Power column: that’s what princesses are for

Merkel’s tatting affair points above all to the dubiousness of political stagings. "Citizens’ dialogues" are superfluous.

Angela Merkel, self-stroking. Photo: dpa

This is the stuff of fairy tales: A desperate child meets a benevolent ruler. She mercifully takes care of the little one, helps her out of her misery, and if they haven’t died, they’re still alive today. In reality, such a scene is somewhat different, and that’s why Angela Merkel now has a problem.

A video of the German chancellor’s meeting with the Palestinian refugee girl Reem, who told of her fear of being deported, went viral on the web.

Angela Merkel uttered phrases and platitudes that did not do justice to the situation – the girl was really very likeable, but not everyone from Africa could come here – and was then visibly startled when the child began to cry. She approached the girl, put her hand on her shoulder: "Oh, come on. You did great, didn’t you?"

A sentence as silly as it was revealing. The spontaneous reaction reveals that the chancellor was thinking only and exclusively about presenting herself as well as possible at the event – and was apparently convinced that everyone else must feel the same way. But Reem was not at all concerned with the performance. It was about her future life.


The predictable reaction on the web: a shitstorm that was so powerful that it made it into almost all the media. "Helpless, heartless, speechless" was how the Bild newspaper summed up the comments that were on Twitter. How nice that even this newspaper is now showing honest compassion for the situation of refugees in Germany. Why can’t I get rid of the thought that the tearful outburst of a 50-year-old Syrian would not have had the same effect?

Seventy years ago, at the Potsdam Conference, Soviets, Americans and British consulted about the future of Germany. Today, many of their grandchildren live in Berlin. We met three of them. You can read the conversation in the taz.am wochenende of July 17/18, 2015. Also: Long legs, plump cleavage? All of yesterday. The new female beauty ideals are the thigh gap and the bikini bridge. About the craze for selfie contests on the Internet. And: In Kabul, widows have built their own district. In the community, they are regaining respect. At the kiosk, eKiosk or right away in a convenient weekend subscription.

Heartless are laws that force refugees to live for years in a situation of fear and uncertainty. Heartless in this situation was not Mrs. Merkel. The classic offer that the girl should write a letter and she would "take care" probably wouldn’t have helped the child either. But it would have gone down better with the audience.

The problem in this case is not the reaction of the chancellor, but the mendacity of such events. Anyone who watches the video sees an exhausted and overworked woman who probably asked herself the whole way to this appointment why she had to do this to herself. This question would be justified.

It has nothing to do with democracy or even "citizen dialog" – as the full-bodied title suggests – when a female head of government travels to Rostock in the middle of a truly exhausting week to talk to some young people in the gymnasium of her school. This kind of thing is pure showmanship; in other countries, princesses are kept for this kind of thing.

That’s why it upsets the whole script when suddenly a real person with real feelings sits there. Staging is also part of politics, that’s inevitable. But such theater as the supposed "Citizens’ Dialogue" is not only superfluous, it’s an insult. For everyone involved.

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