German Word of the Week: Glück im Unglück

Glück is like Geist -- a German word so context-dependent, it has perhaps 5 or 6 different meanings. The two main meanings of Glück are happiness and good luck. You can look happy (glücklich) because you just found a shirt at a flea market that fits you perfectly -- a lucky (glücklich) coincidence.

Which brings us to the German phrase Glück im Unglück. Unglück is basically the opposite of Glück. So Glück im Unglück is happiness in unhappiness, or good fortune in misfortune. This phrase is apparently based on the German translation (g) of the title of a Taoist parable. One online dictionary translates GiG as "blessing in disguise", but I'm not sure that really captures it. That suggests an experience that, overall, had a positive outcome. Say you're diagnosed with cancer, but your make a full recovery and your life is more meaningful because you now realize Every Day is Precious™.

Glück im Unglück, in my view, points to a situation in which the overall balance at the end of the day is still bad, but not quite as bad as it could have been. Something intervened to ameliorate what seemed like a hopeless situation, or to show an unexpected positive side. But when all is said and done, you still wish the whole thing hadn't happened.

This GIF captures it perfectly (especially since Unglück also means accident in German): 

Guck im ungluck

 


How Germans Make Way for Emergency Vehicles

This video shows you how Germans create a "rescue path" in a traffic jam. The cars pull over to both sides of the street, letting the rescue vehicle through.

I've seen it happen; it's a small miracle of spontaneous social co-ordination. One of the many inspiring aspects of living in an orderly, well-organized society.

Of course in this video, morons fuck everything up and the accident victims die horrible deaths. There's a message in there for all of us.


Getting High and Assembling IKEA = Hikea

When I was growing up in the 1980s in the USA, the anti-drug hysteria which had gripped the country was at its peak. The massed forces of mainstream pop and political culture drummed a constant message into us youngsters: drugs are dangerous, they permanently damage your brain, they're for losers, one criminal conviction and your entire life will be ruined, you'll have flashbacks, the people you buy them from are dangerous predators.

At least once a week, some prime-time television show would feature a Very Special Episode in which a character took that first fateful toke and then dropped off the deep end, reappearing several episodes later as a scabby-faced ruin selling herself at the truck stop, snorting evil-looking granules through her Harvard diploma.

As might be expected, this drove the more adventurous among us young people to try all the drugs. But doing them was a frightening experience -- what if one of those warnings turned out to be true? What if we really were frying our brains forever? What if the trip would never end, and we'd end up gibbering in some mental ward?

And yet, every time we did drugs, it was fine. We had loads of fun, learned a lot, didn't get addicted, and there was no permanent damage. Even a bad trip was just an unpleasant few hours, afterwards everything was back to normal. In the early 2000s, American pop culture gradually changed, and began treating drug use as just a part of growing up. People noticed when the HBO series Six Feet Under featured characters doing drugs, having fun, and returning to their (relatively) normal lives, none the worse for wear. Just as I and all of my friends had done.

And now we've come full-circle. The two young folks above allow themselves to be filmed taking LSD, a crime which, in the worst-case scenario (which won't apply to nice middle-class kids like this), can still earn you a prison sentence in all American states. Yet I'm certain no police department is ever going to bother to track them down, arrest them, and get them to snitch on their dealer, threatening to destroy their entire fucking lives unless they cooperate. And after the trip is over and they've sort of tried to build that dresser, they're fine.

And despite modern America largely abandoning terrifying anti-drug propaganda, drug use among young Americans has declined steadily. You could almost conclude that the propaganda had the opposite of its intended effect.

There might be a lesson here for all of us, no?


The Cheapest Suffering Preventer

Via Steve Sailer, by means of comment on the Somali man who went on a stabbing frenzy in Russell Square, this BBC piece from a few years ago:

The scenario is familiar in Somalia. A man has become possessed by spirits and the only option for his family is to restrain him and call the sheikh. But as the young man protests, a voice that challenges Somali tradition booms out.

"Stop with the chains!" the voiceover orders. "Take him to Dr Hab's hospital! If he's having mental problems, take him to Dr Hab. He won't chain him, he'll help him."

Dr Hab is not actually a real psychiatrist. Rather it's the persona of Abdirahman Ali Awale, a nurse who after three months of specialist training from the World Health Organization (WHO), has made it his mission to rescue Somalia's mentally ill. He claims he is able to treat everything from post-natal depression to schizophrenia....

"There is a belief in my country that hyenas can see everything including the evil spirits people think cause mental illness," says Hab. "So in Mogadishu, you will find hyenas that have been brought from the bush and families will pay £350 ($560) to have their loved one locked in the room overnight with the animal."

"We are trying to show people that this is nonsense," says Hab. "People listen to our radio advert and they learn that mental illness is just like any other and needs to be treated with scientific methods."

Hab's campaign was prompted by an incident in 2005 when he witnessed a group of female patients being chased through the streets by youths. "There was no-one to help them," he says. "I decided after that I would have to open Somalia's first mental hospital."

The Habeb Public Mental Health Hospital in Mogadishu became the first of Hab's six centres across Somalia. Together, they have now treated over 15,000 patients.

Hab faces a near insurmountable task. WHO estimates that one in three Somalis either is or has been affected by mental illness, compared to a global average of one in 10. In parts of the country, where the population has been the most psychologically scarred from decades of conflict, the rate is even higher. Cases of post-traumatic stress disorder are common and the situation is further complicated by widespread substance abuse.

As I've argued before, I think Germany got an unusually high number of young males with mental illness in 2015, judged by the frequency of reports of irrational and violent behavior. Assume you live in a country with rates of mental illness 3 times the global average, and a mental health system in which chaining people to trees and letting them be mauled by a hyena are frequent responses. 

If you have a young son who seems to be headed down this path, why not set him on a path north to potentially get asylum in Northern Europe? Assuming his illness is not so severe that he can't follow basic instructions, he might just be able to land in Northern Europe and, with luck, bring some family members with him. At the very least he'll be able to send some money back, at some point. And even if he lands in an institution up there, he'll be out of your hair, and getting far superior care to anything he could get back home. It's win-win.

For the Somali/Iraqi/Algerian family, that is.

For Germany, which is now burdened with lifetime care for someone who will never contribute to society and who will also present a higher risk of crime, including unpredictable violent outbursts, it's lose-lose.

You know what might be a better investment than spending millions in German taxpayers' money in lifetime court cases, social worker counseling, and psychiatric treatment for one Somali male in Germany? How about using that money to support the efforts of people like Dr Hab, which have the potential to help countless thousands of people in Somalia? With no risk additional risk to Germans?

In law and economics, there is the notion of the "cheapest cost-avoider". The idea is that if you want to reduce risks or costs (often the same thing), you should put the burden of reducing risks or costs on the person or organization which can prevent them most efficiently.

Example: Assume a refinery is emitting a harmful gas as a by-product of making a product everyone needs. The emission can be stopped by forcing the refinery to install a new filter which costs a million dollars and reduces efficiency by 5%. The alternative is to not force the refinery to install the filter. But that means that the 10,000 houses in the surrounding area will each need to put special filters on their windows, that residents will need to limit the time spent outdoors, and the number of respiratory diseases will increase. The total costs merely in updating the houses will be $10 million, and the costs for more medical treatment $5 million. The costs in diminished life expectancy and in having to limit time outdoors may not be readily quantifiable, but they are obviously huge. In this case, the refinery is the cheapest cost avoider, and it should be required to install the filter. You can even, if you wish, fully compensate the refinery owner for his extra expenses and still end up far ahead. 

This is why allowing unscreened, mentally ill people into Germany is a terrible decision not only from Germany's perspective, but from the perspective of the country which sent them. Improving conditions for treating the mentally ill in Somalia is incredibly easy, because they are so primitive now. Literally anything other than hyena-mauling and tree-chaining is an improvement. You could probably fund 400 patient beds in a cheap place like Somalia for what it takes to house one mentally ill Somali in a German psychiatric hospital for a year.

Plus, no Germans will ever be harmed by a mentally ill Somali man who never enters Germany.


The Grotesque Mystery of Train Masturbators

Here's a recent police press release from Erfurt (g, my translation):

Yesterday, shortly before midnight, a 21-year-old female traveler spoke to a member of the federal police in the Erfurt central station. She seemed frightened, and told the officer that she had been harassed by a man in the train from Kassel. After he had stared at her for long time, she moved to a different seat. The man followed her, sat on the seat opposite, and began manipulating his penis. He did not open his pants.

After she got out in Erfurt to change trains, the man followed her. For this reason, she approached the police officer, who located the suspect in the train station. The suspect is a 31-year-old Iranian national. Because he could not prove his identity, the officer detained him. It is also suspected that the Iranian is in the country illegally.

And here's a picture of another alleged train masturbator from Cologne, whom the police are actively seeking: 

536497953

This guy is suspected of staring at, and masturbating in front of (g), a group of children from 6 to 8 years old in a Cologne streetcar. The children were engaged in Sternsingen ('star-singing') the German version of Christmas caroling. This involves dressing up as the Three Wise Men, singing traditional tunes, and collecting for charity. This guy apparently found this activity sexually stimulating, so he began touching himself in full view of the children, their minders, everyone else on the train, and the apparently the surveillance camera (actually, this probably isn't a picture of him in the act of jerking off in front of small children. But then again, given the facial expression, I'm not so sure).

No word on whether he unzipped his pants. I assume I speak for everyone when I say I hope he didn't.

And these are not isolated incidents. Well, in one sense they are. We have to keep a sense of proportion here, your chance of being the object of some horny foreign man's intense staring and jerking off on your next train voyage is probably very small. But there have been literally thousands of these incidents by now in Germany. Almost without exception, they involve foreign males.*

When it comes to train masturbators, I am genuinely puzzled. I have taken trains in lots of developing countries, and have never seen this behavior there. Nor have I ever seen German males doing this in Germany. I've seen them get drunk and be rowdy, but never masturbate in public. 

Another puzzling thing is that these foreign train masturbators often don't seem to worry about getting caught. Most of the time, the woman who was the focus complains to police, and they often find the guy sitting in the train seat, as if nothing had happened. Many of these train masturbators seem unaware that anything they were doing was wrong, or that the woman they were jacking off in front of would complain about that. I am sure another factor is that Germans are a confrontation-avoiding lot who would rather complain to cops than confront train masturbators. I doubt a train masturbator who jacked off in front of a girl in Egypt would reach his destination uninjured.

I surmise there's often alcohol involved here. Most of our new fellow citizens come from countries in which alcohol is hard to come by. And then they land in Germany, where you can buy a bottle of rotgut which will get you pie-eyed for 5 Euros. I sometimes see them tottering along the streets of my own neighborhood, clutching half-empty bottles of cheap 80-proof booze, talking to themselves. But then again, I see Germans doing that, too.

Yet many of these incident reports don't mention alcohol (which police reports usually do when it's in play). Which implies that these men, while completely sober, decided to take their erect penises out of their pants in public and jack off while staring at females. Sometimes while staring at children

This is why I am convinced that there are an unusually high number of young males with mental problems among the recent migrants. Public masturbation is the quintessential sign of what psychologists call disinhibition and hypersexuality. I worked for almost 4 years in a public mental hospital, and one of the things we had to teach our acutely schizophrenic clients was the necessity of not masturbating in public (they were obviously allowed to masturbate, but in private only).

We don't have reliable stats yet, but I will be happy to bet any amount of money that if we ever get them, we will find very high rates of mental illness among these young lads.  

Continue reading "The Grotesque Mystery of Train Masturbators" »


An Eternal Reminder of the Dark Days of German Oppression

One day, Germany will have to erect a memorial to all the people unjustly imprisoned for selling beautiful, fresh, delicious marijuana.

It should go right in the middle of Berlin: an eternal flame lighting an inextinguishable joint. Under it, a bronze plaque:

'Den unzähligen Opfern des irrwitzigen Kampfes gegen Hanf. Nie wieder!'

(Dedicated to the countless victims of the absurd war against hemp. Never again!'


'A Pretty Girl For Pleasure At a Place Convenient For You'

Doing a bit of tidying-up recently, I found a business card I got during a recent trip to Sofia, Bulgaria. I was minding my own business, waiting by the side of the street to be picked up by friends, when I watched a nice, but unspectacular late-model sedan park in a nearby parking lot. A guy dressed in a nice but unspectacular suit, perhaps mid-30s, well-groomed, emerged from the car carrying a briefcase. He spotted me and walked directly over.

He said, "Can I help you?" "No, I'm just waiting for a friend," I replied. Then he said "Well, in case you would like some company," and gave me a business card. I assumed it was his business card, and that he either wanted to buy me a drink to practice his English, or to do something more, er, Greek. Then he walked away. This was the card:

IMAG0006 IMAG0007
Well, that was unexpected. At least my heterosexuality is confirmed, I thought. Not that I needed any confirmation, mind you. Just reassuring. 

I noticed that there's only one phone number, but the rates on the front and back of the card are different. This hardly speaks for the conscientiousness of Bulgarian pimps. Unless there's actually a difference between 'top models' and 'pretty girls for pleasure'.

The more I thought about it, the more questions I had. The guy who gave me the card looked like a mild-mannered accountant. I was waiting right in the middle of Sofia, not in some park where odd grunting sounds come from the bushes. Do Bulgarian pimps just hand out cards to ordinary Bulgarian men and tell them to give the cards to anyone who looks like a horny tourist? Or is this mere hospitality, like a tribal chieftain offering his wife to a traveler?

In any case, since I was staying with friends, I didn't enjoy the company of any pretty girls for pleasure. But t then again, the minute you exit a German train station, you see that you don't have to leave Germany to enjoy the company of Bulgarian prostitutes (g).


Activism Wage, Oppression, Self-Harm, The Capitalist Process

Fine, long, fairly neutral piece by Nathan Heller in the New Yorker about student activism at Oberlin, a small liberal-arts college in Ohio. This transcription of a conversation with three activists is -- well, you can decide for yourself:

"It was, like, one day I was at college having fun, and the next day someone called me the N-word, and I had no avenue,” she says. She has on a red flannel button-down shirt, open over a tank top. There’s a crisp red kerchief around her head, knotted above a pair of hip blue-and-brown-tortoised glasses. “My parents don’t have the funds to drive to Oberlin when I’m crying and ready to self-harm. The only way that I can facilitate those conversations is to advocate for myself. That in itself makes me a part of a social-justice climate.”

Adams supported the fourteen-page letter of demands that was submitted to Oberlin’s president in the winter. “At that meeting, about the demands, there were a hundred people, literally,” she says.

“Even those who didn’t write it had things to put into it,” Taylor Slay, a fellow Abusua member, says. She is sitting next to Adams, taking notes.

Adams goes on, “Me trying to appeal to people? Ain’t working. Me trying to be the quiet, sit-back-and-be-chill-and-do-my-work black person? Doesn’t work. Me trying to be friends with non-black folks? Doesn’t work.” She draws out her final syllables. “Whatever you do at Oberlin as a person of color or a low-income person, it just doesn’t work! So you’re just, like, I’ve got to stand up for myself.”

“I have to be political,” Slay says.

“I have to be political in whatever form or fashion,” Adams says. “Because I have nothing else to do.

There were negative responses to the fifty demands (which included a request for an $8.20-an-hour activism wage, the firing of nine Oberlin employees deemed insufficiently supportive of black students, and the tenuring of black faculty).

But the alumni reactions were the worst, according to Adams. “They are quick to turn around and call twenty-year-old students the N-word, and monkeys, and illiterate uneducated toddlers, and tell us to go back to Africa where we came from, and that Martin Luther King would be ashamed of us,” she says. “We knew realistically that most of those demands were not going to be met. We understand legality. We understand finances—”

“We see the pattern of nonresponse,” Slay says.

Zakiya Acey furrows his brow. “The argument was ‘Oh, so students ask for this, but it’s not legal,’ ” he says. “But it’s what I need. And it’s what this country needs, and it’s my country. That’s the whole point. We’re asking—”

“We’re asking to be reflected in our education,” Adams cuts in. “I literally am so tired of learning about Marx, when he did not include race in his discussion of the market!” She shrugs incredulously. “As a person who plans on returning to my community, I don’t want to assimilate into middle-class values. I’m goinghome, back to the ’hood of Chicago, to be exactly who I was before I came to Oberlin.”

Like everyone else at the table, Adams believes that the Oberlin board’s denunciation of Joy Karega’s Facebook posts shows hypervigilance toward anti-Semitism and comparative indifference toward racial oppression. “We want you to say, ‘Racism is not accepted!’ ” Adams says.

Acey ... thinks professors often hide their racial biases. “But they’ll vote in a way that does not benefit the students,” he says. “Like, the way the courses are set up. You know, we’re paying for a service. We’re paying for our attendance here. We need to be able to get what we need in a way that we can actually consume it.” He pauses. “Because I’m dealing with having been arrested on campus, or having to deal with the things that my family are going through because of larger systems—having to deal with all of that, I can’t produce the work that they want me to do. But I understand the material, and I can give it to you in different ways. There’s professors who have openly been, like, ‘Yeah, instead of, you know, writing out this midterm, come in to my office hours, and you can just speak it,’ right? But that’s not institutionalized. I have to find that professor.”

Also, things are trickier now than in the past. “In the sixties and seventies, you saw an attack on oppression,” Acey says. “How do we stop this from happening ever again? Then you have the introduction of multiculturalism: Let’s satisfy this. Let’s pretend we’re going to be diverse. Whereas what college does now is—”

“It separates us,” Adams says.

“It separates us, but it makes us busy. 24/7.”

“Also, we’re the generation that has more identities to encompass in our movement,” Adams says. “No shade to civil rights, but it was a little misogynistic. It had women in the back. A lot of other identities—trans folks and all that—were not really included. And we’re the generation that’s trying to incorporate everybody.”

“And we’re tired!” Slay says.

“That takes work,” Adams agrees.

“We do our work in the middle of the night,” Slay says.

“We meet at 11 p.m., and stay up till two o’clock in the morning doing work, and go to nine-o’clock class, and do that over and over and over,” Adams says. “We don’t sleep. We rarely eat the food at—”

“We’re not even compensated financially, so that’s a lot,” Slay says.

“The older generations have been desensitized,” Acey adds.

“Desensitized!” Adams says.

“It’s, like, ‘This is what the world is.’ ”

“ ‘It’s been this way since the fifties.’ ”

Acey says, “We understand this institution to be an arm of—”

“Oppression,” Adams offers.

“The capitalist process,” Acey goes on. “We go through this professionalization through the university. And this professionalization is to work really unnecessary jobs.”

“When I came here, I’m, like, ‘Where are the people who are disabled?’ ” Adams says. “I know so many disabled people at home.”

She shakes her head. “It does not reflect the real world.”

If this is what's headed toward German universities over the next decade, I'm glad I got out when I could.