Just Merveilleux?

Life at № 42

Schadenfreude-Wagen. The power of the social myth.

VW-Lance

I can’t deny it, I’m finding the VW scandal de-licious. It’s a fantastic lesson on the power of mythology and social manipulation. Most countries I’ve been to have some variety of we’re the best in the world or most beautiful in the world trope- but Germany matches the US in pushing the concept to a nauseating degree.

I spent the past 15 years in an area that had a considerable German population, and although they were all very different from each other, they did all firmly share the belief that anything German was of superior quality to an equivalent product made anywhere else. Hmmmm… I wonder where that idea came from?

In a place like Sotogrande this was of course taken to the extreme. First one German ex-pat got German windows. Then another got German furniture. Another not wanting to be outdone had their new house designed by a German firm. To outdo them all a certain gentleman brought in German construction workers to build his home.

Most excruciating was the refrain: In Germany ______________. The mail comes on time; people work harder; dogs don’t poo; the skies are always blue. I often wondered why so many of them either abandoned their Vaterland all together or at the very least spent considerable amounts of time elsewhere.

The wonderfulness of the VW affair is it should make people think twice about stereotypes both good and bad. The lazy Greeks, for example, work more hours than any other EU country.

euworkinghours

France, the land of cuisine, is one of the world’s top consumers of frozen ready-made meals with sales of 36kg of frozen products per member of the population per year. Spaniards drink more alcohol than the French. And here’s another interesting one, homeownership rates:

aggregate-homeownership-rates-EU

We can translate that to meaning that, crises aside, the average Greek, Spaniard and Irishman have considerably more personal financial security than the average German or Frenchman.

So think twice the next time you consider ascribing a particular characteristic to an entire population. Except the Swedes, of course, they are all blonde nudist sex fanatics.

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21 comments on “Schadenfreude-Wagen. The power of the social myth.

  1. john zande
    November 4, 2015

    And Kiwi’s all fuck sheep… and they lie. They did not invent pavlova!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. makagutu
    November 4, 2015

    I have heard a lot of German efficiency and precision. The scandal, as you say, is delicious just because we have somehow been convinced that they are good at what they do

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      November 4, 2015

      Social mythology and the marketing that goes with it are amazing. Protestant/Puritan societies were particularly effective in selling the idea that they’re ‘better’ than other people. More honest, more efficient, even cleaner.

      Like

  3. Hariod Brawn
    November 4, 2015

    “We can translate that to meaning that, crises aside, the average Greek, Spaniard and Irishman have considerably more personal financial security than the average German or Frenchman.”

    Er . . . what?

    Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      November 4, 2015

      Homeownership provides a buffer of security and the possibility of accumulating a degree of wealth from one generation to the next. That buying culture played a definitive role in the quality of life standards for Spaniards in the 20th century. In France and Germany on the other hand, social mobility is restricted by a rental model that traps people in a cycle where they’re stuck forever.

      Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 4, 2015

        I don’t disagree Mr. M., yet what would that graphic look like adjusted for a) mortgage indebtedness, and b) ownership of other assets? And you have shifted the argument to ‘quality of life’, which is a separate issue to financial security.

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        November 4, 2015

        Spain didn’t have a mortgage culture. The dependency on that type of credit is a new phenomena from a historical perspective. Certainly post-Franco. There was also the cultural difference of homes serving an entire family, often even after marriage people remained in the family home.
        As for financial security and quality of life, I’d say they go together.

        Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 4, 2015

        So Spaniards have the highest levels of financial security of those eighteen countries, and thus enjoy the greatest quality of life? That seems to be your reasoning. The mean ‘life satisfaction’ ratings – synonymous with your ‘quality of life’? – according to Eurostat, show* Spain sandwiched between Lithuania and the Czech Republic and ranking 18th. out of 28 EU member nations.

        * http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Quality_of_life_in_Europe_-_facts_and_views_-_overall_life_satisfaction

        * http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        November 4, 2015

        No, I didn’t say the two figures were co-dependent, simply correlated. The important factor and the point I’m making is that the German socio-economic model is highly problematic. It’s a rich country with big successful companies, but it has the highest inequality levels in Europe: “A comparison of the median and mean wealth reveals something about the distribution of wealth in each country. If the largest difference is between the mean and the median, the greater is the inequality in the distribution of wealth. It now appears that the difference is highest in Germany. We show this by presenting the ratios of the mean to the median for the different countries in Figure 3. In Germany the mean household wealth is almost four times larger than the median. In most other countries this ratio is between 1.5 and 2. Thus household wealth in Germany is concentrated in the richest households more so than in the other Eurozone countries. Put differently, there is a lot of household wealth in Germany but this is to be found mostly in the top of the wealth distribution.”
        So in essence, yes, the average Spaniard or other Southern European is better off than the average German.
        Full text here: http://www.voxeu.org/article/are-germans-really-poorer-spaniards-italians-and-greeks

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you that the easiest for the majority and for most, the only way of middle class people and those grabbing that first rung of the middle class ladder, the only way for them to accumulate wealth is to be a homeowner. And the smart ones figure out a way and work to pay the mortgage off early.

        You know M, I was tempted to say something earlier but I didn’t feel comfortable saying it as I have not been commenting on your blog for that long. The more I read you the more I am coming to think that we are polar opposites on a lot of world views. I would be in favor of a new freeway, well I guess where you live it would be a toll road so best call it a motorway. I see it as progress, I’m a progressive capitalist with a strong social conscience. In a foreign country where you don’t know the stores, you don’t know which brands are typically better quality, I could see myself bringing in windows from Germany because I know what I am getting.

        I think I have figured out that you are multi lingual so for you maybe it isn’t so hard to research local products and suppliers and buy local but for Germans as is our example, it is fairly hard to use Google Translate on reading the specs of materials and products in Spanish. It’s just harder and frustrating. I am also a bit of a nationalist and would prefer buying an American made product over those from other countries in most, but not all cases. I would always buy American wood flooring over wood flooring from China.

        Isn’t is outrageous that Germany had no minimum hourly wage until recently? They absolutely exploited immigrants, officially as government policy exploited them. In the US we have many illegal immigrants who are often times exploited in their employment as well, however it is not government policy to exploit immigrants without a threshold minim wage.

        Your blog is very enjoyable to read, even though we are quite different. However it is hard to pin you down on style, look at the difference between what you built in Spain and what you are doing now, way different. What I enjoy about your blog are the projects and your love of nature. Just like you I enjoy seeing a problem, and researching solution ideas. I am going to skim coat, glued down with construction glue some cheap composite floor tiles, that were glued to a very pitted bumpy rough concrete job (not smooth finished concrete), with gaps between the tiles, then paint it with epoxy. I’m going to skim it with this
        http://www.homedepot.com/p/Custom-Building-Products-SpeedFinish-10-lb-Patching-and-Finishing-Compound-SF10/100152565
        I won’t put sprinkles in the epoxy, I like a clean look and the sprinkles would drive me nuts.

        Really looking forward to the apartments rehab projects.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        November 4, 2015

        I’m not so sure we’re ‘that’ different. I buy locally- but locally meaning in the country/region where I live 😉
        My problem with the motorway is I think it creates a short-term property bubble instead of sustainable development. That only benefits a very small sector of society who are property owners. What if the (enormous sum of) motorway money were used to help develop small businesses in the region? To create jobs that’ll last a lifetime instead of a construction cycle?
        Because I’ve lived in six different countries (from 3rd to 1st world) I’ve seen all sorts of methods at play. Each method having its advantages and disadvantages. The motorway method never really trickles down to the people who need it 😉

        Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      November 4, 2015

      The illusion of wealth comes from gdp and averages per capita. That’s very different from actual medians based on income tax declarations. The median German household wealth is the lowest in the Eurozone at $51,000. France is double that.

      Like

      • Hariod Brawn
        November 4, 2015

        Sorry to be so contrarian, but I think we ought not conflate income with wealth – that too produces an ‘illusion of wealth/poverty’.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        November 4, 2015

        Absolutely. Lowest incomes at the moment are Greece, Portugal and Finland. I combined the two things because in a crisis situation one can compensate for the other.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. tildeb
    November 4, 2015

    Once again, thank god for the Swedes!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Helen Devries
    November 4, 2015

    Blame misuse of Weber for the image of the Germans..
    The post war settlement embedded unions in the heart of company management and thus nullified their potential power. So.. Germany has had a low wage economy bolstered by an immigrant workforce.

    Stereotypes are so useful though, to replace independent thought….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. theoccasionalman
    November 6, 2015

    According to the Saudis, Riyadh has the largest airport in the world. And alcohol is against the law because it makes parents kill their children.

    Like

  7. roughseasinthemed
    November 7, 2015

    Where is Portugal on the home ownership list? And, I am fascinated by the way in my pueblo so many poor families own their own houses outright. Usually because they have built them. Yet, in Gib, I see people earning reasonable money and renting. What happens when they can no longer work? Unsurprisingly I agree with your views about financial security, QOL, etc. One of the first things my partner learned as an apprentice was that he should buy his own house. I mean three is a little overboard, but still, it was sound advice.

    Like

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This entry was posted on November 4, 2015 by in activism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , .
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