work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

The Cardinal, the Runway and Multicultural Society

09.16.2010 · Posted in Uncategorized

Cardinal Walter Kasper is not accompanying the Pope on his UK visit. Officially because he’s ill. But rumour has it he doesn’t really want to.

The German-born cardinal was quoted as saying to the country’s Focus magazine that “when you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country”

Although that’s not the reason for not coming anyway, the insult to our main national airport called for an apology. So the “Vatican sources” that confirmed his illness as reason for staying in Rome…

… also said his “Third World” comment referred to the UK’s multicultural society.

ach so!

update 17th september 2010

You will have heard about the Pope’s remark

In his address, the Pope spoke of “a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society”. He went on to urge the UK to guard against “aggressive forms of secularism”.

Apart from the terrible insult to British atheists (and particularly to those British atheists among the fallen of World War II) implied by the rhetorical link between Nazi anti-clericalism and British secularists and humanists – the statement is plain wrong. God was not eradicated from society in Nazi Germany, even if the churches lost some of their powers. God had his name written on every single Wehrmacht soldier’s belt (“Gott mit uns!” -“God with us”). Nazis in leading position apparently had no qualms invoking his name and acknowledging him as an agentive power in this world – this is from Time Magazine, 18th September 1944:

Gauleiter Otto Hellmuth sounded a practical note. “We all know that God is with us,” he told the people of Würzburg, “but let’s not rely on God alone. Let’s work so hard and fight so fiercely that God cannot refuse to hand the victory palm to Germany.”

Nazism is not a question of religion vs secularism. Christians sided with them, Christians opposed them. Atheists joined them, atheists fought them. While the use and abuse made by the Nazis of religion, their attempts at building their own religious (neo-pagan) cults, the religious roots of their antisemitism as well as its Enlightenment roots are all very interesting subjects for research – but there is no gain to be had for contemporary debates about secularity, secularism, post-secularism, and religion.

6 Responses to “The Cardinal, the Runway and Multicultural Society”

  1. When I first read this, I wondered how the cardinal felt when he landed in Tegel then. Not very happy, I suppose. And how he has Merkel on his side too:

  2. ah – don’t get me started on that piece of news…:

    ” the country’s attempts to create a multicultural society have “utterly failed”.”

    i immediately ask myself: what “attempt” is she talking about? i don’t recall any great project to achieve anything like a multicultural society – to the contrary: what i remember are assurances that germany isn’t a country of immigration, that other than danes and sorbic slavs there are no recognised ethnic minorities in germany, that we need a deutsche leitkultur (german guiding culture – noone really knows what’s meant by that, but most people get the drift) etc etc.

    according to the beebs she specified
    “And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other… has failed, utterly failed.”

    … so that’s what she’s refering to: the fact that you got the obligatory greek, spanish or turkish folklore dance group at the town fete “to enjoy” and otherwise people live “side by side” (not exactly a definition of multiculturalism – but also not something that “failed”)

    merkel tries a balancing act between the liberal and the conservative wings of her government (reassurances that immigrants are welcome, islam is a part of german society etc. while also playing to some of the right wing rhetoric some in the cdu employ to tap into the anti-immigrant vote… polls don’t look too good for them at the moment and they need a topic)

    a very crude theory why this is happening now could go: the problem for the current government are not the social democrats – they’re stable in the polls – but the greens who are currently above 20 per cent… thus raising the prospect of a red-green coalition without the support of the ex-communists of the linkspartei. their support is soaring (strangely!:) because they lead the opposition to a new railway station in stuttgart, so anything that distracts attention from there is welcome – so with resentment agains turks on the up, here’s an obvious choice

    if you want to get to an even cruder theory: check out the background of the greens’ current leader (and i repeat: that would be a very very crude theory indeed…)

    more here:

  3. Oh yes, it is very apparent that Merkel is saying these to please certain circles, or to balance dynamics. Only a few days ago she was defending German integration strategies as Erdoğan lectured her on how assimilation was “a crime against humanity” (Yes, Erdoğan, whose party’s slogan is “one nation, one flag, one state”)

    And as far as I know, there have been some attempts, but they came a bit too late. And I guess we should look at this development in the context of the general anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe.

  4. that’s interesting as the go against assimilation can indeed be read in two national contexts – do you think there is an anti-kemalist jibe here as well – i.e. was he just being hypocritical or was he having a go at the nationalist motto of his own party?

    (in a german context he’s got a point as, of course, the notion of “assimilation” there has a bitter taste against the backcloth of the history of antisemitism in germany – i don’t know whether he actually would be aware of the national-liberal assimilation trap put up around 1848)

    in the meantime there are mixed messages from ankara (yesterday’s evening news
    where the president of state asks german turks to learn german “fluently and without accent” (though i am yet to be presented with any proof that for the majority of second- and third-generation german turks this is a problem… i think it’s a myth)

  5. I don’t know how Erdogan puts this multicultural moral together with his own nationalism… I saw the motto first on billboards before the 2007 election, and he was still using it in this year’s referendum. Anti-kemalist? AKP doesn’t seem to mind different ethnicities so long as everyone’s Muslim, (and so long as the non-Muslim communities know their place). But still, we have big issues to solve before we can lecture anyone on assimilation.

    “Antisemitismus, Islamophobie oder Rassismus seien wie eine Krankheit, die von Zeit zu Zeit ausbreche, sagte er”

    Too bad it comes our way every now and then. When you’re talking about a country who lost the war they were fighting during and after their ethnic cleansing project, you don’t mention your ethnic cleansing if you’ve been lucky enough to fight the occupiers back at the time even if you technically lost the war – on their side.

    And very amusing developments: there’s now a theory that could help you argue it was “all their fault” anyway:

  6. wow – some story
    and interesting style of making a point:

    “Çünkü Almanlar Osmanlı ordusunu kontrol ediyordu. Donanmayı kontrol ediyordu. Her Osmanlı ordusunun bir Alman kurmay başkanı vardı. Enver Paşa’nın altında da bir Alman Genelkurmay Başkanı vardı, Bronsart von Schellendorf.”

    one wonders what kind of power/control that might be (normally mere presence doesn’t mean power… the devil seems to be in the detail – or the prepositions: “altında” – not “üstünde”)

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