I tried to explain the Pegida phenomenon to my 11-year-old daughter. She got hung up on the acronym: “That’s so ugly, sounds like a ‘pig’.”
That about sums it up: this new anti-Islam protest movement is really damn ugly, it appeals to the lowest of our instincts by stoking fear of some of the neediest people on the planet: refugees who have lost everything.
“The ugly German is back,” German commentators have been quick to point out – referring to the old prejudices other Europeans held for several decades after the war. That was all wiped out by the successes of Germany’s charming football team, right? Wrong.
And so my biggest Christmas wish for myself, Berlin and Germany is “courage”. Sounds corny and a little hollow, it’s the kind of fluffy wish Germany’s more lefty newspapers fill up with every Christmastime. This week’s Freitag – the alternative weekly – is all about courage. “Nur Mut. Wir können alles ändern.” (Only courage. We can change everything.)
Clicktivism isn’t enough. It’s good to like the anti-Pegida Facebook page “Deutschland International” which posts nicely designed flyers containing messages like: “We don’t believe exclusion is the answer! We believe that only getting informed, approaching one another, and trying to understand one other can lead to a peaceful co-existence! We believe that no person is only evil, and that all of us wish to live together in peace and freedom!”
If you agree with that, then go out and do something: talk to a Pegida-supporter, talk to a refugee, talk to your grumpy neighbour, talk to a homeless person. It’s easy and comfortable to insult those with different, “uglier” views than yours, it’s easy to grunt back at your neighbour rather than smile at him, it’s easier to ignore a person of different social class or ethnicity, it’s easier to rush by that exhausted human bundle at the U-Bahn entrance. To do otherwise takes a little bit of courage. Merry Christmas!