Kool Savas, Xavier Naidoo under attack: Hidden track leads to outrage in Germany

It’s not only beer brewing in Germany these days. No, sir. Something far more controversial has been fermenting over the past days. Two of Germany’s most popular singer/musicians – rapper Kool Savas and soul singer Xavier Naidoo – have been making headlines for their collaborative CD creatively titled Xavas. It isn’t the tracks listed on the CD that are causing a stir, but rather a hidden track titled ‘wo sind’ – not listed on the CD – that has led the men in being accused of inhumanity, race-baiting, glorifying violence, as well as relating homosexuality to pedophilia. It seems these boys like a good ole’ foamy controversy-ladened concoction…or do they?

Upon the highly publicized release of their CD, the youth organization of the left party (die Jugendorganisation der Linkspartei) – die Linksjugend Solid – complained to the police about the song and its seemingly disturbing and offensive content.

So what is it about the song that is offensive? Here’s a graphic, yet examplatory sample from the song’s text:
“I’ll cut you all in the arms and legs and [explitive] in the ass just like you do to the little ones. I am only sorry, not mad. Nonetheless I would kill you all. You all kill kids and fetuses and I will squash your balls. You all simply have no length and your small dicks aren’t in hand. Why do you not like pussy? Because everyone comes out of one.”

The song goes on to ask questions such as “where are our helpers? Our strong men? Where are our leaders (using the controversial, Adolf Hitler provoking word ‘Führer’)? Where are they now?” This, of course, in the utilization of the word ‘Führer’ is a controversy all on its own..

There is no denying these lyrics are over-the-top and vulgar. Here are some Tweets:

Dieser Hidden-Track “Wo sind” von XAVAS ist echt Heavy von den Lyrics her O.o


Wieso zur Hölle lädt man Kool Savas auf ein Benefizkonzert zugunsten von Kindern ein? #battlerap http://tinyurl.com/awat2fb


.@Kraftklub voten wohl nicht für Xavashttp://ow.ly/floYx  #krone12 Voting:http://ow.ly/flp9R 


Just to be fair, here are some more positive tweets:

It’s a Xavier Naidoo kind of day… http://ow.ly/ff5sI 

I don’t listen to Xavas but thankful for their facebook post supporting the LGBT community. Glad Xavier shows that side of Christianity.

Despite this heaviness and vulgarity, and quite frankly the unnecessary images their text provokes, I do stand on the side of Xavier Naidoo and Kool Savas and believe what they have to say about their song.

According to Xavier Naidoo and Kool Savas, their intentions were meant to be informative and thought provoking instead of being hateful, homophobic, and threatening. On the homepage of their joint-project, Kool Savas explains “Ich would like to make clear that it wasn’t the intention of the song to position homosexuality and pedophilia on the same lines, or to provoke violence against [other] people.” Naidoo, who was propelled to popularity with hits such as ‘dieser Weg’ and ‘Ich kenne nichts’, indicated that as an 8 year old kid he, too, had to suffer through pedophilic abuse. They take the position that pedophilia in Europe is a much bigger issue than most are aware of.

I can somewhat understand the hostility against the artists for the song and its content; however, one only needs to listen to a song by almost any American rapper (I recommend Lil’ Wayne or old-school Eminem for violence against women), or Skipknot for the non-rap fans, if they want vulgarity, violence, and racism. If one would only look into Xavier Naidoo’s and Kool Savas’ past, you’ll find a much different character – and content – being portrayed by each individual.

Luckily for them, the police have decided not do anything legal against the singers. Good for them. And good for Xavier Naidoo and Kool Savas. For those with sensitive ears, this song may not be for you. I recommend a cold brew with a chill out session and, of course, some time to think how silly (and way to serious) you’re being. For German seriousness, please see my last blog post.

Of course, hot topics lead to a difference in opinion and not all may feel the way I do. Opinions are a lot like humor – not everyone sees it the same. So don’t take my word for it – formulate your own and if you get the urge to respond to this post, I’d like to hear from you!

(Translations done by me).

In all seriousness: German humor…or the lack thereof

In researching political cartoons, Germany, and the Eurocrisis over the past couple of months, there has been no shortage in finding humor. Many of the cartoons I have come across have provided a chuckle or two. Of course – as my last blog post suggests – humor is relative: what is funny to me doesn’t necessarily make it funny for you. When it comes to Germany and the Germans in general, it seems the rest of the world has the notion of the Germans being very serious, humorless people. Expressionless faces, neither emotions, nor smiles, and a rigid, hard-sounding language that sounds more like a constant threat than a peaceful sound wave.

Global Cowboy ‏@weirdomobile
I end up mixing German into English whenever a situation beckons seriousness. What type of weird subliminal slip is that? #multilingual

I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if the Germans would be laughing at the cartoons I’ve found over the past couple of months?” There is no straightforward answer to this thought; so I’ve decided to take a look at the Germans and their ‘humorless’ stereotype and ask myself whether the Germans are indeed the world’s least funny people as South Park suggests.

South Park Germans least funny people in the world

It is quite possible that you have already seen the popular youtube video of the German kid screaming and pounding his fists against his father’s keyboard in anger because Unreal Tournament isn’t loading fast enough. Despite its disturbing qualities, what makes the video funny for most of us is its absurd and over-the-top behavior – how could someone act like that? As unfair as it may be, the most common answer I tend to gravitate toward is ‘typisch Deutsch.’

The kid’s behavior and South Park’s assertion of Germany being too serious and the least funny may not be too far off. According to a Telegraph article from 07 June 2011, an international poll found that “Germany [is] officially the world’s least funny country.” Many of the pollsters saw the Germans “as being more focused on rationality and efficiency rather than humour.”

To me, the previous statement makes a lot of sense. The Germans are very punctual people, don’t complain, exhibit a good work ethic, and are – for the most part – rational thinkers. Could herein lie the reasons for the stereotype?

When I was living in Magdeburg, Germany, a good friend and I used to play a little game and it went something like this: walk around and say ‘guten Tag!’, ‘einen schönen Tag, oder?’, or simply ‘wie geht’s Ihnen?’ I always thought such expressions were harmless and rather friendly gestures – in America, and other countries of course, this is generally the case. To many Magdeburgers, I guess not. We would receive a variety of responses: cold shoulders, looks of confusion, or, the best yet, ‘Was willst du von mir?’, ‘Was?!’, or something like ‘Ich kenne Sie nicht! Warum reden Sie mir an?!’ Of course these responses were mixed in with more positive ones; nonetheless, I don’t believe I have ever experienced a ‘What do you want from me?’ after saying ‘Hello!’ to someone on the street in Columbia. Despite this personal experience coupled with the awareness of your typical, serious-face German stereotype, is it still fair for me to call the Germans a ‘humorless nation?’

I’m going to postulate that Germans do indeed have a sense of humor; it is just different. Many suggest it is a language issue – translating a German joke into English just doesn’t cut it as part of the understanding of the joke gets lost in translation. Let’s look at an example printed in The Bild in March 2011: two mates are sitting at a table in the pub. One says to the other: “Tell me, do you sometimes get smog in your bedroom?”

“How come?”

“A bad atmosphere and no traffic…”

Good joke, huh! Wait…what? If you didn’t understand the joke, you’re not alone. To understand it, one would have to know that the German word for traffic (verkehr) also means sexual intercourse. Haha, right? (I thought the joke was funnier before I knew the meaning of the word – the humor rested in its almost nonsensical stupidity!)

Germans have a sense of humor South Park

As the Guardian explains to us, “Some people have suggested that the rigid structure of the German language makes joke-telling difficult. For example, important verbs are withheld until the very end of a long sentence as soon as you insert a conjunction such as “because” or “if”. Actually, though, this can help a comedian because it builds suspense. A good comic can lead an audience down one track, only to surprise them with an unexpected verb as the punchline. “
As this explanation seems fairly logical and quite possibly true, one would have to admit that the Germans would probably rather drink some beer or schnapps than tickle each other’s fancies with jokes. Germans do, however, laugh (which is another stereotype all on its own) which, to me, shows the lighter – and less often seen – side of the Germans:

So, back to the last question. Is it fair to call Germany a ‘humorless nation?’ As much as I want to say ‘no’ just to be fair to the Germans, I am going to go out on a limb and say ‘Yes!’ It is fair! They do indeed show glimpses of possessing a sense of humor. Some laugh and some smile (just like Americans!); nonetheless, as an American I am ok with the Germans being more serious. I have grown to like their seriousness, and, to be honest, I have had quite a few laughs because of it. How can you not find humor in the kid freaking out because Unreal Tournament isn’t loading? Is he being real?! Doesn’t the idea of him being German make it that funnier?

To be more fair (if it’s possible at this point), it isn’t necessarily the behaviors of the Germans that is always funny – reactions toward the Germans and their seriousness is quite amusing, too. People get serious in talking about the Germans being too serious. Seriously? As the authors of the blog ‘What we’re sinking about’ write to their German friends:

“Dearest German friends and colleagues, stop being so damn serious. Like really, quit. Lighten up. Laugh. Spin around in your office chair a couple of times, throw a smiley face in at the end of your email, anything.”

I get a kick out of the Germans being serious and humorless but I also respect their serious attitude toward life. Even if it is a stereotype! It is refreshing to know that they are out there in the world being serious – and being serious on our behalf! It makes me smile when I think of it, actually. At the very least, we can laugh at their seriousness and humorless attitudes. Is that not humor in itself?

Although the video below has nothing to do with the stereotype, we have at least another reason to be thankful to the Germans..

British game show host laughs at German name

A picture is worth a thousand words. It’s also pretty destructive.

What makes political cartoons so attractive in comparison to other means of communication? As I sit here writing this blog post trying to figure out what I want to write about, it is this question that keeps popping up in my mind. The power of cartoons: why are they used as a method to communicate political themes when words could have accomplished the same thing?

The answer to the question might seem fairly obvious: provocation. Take for example the French cartoonist Charlie Hebdo and his recent depictions of the prophet Muhammed. It wasn’t too long ago his studio was set on fire in a wave of protests against his depictions. Would a similar reaction happen if the same message was conveyed in words?

Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the prophet Muhammed

In reviewing Euro-crisis caricatures, I tend to find many of the them quite humorous. It’s easy for me to say that though: I’m an outsider – an American – looking in on the crisis. Depictions of a Greek being ran over by a car called crisis and being ‘saved’ by a Red Cross bulldozer driven by Merkel is probably hilarious to the German (I find it quite funny as well); to the Greek, however, I am thinking it is far from evoking humor. Would taking the same picture and transforming it into words have the same impact and reactions?

Angela Merkel ‘saving’ the Greek.

Using a picture, such as our aforementioned German bulldozer example, seems to have more of a profound impact on the Greek viewer than German headlines and descriptions such as “bankrupt Greeks” and “frauds in the Euro family.” Using derogatory words aren’t as effective as the action of pictures and visualizations. As the German magazine Der Spiegel reported recently, “Greeks filed a lawsuit for collective libel against the Munich-based magazine Focus several months ago after it depicted the Venus de Milo statue with an extended middle finger in February 2010.” The fact that Greeks sued over a depiction shows just how hard-hitting depictions can be.

Words just aren’t cutting it: they are only words. Even Merkel’s criticism of “southern European inefficiency” (I guess this commented offended quite a few southern Europeans) couldn’t persuade a European to sue a German; a picture, however, has the ability to enrage the masses.

I suppose the methods for decoding pictures rings closer to home than the analytical approaches used when reading. The point is much clearer and memorable because of its nonverbal nature. For example, when a German is depicted as being a Nazi during the crisis, one can automatically associate the current behavior of the Germans with the behavior of the past. Whether it is true or not, one gets the sense that a crime is being committed, an atrocity is happening, and something needs to be done. It is indeed a much easier and more efficient way of portraying a message: as they say, a picture is a thousand words.

A picture almost a thousand words.

Nonetheless, many believe cartoons are still unnecessary and aren’t as effective. According to Christina H. from Cracked.com, political cartoons

“…should be a means to get a controversial point across in a concise, effective and humorous way. In reality, most usually convey less information than, say, grunting or gesturing. Whether you agree or disagree with the message is irrelevant, as these cartoons are often shitty ass vehicles for any message. Taken on average, political cartoons are the least effective way of making a point aside from suicide bombing and Internet petitions.”

Christiana H. makes her point crystal clear: political cartoons aren’t the best way to convey a message.

The question here, then, is whether a cartoon’s efficiency of portraying a message is worth it. Does portraying Angela Merkel as a Nazi have any relevance to the crisis, or does it further tarnish the reputations of Greek citizens? One might like to think that using words, although less efficient, does less harm to a particular individual. But then again…

Angela Merkel as a Neo-Nazi.

Maybe it is the case that more laughs and positivity result from the art, rather than anger and hate. It’s been said before that the best medicine goes down much better with a bit of humor. What do you think? Do political cartoons and depictions do more harm than good, or does a questioning and analysis even matter?

Angela Merkel as Adolf Hitler. Really?

England’s Guardian newspaper cartoonist Kipper Williams must be having the time of his life during the current European economic crisis. One of my favorite cartoons from Williams is the prickly bearded Greek footballer wearing a German jersey during the Euro 2012 quarter final match between Germany and Greece.

We’re Greece – [Germany] is just our sponsors.

Referencing German control of their economy, the Greek football team, with ‘Germany’ smeared across the front of their blue jerseys, has fell victim in having to be sponsored by Germany. Even the confused expression on the refs face provokes a smile. He is dumbfounded as the Footballer, holding almost an indifferent expression on his face, explains the situation. Aiming to add a little ‘funny’ spice to the otherwise dismal situation, Kipper Williams stays within the rules of what is ethical and is able to depict the crisis in a soft, humorous, yet provocative way.

During the Euro 2012 Football tournament, cartoons like the aforementioned were making their way quite easily around social media outlets. It was a common discussion amongst my friends: “Hey, did you see that football cartoon? It was a riot! What did you think?” Whether the cartoon was directed toward Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, or even the Germans, it really didn’t matter as everyone was trying to better an otherwise unhappy situation. And while Germany was putting a whooping on Greece, it wasn’t just caricatures being drawn but also jokes being cracked.

@bill_easterly: ‘Greece at halftime of Euro match asks Germany for emergency loan of 4 players.’

To make jokes and sketch caricatures about the other less fortunate crisis-stricken countries is to be expected and as long as markets continue to fall worldwide, artists and jokers will continue to produce what they do best at the expense of others. As fellow writer David J Olsen observed back in June, “…joke-tellers across the globe continue[d] to savor the ever-increasing mountain of comedic material generated by the various races and ethnicities involved in the deepening crisis.”

I don’t see any harm in it as long as the humor (or idea) being presented doesn’t provoke violence, racism, or other similar evils; however, this is not always the case. While funny and humorous Euro crisis material was being spread throughout Europe before, during, and after the Euro 2012, so too was less humoristic, more offensive material.

Depicted in Europe’s media as an unappetizing short, extremely plump centerfold pinup or as a naked, ugly barbarian in hell, German chancellor Angela Merkel and her hard line stance on the Euro zone crisis has become perhaps the most popular popinjay. Many of the depictions are harmless; however, some artists are pushing the limits and meanwhile crossing moral and ethical lines. The most savage and unflattering images are of her as a Nazi.

In February 2012, the Greek newspaper Democratie published an image of Merkel wearing a Nazi colored uniform and carrying the famous Nazi armband on her left arm.

Chancellor Angela Merkel depicted as a Nazi

To reference the Nazis in Greece draws on a long history of national suffering during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Greece. The image led to a number debates in Europe: whether or not it is appropriate – at the very least fair to make such depictions. Nazi imagery is nothing new to the political world. Hitler and the Nazis are common references amongst people who feel subjugated and subordinate – here in America Obama has also been compared with and depicted as Hitler.

President Barack Obama as Adolf Hitler

Although her insistence on austerity rather than aid has been a sore spot amongst Europeans, her actions are a far cry from being anything related to the Nazi era. Comparing her to a past world leader that intentionally murdered six million + innocent people seems quite absurd.

Not everyone, however, feels the same as columnist Jakob Augstein states: “Her abrasive pro-austerity policies threaten everything that previous German governments had accomplished since World War II. …[Merkel] is a radical politician, not a conservative one.”

Although this observation does look to the past to find comparisons, I don’t believe Augstein is insinuating that Merkel is some sort of Hitler-type leader. She has simply failed to observe her predecessors’ achievements (post-Hitler) and has taken a course of her own. A course that Augstein apparently disagrees with.

In response to the images, chief whip of Merkel’s conservatives Michael Grosse-Broemer says “I am not worried (about Merkel’s image abroad) because the characterizations of the chancellor can be explained by her support for something other than simple, popular demands.” He goes on to say, “I think some emotionally-driven judgments about this great chancellor are off the mark.”

I am in agreement with Grosse-Broemer and would further state that the comparison is old, unintelligent, unfair, and disgusting. Many people do find Angela Merkel threatening, such as Mendi Hasan who says “Merkel is the most dangerous German leader since Hitler.” Such a statement, however, is over-the-top and, at the very least, very forgetful of what Hitler did while in power.

It is not the same as criticizing Merkel and saying she has veered away from her predecessors’ politics as Augstein suggests. Instead, Hasan’s remark deliberately inserts the Hitler comparison. To present Merkel as a barbarian or even the ever-so-frightening Terminator can indeed be on topic (as well as humorous) despite its absurdities, but to reference Adolf Hitler and his Nazi counterparts is uneducated, and, at the very least, over the line.

Angela Merkel as the Terminator

For too long Germans have had to deal with their bothersome shadows of the past. It is just fine to disagree, poke fun, and create humorous images of public figures. Whatever other European countries are going though, I can’t imagine it being worse than what people had to endure from 1933 until 1945.

Dresden, Germany after the allied bombings.

The comparison, in my mind, doesn’t even work. It is time to divorce these present day Germans (and their leaders) from their long removed Nazi past.

A protest and march in Athens, Greece.

Quick source reference:
http://www.newsfromtheend.com/2012/06/euro-zone-crisis-opens-floodgates-for.html (David J Olson)

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2012/06/angela-merkels-mania-austerity-destroying-europe (Mendi Hasan)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/28/us-eurozone-germany-merkel-idUSBRE85R0BM20120628 (Michael Grosse-Broehmer)

Euro-crisis art

This blog details the current European crisis, and, in particular, Euro-crisis art. The economic world, for the past couple of years, has focused its attention upon Europe and its ongoing debt crisis.  The Euro-zone has been hit hard with financial instability, and countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland have been struggling to stay afloat.  Newspaper headlines, websites, and TV shows discuss the situation in-depth and others such as artists have also taken a great interest in the crisis. I’ll be discussing Germany and intend to focus predominately on artistic German depictions/points of views on the rest of Europe.  In addition, I’ll cover the reverse: Europe’s artful depictions/point of view of Germany.  How is Angela Merkel as well as other EU leaders being depicted?  How do Germans portray other European countries and vice versa?  How do countries, like Greece, use art to illustrate their own unique position in the crisis?

The depictions of the crisis found both in newspapers and on the web are numerous and humorous.  The tensions between Germany and the rest of Europe create a social, as well as political environment infused with polarity, radicalism, and acrimony.  To cope with the on-going situation, Germany, and other European nations turn to art – instead of words  – to show both their social stances and political points-of-views.  I believe Euro-crisis art has allowed those involved to: a) have a good laugh, b) take a side, and c) find a unique outlet in expressing one’s opinion.

There exists a plethora of blogs detailing the Euro-crisis.  In one blog post titled “Five cartoons about the crisis in Greece,” the author has carefully chosen cartoons representing the situation in Greece.  In the cartoons, Greece is undoubtedly being criticized.  The brief description concerning the article says “After Sunday’s election in Greece, where political parties in favor of an international bailout won a slim majority, the country appears to have avoided crashing out of the euro zone. However, the region’s debt crisis shows no signs of abating.”  The statement is not quite a negation nor or a positive in regards to the author’s point-of-view.  It is simply a neutral and informative sentence; however, when one glimpses at the cartoons, we come to find that the article is indeed more on the lines of bashing (negating) Greece.   In the first cartoon, the man in the cartoon decides whether Greece should exit the Euro zone with a gun, or cut budgets with a knife and with a bottle and a cup of ouzo resting next to him on the table.  The artist of this cartoon allies the man’s situation to an equally profound situation on a national scale.  The relationship between the man and Greece are one and the same: both are in a suicidal situation.  The man, and the country, can choose the gun or the knife; either way, a death sentence is imminent.

In another cartoon, this time from Germany, we see Angela Merkel instructing the Greek prime minister how to roll a giant stone not up a slope, but rather up a cliff.  The distance between the two characters in the picture almost entails a student-teacher relationship.  As Merkel’s right arm points to a drawing of how one is to achieve the task, her left arm is waving frantically back and forth as if the slender, undernourished prime minister of Greece is not quite grasping the idea.  The caricature seems to reflect three ideas: 1) the Greek recovery is virtually impossible, 2) the Greeks are too uneducated to help themselves, and 3) the Greeks are subjugated to the German chancellor.  Similar to our first aforementioned cartoon, the Greek situation is anything but positive.  The difference between the two, however, is the second cartoon originates from a German source and places the decision-making not in the hands of the Greeks, but in the hands of Merkel and the Germans.  Where the Greek man, and the Greeks, are able to determine their fate in a more precise fashion (as depicted in the first cartoon), Merkel details their fate and lays out the plan for them (which ironically leads the man to the gun-knife situation).  The German impression demonstrates the Greek inability to care for themselves.  They are dependent on the leadership and instruction from the Germans.  One cannot put a finger on it, whether the artist’s intention was suppose to be sympathetic toward the Greeks or condescending; nonetheless, the caricature seems to represent a German point-of-view rather than the opposite.