Best columns: Europe
Far right embraces a culture war
Hannah Beitzer Süddeutsche Zeitung
The populists are on the march, said Hannah Beitzer. The Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, this week shot ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats in local elections in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The AfD took second place behind the center-left Social Democrats, with the Christian Democrats suffering their worst ever result in the state. Pundits tried to rationalize the upset by pointing to economic factors—the state’s high unemployment and low salaries—but the truth is staring us all in the face. This is “a culture war.” Just look at the slogans on AfD supporters’ banners, such as “Lying press” and “USA war criminal No. 1.” Look at the billboards plastered all over the state, telling people to vote AfD “so that Germany won’t be destroyed.” This is a rebellion against modern German politics and modern life itself. It is anti-American, anti-foreigner, and anti-feminist. When AfD leaders talk about “our children,” they mean the white ethnic German children of straight married couples, “not the children of single mothers and absolutely not refugee children.” They long for the Germany of 50 years ago, “when men were men, women were women, and non-Germans were just guest workers” with no intention of staying.
Trapped in a spiral of misery
Greece’s creditors are strangling the country, said Dimokratia. This “nightmare of austerity” seems to have no end: The left-wing Syriza government, elected expressly in 2015 to end the vicious cuts, signed a third memorandum with international creditors last year, and those creditors’ demands are coming in waves. Just when we have barely adapted to eking out some kind of existence, another round of benefit cuts and tax hikes hits pensioners and wage earners alike. Our unemployment rate is at nearly 24 percent, the highest in the European Union, and the slump is comparable only to America’s Great Depression in the 1930s. Yet rather than trying to stimulate growth, the creditors are sucking all life out of the economy—we simply don’t have the money to pay for anything other than food and rent. “Families are destroyed” as some desperate Greeks commit suicide and many more “lose all hope.” Pessimism is, in fact, our only rational position, since even the latest International Monetary Fund report tells us “that it will be another 44 years before the unemployment rate drops to 10 percent.” The report, of course, fails to mention the IMF’s own role in bringing this calamity upon us. Our creditors “have sentenced an entire country and its people to death.” With that strategy, they won’t see much return—and neither will generations of Greeks.