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My Europe: Eastern promise and Western pretension

People in the former Eastern bloc are different from those in the West. They are more realistic. This applies to both "Eastern Europeans" and East Germans. For them, idealism is the gate to hell, says Boris Kalnoky.

Anyone in Saxony who currently sees, hears or reads (western) German media reports about their homeland will probably feel like we do in Hungary when German media write about our country: One learns more about the author's mental state than about the country.

The term "East German" has become similarly pejorative like that of "Eastern European." If you read between the lines, those in the East are different. And being different is bad, because you have to be like those in the West, or "Wessis."

Those in the East are mentally and morally retarded, stupid or evil, or both. Democracy is an alien concept to these racist, xenophobic slaves to authority. 

"East Germans" and "Eastern Europeans" still have a lot to learn before they will be as enlightened as the authors of the respective articles. And the reason they are so "filled with hate" (or rather, evil) is probably because they have neglected the process of "coming to terms with the past" and are somehow mentally at home somewhere in a communist or even fascist dictatorship.

The nicest thing that is said or written about them is that they have "fears" that have to be "taken seriously." But in the end, they are only afraid because they are too stupid to realize that in reality there is no problem except perhaps their own racist responses. A little re-education through "dialogue" should help.

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The east, more than just a little different

East German or "Ossi" bashing is not a new narrative. What is new is a similar debate here in Hungary: Why are Westerners so ideologically blind that they can no longer see the wood for the trees? Are they victims of comprehensive brainwashing, or why do they trot out things that are so detached from reality? In short, the fact that we are wired differently in the East is now also an issue for us. But is it us, the EU "Ossis," who are wrong, or is it the "Wessis"? How different are we and why?

Yes, people in the former Eastern bloc grew up differently from those in the West. They always knew that their media and politicians were lying because they lived under a dictatorship. They are therefore instinctively skeptical of the media and critical of the government.

It's the opposite of being obedient to authority — the government is always accused of obscuring the truth and of posing a danger. You accept it in frustration because you don't want any trouble. This is fine as long as the government rules in an acceptable way. But if an incompetent government is in power, as in the case of the uncontrolled entry of several hundred thousand people from foreign countries and cultures, or when the economy collapses as it did in the late period of communism, then the resentment can become so big that it explodes.

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Understanding the world through your own environment

Since people in the East always assumed that they were being misinformed by politics and the media, they got information in a different way: Neighbors, friends, friends of friends. People in the East talk to each other about what happens to people they know much more than in the West, and they draw conclusions about reality. We understand the world according to what is happening in our environment and do not accept interpretive narratives from "those up there."

If someone's children are bullied by migrants in the schoolyard, if women are sexually harassed without this being recorded as a crime, here in the "East" the news spreads quickly, even if it does not appear in the media at all. And we usually have a very clear opinion; namely that it is not us who are the problem, but the respective migrants, and the politicians who let them into the country. That is true even when most migrants are quite nice, normal people.

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The 'Wessis' and their ideals

Westerners, on the other hand, see the world through the ideals taught to them by teachers, politicians and the media. It is not about reality, but about "values" as a belated consequence of the 1968 movement, which had a lasting impact on the West's world of ideas. All people are equal. Misgivings about people from other countries is called racism. Religion is a problem. Pride and love for one's own country is nationalism.

In the East we see it differently: People are not equal, and the peoples of the world are not "brothers." Politics is never about "solidarity," but fights for power and interests. We know these phrases from the communist dictatorship's slogans. We know that they are hollow. People in the East are interested in reality, those in the West want to adapt reality to their "values" and therefore often do not recognize them at all.

In this respect we see East Germans and the events in Chemnitz as follows: The "Ossis" have remained normal, they are like us. That is why they reacted to the murder of a citizen in the same way as we would have reacted here — with anger and incomprehension about politics.

Boris Kalnoky, born in 1961, is a Hungarian correspondent for Die Welt newspaper and other German-language media. He is the author of the book Ahnenland (Droemer 2011), in which he follows in the footsteps of his ancestors, among them the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister, Gustav Kalnoky.

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