Friday, September 16, 2011


 On 18. September there are elections in Berlin, so the streets are full of these political posters. It's interesting to see how the various parties market themselves and what issues are important for them, and for this neighborhood. In Germany if a party gets 5% of the vote they get representation in parliament, so there are more third parties that we would never see in the US. Most of the posters are just the candidate's photo with the party name, but some are more interesting. Above, the "Pirate Party" tries to attract young voters, using facebook slogans: "847,870 voters 'like' this"; and the second poster says "Not sure why I'm hanging here, you don't vote anyways". The other two blue posters are for the PSG: Party for Social Equality, and they are advertising their international solidarity for  workers: against the "bank dictatorship", and "Gegen [against] Rassismus und Nationalismus". Die Linke (far-left party) has this very colorful, multilingual poster, and the Green Party has this alternative artsy poster with the woman with the trident. 
Klaus Wowereit (SPD) has been mayor of Berlin since 2001, so there are a few parties trying to oust him. The Green party has been doing really well in Germany (especially since the Japan nuclear catastrophe...) and the CDU is advertising their candidate with the slogan "Damit sich was ändert" (so that things change). Wowereit coined the slogan "arm aber sexy" for Berlin (poor but sexy), and is openly gay, which I think also says something about German politics/culture (compared to American politics) I just did some google-research to make sure I'm not wrong about this, and Houston is the largest city to elect an openly gay mayor, also Portland and Providence. Anyways, interesting.

Because so many of the posters in Kreuzberg have to do with multi-culturalism, I found this poster really interesting (left). It's from the FDP (center-right party, similar to libertarian in the US). It says: "What is the FDP's stance in regards to integration? We think it would be a nice gesture to ask for "Croissants" instead of "Schrippen" [a German roll] in Paris."  I find this argument (or the implied argument) a bit flawed...first of all everyone in Germany (like in the US) knows what a "Croissant" is, and French culture is (like for us) considered "high culture". The poster kinda makes you smile, because no one would go to Paris and order "Schrippen" or, in English, a "dinner roll," when they want a croissant. What is implied, of course, is that people living in Germany should speak German and "integrate" themselves. "Integration" is a big keyword (compared to "Assimilation") because it implies that you don't have to give up your own culture, but you just "integrate" into your new culture.
Below/right is another political poster for the FDP about schools: "Will the the FDP support Gymnasien or the Einheitsschule? [Answer:] We would also find the idea of one uniform/comprehensive soccer league silly." In Germany the secondary school system has tiers--so the students who want to go on to college usually all go to the Gymnasium, and students who want to go into a certain trade go to a Realschule or Hauptschule. After the 4th grade teachers decide which school students go to, and this often ends up being a question of who your parents are. Additionally, handicapped students do not go to the same school as their peers but a Sonderschule. The Einheitsschule is a proposed secondary school model that is more like the US high school, where children stay together from Kindergarten through the end of schooling. So the comparison to soccer suggests that it would be silly (doof) to throw all the kids--smart and not-so-smart--together in one school. I have strong feelings about this...the Gymnasium system is basically a class and prestige question,and it really disadvantages kids from lower-class or immigrant backgrounds. Parents want to be able to say their child goes to a Gymnasium.  And the SPD and the Green Party support the idea of an Einheitsschule, but, like I said, lots of voters are not so sure.

Below are the results from the last congressional election (Chancellor Angela Merkel is CDU, the blue bar below):

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