Sunday, April 20, 2008

Germany Love Fest

After all the stick us Germans have been getting from the Tory press over the last 48 hours (see our exclusive Obscene Dessert dispatches here and here), The Telegraph has something positive to say about us for a change.

It's a tad tongue-in-cheek, Tim Howe's article on the Hun recycling mania, but it ends on the sweetly conciliatory suggestion that "Perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from the Germans."

Ta muchly, Tim, I reckon you can -- and not only about recycling.

The article made me meditate for a moment on the socio-cultural significance that the act of separating "Biomüll" from "Verbundverpackungen" has developed over here. Or at least: in me. In a recurring nightmare I had when I still lived in the UK I was stuffing unsorted waste into a big black heavy-duty binliner to the thundering voice of my over-active, eco-spirited Über-Ich: "How can you live in a country where they don't separate their rubbish?" Soon after that fantasy had begun to take hold I turned my back on Britain for good.

I'm afraid I have to admit that I, too, am a victim of Germany's greatest feat of social conditioning since WWII.

But rest assured: not all Germans are like that. In fact, some of them -- like my mother -- proudly resist our most recent collective compulsion. For her, clearly, provocatively purchasing non-deposit bottles and nonchalantly dumping the coffee filter on a pile of clean old newspapers is an act of heroic defiance. Such small gestures seem to give her the feeling that she is resisting constraints that, I believe, remind her of the poor post-war years of her childhood (when literally nothing was thrown away), while simultaneously allowing her to perpetuate her generation's obsession with its mythical rebellion (in her case only ever seen from afar anyway) -- which for people our age has become more than a trifle stale.

On the note of "seen from afar": That seems to be the perspective of Ricky Gervais's latest project, The Men from the Pru, set in Reading in the early seventies. Sounds entertainingly grim and very unrevolutionary.


Tim Howe said...

No, wasn't being tongue in cheek at all. On the contrary, quite complimentary, for once.

Thanks for your feedback though!

The Wife said...

Didn't mean to misread your article. But due to my experiences living in the UK and the lingering anti-Germanism in the (not only popular) press, I've become very distrustful of British compliments about Germany.