infused with the same essential parochial mindset that we all are. Whatever this city is, o gods forfend that it should ever be confused with a striving, urgent metropolis of the future.
You might have noticed that the German newspapers, especially the western German, middle class Springer-type ones, have been re-publishing their old “BERLIN EMBARRASSES GERMANY” headlines again. While I’m knocking out this amateur psychoanalysis hour, I may as well diagnose the subconscious truth behind this scorn and mockery too: penis envy. West Germany has always been envious of the unholy pleasures Berlin squeezes out of it organs. Why? Well, because – as this article makes clear – the West has been bankrolling this ludicrous life of ease you and I enjoy (I’m whacking this out wearing fingerless gloves drinking delicious whisky cocktails) for at least the last 60 years.
In the Cold War days, this bankrolling was known as Berlinförderung which was more than just financial aid (from 1951 to 1989, it amounted to €105 billion in federal cash plus €74 billion in tax relief) – it also included special provisions designed to make life in West Berlin as easy as possible (West Berliners were exempt from national service, for one thing) – then after 1990 it was called Länderfinanzausgleich.
Of the €128 billion that eastern Germany has received since Reunification, the new capital has creamed a tidy €45 billion. A certain state called Baden-Württemberg, where those Schwaben we all hate come from, contributed some €36 billion alone. That means a) of course they’re gonna send all their kids here to enjoy themselves and buy all the cheap flats, and b) of course they’re gonna be pissed off if we don’t build that fucking airport we promised. Basically, they spent all their savings sending us to Uni and we didn’t even go to the lectures. And this is the thanks we give them?