Bottrop and Essen are towns in northern Germany, not far from where my dad was born and grew up. They are tied to the old heavy industries — coal mining and steel production. And since those have been on the wane in the last few decades, there are a lot of disgruntled types who no doubt remember better days, but who are blaming the wrong people (as usual in crapitalism) for the situation. It’s not refugees, but capitalists, who are making life harder for everyone.
There is literally nothing good about this story, other than that the perp is under arrest.
Meanwhile, here’s some political analysis from the German left:
Left Party interior shadow minister Ulla Jelpke has indirectly held federal interior minister Horst Seehofer partially responsible for the presumably xenophobic car attacks of Bottrop and Essen.
“Whoever constantly suggests that the law is too lax and helpless, and at the same time declares migration to be the ‘mother of all problems’, should not wonder when right-wing rage addicts and neo-Nazis feel emboldened to commit lynchings such as those in Bottrop and Essen,” wrote Jelpke in a guest column for the left-wing newspaper, Junge Welt.
Jelpke criticized Seehofer’s reaction to the almost simultaneous incidents in Bottrop and Amberg. With his calls for changes to the law, in order to be able to expel violent criminal asylum seekers, Seehofer is playing “the age-old keyboard of the right,” she wrote. A “legal package against racism”, however, was not on the interior minister’s agenda when it came to vehicular terrorism.
Green politician Irene Mihalic also attacked Seehofer sharply. The minister wanted “harsher laws before he could answer the question as to whether existing laws would serve adequately and could also be used”, she wrote on her Twitter account on Wednesday evening. “That’s not how one helps fight crime, but rather pours oil on the fires of right-wing extremists.”
So it looks as though the right-wing German ruling coalition is actually singing from the same sheet as the Nazis they’re supposed to be opposing (and prosecuting, and jailing, and and and). Not good, especially with a new far-right party on the rise, further fueling right-wing rage and their baseless sense of an impotent state that can’t stand up to a rising tide of “threatening foreigners”. (That same party, you may recall from reading here earlier, had a neo-Nazi Christmas tree set up in its office lobby, and a sticker by the door baldly stating that dogs and Muslims must stay out. They also bristled at an invitation to view Schindler’s List, calling it a “senseless provocation”. Who but a bunch of Nazis would find it provoking to re-examine history from its underside, and admit that Germany still has a Nazi problem?)
Meanwhile, it’s apparent, from police investigation, that the “amok-driver” was, indeed, NOT a foreigner, but a hater of the same. Not a refugee, but a refugee hater with a personal animus and possible ties to neofascism. Allegedly, he is mentally ill…a condition not exactly incompatible with fascism, as anyone who’s done even a cursory bit of research into Adolf Hitler’s own mental state can attest.
And personal animosities are not exactly incompatible with political ones, either. In fact, the politics of fascism are nothing if not extremely personal, and often rooted in deep-seated insecurities on the part of the fascists themselves. Indoctrination doesn’t work well unless it has some existing, ingrained animus to latch onto in the psyche of the individual, and unless the general social conditions are right — a critical mass of unemployment, poverty, lack of future prospects, and perceived scarcity must be reached. The neo-Nazis are insecure about their own virility and fertility, fearing that the out-group Muslims will out-breed them if not checked harshly. This is in line with what we know about Nazi psychology from back in the day when it was Jews, not Muslim refugees, who bore the brunt of far-right ire…and when concentration camps were built with the express purpose of wiping them all out. Theodor Adorno knew it long ago.
Time to dust off those old psych books and get to work on this festering social sore. And it’s time for the German police forces to deal with their own prejudices as well…prejudices which should have been wiped out between 1945 and 1950, but which still linger just below the de-Nazified surface of things.