Sunday, November 12, 2017

Look ma: virtually no East Germans in the country's elite

November seems to be Germany's "Quick, let's write about East Germany Month" for a couple of great reasons:

One, the Berlin Wall/Iron Curtain came down on 9 November 1989, signalling momentous change in Europe.

Two, 9 November 1989 made it so that the Nazi pogroms of Kristallnacht of 9/10 November 1938 were pushed back in public discourse and that the end of Word War I with the armistice of 11 November 1918 lost even more of what little import it had in Germany.

Just for the sake of completeness, the 11th minute of 11th hour of the 11th month is also the traditional start of the carnival season in large parts of Germany.

Obviously, the opening of the Wall is a convenient date to publish not just the trivial but also the thoughtful about the part of the country that is home to just under 20 percent of its population.

We all know about the crimes of the Stasi, the feared apparatus of state oppression, the doping in sports, the prison industry producing cheap goods for the West. We hear little about the fact that a full one third of businesses in East Germany were privately owned. And even less about the fact that some owners found out they were millionaires because they had hoarded so much inventory in the face of supply shortages.

This became part of the past on 9 November 1989. From thereon out, everything would be wonderful.

Freedom and blooming landscapes would be the future.

Many things happened, and books have been written about that. So, yes, the autobahns in the East are a driver's wet dream, as the blogster has pointed out before. You can tell even today where the border was because, going East, the freeways widen and straighten out.

But this year's main topic goes to the heart of the matter: the almost complete absence of East Germans at the top levels of leadership in Germany more than 25 years after the Wall fell.

This fact has been obscured because Angela Merkel, the country's chancellor for over a decade and going on two decades, grew up in the East. Germany even had a president from the East.

But outside of that, the elite is thoroughly Western, and there is no improvement in sight.
For example, 105 out of 109 department chiefs in the federal government are Westerners.

Sociologists are now accepting the marginalization of the East in the 1990s as a fact, attributing that period largely to the "lack of qualified personnel" in the aftermath of the fall of the Wall and the challenges of reunification.

Today, though, claims the continued marginalization is "self marginalization" misses the point.

Complaining that East Germans don't want to put in the hard work needed to advance into the top levels of power and industry ignores what the complete dissolution of a country does to its inhabitants, it ignores the resilience of power networks once entrenched.

What's left?

The rhetorical question asked by ZEIT whether a quota for East Germans should be established.

No comments:

Post a Comment