ANGST–Fear. To become frightened. To be afraid of. To be worried about.
In this entry I will explore the concept of Angst in Germany. Does it actually exist or is it simply another German stereotype(e.g. “Wo ist mein Bier, und voud you please turn up zat marching music?”)? If in fact it is real, to what extent does it impact public opinion, political policy decisions, and reactions to disasters abroad? I will then compare Germany’s reaction to that of other western European countries.
Germany Cripples Itself with Nuclear Angst
“Germans are buying Geiger counters and the government has shut almost half the nuclear plants as a wave of angst has gripped this risk-averse nation in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. The fear is unwarranted and damaging, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is pandering to it to secure her political future”.
Is this a prudent and proactive response to a natural disaster, or a predictable angst-ridden over- reaction?! “Das ist immer die Frage, nicht wahr?”(“That’s always the question, isn’t it?!”), a question that has sparked heated debates from beer gardens in Munich to Currywurst festivals in Berlin(“Das ist mir wurst!”). The fear that gripped Germany is to some extent driven by the obvious similarities between the two highly developed, industrialized nations, both of whom are known for their technological prowess and rigorous safety standards. Many Völker think that if it can happen in Japan, then it could certainly happen here. While broadcasters from other countries ‘dug in’ after the disaster and provided comprehensive first-hand coverage of the tragedy, German broadcasters and media organizations pulled their staffs out of Tokyo for fear of nuclear radiation. A children’s book by author Gudrun Pausewang, titled “The Cloud”, a story about a girl who survived a massive nuclear accident in Germany, and originally published in 1987(the year after Chernobyl) was back on best-seller lists. Conservative newspaper Die Welt declared that the Fukushima disaster would have a political and psychological impact equivalent to that of 9/11.
Chancellor Merkel’s ambitious plan of making Germany 80% dependent on wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power by 2050 has been cast into the shadows of doubt by angst. Germany is not in a seismic danger zone and its earthquakes are either too small to be registered by anyone but bored geologists, or just big enough to knock over a precariously placed garden gnome. A tsunami has to yet happen.
So where does this angst come from? Is this perhaps a psychological reaction to the upheaval of the 20th century, fueled by two world wars, post-WW I hyperinflation, or Germany’s position as a front line state during the four decades of the cold war? The constant threat of annihilation fueled powerful pacifist and anti-nuclear movement that led to the establishment of the Greens, which has become one of the world’s most successful and powerful environmental parties. Clearly Germany has become a nation that is both risk-averse and security-conscious for these reasons, but is there a deeper underlying psychological undercurrent here? One can readily speculate that Germany’s ‘Teutonic soul’ comes into play. Historically, Germans are a forest nation, that is to say, inward-looking, shelter-seeking, with a tendency toward the parochial. The German Völker have always had a strong bond with their homes and their environment. They have aspired to the “Heile Welt”(the perfect world), where the risk of nuclear meltdown has no place.
European Reaction to Fukushima
Of the European countrie’s currently using nuclear power, only Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out nuclear power, with Germany completing phase-out by 2022 and Switzerland by 2034. Italy, the only non-nuclear G-9 industrialized nation, rejected a referendum to resume nuclear power generation. England has since rigorously defended its nuclear program and is continuing its plans to build eight additional reactors in England and Wales. France, Europe’s largest producer of nuclear energy and second globally to the U.S., has increased funding for nuclear programs by 1 Billion Euro’s. Poland and the Czech Republic have also expressed interest in expanding their nuclear power capacities.
In my third and final blog, I will explore in detail the differences in nuclear policy between Germany and France as well as Germany’s plans to replace its nuclear energy production.
Crossland, David. “Germany Cripples Itself with Nuclear Angst”. Spiegel Online International.March 15, 2011. <www.spiegel.de/international/germany/opinion-germany-Cripples-itself-with-nuclear-angst-a-751135.html>.
“The European Reaction to Fukushima”. The Star Online. Novemeber 10, 2012.<http://www.grandcoulee.com/story/2012/02/15/opinion/the-european-reaction-to-fukushima/021620121656982111459.htm>