If the Germans don’t have children, does it matter who inherits their country? Why not their house pets?
An alley cat from the streets of Rome inherited 10 million Euros from a wealthy widow named Maria Assunta who died childless in 2011. An Indian couple recently left their house and bank account to a pet monkey. A New York accountant left $1.5 million earlier this year to a Maltese terrier. And a German shepherd named Guenther came into $145 million when his owner, the German Countes Karlotta Liebenstein, passed away fifteen years ago. If childless people leave money to their pets, all the more so should childless peoples bequeath their countries to human refugees, who obviously deserve to have Germany more than the Germans’ domestic animals.
German women on average bear just 1.3 children against a replacement rate of 2.1, which means that they will disappear within a foreseeable future horizon.
At present fertility rates, the United Nations projects a decline in Germany’s under-thirty population from almost 25 million today to barely 10 million at the end of the present century. Critics of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming policy towards Middle Eastern and African migrants complain that this will radically change Germany’s character. But what did they have in mind?
If the Germans won’t have children, someone else will settle their land. The only question is who. Here the Germans are baffled. It makes no sense to take in barely-educated Arabs, a fifth of whom are illiterate, as Clemens Wergin argued in Die Welt Sept. 5: “It was a mistake to bring unskilled workers from culturally backward Mediterranean countries during the ‘economic miracle’ years [of the 1960s]…that was as true for workers from the south of Italy as from Anatolia. The jobs they took were the first to fall victim to automation and to outsourcing to low-wage countries. Often a poorly-educated welfare-state proletariat was left behind…Muslim immigrants to Europe have experienced a tradition backlash that mirrors the experience of Muslim societies in the Middle East. That not only raises the hurdle for integration into European society, but has created a serious security problem.”
What Wergin writes is as reasonable as it is irrelevant to his country’s present mood. Wergin’s term “culturally backward” is a trigger word, in today’s politically correct usage. What does it mean to be culturally advanced? Germany cited its superior culture as a justification for its position during the First World War. As Peter Watson wrote in his 2010 book The German Genius, “On October 4, 1914, two months into the Great War, ninety-three German intellectuals published . . . the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three, addressed ‘An die Kulturwelt’ (To the Civilized World), in which they . . . made it clear they viewed the war not as a campaign against German militarism but above all as an assault on German culture.” Watson reports that the great sociologist Max Weber wrote in 1916, “It would be shameful if we lacked the courage to ensure that neither Russian barbarism nor French grandiloquence ruled the world. That is why this war is being fought.”
Germany’s defeat in the Great War ruined its confidence in its culture. The celebrated Nazi dictum (spoken by a character in Hans Johst’s 1934 play “Schlageter”), “When I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my pistol,” usually is taken to mean that the Nazis were boors. That is not true; Hitler began as an artist and loved classical music. Rather, it meant that the generation that bled out in the cause of culture wanted to hear no more exhortations on the subject. In place of culture, the Nazis rallied Germany to fight for race. That didn’t work out for them either.
German culture doubtless was the gold standard of the West by the last quarter of the 18th century; virtually everything of importance in philosophy, science, mathematics and literature was said first (or said only) in German, while German composers utterly dominated classical music. But it had a flaw.
The great German cultural project that began with the generation of J.W. Goethe and Immanuel Kant proposed to accomplish everything that religion had promised to accomplish, but without God. Goethe’s “Faust” is the most biblical of modern works of literature and deservedly the most influential. Kant proposed a wholly secular ethics. Magnificent as the project was, and as fruitful as it became, it failed. Nietzsche retorted that “we (the German intellectuals) have killed God, and now nothing is forbidden.” In God’s absence, German thinking slid into relativism and Nihilism, with Nietzsche as its anti-prophet. Nietzsche and the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger (who joined the Nazi party and never recanted) were the heirs of Kant and Goethe.
I do not mean to diminish Germany’s accomplishments; there are things in the Hebrew Bible I never would have understood without seeing them through Goethe’s eyes. But I know very few Germans who bother to read Goethe, much less think much about him. Two world wars soured the Germans on their own culture.
To declare that semi-literate Arab refugees do not meet the cultural qualifications for integration into German society implies that there is a cultural standard to begin with. That is a concept that most Germans (evidently including Chancellor Angela Merkel) cannot bear to pronounce. One suspects that Germans have so few children because they do not like themselves, their history or their culture to begin with. In that case, why should they require anyone else to adhere to a cultural standard they eschew themselves? And if they dislike their culture so much as to head towards extinction, does it matter to them that another culture–brutal as it might be–will replace theirs?
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