Rethinking Europe

Ai Weiwei Cries Wolf About Germany

Ai Weiwei engages in the very same racial stereotyping about Germany that he complains, with very thin, if not contrived proof the Germans exhibited toward him.

Takeaways


  • By Ai Weiwei’s definition, the term “Nazi” is a general analytic term for “a culture that asserts its superiority.” Hence, China would have been a “Nazi” culture for most of its history.
  • Ai Weiwei is drifting aimlessly in the global sea, badly in need of a “monster to fight.” Germany always makes for a good monster.
  • Why isn’t Ai Weiwei in Hong Kong right now, to fight real monsters?
  • The indictment of Germany that Ai Weiwei provides tells us mostly about himself and his demons.
  • Unlike Ai Weiwei, I have blond hair, blue eyes and a German passport and I have received the same off-putting “Berlin treatment” as he has. It’s therefore not racist.
  • Ai Weiwei complains about racism toward him by Berlin cabbies. But that doesn’t represent “German” racism, since very few Berlin cab drivers are German by ethnicity.

Unlike Ai Weiwei, I am not an artist and I am not Chinese. However, just as he used to, I live in Berlin. I moved there in mid-2016, after many years spent in the United States, and a year after Mr. Ai. He had arrived in Berlin in June 2015 and left in the summer of 2019.

Like Ai Weiwei, I too have been struck by people occasionally telling me “you should say please” in an off-putting, “don’t disturb me” kind of way. That is the statement Ai Weiwei encountered from a casino clerk which he now bitterly complains about in a recent oped written for the New York Times.

Looking for racism in every (im)possible corner

But contrary to what Ai Weiwei states, that refrain is no indicator of a racist attitude. I have blond hair, blue eyes and a German passport. If anything, it’s a matter of equal opportunity discrimination. In fact, Germans are “discriminated” against in just the same way.

As to the rude cab drivers in Berlin, about whose racist attitudes Ai Weiwei also bitterly complains in a Guardian interview, I’ll let you in on a secret: In the 3.5 years of living in Berlin, the percentage of cab drivers I rode with who are German by ethnicity surely was below 5%.

What Ai Weiwei portrays as “German” racism, if taken at face value, is thus most likely foreigner-on-foreigner racism, not Germans-on foreigner racism.

Not that I would want to make light of racism in Germany. It does exist here, as it does in many other societies. The United States and the UK certainly aren’t free from it.

The UK’s “polite” racism?

While Ai Weiwei says nothing in this regard about the United States, he believes that the UK is dealing better with foreigners in their midst because of the UK’s “colonial” past. That makes Britons “polite at least,” he says.

Perhaps he should leave his rarefied perch in the delectably left-of-center university town of Cambridge and ask many “Pakis” how politely treated they feel in many English cities beyond London and the academic orbit.

“In Germany you have to speak German,” Ai Weiwei complains (which is not true). But he is really comparing apples and oranges here. After all, he speaks English, the language of the land. I’m not sure how delighted or friendly people would be toward him if he could only address them in Chinese.

Ai Weiwei is obviously a titan who is drifting aimlessly in the global sea. He is badly in need of a “monster to fight,” as the Guardian article puts it. Of course, Germany always makes for a good monster.

Why isn’t Ai Weiwei in Hong Kong right now, to fight real monsters?

But the indictment of Germany that Ai Weiwei provides tells us mostly about himself and his demons. At a minimum, rather than luxuriating in the beatific countryside paradise of Cambridge, England, away from any real action, he should lead by example.

Mr. Ai would probably be a happier man if he deployed himself to Hong Kong, to fight the good and important fight along with the students against the Chinese communists. Trying to indict the Germans in the media is a very weak and, in his case, highly transparent substitute for that.

As to Germany, he has obviously learned little while here for several years. “Germany is a very precise society,” he says.

Really? Unlike at any time in the past, today’s Germans can’t even manage to have the trains run on time. And the restaurant cars on long-distance trains often have either no staff, no hot food (electricity is down in the kitchen) or no food at all.

Who loves oppression?

Drawing a grand parallel to the Chinese, Mr. Ai opines that the German “people love the comfort of being oppressed.”

I would submit that, outside far-left academic circles, few people will second that, never mind having any real (other than perhaps anecdotal) statistical evidence to offer to support the argument.

Indifferent to the suffering of others?

Ai Weiwei also knows that Germany “has become indifferent to the suffering of others.” Considering that the country has taken in close to two million refugees in recent years, that is quite an assertion.

Never mind that, beyond the sheer human effort of seeking to integrate these folks, the cost to the taxpayer for hosting them runs between 25 and 40 billion euros each year. That’s quite an indifference!

“Nazism perfectly exists in German life today”

When Ai Weiwei further opines that “Nazism perfectly exists in German life today,” he isn’t referring to the AfD, the extreme right-wing party. He means all of Germany, in fact mainly the other 85%.

Fascism, according to Mr. Ai, is defined as “to think one ideology is higher than others.” That’s quite a remarkable definition. It would make many of today’s nations fascist in character.

And China would have been fascist for its entire history, wholly independent of Communist rule. Indeed, by Mr. Ai’s definition, China would have been a “Nazi” culture all along. The term “Nazi”, to him, is a “general analytic term: A culture that asserts its superiority.”

In Germany itself, outside the lunatic right-wing fringe, few people believe in German superiority today. But Mr. Ai knows that today’s Germans “identify with the cult of that authoritarian mindset.”

A rich man goes off to the UK

Ultimately, the rich Ai Weiwei has one key desire in common with Germany’s rich. They, like him, prefer to have their offspring in England to get good schooling.

At long last, there is one point on which one can agree whole-heartedly with Ai Weiwei. His charges about some very large German corporations shamefully investing in plants in Xinjiang is right on target. Those investments are not only unpardonable, they are downright stupid.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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