Wednesday, January 19, 2005

German Socialist Failings Make For Great Basslines


Yes, the news coming out of the Germany for the last fifteen years hasn't been so great. Oh there was that whole Wall-coming-down-and-Communism-getting-shitcanned thing, but the country has since been in a downward spiral of economic decline. Let's start at the beginning!

In the '60s and '70s, Germany labor unions successfully mounted the Germany economy's skull and poked it until they got all their benefits. Since Germany was the industrial and economic "powerhaus" (also known as a "Kraftwerk") of Western Europe, this didn't have much of an impact: employment was guaranteed through promises to Labor and generous "retraining" clauses in the event of layoffs (the costs of which are shouldered by industry). Besides, Germany was the economic engine of Europe--who was to think this could change so quickly?

After Teh Wall came down, the Wessies poured trillions of delicious monies into the East. It was poorly spent. In hindsight, money couldn't change attitudes formed under 55 years of communist control--the Ossies didn't quite understand business, had run-down infrastructure, and suffered from a brain-drain of those departing for points west. Now the generous welfare system has to carry the burden of massive unemployment in the East coupled with mounting unemployment in the West. Cheap labor in the former Warsaw Pact countries is draining competitiveness and employment from Western Europe, particularly Germany.

On top of all that, the pension system is in crisis, partly from demographic shifts (declining birthrates leave fewer workers to support the massive welfare system) and stubborn public resistance to pension/welfare reform. The costs could literally bankrupt the government. The threat to our Social Security pales by comparison. Importing more immigrants/workers has led to tensions, particularly among the many Turks living in Germany. There's a low-level backlash against Muslim or other darker-than-lilly-white foreigners.

So there you have it: business is less competitive from high taxes and the difficulty of downsizing; the government faces a fiscal crisis from years of massive spending; and the voters don't want their benefits to dry up. The socialist past is catching up to a capitalist present where capital and labor flow freely across borders. How does this affect you, the saucy American Consumer? Well, shit's still way expensive in Germany. The dollar is weak too, making travel a friggin forture. What are you left with?

RAMMSTEIN COMETH. The throbbing, sizzling, blasting, homo-awesome heavy metal of our favorite (and only?) German metal band has found quite an ear in Germany and Europe in general. They use imagery and themes from the Reich in their music, though don't quite push the same envelope in their lyrics. The Industrial shtick goes over great too. I liken it to Metallica and others in the '80s when some thought their lyrics were tied in with Satanic worship. To me, Rammstein's politics and fuck you attitude appeal to the trampeled German pride. Add in weariness among the youth of collective Holocaust guilt. I like to think their popularity is a culmination of all kinds of crappy factors coming together. AND THEY'RE COMING TO TOUR AMERICA!

My ego likes to think that only I could tie 60 years of German socialist policy to a promotion for heavy metal. Doubtless you're wondering why you read this whole thing. Fine, here's a bonus: the Matt Waite Project.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

West Coast New Year

Since four of my five friends were out of town for New Years, I played my last card and lucked out. My only connection was a guy from work; fortunately he had some friends looking for a bit of fun. We farted around their house. It was pretty low key: five people can't make much of a ruckus, even with all the hash and coke that was there. Midnight fell with barely an acknowledgement. Another friend of theirs had to work through the night so we headed out to pay him a visit at 3 a.m. It was a bit strange to be wandering around a closed restaurant with a bunch of people I didn't know. What was even more strange was to watch these guys do some lines off a table in the restaurant. I thought coke fucked people up but it was surprisingly easy to carry a conversation with someone who was snorting through a halved Bic pen tube. We got back to their house at ass o'clock and I finally got home at 5:30 a.m. I didn't drink enough for a hangover, thank God ... I've got a funny feeling that I won't be seeing these guys again.