Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is There Supposed to be Something Wrong with Germany?

In this morning's (25/11/10) Globe and Mail, Timothy Garton Ash has an argument that goes something like this: 
  1. Germany is very successful. 
  2. Ireland and others are not. 
  3. But Germany wants Ireland and others to stay in the eurozone. 
  Conclusion: Germany should make Ireland and others feel better by becoming less German. "The right balance may be: 70 per cent other euro zone countries become more 'German', 30 per cent Germany becomes less so."

This is of a piece with articles that I have been reading recently, which go something like this. Go to Turkey/Portugal/Britain. You'll find a lot of German goods on the shelves/on the roads/in the home. This is not good. Germany should stop it.

Can I say? -- I don't get it. Everybody in the world wants either a Mercedes Benz, or a BMW, or an Audi. (Oh ok: 90%. Some want a Maserati. But who exactly wants a Honda, really wants a Honda?) When they can't have one of those German brands, they'd rather settle for a Volkswagen than a Toyota. So what are the Germans supposed to do? Build in a few problems with the accelerator pedal? This seems to be Garton Ash's solution.

While I am on the topic, Germany illustrates to me why we all want more government. There's piles of government there. But there's prosperity, culture, and lots of public transit. And as far as I can tell, Angela Merkel doesn't keep showing up and telling you what to do. What do Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck think about this? That Germany should become 30% less civilized?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Memories of 1956

To say that Hungarians are masters of memory is perhaps to risk cliché. But I couldn't help being moved at their genius for preservation. 

Here is the extraordinary statue of Imre Nagy, the leader of the breakaway Hungarian government, executed by the Russians two years later:

He gazes at the Parliament Building.

Here is a flag that commemorates the one from which the rebels ripped the Soviet emblem:

It flies next to a symbolic grave of people killed there.

Finally, here's a more humorous one, of Istvan Szechenyi, who endowed the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and built the iconic Chain bridge in the centre of Budapest:

Two Classical Bridges

I came across two bridges with significance derived from ancient Greece. The first is the Eisener Steg in Frankfurt, an old iron footbridge that crosses the Main river in central Frankfurt.

The inscription is from Homer's Odyssey: "to many foreigners on a wine-dark sea". No clear explanation of what that quotation is supposed to mean on this bridge.

And then there is this:


"This river I step in is not the river I stand in", an allusion to Heraclitus on a bridge that crosses the Don Valley on Queen Street East in Toronto. No more comprehensible -- and why the allusion, rather than the exact quote? -- but equally charming.