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December 2004
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Young, German & In Love with W.

Many of you have probably heard the numbers: 87 percent of Germans reject the foreign policy of the U.S., 53% think the U.S. poses the most pressing danger to world peace of all countries on the globe.  Almost 1/3 of Germans under 30 think the neoconservatives staged the September 11 attacks to give themselves a handy excuse to topple unfriendly regimes and take all the oil.  In the words of the author of Die Zeit - Politik : I love George W., (German) "Anti-Bushism has long since become a substitute religion."

But not every German has such a poor opinion of the Swaggering One.  The Zeit article profiles a gaggle of young Germans who rather like him...

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More movies with talking bears, please

Some benighted few think of the German soul as suited only to the efficient production of exquisite consumer products. What rot!  Case in point: Die Reise ins Glück (The Journey to Happiness), a cavalcade of nonsense I recently saw in my local art-house.

The plot of this self-styled fairy tale is, if you exclude "the grim oracle of the snowman," not terribly complicated.

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The Decline of Germany Part I: The Kids Aren't Alright

Here's a heartwarming piece from Der Spiegel's 2004 year-end Rückblick (look back):

They're drunk for the first time at age 14, and are passionate smokers by 15. 18 percent smoke marijuana regularly. In school they avoid sport and exercise, and almost one in two complain about harassment and beatings, and every year the teens are getting fatter - German youth is in a truly desolate condition. Such were the results of a large study by the World Health Organization in which 160,000 youths in Europe, Canada and the USA, among them 5600 Germans, were surveyed. German youths are, for example, at the top in terms of alcohol and cigarette use.

The original German word I've translated as harassment, by the way, is mobben (verb form; the noun is das Mobbing) This is another example of Germans taking an English word and applying it, oddly out of context, to something German. The most famous example is "Handy," which is the German word for mobile telephone. Germans are often surprised to find out that English-speakers don't call these helpful little things "Handies" too. Mobbing happens when a group of co-workers get together, decided they don't like one of their lot, and proceed to mercilessly harass them. What distinguishes it slightly from what we would call "harassment" is that it's a coordinated social effort directed at once person. Apparently this sort of thing goes on so often Germany that it's earned its own appellation. Why don't we have a word for this in English, I wonder?