Goettingen

As a rule, the Beeb, El Reg and one or two others are avoided as sources on blogs because most people have already seen the stories and in the case of the Beeb, through multiple media.  So you’ve probably already seen this and heard the song.

It’s by a singer called Barbara:

Barbara was her stage name – she had been born Monique Serf in Paris in 1930. She was Jewish and so a target for the Nazis. But, two decades after the end of the war, she travelled to the German city Goettingen, as near to the heart of Germany as you can get.

She fell in love with the city and its people and recorded a paean of praise, first in French and then in German, the language of the former oppressor. It captured the hearts of her German audience at the Goettingen theatre. It became a hit.

A street was named after her. The city bestowed its Medal of Honour on her. The citation talks of the song and its “quiet, emphatic plea for understanding”. The song’s popularity, the citation says, “made an important contribution to Franco-German reconciliation”.

In France, she was a star. Streets were named after her there too. A stamp had her face on it. When she died in 1997, a quarter of a million mourners went to the funeral.

Some people make a difference.

“But children are the same,
In Paris or in Goettingen.
May the time of blood and hatred
Never come back

As one who has travelled a fair bit of the world, living in other countries for a fair while and getting into the communities, so to speak, there are no communities in a way – there are families and individuals who live their own lives and share certain characteristics.

A harmonious community is one which retains its traditions and history ,especially through its language and yet manages to stay peaceful, mainly because people go about their business and no one has time to oppress anyone else. Local issues are disputed, that’s about it, People there dream of travelling the world, as they do anywhere else. They all have breakfast and go to the loo in the morning, they all check the news.

There’s a deeply embedded, false idea that to have peace and understanding, people must be clones in some great supranational community ruled by an oligarchy, where the things which do define communities are suppressed and replaced by artifical constructs, imposed from afar. Certain minds simply have to enforce some sort of grotesque “Europeanness”, for example, which never existed.

When I lived in Germany, my friends would go down to Italy for a weekend and there was no rancour, no national dispute, just other people with their own defining characteristics which were respected. When in Russia, I dressed, ate and thought half as a Russian. In France, I embraced the things which concerned the French at the time. I didn’t want to change them into embracing my culture but if they were interested, I’d certainly share it. The authorities really hated that.

In my experience, people are better with a cultural and even spiritual sense about them, with a pride in a community which is theirs and a delight in visiting other communities and seeing how they do it slightly differently. Comparisons of the “we’re superior to you” type are silly.

A certain number stay on and make their homes there but only a certain number, not great hordes on the move across Europe because of some political decision by the evil and vacuous ones above who imagine themselves our rulers.

As the song says, children are the same but all the same, they do have cultural differences to be celebrated, not suppressed. And when they are guests in another country, they conform to that culture and mores to a great extent.

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