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And the laughter dies

Germans are generally not known for their sense of humour (although this is a gross-generalisation, German humour can be quite diverse, and differs from region to region). But there are exceptions. However, these days, it's the audience who gets at you.

A bit of history

Among the internationally poorly known extraordinary German comedians, one name must be mentioned: Loriot (Wikipedia/homepage). Like no other before – and not that many after him, save for Gerhard Polt and about a dozen, or two, of good political satirists we have – he managed to make even the lack of German humour funny. Much he did decades ago (he died 2011, aged 87) is still relevant. Naturally, as a good German, I have his anthology on DVD.

His TV shows run in the Öffentlich-Rechtliche, the public, public-sponsored TV, specifically the ARD, one of our two main public TV channels, and federalistic. The abbreviation ARD stands for Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschlands, literally translated: Working group of radio transmission institutes of the federal republic falling under public legislation. Group because it's not just one but a collective: the different federal states have their own stations (also ARD stands for Außer Raum Dresden, because Dresden was the only major city in the GDR, Westfernsehen, West-TV, couldn't reach). Loriot's Cartoon was produced by the SDR (Süddeutsche Rundfunk, the state-radio/TV of the non-French occupied part of Baden-Württemberg), Loriot by the RB (state-radio/TV of Bremen). He also did a couple of very funny (being very German) films, and the RB celebrated his 60th, 70th, and 80th birthday with a special emission.

Until today, the public-owned German radio and TV channels keep up the tradition of producing funny (satirical) TV and radio shows that have a strong touch criticising social or political problems not unlike but different to U.S. cable-shows like Last Week Tonight and Full Frontal (available world-wide via YouTube) that counter the unwitting 24/7-life satire channel Fox News. One being the WDR, the Westdeutsche Rundfunk Köln (state radio/TV of Northrhine-Westphalia). Which, just before Christmas initiated a little but very German scandal: as part of their end-of-year/year-in-review programme, the WDR's children choir (WDR Kinderchor Dortmund) retexted and performed a classic German children song, Meine Oma fährt im Hühnerstall Motorrad with regard to the #FridayForFuture movement and the fact that still many adults reject scientific facts about human-induced climate warming.

The impossible song

In the original song, the verses (everyone could make new ones) is about how my granny, meine Omma, gives a shit about conventions and is a hard-ass (in my native dialect, Oma is very quickly pronounced, hence, two m). The first verse goes like this
Meine Omma fährt im Hühnerstall Motorrad, Motorrad, Motorrad
Meine Omma fährt im Hühnerstall Motorrad, meine Omma ist 'ne voll patente Frau, mau, mau.
Translation: My granny drives motorbike in the hen den, my granny is a very capable/smart woman. Mau, Mau.

The new version (below an activist's copy), the first verse was like this. 
Meine Oma fährt im Hühnerstall Motorrad, Motorrad, Motorrad
Das sind tausend Liter Super jeden Monat
meine Oma ist 'ne alte Umweltsau.
Translation:... This makes 1000 litre Super (95 octane gasoline) in the month, my granny is a grade-A-polluter (for the complete text, see Addendum)

The description below the video says:  Original has been taken down, and then quote a paragraph from the German constitution, followed by a link list (all German). This video will be probably taken down at some point, here's another one and a international appreciation version with a funny intro; when all are down: try searching "Meine Oma ist 'ne Umweltsau".

Literally Umweltsau means "environment-pig", and the easily agitated part of the public, the politically right – who, in Germany as well, claims the freedom of speech otherwise, e.g. when degrading other human beings that flee from poverty and war and, per rule, is unhumorous* – saw in the song a blatant disrespect for the elder generation and "their sacrifices".

Sacrifices usually refer to the war-related ones. There were plenty, Germans were not only culprits but also victims during the war (like any people lured into war by their leaders). However, as a second generation post-war German my pity has limits: 50% of my grandparents (all dead, the men died because of, but not in, the war) were (probably) Nazis, so one could say they deserved what they got. When the current retiree generation (most born in of after the war) – not rarely enjoying high state or state-guaranteed pensions – worked, they had little to sacrifice because they started with little (unless being Nazi-profiteers, like most of the big German business names) and profited from the Wirtschaftswunder (stipulated by enemy taxpayers' money: Marshall Plan). Back then, one paid ~5% into state pension system and little into social security while (still) getting full benefits (something known in the U.S. as socialism, we called it soziale Marktwirtschaft – Rhine capitalism). Most men were dead, the survivors and post-war-born all had and worked well-paid jobs. There were so many jobs in Germany back then, that we had to recruit workers from e.g. Italy and Turkey (called Gastarbeiter). When I still worked in Germany, I gave already ~25% of my salary (looking forward to 100 €/month state pension when I'm 67 and three months).

Sau, the female pig, is something we use very often in Germany, and not necessarily in a bad sense.
  • Drecksau (dirty pig) is usually used as an insult, e.g. for somebody who drives too fast and too pushy, or is filthy, but can also be (at least in my part of Germany) an admiration of someones boldness.
  • Rampensau (ramp/stage pig) is profoundly positive and a word we use to address a brilliant performer.
And pretty much all Germans (me included) are Umweltsäue to various degrees (even if typically far below the level of e.g. the average U.S. American or Australian). So, it's a fair joke to make to address our negligence in changing the way we live. In contrast to many U.S. Americans or Australians relying exclusively on Murdoch media outlets, we could know better (partly because of our Öffentlich-Rechtliche). And the increasing generation gap: old people that lived the transition to and then in milk-and-honey-land and a younger generations that don't know anything else but will face more and more degradation.

*My father, an admirer (and practitioner) of dark and dry British humour, used to say one needs a certain intelligence to understand a joke and decipher irony.

An apology for one has to apologise (and be ashamed about)

Because of the severe backlash, the official song has been retracted. And an apology/clarification has been issued, a statement by the choirmaster on behalf of the institute (the following is a translation of the original):
When the proposal – together with song and text – reached us from the editorial office of the WDR2 [the culture-radio channel], the children and their parents were free to decide whether to partake in this project. There was no compulsory participation and nobody was instrumentalised. The Fridays For Future movement is a movement initiated by children and teenagers. The concept of a looking-back WDR satire was based on using childrens' voices, which was the reason I said yes to the project.

We explained to the children the idea for this parody: Using exaggeration and humour to make fun of the conflict between the generations [as expressed in the Friday For Future movement].

The word "Oma" is part of the parody because of the original song text. But it is not about [mine or your] granny, but about us all. I specifically include myself. As participating musician I want to apologise to all, who felt attacked despite that it was clear that this is a satiric piece.

In the recent years, we always showed our utmost respect of the elder generation. And will not let take this away from us. Multiple concerts in retirement homes document our generation-connecting work.
We live in a sad world because one has to explain satire. Anyway, there is no thing like swarm intelligence in primates. Reality is that the too often asocial new media – on Quer, see below, they often call them "Asoziale Hetzwerke" (lit.: 'asocial hateworks') instead of "Soziale Netzwerke" (social networks) – are a main catalyst of self-enforcing swarm idiocy (why e.g. Trumpelchen loves shitter).

But it's a very sad world, when satire addressing imminent problems has to apologise and public-funded TV/radio channels, who, in Germany, have the obligation to inform our people, start self-censoring because one has to be afraid for the well-being of (state) employees (Morddrohungen, we find and kill you, are these days a standard spice when the Bürgerlichen, the conservative, anti-liberal part of our society raise their crumpled, dusty voices in the asozialen Hetzwerken such as Twitter and Facebook). In a notably free, very rich and pretty happy country such as Germany. Where we have a saying: Kindermund tut Wahrheit kund. Childrens tell the truth. And obviously have fun doing it (see video above).

Reason for hope

The WDR was, for very good reasons, criticised for rowing back by everyone who was less concerned about insulted elderly and more concerned about giving up another piece of freedom of arts to a loud minority. The statement should have indeed read:
This was satire, no-one got harmed in the process. If you don't like it, just don't listen to (or watch) it!

Sincerely keeping up democracy and freedom of art, your tax-paid, hence, free media.
And since Germany is a free (and liberal) country, another public channel (and ARD-member) allowed to air this piece in one of our as informative as funny weekly (not geoblocked) TV emissions, Quer with Christoph Süß, BR (state-TV of Bavaria; homepage/YouTubeChannel).


A historical irony, the WDR, once a channel that would not shy back on anything, addressing political and other corruption, dedicated to investigative journalism, does shy back, while the BR, literally the state-TV of the Bavaria, voice of the (always conservative) Bavarian government and dedicated to Dahoamigkeit (the warm feeling of being home in Bavaria, you know Lederhose, Weißwurst and stuff), puts the finger deeper in the wound (in case you don't understand German, the things Süß' old man character says are as funny as they are nasty, and true). A generation ago, the BR would replace the official ARD-programme in its area with Volksmusik* when a famous political cabaret TV show aired: Scheibenwischer. Which I remember dearly, because I was allowed to stay up late to watch it. The first line always was: And now we say goodbye to the viewers in Bavaria (times changed, the BR co-produced the show in the last five years from 2003 onwards).

*German Volksmusik is not to be confused with folk music, even though Wikipedia directs there when changing the language. Since Germany has never been a nation, there was no German folk music. It took form with emerging nationalism (which in Germany originally was very liberal, the idea was to replace the many royal and other fiefdoms by a unified republic in which all people would be equal and free, following the French and American ideals – times really changed), and got quickly instrumentalised by chauvinists and fascists. When I was a kid, you could be sure that somebody who listens to Volksmusik also votes for the (far) right. 


Postscriptum.
I would have added in my statement as WDR responsible:
And if you don't like that public channels do satiric pieces, just leave our free and liberal country. There are many others in the world, where self-styled "conservatives" (fascists not planning genocide) call the shots and critique (humerous or not) is considered a punishable crime.
For older people that find the children today are nasty, and our country is too linksgrün versifft (leftgreen-skeevy), I can recommend China (the People's Republic). Historically, Chinese pay a very high respect to elders. You will also not have a lot of forced contact with (nasty) children thanks to the 1-child policy and its consequences. It has breathtakingly beautiful places, an increasingly dense infrastructure (including fast train network, so you don't need to fly), good food, friendly, uninsulting people, and a lot of cheap labour force. With the usual German pension, you should be able to afford a quite comfortable life style, maybe you can even hire a life-servant (or two). And on top of it all, there are no elections, so no risk anything will change. A conservative paradise.


Addendum.
Here's the other verses (which I find pretty funny, like the singers, obviously)

Meine Oma sagt Motorradfahr'n ist voll cool, echt voll cool, echt voll cool.
Sie benutzt das Ding im Altersheim als Rollstuhl, meine Oma ist 'ne alte Umweltsau.

Meine Oma fährt mit dem SUV beim Arzt vor, beim Arzt vor, beim Arzt vor.
Überfährt dabei zwei Opis mit Rollator, meine Oma ist 'ne alte Umweltsau

Meine Oma kauft sich jeden Tag ein Korsett, ein Korsett, ein Korsett
Weil's so gut wie garnichts kostet, meine Oma ist 'ne alte Umweltsau.

Mein Oma fliegt nicht mehr, sie ist geläutert, geläutert, geläutert.
Statt dessen macht sie jetzt 10 mal im Jahr 'ne Kreuzfahrt, 
meine Oma ist doch keine Umweltsau.
Meine Oma ist doch keine Umweltsau.

Translation:
My granny says riding the motorbike rocks.
She uses the thing in the retirement home as wheel-chair.
My granny is an Umweltsau.

My granny takes the SUV to get to the doctor's.
Getting there, she runs over two grandpas with their rollators.
My granny is an Umweltsau

My granny buys a corset every day.
Because it costs near to nothing.
My granny is an Umweltsau.

My granny doesn't fly anymore, she learned the lesson
Instead she goes on cruises 10-times a year,
after all, my granny isn't an Umweltsau.
My granny isn't an Umweltsau.

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