Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenössischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heißes Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen während der Erarbeitung eines Stücks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



Haider in their hearts

Jörg Haider has just won the elections in the state of Carinthia. Eva Menasse looks closer at this disgrace to democracy.

An image from Villach's carnival, which Austria's Carinthians are as proud of as the people of Cologne are of their own: Gerhard Dörfler, head of the provincial government, sucks at the dark brown fabric breasts of a joker dressed as a - let's put it in Dörfler's vocabulary - "negro mama."

Since becoming the successor to Jörg Haider after the governor's fatal accident in October, Dörfler has won attention beyond Carinthia's borders for one thing, above all. In the presence of his friend, Afro-Cuban schmalz-pop singer Roberto Blanco, he told a joke about two breast-feeding mothers, one black, one white. The white baby lets go of its mother's breast and says, "Mummy, I want cocoa, too." Of course this ruffled feathers, especially in distant Vienna; Roberto Blanco affirmed that he didn't feel insulted, and Dörfler said he wouldn't ban humor. With his carnival appearance in a garbage man costume, whose orange is also the colour of his party - the right-wing splinter group BZÖ (Alliance for the Future of Austria) - he once again confirmed who's setting the standards for taste in Austria's southernmost state.

Last Sunday, this Dörfler, who has neither the looks nor the brains of his charismatic predecessor Haider, was elected to office with an overwhelming 45 percent. And with that, all opinion polls were rendered obsolete; no one had believed Dörfler could do it. Or rather: No one had thought the Carinthians capable of granting a governing majority to a dead man. Because that is what the BZÖ did, in a manner as simple as it was outrageous: they waged a dead man's campaign. It wasn't just that Haider's political executor campaigned as "BZÖ - Jörg Haider's Slate"; it wasn't just that their slogan all too clearly linked itself to Haider's autocratic, paternalistic understanding of poltics, which the Vienna Falter aptly described as "agrarian socialism with a nationalist face." And it wasn't just that Haider's widow Claudia fought hard in the election and almost made people forget that Haider's significant other for the last six years was named Stefan Petzner. No, in order to make it clear to every last granny that one can still vote for "ol' Jörgl", BZÖ helpers turned out in Klagenfurt a few days before election day with boxes full of memorial candles. The sea of candles from Haider's death on 11 October was simply reconstructed - the day "when, in Carinthia, the sun fell from the sky," as Gerhard Dörfler put it back then.

From a distance, it may look like some bizarre, provincial hullabaloo - the somehow poignant death cult and the embarrassing jokes too intellectually inferior to merit the term 'racist'. But in truth, Carinthia is the almost completed experiment in the regional annulment of democracy - as we in Europe understand it. Yes, Carinthia, this blessedly lovely land with its mountains and lakes, its congenial people and delicious dumplings, so loved by German families as a holiday destination, is on the ropes - ethically, morally, and politically. It's been dumbed-down to death by the infernal genius of Jörg Haider and by the dwarves who call themselves his heirs and successors.

Among the articles of evidence for this: No Carinthian journalist could write such sentences without putting life and limb in jeopardy. The Viennese political cabaret stars Stermann & Grissemann had to cancel their Carinthian appearance in the fall after parodying the Haider death cult on TV; the death threats were clearly underscored with the discovery of loosened bolts on the car of their Carinthian promoter. All of a sudden, they lose their sense of humour, those Carinthians.

But how did it come to this? Why do almost half the voters believe in a xenophobic, highly aggressive party with an almost religious expectation of salvation? And where is the "other Carinthia"?

As always, one has to look to history. A poor, deeply rural borderland with a mixed population, German and Slavic since the mass migration. What was no problem during the monarchy became a big one after its decline. At the end of the First World War, troops from what would become Yugoslavia occupied parts of lower Carinthia. A couple of bloody Carinthian skirmishes are still glorified as a "defensive battle" today, although in the end it was the victorious powers that brought back the peace - and arranged a referendum in which the Carinthian Slovenes spoke out for remaining part of Austria. For which they receive paltry thanks to this day.

At the end of the Second World War, Yugoslav partisans avenged themselves with looting, murders, abductions. Such things remain deep in the collective memory. Afterwards, Carinthia sank into oblivion again, a poor southern region - for holidays, if need be. For fourteen years, it was governed by the autocratic Leopold Wagner (SPÖ), who gladly admitted to being "a high-ranking member of the Hitler Youth." This king of proportional representation was Haider's political godfather.

In 1972, Federal Chancellor Kreisky wanted to have bilingual street signs erected in multilingual towns, a minority right stipulated in the State Treaty of 1955. The result was a popular uprising and, in the end, he submitted. "Defensive battle" and "steet sign tempest", farmers' pride and obstinacy, inferiority complexes and contempt from outsiders - this was a soil fertile for someone like Haider.

Like a Roman patrician, he simply bought the Carinthians. He was everywhere, at every marketplace, at every festival - he probably shook the hand of every Carinthian. He tore through the land and distributed checks for education, fuel, heating. He sold off public property. It's apparently of no concern to the people that Carinthia now has the highest debt of all the Austrian provinces.

Haider presented himself to the sensitive Carinthian soul as an avenging knight. With bluster, he raged repeatedly against "the lofty gentlemen in Vienna". He explicitly flouted court decisions, whether they pertained to treatment of refugees or to street signs. The Sun and the Law: He was both.

Jörg Haider took down Slovenian street signs with his own hands. In violation of the law, he expelled refugees, including women and children, in the dark of night. A few days before he died drunk at the
wheel, he had opened a "special facility" at an altitude of 1,200 meters in the Saualm in order to "concentrate criminal asylum applicants". And then noncriminal but sick asylum applicants were also "concentrated" there. "Carinthia will be free of Chechens," promised his party's advertisements.

The tone he struck is still resonating, and powerfully. That's how a dead Haider can still win an election. "Better to have an innocent asylum-seeker on the Saualm than vice versa", declared BZÖ head Uwe Scheuch recently.

Carinthia is a disgrace to democratic politics. With trepidation, Carinthian social democrats and conservatives supported Haider's course vis-à-vis ideologically explosive questions (foreigners, street signs) - the Carinthian state parliament as National Front. The solitary dissenters, the Greens, only made it into the parliament by a hair's margin. There's hardly a public oppositional voice, because there are basically only two newspapers, one of which is the infamous Krone. The Carinthian affiliate of the National broadcaster ORF reported Haider's death in a manner that can only be described as North Korean. And the few Carinthians who aren't silent with fear or voting BZÖ at the top of their voice have their hands full, finding shelter for asylum-seekers fleeing from Saualm. They call themselves the "Action Committee for More Humanity and Tolerance". They're the best news to come out of Carinthia in ages.


This article was originally published in German in Die Zeit on 5 March, 2009.

Eva Menasse was born in Vienna in 1970. She lives in Berlin, where she works as a journalist and writer. She covered the David Irving trial as an the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Her first literary publicationm "Vienna", was published in 2005.

Translation: Daniel Mufson

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more