Prejudice about people of other cultures are the main reason for violence and hate. No doubt, if all nations would consider their neighbours as friendly peoples with only good intention, nobody would have ever started a war. Wars rarely started because of rational plans to conquer, loot, or enjoy the new treasures. These days wars start because we assume that our neighbour is evil-minded, and we should better punish him in advance – for something he has not done yet, and perhaps never intended to do.
Why I write these moral commonplaces here, you might ask. And right so, I would probably never started a single sentence about this, if my very own experiences from the last two weeks would not have made it painfully obvious, that even knowing the ethical correct rule does not make one immune against its violation. But this came in steps, and I myself got more and more involved in it (starting as courios observer, via a side character, to the central figure of it) :
1: A month or so ago I drove with my bike into a group of teenage refugees, who are our new neighbours since a “Welcome Center” was recently opened about 1 mile away. It is to host about 200 of the 1 million asylum seekers who followed the open-boarder call of the German gouvernment a year ago. The teenagers I met were on a relaxing walk, to escape the anonymous and crowded atmosphere in the camp. With some soda cans in their hand they were perfectly equiped to enjoy the hot summer day while taking a rest under a large lime tree. It would not be the first time that teenagers – be it Germans or Foreigners – after emptying a can of soda start to kick it, and after doing some kind of street soccer, leave the worn-out can in the field. But the teenager boys – of some African and Middle Eastern provenence – must have been so impressed by the tidyness of the green and the walkways around and the flowers, that an inborn sense of respect for this beautiful piece of nature stopped their common habbit, and instead they collected all their empty cans in a plastic bag, which they put in the assigned litter bin in their camp. Whow, I thought, this can not be the result of a few lessons of “How to cop as a foreigner with Germanies outspoken scio-cultural rules”, but it must come from inside.
It would have been already nice, if the story would end here, but what I observed next was supposed to even turn all our stereotypes upside down. Because a few hundred meters further on the green were two midlle-class German couples, what you call golden-agers. I think they just came from the cemetery, and it looked as if they also had something to celebrate, maybe the sudden death of a rich aunt who handed down a wealth to them. From the far I could see them drinking champaign from the bottle, must have been the famous “Rotkaeppchen“. But when they had sucked out the last drop of the bubbling one, they trowed away the empty champaign bottles, right over the fences into the horse ranch. I was schocked, and disgusted about the hypocrisis of my fellow Germans. I gave them some hard words, and the best was that I could really humiliate them in front of their wifes.
2: A few days later at night I was upset by some wonna-be formula 1 drivers, who race their cars at night along the narrow streets in our village. Since arguments don’t do much change to their attitude, I guerilla block some parts of a small and curvy street with bricks and large branches of trees, good enough to damage their cars without really harming their life. The next morning I was asked by one of our politically-supercorrect neighbours if I heared about the sabotage that was done at night to our streets. He suspected that this act of vandalism must have been carried out by the refugees (“because, you know, they hate us”). I tried to argue with him that young man in every country could do jokes like this, when they had some beer, and that during our famous Octoberfest the degree of damage is much worse, but always tolerated. Later I regretted for not being brave enough to tell him straight that it was me, who partly blocked the street, to fight back the race-car drivers, and to show him how full he his of racist stereotypes. However, a few days later I put a letter in his post-box, written in excellent, but slightly beaurocratic German to inform him that race-car drivers through our village can expect more speed bumps in the form of bricks and pieces of trees or furniture, which appear unexpectedly at night on the narrow streets.
3: Yesterday our dog disappeared from our garden. It was not clear who left the gate wide open. Could have been one of us, or maybe a child wanted to play with Ivo? Anyway, after searching for her for the rest of the day, calling the police and the animal rescue organisation with no positive result, the whole family started to panic. Was she victim of roadkill ? But then there must have been blood on the street. Did someone simply took her away, because they fell in love for her ? But at least any German who is interested in dogs must know that they all have implanted RFID chips, which makes it virtuall impossible to get along with a stolen dog. And then I had to remember one of the Masterstudents in my lab, Gege from Nigeria, a really brilliant young guy. He once told me hom much they enjoy eating dogs in Lagos. From his words and after exluding all other possibilities it was an almost intuitive step for myself to nominate the poor refugees in their “Welcome Camp” 500 meters down the road as the cruel suspects. I could almost see how they catched our lovely dog, perhaps after observing the local circumstances for some days in advance, and how they grab her and hide her in a big brown bag, how they carry her to the camp like a trophy, to slaughter her and do a Sunday barbecue from her tender loins and delicious legs. Not outspoken, this was the common phantasy we all had: me, my Russian-Jewish wife and Ljowa, our son. Non of us in fact told the other what we all seemed to knew all to well: that the refugees had killed the fourth member of our happy family: Ivo. Each of us was perhaps schocked by his own mediocre conclusions, that the evil is brought to us by strangers.
After a sleepless night with more horrible phantasies of tortured dogs, I received a phone call this morning from the animal rescue center. An anonymous person has found our dog about 5 miles away, waiting at the supermarket entrance where I usually lock her while doing our weekly food replenishment. The supermarket is closed on Sunday, and I have no clue why our otherwise intelligent dog went there. The animal shelter refused to tell me the name of the blessed finder, who rescued her and brought back sunshine to our families life.
But in recognition of all the wrong and bad stereotypes around, and for chasing away own dark phantasies about “dog slaughtering refugees” I decided to tell everybody in the neighborhood that one of the refugees from the “Welcome Camp” found our dog alone at the closed supermarket and brought her to the dogs-shelter.
T H E E N D
PS: If somebody knows a better name for the story, please let me know.