Domestic Anger Germany's Slow Boil

The possible collapse of the German anti-Islam movement Pegida won't bring an end to widespread dissatisfaction in some quarters of German society, writes Handelsblatt’s opinion page editor.
Momentarily hobbled by leadership problems, but the Pegida movement is far from dead.

 

Pegida is leaderless. Is the German xenophobic movement, which sprang up four months ago, on its last legs?

Hardly.

Though its head has been cut off, the rest will continue to writhe, as unreasonable extremists and the eternally frustrated try to keep the beast alive.

Political apathy and contempt are on the rise in Germany – particularly in the more intolerant parts of the country. A quarter of a century after reunification, some Germans are still far from developing the necessary self-confidence to deal humanely and securely with foreigners and the foreign.

However, this country has also shown an impressive tendency to rise up against those attempting to glue a mothballed Hitler moustache on it. These engaged individuals have succeeded in keeping Germany’s streets from becoming a gateway for a mob of far-right extremists. We can rightly salute them.

It was never about an eruption of anti-Islamic or anti-democratic rage. The root goes deeper.

By rejecting Pegida, Germany’s civil society has proven its vigilance and shown itself to be more mature than the country’s politicians, who would rather focus on the image of this exporting nation abroad than take care of those hotspots at home that made the movement possible in the first place.

The highly combustible political cocktail of some politicians refusing to talk to Pegida and others hoping to curry favor with its followers was a low point for Germany’s political leadership.

Clarity apparently is one of the hardest things for politicians to achieve. Could it be that the usual vacillation of many politicians – all the way up to Germany’s vice chancellor – is what has been driving Pegida’s supporters and other extremists into the arms of dangerous populists?

This question, and the sinking suspicion that many of those going to Pegida marches actually cared very little about Islamism, is what must occupy Germany’s political elites now that the storm has blown over. Even if they discover the main cause of the frustration that gave birth to Pegida has more to do with them, rather than with the Prophet Mohammed.

The movement is not yet dead. For it was never about an eruption of anti-Islamic or anti-democratic rage. No, the root goes deeper, especially in Saxony’s so-called “Valley of Ignorance,” to an outdated mentality that has little to do with religion or culture.

West Germans used to apply the "valley'' designation to this corner of former East Germany, which was geographically beyond the reach of western television and radio broadcasters.

It’s more about fear, resentment and more than anything, a large portion of ignorance.

 

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