Nowadays, the United States exports almost nothing but weapons, noises, images and attitudes, and among the last, the black ghetto, keeping it real, thug, gangsta life is being gobbled up eagerly by millions all over, from Jakarta to Istanbul, to Berlin. White, yellow or brown, many pose enthusiastically as dwellers of the American black ghetto.
Their fantasy makeover is derived entirely from music videos and Hollywood films. In East Germany, the catalyst was Beat Street, one of the first hip hop movies. Released in 1984, it was shown in East Germany merely a year later. Communist censors deemed it an indictment of Capitalism and the United States. To East German youths, however, it provided a mental escape from their Communist confinement. By spraying graffiti and break dancing, they could imagine themselves as living beyond the Iron Curtain.
Germany’s fascination and identification with American minorities started with the American Indian, whom many Germans still admire for his purity, simplicity and toughness. There is a saying, “An Indian feels no pain.” “Ein Indianer kennt keinen Schmerz.”
Just as the Germanic chieftain Arminius resisted Rome, defeated it in 9 AD, the Amerindian is seen as a heroic warrior against much superior force. He’s also the antidote to the white man’s corruptions. Of course, Germany is still very white and, in many ways, the epitome of white civilization. Nevertheless, there is a longing among many Germans, at least occasionally, to strip away the deforming gown of civilization and be savage. Pagan impulses tug at the brand name underpants of each German.
Since the Amerindian is the ideal man, his society must be perfect, or nearly so. A most curious German, Christian Prieber, even had a plan to turn a Cherokee settlement into Utopia. Born in Saxony in 1697, Prieber was chased out for his subversive ideas, so he fled to England, leaving behind his wife and children. In 1735, Prieber arrived in the New World. After brief stops in Savannah and Charleston, Prieber ended up by 1736 in Great Tellico, a Cherokee town in present-day Tennessee. Accepted into their community, he quickly became their counselor. Prieber’s residence with the Cherokees ended after seven years, however, when he was arrested by the British. Accused of being an agent for the French, Prieber died in jail a year later.
Ludovick Grant, an English trader, described the prisoner, “he is a very extraordinary Kind of a Creature; he is a little ugly Man, but speaks almost all Languages fluently, particularly English, Dutch, French, Latin and Indian; he talks very prophanely against all Religions, but chiefly against the Protestant; he was setting up a Town at the Foot of the Mountains among the Cherokees, which was to be a City of Refuge for all Criminals, Debtors, and Slaves who would fly thither from Justice or their Masters [ . . . ] being a great Scholar he soon made himself master of their Tongue, and by his insinuating manner Indeavoured to gain their hearts. He trimm’d his hair in the indian manner & painted as they did going generally almost naked except a shirt & a Flap. He told these people that they had been strangely deluded, that they had been tricked out of a great part of their Land by the English [ . . . ] He proposed to them a new System or plan of Government, that all things should be in common amongst them, that even their Wives should be so and that the Children should be looked upon as the Children of the public and be taken care of as such and not by their natural parents [ . . . ] that they should admit into their Society Creeks & Catawbaws, French & English, all Colours and Complexions, in short all who were of these principles [ . . . ] He enumerates many whimsical Privileges and natural Rights, as he calls them, which his citizens are to be entitled to, particularly dissolving Marriages and allowing Community of Women, and all Kinds of Licenciousness [ . . . ] it is a Pity so much Wit is applied to so bad Purposes.”
There is no evidence the Cherokees went along with Prieber’s social engineering, though they did accept his practical advice on how to deal with the treacherous and exploitative white man. He also taught them English measurements of distance and weight. An enemy of private property, organized religion and the nuclear family, Prieber was a communist before his time. His gravitation towards the Cherokees is further proof of his rejection of Western Civilization. The Indians also provided him with a more malleable clay, he thought, to sculpt his Utopian masterpiece.
The more one identifies with the primitive, the more one rejects the elaboration and refinement of advanced civilization. Germans are among the most civilized, and I don’t measure that by bombastic monuments, but by the subtlest civilized gestures. Outside the entrance of a shopping mall toilet, I noticed management had left bowls of water and dog food, and inside each bathroom stall at my university, there is a toilet bowl scrubber to use if necessary. Germans also rarely jaywalk or litter. Of course, they have also produced guys with names like Bach, Beckmann and Sebald. I work on Beethoven Street. Hey, rambling schmuck, and what about dudes with names like Mengele, Heydrich and, uh, Hitler?! I’m talking about civilization’s forms, not its moral contents. Except when they go berserk, Germans are among the most domesticated. In this, they resemble the Japanese. Both have been superbly toilet trained.
Urbanized and cultured, Germans miss their earthier, more savage selves, and this persistent longing has surfaced in movements such as Wandervogel [Wandering Bird], Völkisch [Folksy] and Blut and Boden [Blood and Soil], the last of which painted the Jew as a degenerate, urban egghead, and the true German as a rigorous, pure and timeless being that’s dirt coated, sun splashed and wind lashed, not unlike an American Indian. In the ‘70s, some German anarchists dubbed themselves Stadtindianer, or Urban Indians. (They were modeled after an Italian group, Indiani Metropolitani. “We have unearthed the battle ax!” went a rallying cry. “Abbiamo dissotterrato l’ascia di guerra!”)
With the advent of hip hop, German malcontents have a contemporary role model. Instead of the mythical American Indian, they can now mimic American ghetto blacks, as purveyed by Hollywood. In Beat Street, there are many panoramas of the South Bronx, with its abandoned homes, garbage and graffiti. With no such slums, Germany didn’t look quite gritty or cool enough, so the ghetto had to be willed into being. So far, German graffiti sprayers, window breakers and litterers are only partially successful, but give them time. They’ll get there.
Leipzig’s most ghetto-like neighborhood is Connewitz, and it’s not because poor people live there, but because it’s a stronghold of communists and anarchists. There’s hardly a building that’s not repeatedly marred by spray paint, and most of the graffiti are free of political contents. It’s just vandalism. Defending it, a young female Leipziger explained to me, “They don’t really care about private property.” All of the mom and pops that make up the majority of Connewitz businesses must be repainted constantly. That this is such a huge waste of manpower and resources doesn’t bother the “green” progressives of Leipzig.
On December 12, 2015, the left went violent when less than a hundred rightists marched through Connewitz. A thousand communists, anarchists and other self-proclaimed militants hurled stones and bottles, set fires, injured 69 cops, damaged 50 police vehicles and broke scores of windows in their own neighborhood. Banks, including local credit unions, were particularly targeted. As an indication of the German police’s restraint, none of the raging leftists were hurt, though 23 were arrested.
I walked through Connewitz the next afternoon. Seeing all the broken windows, I could easily picture a day when all of these businesses would be forced to evacuate, leaving this once lovely section to resemble the menacing and dismal black ghetto of the hip German rebel’s fantasy. You can’t be oppressed if you don’t dwell in the ghetto.
Rap has gone a long way since Beat Street. Though it is a diverse form, its most salient characteristic is aggression. One doesn’t even need to understand the lyrics to grasp this. With its extreme narcissism, glorification of violence and contempt for women, quite a bit of rap is also against any civilization, not just the white man’s. Other musical genres, such as punk and heavy metal, also flaunt anti-social attitudes, but they don’t have the circulation of rap, and some of their worst practitioners aren’t international icons.
Ya, ya, I’m just an old head who don’t know nothing about creativity. I’ve never heard of Blumio, the Japanese-German who fillets and fish wraps the news in rhymes, and I ain’t got no appreciation for the exhilarating, rapid fire flow of Samy Delux when he claims, quite rightly, of course, that he’s Germany’s best poet, “Ich bin so Schiller, so Goethe / So bitter, so böse / Noch immer der größte / Poet der hier lebt.” “I’m so Schiller, so Goethe / So acerbic, so wicked / Still the greatest / Poet who lives here.”
One of the earliest German hip hop albums was called “Krauts with Attitude,” a clear nod to N.W.A., “Niggers with Attitude.” N.W.A. has become very mainstream, of course, as attested by the 2015 release of Straight out of Compton. Around Leipzig, I now see stickers and posters of seven masked German militants, under the heading “STRAIGHT OUT OF CONNEWITZ.”
With their hatred of the state, nation and law and order, German leftist radicals see American ghetto blacks, as portrayed in movies, music videos and newscasts, as kindred spirits. Of course, they have no familiarity with ordinary black folks who go to work and church, and cherish quite traditional values. Seeing blacks rioting in American cities, these Germans cheer and look forward to doing the same. Hating not just the worst aspects of civilization, but nearly all of it, they just want to tear everything down, for Utopia, you see, is just beyond the blood red horizon.
In Berlin, there’s a graffiti of a black man pointing a gun, “HANDS UP.”
In Leipzig, there’s a painted silhouette of a man hovering over an upturned skateboard, with a balloon tied to his wrist, “KILL COPS.”
In Leipzig, one end of a bench has, “NO BRAIN.” The other end, “HATE COPS.”
All of the anti-cop graffiti I’ve seen in Germany are written in English, by the way. This is only appropriate since many of these radicals’ firmest and most up-to-date beliefs have also been imported from the USA. Even the slogans are often the same, i.e., “NO MAN IS ILLEGAL.” Believing themselves so progressive, they’re actually just puppets of the empire. No Arminiuses, they’re bit players in Rome’s master scheme. Media masturbated, they’re preparing their own kind for rape.
Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America.