There are a few reasons why the word “crisis” is used so much in the media. One is that it is short and contains one of the thinnest letters twice, so you know you can fit it in most headlines. Another is that it’s convenient shorthand for a brief moment – so it sounds like something terrible has happened that day, even though we all know that real drama and terror is long and slow, like life. The refugee crisis, for example, has been going on for at least a year now (six if you live in the Middle East) – so the newspapers shouldn’t even call it a crisis. Really it’s just the current state of affairs.
Last week, the ARD show Monitor got bored of cranking out this worn-out pretend crisis one more time and decided to try and find out how much of a crisis it actually is – in other words, they asked the 373 of the biggest councils in Germany whether they really are “overwhelmed” by refugees. It’s all very well for the AfD and the daily TV news and the newspapers and half the presidential candidates in America telling us that we’re being overrun and our society is about to collapse, but why not ask Germany’s councillors, who have to register these people and find them food and shelter and doctors? Those that are all while being threatened and stalked every day by neo-Nazis as well.
The answer was that only six percent of the councils said they were actually overstretched, while 50 percent said they were coping well but reaching their limit, and 16 percent said they could take more refugees this year. The other thing Monitor found out was that the poorest districts in Germany were actually coping better than the richer districts. As they already have cheaper rents and social housing, they are able to offer refugees their own homes. The richer districts, meanwhile, are more likely to put refugees in large collective homes, where the conditions are worse, where it’s harder to integrate, and from where it’s harder to find work.
I’m not saying it’s not a problem – moving a million people who can’t speak the language into a country in one year. But it’s a problem mainly of will and using your resources properly and organizing bureaucracies – also, a lot of local councils are holding out as long as possible. Even though what’s happening at LaGeSo and Tempelhof is unacceptable, it seems to be the exception.
The only thing that is going to stop this “crisis” is massive investment in social infrastructure – social workers, teachers, and social housing. That’s not cheap, but neither is extra border controls and building a fence, and apart from the fact that those would involve a lot more deaths, they would only slow down the influx and waste a lot of resources that could be used for creating jobs. Anyway, my point is the news should really be a lot more boring and terrifying than it is. Time to think of a new crisis.
Listen to Konrad bang on about this some more on News des Nachrichtens, with US comedian Drew Portnoy: