North Sea neuroses

Matthias Matussek, once London correspondent of Der Spiegel and now its culture editor, not to mention brother of top diplomat Thomas Matussek, has a book out. Wir Deutschen: warum die anderen uns gern haben können is meant to be a call for a renewed German patriotism and pride in culture. This would usually suggest a very dull book, but I enjoyed it immensely. Not for the right reasons, though.

Matussek’s approach is idiosyncratic, not that there is anything wrong with that, and the book is really a collection of essays, on topics ranging from Heinrich Heine and Angela Merkel to Britain, Britain, the German economy, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the World Cup, Britain, Danish cartoonists, the East after reunification, and Britain. In fact, an obsession with Britain runs through this book like letters through a stick of rock-hardly a page passes without comparing some German institution, writer, company, statesman or building to one in Britain, and no chapter is complete with a volley of snark directed roughly westward.

Now, it is a truism that Britain and Germany share a mutual obsession. But this would be less interesting if it wasn’t for the sheer wordcount devoted to complaining about the British obsession with Germany. There is a complete chapter on Anglo-German relations, which I looked forward to-the possibilities are immense. Would he dig into the pre-1914 closeness that gave Bradford a Little Germany (and its own Nazi, Ernst-Wilhelm Bohle, born there in 1903 and later Rudolf Hess’s right hand) and Leeds a Dortmund Square, Robert Graves a relative on the Oberste Heeresleitung?

Nah. Instead, most of the chapter is dedicated to the results of a trip to Germany for some schoolteachers his brother’s embassy organised, and a pleasant but uninformative weekend in the country with John Le Carré.
Continue reading

Update IV

Update (16:35 CET):

London’s mobile phone network is overloaded and spotty. The police is asking people not to call unless it’s important.

AP:

Two U.S. law enforcement officials said at least 40 people were killed and London hospitals reported more than 350 wounded. A senior police official confirmed at least 33 deaths killed in the subway blasts.
[…]
“This is clearly an al-Qaida style attack. It was well-coordinated, it was timed for a political event and it was a multiple attack on a transportation system at rush hour,” said Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King’s College in London.

Update: The most current death toll number appears to be 45 (Guardian.) I predict it will steadily rise for some days, and then steadily fall for some weeks. The final number is unknowable, but that very, very many are injured appears fairly certain.

Update: From Wikipedia:

HOTLINE NUMBERS:

* Metropolitan Police: 020 7766 6020 (UK) +44 20 7766 6020 (INT’L)
* British Transport Police: 020 8358 0101 (UK) +44 (0) 20 8358 0101 (INT’L)

Don’t call the emergency services unless in “Life threatening” circumstances.

The Metropolitan Police advises against all unnecessary travel within the Capitol.

Original entry:
Guardian Newsblog:

Suddenly, the terrible scale of today’s attack becomes clear. Ambulance sources, reported on Sky, suggest 23 people have been killed at King’s Cross, nine at Edgware road, seven at Aldgate, two at Russell Square. There are hundreds – possibly more than a thousand – injured. We’re trying to verify the numbers.

The numbers 45 (Guardian) and 44 (Sky) have also been bandied about. No numbers are solid at all.
Daniel Johnson in email to Europhobia ( a while ago):

However there does seem to be a bit of a paradoxical thing happening. The broadcasters are holding back – reluctant to report news and instead focusing on reporting on the good work of the emergency services (from eye witness accounts and personally talking to people on the phone, the services are doing a great job and we should be incredibly proud). So they’re very calm- but the public is spinning the rumour mill.. before long I’m sure we’ll get IRA rumours, G8 rebels, etc- we should take comfort in the fact that the leaders of the free world are all together in a room, our emergency services are doing an amazing job – and the majority of scare-mongering rumours appear to be just that.

Its good to be sceptical of rumors, and not spread hysteria.

Nosemonkey said at 13:01 “God, us Brits are great. Hardly any panic – more just getting pissed off that it’s going to be a bugger getting home. I love this country sometimes.”

What kind of Europe?

The Guardian recently hosted a debate on ‘What kind of Europe do we want?’ between writer (and Guardian columnist) Timothy Garton-Ash and Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore. The full transcript of the debate is available in pdf format, but there’s also a shorter summary that covers most of tha min points the two made. Given that most would label Garton-Ash a ‘europhile’ and Moore a ‘eurosceptic’, it’s interesting to see that there is quite a lot of common ground between their two viewpoints.

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee also makes similar points to Garton-Ash, addressing the problem that many of us who are ‘pro-Europe’ face – that the ‘Europe’ of our ideals is not lived up to by the EU of reality:

The limping Britain in Europe campaign now needs to reform itself into a radical anti-government voice, not the pet of ministerial patronage. Time to lay into both Brown and Blair with full euro knuckledusters. Time to attack Brussels, too, and lead the charge for reform; it will never be credible to defend the inadequate status quo.

The European idea is magnificent, but pretending that current reality matches the rhetoric only heightens scepticism.

The combination of EU expansion, the constitutional proposals and the advent of the Euro have brought us to a ‘where do we go from here?’ moment. 50 years on from Schuman and Monnet, there is now a concept of ‘Europe’ as an entity that there wasn’t back then. However, the question of what that that entity will be in practice has still not been decided (and probably never will entirely be) but the onus is now on all sides of the debate to actually think about where we’re going and how to get there.