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Finally! We're hated!

Our columnist is having a spot of trouble with his European identity. Would somebody please hate us?

”Back! Pull back!,” the officer barks into a soldier s ear. Somewhere, in some desert, a squadron has come under heavy fire. Men slither on their stomachs behind sandbags, machine guns rattle, countless explosions whip sand into their faces.

What a crummy film. I lounge in my comfy cinema seat and, while grenades explode randomly on the The European screen, take a moment to think about my European identity. How easy life could be: “We can t leave the flag behind,” the soldier screams back at his officer. On a small sandy hill in the centre of the picture the shreds of a flag waves valiantly. The officer nods. The soldier ducks and runs. He makes it to the flagpole, rescues the flag, ducks, runs back, but suddenly, before he can dive to safety, he’s hit and sinks to the ground. Bleeding, he falls into the officers arms, dies, then smiles. He clenches HER in his heroic grasp, the blue flag with the twelve yellow stars on it: Europe. Unbelievable. Someone’s dying for the EU flag.

Of course it’s the Stars and Stripes. This is a Hollywood film, the kind where they sacrifice whole battalions of unseasoned recruits in every second Pro IraqAnti-Vietnam-Whatever-War-Movie just to retrieve the damn flag. Real heroes, sacrifices for the collective, with pathos and whatnot. Let’s try that somewhat closer to home: In the next scene of the film, the soldiers coffin is carried to its grave draped with the EU flag. José Manuel Barroso, surrounded by the crash of funereal trumpets, carefully folds it and hands it to the fallen soldier s gorgeous, young widow. A single tear lands on a sunflower-yellow star. Beethovens ninth rings out.

Nobody cares about our flag in European reality. The Danish, British, or American flags must be available in self-immolating versions by now. Would anyone burn the European flag? How can you be properly loved if no one knows how to hate you? Its all rather depressing. “Would that you were either cold or hot!,” or so it says in the holy scriptures. In that sense, there must be hope.

Recently, a soldier guarding the Light Guided Missile Division 8 in Geneva climbed onto the roof of the embassy he was watching over. On arrival, he hung an EU flag on half-mast, just like that, unasked. At least, something. Considering the languid Swiss demeanour, this could be understood as a quasi flag burning. And look at the Bulgarians, who’ve reinterpreted in flag on a magazine cover. Only ten of the twelve little stars were visible. The eleventh had been replaced with a hemp leaf. For the twelfth they d included a swastika.

Meanwhile, a few attack helicopters were pulverising the enemy on screen. I wonder, what plot twists would have to be added to relocate the plot to Europe: Soldiers land in conflict area, hastily erect a support base. Sandbags are stacked, they encircle it generously with barbed wire. Unnoticed, the enemy troops watch from a nearby mountain: “Commander, the invaders are building their base and have hoisted a blue flag with yellow stars. Should we open fire?” Their leader peers through his telescope: “Nah...They re probably digging a well or constructing a solar-powered drinking water treatment plant.” What follows is a two hour film rich in ethnological depth and abounding in sympathy for local shepherds. But that’s what it’s like, the good old European stage.

Author: Ingo Arzt

Photo: Carina C. Kircher

Translation: Adam Chrambach

Insight Out

If you want to know who you are, ask your neighbours.

Arrogant Europeans

Sometimes I have the feeling that we have to be doubly compliant to please our European customers. This is my experience over the last few years, ever since my company Uriwibutso started delivering passionfruit to Brussels. At first, we were able to quickly built up a network of customers. We sent bananas, strawberries, and mangoes to Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. But the Europeans have unbelievably high quality standards. If we Africans bargain with the Europeans, we automatically have the weaker position. Once, a Belgian importer called us. A whole container was spoiled when it arrived in Brussels. One and a half tonnes of bananas! Sadly, we didn’t have a representative in Europe who could have checked the situation for us, and sending someone from Rwanda would have been too expensive. We had to believe him. The whole incident cost us 20,000 euros. Today we don’t deliver fresh fruit to Europe anymore, the prices have fallen too much and the risk is too high. Instead, we export fruit juices and banana wine to Belgium, France, and Germany. I’ve just returned from Italy. There, I bought new machines worth 900,000 euros to produce fruit juice concentrate. We need European machines to be able to meet European standards.

Gérard Sina (43) lives in Kigala, the capital of Rwanda, with his wife and five children.

Study hard, or else...

If there were one place in the world where people should live, it would definitely be Great Britain. People living there are gentlemen from top to toe, experts, real friends, and simply amazing. I am calling them everyday from my call centre in New Delhi trying to sell them UMTS mobile phones and contracts of the “3G – The third generation mobile network campaign”. Sometimes I am really being a pain in their necks. They are having lunch when I am calling and I am answering the phone as “Charles” as nobody would be understanding my real name “Vishnu”. After that I tell them in my Indian accent how they could save a lot of money with the new contracts. “Thank you for calling Sir, but I am not interested”, they answer, eating noisily. However, when making phone calls to the U.S., it is a completely different situation for me. They start cursing and giving my mother or sister names at once, though I only have a brother. Despite all that, we are really successful within the call centre, but also all over India. I am really proud of that success. We are taking more and more jobs from Europe to my country everyday and earn billions with you. Europe could be a lot more powerful if it finally made a real effort. Italy, France, England, and Germany – all you guys have the same culture! However, it is good the way it is at the moment. For 300 years we were ruled by Great Britain and I think it is our time now. The future is ours. All I can tell you is to be making some effort! Focus on your jobs and your studies! If you do not do so, the little yellow men from China and India will come to do their own business and take your wealth with them.

Vishnu Sharma (20 years old), his job alias is “Charles”, works in the Neveno call center in New Delhi and studies economics, business and English.

Recorded by Ingo Arzt

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