A huge discussion on immigration and eugenics is sweeping all over Germany right now, since Dr. Thilo Sarrazin, executive board member of the German central bank Bundesbank and member of the social democratic party SPD published his inflammatory and highly controversial book “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (Germany eliminates itself). On Monday, the Bundesbank distanced itself from Sarrazin’s absurd ideas, and today, the board members decided unanimously to ask the Federal President to fire him. The following posting tries to explain the background of this sordid affair.
Sarrazinism in a nutshell
In the recent blitz of TV interviews and talk shows promoting his book, Thilo Sarrazin argues that Germany’s future is in jeopardy because two socio-demographic factors are contributing to Germany’s demise in the next 100 to 150 years: 1/ the sustained negative demographic growth of highly educated and motivated Germans, and 2/ the increasing number of dumb, uneducated, and demotivated people living off on welfare.
This alone isn’t controversial at all: it’s a basic fact that can’t be denied, and that nobody in his or her right mind would deny.
Dr. Sarrazin, who served as a finance senator in Berlin before being “complimented away” to the Bundesbank executive board, witnessed the massive immigration of poorly educated Turks and Arabs into the lowest strata of society, and the emergence of a whole self-contained subculture living off on welfare. He uses statistics to show that those lower class people are living a less healthy life (they are more obese etc…), and don’t participate in cultural activities like visiting museums or going to an opera or a concert of classic music, despite the City of Berlin offering subsidized tickets, so they could if only they wanted.
I guess you’re yawning by now, and that’s what I thought too up until this point. But hold on, now it gets interesting, and bizarre at the same time!
On the surface, Thilo Sarrazin’s book looks like a solid study of an economist, based on statistics and comprehensible reasoning. My main bad impression was that his education as an economist shows through his study, in that he considers people as nothing more than human resources and (blue collar and white collar) production factors, and fails to recognize their basic humanity. Anyway, that’s still harmless: many books written by technocrats discussing social topics are of this rather dry and unpleasant flavor.
What makes his book really controversial though, is that he can’t but avoid slipping into the quicksands of eugenics, a domain he’s quite obviously not an expert in. According to Sarrazin, intelligence isn’t the product of the environment and education: 50% to 80% of intelligence is genetically transmitted, so Sarrazin (who didn’t quote current genetic researchers at all or misquoted them).
And now for the first Sarrazinian bummer: it’s not because they are poor that people are dimwits, it’s because they are dimwits that they are poor.
Oh well… from a social democrat, that’s a pretty strong out-of-the-party-line statement. But it gets better all the time: Sarrazin’s second bummer is that because they are dumb and multiply faster than the intelligent middle and upper class, society should refrain from subsidizing the poor, and rather focus on financially encouraging women from the intelligenzia (like academics, or rich people) to bear children.
Ahemm… that’s funny, isn’t it? So wonderfully politically incorrect. The idea that intelligence sort of bubbled up to the surface of society, leaving all those dimwits behind in the lower classes, and that everyone is actually responsible for his or her social position in life is pretty unusual thinking in welfare-loving Germany.
But wait, you want more? Okay, here we go. The next Sarrazinian bummer is: migrants from Turkey and Arab states are less intelligent than Germans and migrants from other countries… it’s in their genes!… so, he concludes, that Germany shouldn’t have imported them in the first place.
What looks and reeks like your typical right-wing anti-immigration rant that we know from other countries like Denmark, The Netherlands, France… or from the US, say Arizona (while we’re at it), gets totally weird and bizarre, when Sarrazin goes on to imply that those Turks and Arab immigrants are less intelligent because of 1/ their Muslim cultural heritage, and 2/ their basic genetic makeup which is responsible for their backwards way of living (culture) and for their utter failure to assimilate.
Sarrazin is bitterly complaining that the “imported” Turks and Arabs are dimwits and therefore incompatible to German society and since they also exhibit a higher fertility rate, they’ll end up taking over Germany in 120 years or so (Eurabia, anyone?), and that he’s deeply afraid that his grand-grand children will be forced to live in a country full of minarets and veiled women (or something like that).
That’s in a nutshell the gist of Dr. Sarrazin’s book and interviews. To summarize: in this bitter old man’s opinion, Germany is about to destroy itself from within because it allowed non-assimilable Muslim immigrants in, who should never have been imported in the first place — and because it keeps subsidizing lower-income families so they keep reproducing dimwits at a much higher rate than the more intelligent middle- and upper-class Germans who represented the best of earlier German values.
To make things even more politically incorrect, Sarrazin, in his desperate attempt to prove his weird genetic theory of intelligence, also goes on to say that Jews all share a common gene, and are therefore 15% more intelligent than the rest of the population and managed to achieve so much more than the rest because they were forced by a kind of Darwinistic natural selection pressure to develop higher intelligence. The same goes for scientists issued out of protestant church houses compared to Catholics.
Obviously, official Germany is horrified.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, in an interview with ARD television in Berlin, said that she was sure the Bundesbank will discuss Sarrazin’s comments. They are divisive and hinder the debate on immigration to Germany, she said. She also scolded Sarrazin’s book as being “not helpful.”
Socialdemocrats’ head Sigmar Gabriel announced that his party will initiate the formal procedure to expel Sarrazin from the SPD. Sarrazin’s remarks on genetics are the very antithesis of basic socialdemocratic principles that people can make it everywhere, irrespective of their biological makeup, if only they are willing to work hard.
Thilo Sarrazin’s employer, the Bundesbank issued the following press statement, that I’ll reprint verbatim, because it says it all (thanks to their friendly press office for pointing me to the English translation):
Frankfurt am Main
30 August 2010
Statement by the Deutsche Bundesbank
The Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank distances itself categorically from discriminatory remarks made by its member, Dr Thilo Sarrazin. Dr Sarrazin, a former member of the Berlin Senate, has repeatedly and persistently made provocative statements, especially on issues relating to immigration. These statements have no connection the tasks to the Deutsche Bundesbank. In making such remarks, Dr Sarrazin is not expressing the opinions and views of the Deutsche Bundesbank.
Owing to their special position, the members of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank are obliged, in any political activity, to exercise the moderation and restraint commensurate with their position with regard to society at large and with due regard to the duties of their office. In his statements, Dr Sarrazin has been breaching this obligation repeatedly and to an increasingly serious extent.
Under the code of conduct for members of the Deutsche Bundesbank’s Executive Board, members of the Executive Board are to conduct themselves at all times in a manner “that upholds and promotes the Bundesbank’s reputation and the public’s trust in the Bundesbank” (No 1 (3)). The Executive Board of the Bundesbank finds that Dr Sarrazin’s remarks are damaging to the reputation of the Bundesbank. Although such comments are declared to be a personal opinion and Dr Sarrazin expressly does not speak on behalf of the Bundesbank, these views are increasingly being ascribed to the Bundesbank.
There is no place for discrimination at the Bundesbank. Dr Sarrazin’s disparaging and derogatory remarks are capable of causing considerable disruption to the workplace environment, especially since many members of staff at the Bundesbank have an immigrant background. The Bundesbank expressly wishes to thank all its members of staff for their contribution to the fulfilment of the Bundesbank’s tasks and duties and for the loyalty they have shown to the institution.
The Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank will immediately conduct a discussion with Dr Sarrazin, give him a hearing and take prompt further action.
Today, the Bundesbank decided to formally ask Federal President Christian Wulff to fire Sarrazin:
Frankfurt am Main
2 September 2010
Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank submits application for the dismissal of Dr Thilo Sarrazin
The Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank today took a unanimous decision to submit to the Federal President an application for the dismissal of Dr Thilo Sarrazin from the Executive Board. The Deutsche Bundesbank’s corporate governance officer, Professor Uwe Schneider, fully supports this application.
Leaders of Germany’s Jewish and Muslim communities also condemned the banker’s remarks. Stephan Kramer of the Central Council of Jews in Germany (Zentralrat der Juden) told German news agency DAPD: “Whoever tries to identify Jews by their genetic makeup succumbs to racism.”. It is interesting to note that this is not the only harsh criticism of Sarrazin from the ZdJ.
Lawmakers from the far-right NPD party in Saxony’s state parliament, meanwhile, held a banner saying “Everybody knows it: Sarrazin is right” during a visit by the German president to the legislature on Wednesday.
Vox populi is widely pro Sarrazin
While official Germany’s reactions are laudable, and understandable, vox populi widely supports Sarrazin, as can be seen from ad hoc polls and in the comment sections of newspapers.
Even if we take the whopping 90% of Germans who seem to fully support Sarrazin’s theses with a grain of salt (German islamophobes are very well organized and avid Internet users who can mobilize and activate their sympathizers to flock en masse to those online polls and discussion forums), this is still a sharp contrast to the official and publicized opinion.
To a naive observer of German politics and society, this may be a worrying development indeed.
However, the potential for a far-right-wing party beyond the conservative CDU is estimated at only around 20%, at the most (Update 2010/09/05: according to a brand new Emnid poll conducted for the tabloid Bild am Sonntag (BAMS), 18% would vote for a Sarrazin-Party). This discrepancy is interesting, because it suggests that not all of those 90% are racists to the core and willing to vote accordingly. It seems that 70% of Germans are indeed craving a debate on the undeniable problems that Muslim immigration from lower classes of their countries into the lower classes in Germany poses, but that they are feeling that such a debate is stifled by the political and media elites out of political correctness motives.
Most participants of this surreal debate are thinking that this is nothing but an internal German political discussion, and that no holds should be barred — including ethnic bashing. Sadly, this is far from the truth.
When a similar discussion broke out in Denmark a few years ago, nobody outside this small Skandinavian country took notice. The controversy grew and grew, and culminated in the Jyllands Posten cartoons affair. This too wasn’t immediately noticed abroad, but eventually, it did… and then all hell broke loose: this peaceful little country was suddenly the super-villain of the Muslim world, and Danish companies suffered heavily as they saw themselves facing a boycott — not from the Arab states but from the street, i.e. regular consumers. Up until today, Denmark is still barely recovering from this cartoons affair.
Similarly, The Netherlands has had its share of bad PR, following their lapse into a heavy-handed islamophobic debate, culminating in the assassination of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a fanatic islamist, and the gradual raise of Geert Wilders’ one-man party PVV. Needless to say that the Netherlands lost their reputation for being a tolerant and welcoming country.
France too is spiraling down the drain, since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, on his promise to clean up the banlieues of its “racaille” with a Kärcher. The result of this right-wing mindset is the current ethnic cleansing of Roma… who are EU citizens, no less, and France being (rightly) accused by the United Nations and other institutions of institutionalized racism.
Official Germany knows full well that it can’t afford being lumped together with Denmark, The Netherlands and France in the list of countries that implement racist policies towards its minorities… if not for ethical reasons, so at least for two hard and compelling economic reasons:
- A lot of German exports go to the wealthy Gulf states (both Arab states and Iran — yes, despite the embargo on Iran), but most other Muslim majority countries are also importing many German goods. Germany has a very good reputation in those countries so far, and it could lose both its reputation and its economic foothold there if this unhealthy ethno-centric racist debate goes on for too long.
- Germany’s economy is also heavily dependent on the good will of customers outside the Muslim world, notably in the EU, the US, Australia, South America, India, etc. In the US and in most other countries, customers and investors alike take a very dim view of a Germany where racist theses (like that all Jews share a gene) are not only being published, but are enjoying a surge of popularity. Germany’s past seems to resurface like a ghost, and that makes a lot of people outside (and also inside) Germany very nervous, to put it mildly.
In my opinion, Germans are not yet yearning for a new Hitler (there you have it, I couldn’t avoid to Godwin this posting), who would gas Arabs and Turks to keep Germany ethnically pure; and Sarrazin’s book, despite its ominous red cover isn’t a “Mein Kampf Redux” (however, Hitler’s book in its first edition came indeed in a big red cover too, coincidence? — Oh well, let’s not succumb to paranoia or a kind of reverse-sarrazinism).
So, even though way too many Germans are currently blowing off steam (and some of them like Sarrazin and his most ardent sympathizers are blowing a fuse), this debate will eventually die with a whimper, like so many before them. At least, I hope so, for Germans and Germany’s sake.
Let me come to an end, on a somewhat satirical note: in endless debates about immigration, Germans have insisted again and again that Turks and other immigrants must learn German in order to live in Germany. Of course, mastering the tongue of your host country is a key to integration… but I always wondered why they keep harping on something as obvious as this. Now I know: How would all these immigrants get the full sting of Sarrazin’s and his followers’ contempt and hatred, if they don’t speak German at all? Not only is ignorance bliss, it is a shield too, isn’t it? Of course, don’t take that too seriously: I can’t write it without cracking a smile.
Update 2010/09/08: Nobody expects the German Inquisition! In a vain effort to compensate for the loss of popular sympathy that she endured by bashing Sarrazin, Angela Merkel has publicly honored danish caricaturist Kurt Westergaart today. So much for Merkel’s infamous lack of intelligence and intercultural sensibility. I’m not really surprised — that’s nothing but the old bigot “freedom-of-expression-but-only-when-it-fits-our-needs (cartoons) debate” all over again — but it’s sad nonetheless that sarrazinic genetic intelligence obviously didn’t bubble up to the very top of the current German government.
Update 2010/09/09: Good news at last! Thilo Sarrazin has resigned from the Bundesbank, due 2010/09/30, in a face-saving agreement with his employer and Federal President Wulff. So far, so good. He’s still in the SPD though as I’m writing this, and unless he decides to join a far right party or to quit politics altogether, the following weeks and months will be quite painful for the socialdemocrats.
Update 2017/06/01: Thilo Sarrazin's ideology managed to establish itself in the german political spectrum with far-right parties like AfD who are the political arm of xenophobic east-german movements like PEGIDA who were directly inspired by and can be considered as the ideological children of Sarrazin.