I was in Berlin last weekend. It’s a fantastic city – my favourite German City – and I can’t wait to have an excuse to go back again.
I felt very safe there, both walking around during the day and being out at night. We went to a night-club – Panorama and Berghain – on the Friday night and it was like stepping back in time to my student-disco-days. There’s no way in high-heaven I would go out clubbing in my own town. I would feel completely intimidated by all the glam and the cattle-market style. Whereas, while some predatory types turned up later in the evening, their PVC gimp-outfits didn’t bother me at all!
The only trouble we had the whole weekend was when we encountered a bunch of four inebriated students on our way home. Their opener – suggesting how we could enjoy their falafel – was tedious and no-where near as witty as they thought it was. The problems really started when they heard we were Irish. They fell around the place and roared: “Oh you’re poor now!” Far from being commiserated, we were mocked and derided. For the first time in my life, I would have been happy to have been mistaken for British!
I do not say this to offend any British people happening upon this blog; though I think you will appreciate the hubris involved in that statement. The Irish have long-enjoyed their reputation for being the darlings of Europe. I’ve heard that German people, in particular, cherish us as guardians of their mystical, Celtic soul. Not anymore! We were treated as pariahs, “a drain on Europe”, feckless wasters.
However, when one of these drunken teenagers suggested that Irish people need to work harder, I saw red. Working-hard is all that this generation of Irish people have been doing for the past ten to fifteen years. Working-hard in two jobs, with crazy un-subsidised childcare costs and commuting hours everyday, just to keep paying a ridiculously inflated mortgage is ALL that my peers and I have been doing. And we have been doing this to the detriment of every aspect of quality of life you could mention.
But there was no point in arguing socio-economic policy with four drunken students (who had already taken exception to Bruno Mars! ffs). When one of them got up and tried to give my future sister-in-law a drunken hug, I pushed him over and scolded him for not being able to hold his drink! Hey, that was the most insulting thing I could come up with. And since we were already way down the road of racial stereo-types, coming from an Irish woman to a German man it was pretty harsh!
We quickly fled the scene and licked our injured pride.
I wish I had had the benefit of the following at the time:
First-up, a letter to the Editor from the latest edition of The Economist. It warrants quoting in its entirety…
Ireland bailing out Germany
SIR –The Economist persists in referring to the European Union-IMF loan facility extended to Ireland late last year as a bail-out (“Muddle, fuddle, toil and trouble”, March 19th). Rather, it is a loan that enables Ireland to repay maturing high risk and high yield bonds in Irish banks, bought when those banks were engaged in idiotic lending. These were purchased by many careless European pension funds and banks. Those debts were then assumed by the Irish taxpayer as a result of a monumentally stupid bank-guarantee scheme introduced by the Irish government in late 2008.
If this represents a bail-out, it is Irish taxpayers bailing out German pensioners.
School of law and government
Bravo, Mr O’Malley, and I’ll make sure to remember this next time I’m chastised by a German about being a feckless Irish waster.
Next is an article from the Wall Street Journal: “Ireland Bails Out Germany Again“. I’ve quoted from it below but the entire article is worth reading.
As the banks’ losses deepen and Dublin’s credibility withers, now is an apt time to rethink the foundations of the European Union’s Irish-rescue strategy, one that is now effectively premised on sinking one country so that tough political choices may be avoided in another.
But pain in German banks ought to be Germany’s responsibility to mollify, not Ireland’s. If losses on Irish debt would cause German banks to require recapitalization, then German taxpayers should pony up to fill the gap, and likewise across the euro-zone core countries. The threat of “contagion,” that favorite bugbear of officials at the EU and the International Monetary Fund, is a reason to spread cleanup responsibility around, not to plug it up at the edges.
So take that! you drunken louts. And stick it on your falafel.