A two and a half week long visit to Germany and the Czech Republic in June allowed my wife and me to get a more direct insight into the lives of family members, friends and strangers we met during our visit. The trip was a wonderful experience since we were welcomed everywhere and the weather played along perfectly. We even experienced a heat wave whereby temperatures reached into the 90’s and the experience was special in that we were coping with these temperatures while staying in homes and hotels without air-conditioning and window screens. But we had a great time and the trip gave us lasting memories to cherish for some time.
But this is not the purpose of this article. Our visit to those countries allowed us a glimpse into the major issues, lifestyles, and interests and concerns of the general population and of course, their political systems. It would not be fair to generalize in terms of consensus since our visit was not intended to do serious research into matters of major importance and the time inadequate for such research, we will therefore limit our impressions on personal experiences during our trip:
It can be safely said that Germany and its people live peaceful, contented and yet eventful lives in a generally speaking safe environment. The media provides them daily with the latest in terms of news and events from around the world. For those, and there are quite a few, interested in sports, there are several television networks that broadcast sporting events on a daily basis similar to ESPN and competing channels in America. Weather patterns play a much greater role over there in that they can change daily and are not at all like living, for instance, in Arizona where the summer months can be brutally and consistently hot. Travel destinations around the world are very accessible to the Germans by way of organized group travel with reliable tour companies. The health and welfare system in the country is strong and very reliable. If one has to see a doctor or wants to be sent for several weeks to a spa, it is very possible.
The political situation in Germany is very settled in that the current leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel is popular and to some extent even admired throughout the general population. Unions are playing a much more prominent role in Germany, as there are for instance in America, and they can influence changes in the social structures very effectively and have done so for a very long period of time (the political leadership has accepted this reality and deals with it accordingly). There appear to be no major areas of concerns in Germany at this time caused by external threats and so, the people are keeping busy with personal and other less important issues. There seems to be on average one significant disaster in the country per week, be it a train wreck, a major collision on any one of the Autobahns or an especially heinous crime somewhere.
There is also a greater awareness of catastrophies around the world such as extreme situations of Aids, hunger and starvation etc that Germans support with contributions to charitable organizations who are trying to lessen the sufferings of this type. There is also a deep-rooted tolerance towards other religions, cultures and foreigners in general, most likely borne out of the shame the German people felt and still feel over the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime more than sixty years ago. The results of the World Cup event last year, held in Germany, produced a certain amount of national pride among all Germans in that they were drawn into rooting for the German National Soccer team when they advanced to the semifinals of the tournament and eventual finished in third place. From Chancellor Merkel to the youngest fans, everybody was swept up in the moment as they all cheered on their national team, happily waved the German flag and sang the National anthem with pride for the first time in a long time.
And the Rest of the Story . . .
From this, you could get the impression that all is well and so much better over there than life is for many citizens and residents in America. But as we all know there are always two sides to any story and it is not different here, so, let’s take a closer look:
· On average, the German employees and employers work every year until July 13 for taxes and social services! Yes, 53 percent of all incomes come out of paychecks and go towards the government! Taxes amount to 33 percent and social services amount to 20 percent.
· Driving your car in Germany (as we did as tourists), you pay from 1.35 to 1.40 euro for a liter of gasoline. This equates to $7.00 – $7.25 per gallon! And there is no shortage of cars anywhere in Germany; a car is not a luxury item.
· Life’s necessities for rent, food, utilities, clothing and other such things are very costly and take in most cases the remaining 47 percent of take-home pay. Life’s pleasures such as vacations are made easy for everybody in that one hardly pays upfront the full amount. Financial institutions and travel agencies are eagerly letting you pay off your vacation in small amounts over several years. Even buying a new car is made easy by dealerships in that they will allow you to make payments for six or more years. The same holds true for such items as furniture, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers etc. It takes an incredible amount of self-discipline to save money for retirement or for building or buying a home.
· The print and television media are essentially your only source of information in Germany. The news presented daily is totally one-sided, namely extremely liberal! There is no alternative media such as talk radio in Germany. The daytime hours on radio stations are filled with music, news briefs, weather and traffic updates. Commentary shows on television are heavily left-leaning wherein commentators only disagree on minutia but are generally in agreement over what they consider the big issues.
· But something is missing: Oh, Yes, the fall guy for when things go not right but wrong. They have that in the President of the United States, George W. Bush! Anything that goes wrong in general or in the private lives of the citizenry is Bush’s fault! Be it the weather and related catastrophes such as draughts or floods (Bush did not sign the Kyoto treaty, remember?), be it the political situations around the world from the war in Iraq to the starvation in Darfur, it’s Bush’s fault! We cannot recall how many times we heard a person in Germany say: Der Bush! (translated: ‘that guy Bush’ or ‘this Bush’). We had to laugh when a respected columnist in one of the largest magazines in Germany seriously asked ‘why Angela Merkel did not make George Bush pay for the fence they had to built around the meeting complex in Heiligendamm in early June where the G8 summit took place. The fence had to be built because thousands of radical protesters and demonstrators did not wanted to be stopped by the police on the streets, so they tried to get in through adjacent forests and were held back by the quickly built fence and more police and security personnel. It was all Bush’s fault!
· Only George W. Bush stands in the way to pass laws (and raise taxes) to deal effectively with the Global Warming/Climate Change issue. When we discussed this with friends, they were surprised that one could buy a “carbon neutral existence” by paying a third-party to plant trees in Australia, and thus balance their extra CO2 creation. Their eyes opened wide in disbelief, they had never heard of such a thing. Needless to say, we left them doubting the seriousness of the Climate change problems after our lengthy discussion.
It is a shame to witness the citizens of a country such as Germany being ‘brainwashed’ again! This time it is by a totally liberal media instead of the Nazi dictatorship some 70 years ago. The Nazis controlled the media then, the liberals control it now, opposing views are not being heard and ridiculed when offered in letters to the editor etc. But one cannot blame the average German for believing what is being dished out daily over many years. Adolf Hitler could not have survived a liberal media in the 1930’s, that’s why he took over this industry as fast as he could. Unfortunately, in both instances, it is totally wrong to only present one side of agendas, ideologies and issues. It is a controlled form of democracy that does not serve its people well. Take it to the extreme, what can one think of a population of eighty million that would fabricate any reason to blame the American President for anything not to their liking? It is a shame that such a country is not given the chance to hear all sides to every issue but is being brainwashed into believing what a liberal media will want them to hear.
This article and others on Back to Common Sense are designed to provoke further thought and investigation. It is not the intent for the articles to be politically biased. Sources are referenced in each article to encourage readers to delve into the supporting material. We welcome all readers to participate with their point of view either in support or contrary with additional information sources.