Naive Angela Merkel and brutal Donald Trump

Yesterday, a riot took place in the small town of Geldermalsen, Holland, and put paid to the building of an asylum centre for 1,500 Syrian refugees.  We can make a shrewd guess that this is a working class town where many of its inhabitants, like many indigenous people in Europe, are worried for their jobs when they hear that 4,000 immigrants a day are still entering Greece and Italy and given rail rickets for northern Europe.

Working-class people, who are human, and quite as capable of being altruistic in practice and principle as the middle-class people with secure jobs who have been helping refugees were, on this occasion, overcome with a feeling of anger. This is displaced fear about heir jobs. And so were the increased number of people who voted for Marine Le Pen and her extremist right-wing NF party in France a few days ago — and, indeed, the swelling numbers of people who are joining right-wing parties all over Europe.

Really, Angela Merkel, the German leader who, on her own initiative, opened Germany’s doors to 1 million refugees and economic migrants — none of the latter being repatriated so far because they’re young , fit , resourceful young men — saying 200,00 a year could also come, should have had more political nous.

Territorial protection in early man, and its equivalent in modern man, job protection, are instincts that are just as powerful, if not more so, than generosity, another instinct.  Job protection among professional people can be so sophisticated it’s hardly noticeable.  Ordinary folk don’t have clever methods of expressing their opposition to new entrants when they fear competition.  But both methods are quite brutal in their consequences — ‘the Devil take the Hindmost’ as we say in England.

This is also the reason why slo many Americans are flocking in support of a brutal presidential candadate.

Angela Merkel needs to recalibrate a lot more yet

We are driven by our instincts.  Nothing else drives us.  If our rational minds can modify our instincts on some occasions and then we learn retrospectively that it’s been wise, so much the better.  But first, if you also want to understand situations such as the one we have now with a long and gathering tide of humans from Asia and Africa making for Europe, cherchez l’instinct.

Thee are two instincts involved.  The one that is very visible and elicited by the media is that of compassion — the urge to help.  It arouses our instinct for altruism.  The three year-old boy washed up on a Turkish beach a week or so ago aroused a compassion in each of us and created a tsunami all round Europe which totally changed attitudes to Syrian refugees — about whom, previously, Europeans cared scarcely a jot except to pay a few pennies to buy tents for them in refugee camps.

Less visible is the instinct of territorial protection.  In hunter-gatherer times, the protection of our immediate food sources.  In modern times, the protection of our jobs and incomes.  Outside the professionals — who usually protect their own jobs very well indeed — most working people become fearful when too many strangers enter the scene and might possibly take their jobs.  Far less articulate than the professionals — in this case in the media and in politics —  most protective instincts are slower to express themselves but, being more numerous than the professionals, are more powerful when they do.  In their own way, they are acting no differently from the professionals themselves when they are concerned about their own jobs.

Media people and the politicians are used to manipulating people.  That’s their job, and that’s what we expect and what we pay them for, but there are always limits to what they can achieve. This morning, Angela Merkel has said that the compassion plan of refugee quotas around the countries of Europe is not going as well as it might.  Angela Merkel is already re-calibrating.  She needs to re-calibrate a lot more yet in order to understand the majority of the electorate better than she has done so far.

How long will Angela Merkel remain?

The EU leaders’ meeting yesterday decided on nothing substantive. They’ve pledged money — so easy — and they’ve agreed on what they’d like to see happen —  reception centres at borders in Greece and Italy — no chance — and to arrest the traffickers — no chance.

It is psychologically impossible for a meeting of 28 adults — particularly male politicians with power needs — to agree on anything for the longer term.  On the other hand, one person of overwhelming prominence or power in Europe (Angela Merkel, for example) simply doesn’t have enough data to take sensible decisions.

Meanwhile, the supply chains of refugees and economic migrants thicken and lengthen throughout Asia and Africa, and the instinctive employment fears of millions of people in Europe grows.  How long will Angela Merkel remain in power one wonders?

Germany’s politicians will lie low now

The other big story of today is rocking Germany, the car industry, millions of car owners, millions of other people who’ve been breathing unnecessary nitrous oxide in diesel car fumes, Volkswagen shares and — who knows? — even the stock market itself.  In the course of today VW might even be the trigger that causes the next financial collapse — something that more than a few central bankers are fearful of.

It has already caused VW’s shares to slide 20% and is going to cost at least $20 billion in fines, it is estimated. My guess is that there’ll be more than a few class actions by the relatives of the additional thousands of people who’ve died prematurely.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends with the closing down of Volkswagen as it now stands — at least the forced sale of some or all of its luxury brand car firms.

Above all else, much more diffusely, but importantly, is that VW’s criminality in falsifying its exhaust tests will badly affect Germany’s reputation in the world.  Ever since the Second World War, Germany’s politicians have worked hard to redeem Germany’s reputation from the guilt of its systematic slaughter of European Jewry.  In PR terms, in keeping away from American, British and French interference in the Middle East, topped up by Angela Merkel’s recent welcome to Syrian refugees, it has pretty well succeeded.  No longer.  Germany’s reputation has been dragged low by the senior people at Volkswagen — unbelievable, considering previous attempts by car firms to avoid recalls.

Germany’s reputation in engineering is indisputable.  But the way it has handled the Greek problem and, more recently, the refugee problem has cast doubt on its political/managerial competence.  This Volkswagen episode will set the seal on this for some time to come.  Germany’s politicians will lie low now.

What is Islam?

It is a religious organisation and of different complexions in different countries.  However, exactly like the history of Christianity, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, Islam anywhere today is nothing like it was when its original founder Muhammad was alive, preached and led the movement. As to textual sources, the Qur’an today has become a heavily annotated edition of the original over the centuries just as the original texts of the Bible, Buddhavacana and Sutras have been.

One thing for sure is that Islam today — besides existing in many different varieties — is nothing like it was.  The original Islamic faith, springing forth from Muhammad’s Qur’aysh tribe not only had to defend itself against persecution from other Arab tribes in Saudi Arabia but also from massive occupation waves from Roman and Persian armies which, in fighting each other, swept backwards and forwards over the whole of the Middle East for more than a century.

They were dangerous and chaotic times and other religious faiths besides Islam, such as Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism had a hard time surviving. More often than not in Muhammad’s time they helped one another when persecuted by more powerful forces. Because all these sects were monotheistic, Muhammad saw no reason to treat them as enemies.  He preached reconciliation.  Muslims frequently allied themselves with Jews or with Christians when they needed help and, in turn helped them when necessary.

Islam, as practised by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, exists by causing shock and fear, hating even fellow Muslims such as Shias, never mind Christians or Jews, and is a very different movement from the way Muhammad originally framed it. The jihadis of Iraq and Syria are treated with contempt by the vast majority of Muslims — that is, those larger populations who live in India and Indonesia. Al-Baghdadi’s assumption of Caliph-hood is laughed at by leading Muslim theologians elsewhere in the Middle East.

I’m prompted to write this blog because I’ve been reminded of Christopher Caldwell’s book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, which created a great stir when published (2009).  According to the New York Times, Caldwell’s argument is that “When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture [meaning Europe] meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by doctrines [meaning al-Baghdadi’s version of Islam] it is the former that changes to suit the latter.”

I disagree. It’s true that Europe, in the throes of great economic and cultural adjustments as we leave the industrial age and enter a period of increasing automation and high cognitive skills (for those who are educated sufficiently), is politically confused.  But it’s still stronger than the ad hoc, anti-scientific terrorists who are so easily promoting fear among the impressionable.  An organisation that can only exist by means of fear is vulnerable to reactive anger at any time.  Just like most of the Caliphs of old, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, will not have a long reign. His closest allies, the Sunnis, will probably be the first worms to turn.

What the EU needs to be worried about is not Islam itself, nor even the small number of unstable, impressionable youngsters within them — even though they’re dangerous in the interim —  but the sheer volume of immigration that has now been encouraged by Angela Merkel. Hundreds of thousands more would-be immigrants are now moving in one way or another along a line more than a thousand miles long through Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and onwards and there’ll be hundreds of thousands more starting out until the EU seals its borders. In the coming years, European countries will have enough on its plate with a lack of decently-paid jobs for its own people, never mind millions more immigrants.

The Brussels Politburo

There are three serious divisions now within the European Union.  Germany is part of all of them, not because Angela Merkel or Wolfgang Schaeuble have sought them, but because Germany is about the only viable country within the 28 and doesn’t intend to be deflected from its path of economic and cultural righteousness..

Firstly there’s the final North-South showdown with Greece, yet to take place when it has had its general election next week and the formation of a government willing, or not willing, to take on the austerity programme which the finance ministers of the other EU countries have laid out for it.  I’m still of the opinion that it can really only end with Greece’s exit.

Secondly, there’s the recent East-West division in the treatment of Syrian refugees between the newest EU countries such as the ex-communist countries of Hungary, Poland and Serbia (though not yet full euro-using members) and the more receptive countries such as Germany and Sweden.  The future of this, depending also on how many more people will be fleeing from Syria — and more recently from Pakistan and Afghanistan — is totally unguessable.

Thirdly, and undoubtedly what is going to be the most serious division of them all, is the fissure that is now widening between Germany and France.  Germany wants no more favours extended to countries which can’t put their financial houses in order.  France, which simply doesn’t have the necessary discipline to survive in an increasingly competitive world and senses that it, too, will be requiring bail-outs from the EU, is pressing Germany hard to become more generous.  Behind France are the Brussels Commissioners, their president Jean-Claude Juncker and Italy, which will be another supplicant before too long.

The political impossibility of laying down the essential fundamentals of a future United States of Europe which any new nation-state in the past did as a matter of course — a centralised taxation and budgetary authority, and one official language (even if, in this case, it had to invent a new Euro-esperanto, by no means an impossible task) — then the EU should have remained what many, such as Britain, intended it to be for the benefit of all the European countries — a Common Market.

A Common Market could have been achieved with a comparatively small bureaucracy such as NAFTA’s between America, Canada and Mexico. But such a modest servicing operation wouldn’t have offered the same opportunities for yet more power to the senior civil servants of Britain, France, Germany, etc. who are as keen for an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels as the Politburo in China is keen to maintain its.  Mind you, the Chinese Politburo might yet succeed, due to its cultural coherence going back to Confucius.  A Brussels Politburo with no cultural adhesion between the people of its member countries, doesn’t have a chance.

Why Angela Merkel went off her rocker

I once asked a young German friend — over here in England for a few weeks to polish up his English — whether he felt guilty about what his parents’ generation had done in the Second World War — namely the Holocaust.  His reply was quick and it was No.  His answer was very quick.  Being a very intelligent young young man, a speedy response was to be expected — but this was very quick indeed. He didn’t need to think about it.  This was question for which all Germans expect to be asked sooner or later.

Off and on I’ve thought about his answer many years in the years since and I’ve come to the conclusion that all thoughtful Germans, even young ones in their 20s — who have no memories of the Second World war — feel shame.  Why would they?  It’s because the Holocaust, unlike many other mass killings that went on in the war left a lot of industrial archaeology behind.  The Germans, to their credit, have not obliterated the evidence of the gas chambers of Auschwitz and the huts into which millions of Jews, romanies, homosexuals and other ‘oddments’ were held before being exterminated so very efficiently.

This is why Angela Merkel — as well as all intelligent, thoughtful Germans, politicians particularly — still feels shame about what went on in their name not long ago.  Other nations that have carried out mass slaughter in the past are soon able to forget, and nor will be asked awkward questions about it.  Not so the Germans.  This is why Angela Merkel, usually a very deliberative politician, went off her rocker a little bit a few days ago when she apparently opened Germany’s doors ad lib to the war-shattered refugees of Syria.

How long will German acceptance last?

The more thoughtful among the media journalists are wondering how long the German people — seemingly wholeheartedly — will accept 800,000 migrants — particularly since many more will now be starting out because of Angela Merkel’s liberality.  Germany is still suffering from guilt after the Second World War.

I think acceptance will last two weeks before there are ugly scenes in Germany.  I think Merkel will  be out on her ears within six months.