The German newspaper whose website is now a little better organized (but no so well organized, you understand, that I can actually provide a link to the story in question) published what ought to be an interesting tale of changing tastes in toys, “Per Modellbahn aufs Abstellgleis” or, roughly, “By Model Train onto the Siding.” There would even seem to be comparative advantage in such a story, as toy-making is one of Germany’s traditional industries. Or as defenders of the romantic image would have it, handicrafts.
Unfortunately, the author, one Robert Luecke, seizes the opportunity to deliver an implied sermon on how far German society has fallen from the days when, supposedly, kids were real kids, men were real men and so on and annoyingly so forth.
“One-fourth of all toys, estimates Volker Schmid of the Association of Toy Manufacturers, are purchased by [though presumably the author means for] grown-ups. The reason, he says, is a growing unseriousness that is the result of rising prosperity: ‘Our society is increasingly play-oriented.’ Today, he says, no sixty-year-old is laughed at for going around on rollerblades. The infantilization of society is thus helpful for the toy sector.”
Let’s just stop right there. Notice how a rollerblading older adult is immediately equated with infantilization? Nothing about fitness, nothing about better health, nothing about people actually living longer. They’re all a bunch of babies, buying toys.
It’s not completely clear from the grammar whether or not Luecke agrees with the equation of rising prosperity and growing unseriousness. It’s fair to say that it’s not quoted in a disapproving context. So I’m left wondering, would he prefer falling prosperity? With something near 5M unemployed, that’s no idle speculation in Germany. Does the author seriously (you’ll pardon the word) think that serious poverty is a preferable state?
“…just count how many men about age 35 are buying videogames. The women of the same age are falling into a post-girlie behavioral pattern [no kidding, right there in the original German: Post-Girlie-Verhaltensmuster], dressing like teenagers, filling out their lips with silicon to make pouty mouths and talking in the shrill little voices of sixteen-year-olds.”
Hr Luecke, please call Dr Freud. This paragraph reveals entirely too much. I will just make the brief observation that Nick Hornby has made a good literary career on writing about buying records well past the teen years; yet when a later generation keeps buying the products they grew up with, it’s somehow the end of adulthood.
It goes on, on page 9 of today’s dead-tree edition, but it doesn’t actually get any better. Surely, one of Germany’s top two daily newspapers can do better?