German Jokes and the Pathology Principle…

The pathology principle, which I think I have just coined, holds that all features of an outgroup are symptoms of an illness. For the Guardian, it often appears, all aspects of the British character are dangerous or depressing. Stuart Jeffries, for example, is extremely bothered by our mockery of Germans. Britain’s “endless obsession” with Germany’s Nazi past is proof that we “hate ourselves”. We are “projecting our own inadequacies on to the symbolic other”. We are a “laughable” nation, with “many, many failings”, who ignore “how utterly disgusting we were (and perhaps still are) as a nation and an empire”.

“When,” Jeffries asks, “Are Britons going to get over these stereotypes and realise that Germany is not a land of risible Weimar temptresses and jackbooted Nazi thugs?” Well, decades ago. German jokes are so passe that Mr Jeffries can find just one example since the millenium. Britons are more likely to think of Germans as hyper-liberal following Angela Merkel’s open invitation to migrants. As for the self-hatred stuff: of course Mainwaring’s jingoism and Basil Fawlty’s hysterics reflected British feelings of self-doubt. That was the joke! Britons laughed at Basil, not the long-suffering Germans. To be sure, the character reflected something in our culture but it was mild insecurity, acknowledged by the audiences, rather than the self-loathing that Jeffries sneers about.

There is a “stop hitting yourself” undertone to this article. It is, to a great extent, the efforts of Guardian liberals to undermine institutions, problematise culture and degrade rituals that inspire our sad self-deprecation. Now we are told to feel shame for even seeing the funny side.

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About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
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