Unintended Residue

May 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have just learned of the word tasseomancy. It is a practice I care little for.What is attempted in this post bears some resemblance to it. Lets see how wrong it can turn out?

Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference in the fall of 2015 was asked:

A minute ago you were mentioning the responsibility we all have in terms of how we should all deal with all this refugee chaos. But one of our responsibilities is to protect our own citizens in Europe. ….where now even more people with an Islamic background come into our country. … there is a great fear here in Europe because Islamization seems to proceed and grow stronger. So I’m asking you, how do you want to protect Europe, and in that regard, how do you propose to protect our own culture from this?

To which she responded by first noting the unfortunate contribution of volunteers from Europe to conflicts in the middle east, because of which “we can’t just sit here and say this is a phenomenon that has nothing to do with us”. Secondly she emphasized that ‘Cultures and societies that are shaped by fear will, without a doubt, ..not get a grip on the future”  to this she added a third point that given Germany already has 4 million Muslims its not debatable if Islam belongs to the culture.

However she augmented it all with the following thought:

I see there are these worries, but I have to say that, we all have these chances and all these liberties to practice our own religion as well, insofar as we are practicing it and believe in it. So if I am lacking in something in that, I am not suggesting that someone who practices Islam is at fault for that.
We should have the courage as Christians to enter a dialogue then, and while we are talking about tradition, maybe please go to church every once in a while or become a tad more versed in the Bible and maybe be able to just explain a painting in the church or at least be able to explain what the meaning of Pentecost is. So there I just have to say that a lot of people’s knowledge about the Christian Occident leaves a lot to be desired. But then to come back and complain about how Muslims know more about the Quran than they do about the Bible, I find that very curious.

The transcription of this last bit may perhaps not be like coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup. But one divines a wish therein, that Europeans may indeed wake up and “go to church every once in a while” or “become a tad more versed in the Bible”.

In quite a few criticisms of this episode, questions were raised about the assumption on Merkel’s part that the questioner was a Christian, albeit one who could improve his immunity by more frequent visits to church. Or in other words how and why does Merkel equate what the questioner calls “…our own culture” with the church?

Is there no alternative to the challenge posed by migrants than the meaning of Pentecost? How about Werner Herzog, Einstürzende Neubauten or W. G. Sebald?

But if this dream were to come true; wherein as a reaction to the influx, Europe sees a religious awakening , which party stands to get the votes of the born again? If a Christian party then surely not CDU, that too with her at the helm, after having caused this crisis? Is she perhaps opting to play the middle term (meson) in a dialectic?

Here now lets turn to another cup. This one is a passage from Houellebecq’s “La Possibilité d’une île

“…;the Islamic fundamentalists, who appeared in the 2000s had suffered more or less the same fate as the punks. At first they had been made obsolete by the appearance of polite, gentle and pious Muslims from Tabligh movement – a kind of equivalent of New Wave, to continue the analogy; the girls at this time still wore the veil, but it was pretty decorated with lace and see-through material, rather like an erotic accessory, in fact. And of course, subsequently the phenomenon had progressively died out: the expensively built mosques were deserted, and the Arab immigrant girls were once again available in the sexual marketplace , like everyone else.”

Granted this book was written much before the current migrant crisis and Houellebecq has since dealt with related issues and phenomena in more detail, yet there is an uncanny convergence between what is left in this cup and the German Chancellor’s dream.

A threat is seen in one instance as a chance to affirm a value system whilst in the other nihilism foresees the exhaustion and withering of that same threat by what it sees to be the inner logic of the system, a Europe of exchange, a market place, where all has its equivalent.


Allegory of chastity – Hans Memling




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