Sport, unification and reconciliation

The New York Times carries an interesting profile of Germany’s captain Michael Ballack, who grew up in what was East Germany, but is now a focus of the expectations of the entire country.

Pierre Gottschlich, a political scientist at the University of Rostock, said of Ballack. “Think about it as a game played on certain levels. We’ve gone from the first level, where everybody thinks of him as East German, to the second level, where some see him as East German and others don’t, and we’re getting to the next level, where it doesn’t matter at all. Probably in another 10 or 20 years, we’ll get there.”

What’s interesting, and may bear comparison to our own experience, is the variety of feeling about him, and how people’s perceptions of him reveal something of the different speeds of reconciliation, post-unification. In the places that were West Germany, no one cares where he’s from. But in his homeland, to some, he’s a figure of hope, of pride and of progress.

Beate Neuss, a professor of international politics at the Technical University of Chemnitz, said that eastern Germans were regularly told by the Party of Democratic Socialism, the former communists, that unification made them second-class citizens. “It’s good to have someone on top,” Neuss said of Ballack.

But then again, to those born after the Berlin Wall came down, it seems largely irrelevant.

As Ben Heber, a 14-year-old decathlete, trained Tuesday at the same Chemnitz sports club that produced Ballack, he said of Ballack’s eastern heritage: “We were born after reunification. It doesn’t matter at all.”

  • Greenflag

    Ballach is a brilliant player who next season joins Chelsea . His Germanness (is there another word ) is all very well and good but his desire to improve his finances are no different from any other football player .

    Anyway my money is on Germany to win the world cup 🙂 And so far they are looking good. I;d love to see an England/Germany final but England is not scoring goals like they should and the loss of Michael Owen looks like a bad omen.

  • Keith M

    Ballack is popular for two reasons; first of all he’s the best footballer in Germany and has been for several years. Also up to now he has played all his football at home and wasn’t tempted by Spanish, Italian or English clubs. It also helps that he was never associated with the old DDR.

    Speaking to several Germans, there’s no question that there is a legacy of mistrust to anything with strong links to the DDR. West Germans have paid a huge price in subventions and restructuring costs for unification. Where they were once the economic powerhouse driving Europe, today the unployment rates and sluggish growth lag behind other countries that Germans woul;d once have looked down their noses at (inc. Ireland and the U.K. in the 1970s).

    The reason why I believe a united Germany will work well in the longterm is that there is no real movement for secession. Unlike places like the UUSR, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and the former Pakistan where a large proporion of the populance were uncomfortable in a united state. Everyone sees themselves as “German” as neither the GFR or DDR tried to re-define the national identity in an exclusive way.

    Givenm the other threads running on Slugger at the moment, that should be a lesson for people in this country.

  • woof mcdog

    Any of you watch Edgar Reitz’s excellent Third Heimat when it was shown by BBC4 which had reunification themes running through it.

    A veritable tv tour de force.

  • seabhac siulach

    Keith M

    “Everyone sees themselves as “German” as neither the GFR or DDR tried to re-define the national identity in an exclusive way.

    Givenm the other threads running on Slugger at the moment, that should be a lesson for people in this country.”

    Yes, it would be nice if everyone born on the island of Ireland could at least agree to the label Irish, for one…irrespective of political affiliation or British citizenship…
    That would be a start…
    How one can be born in Ireland and claim to be only British is beyond me…it happens neither in Wales nor Scotland nor England.
    Is the label Irish an exclusive term reserved only for nationalists? From previous threads the answer is apparently, yes, as it would appear to have been surrendered by unionists…

  • Aaron_Scullion

    Is the label Irish an exclusive term reserved only for nationalists? From previous threads the answer is apparently, yes, as it would appear to have been surrendered by unionists…

    except for the Windsor Park Green and White Army, obviously, who are doing a grand job of reclaiming the identity

  • Rory

    George Best and Barry McGuigan had no trouble uniting Ireland in admiration of their outstanding sporting talents. Didn’t impact on intercommunal harmony or national unity though.

  • G

    SS:

    “Is the label Irish an exclusive term reserved only for nationalists”

    Yep that sums it up.

    Did you never consider that possibly people do not want to be called ‘Irish’ which by implication suggests being a citizen of the Republic?

    Regardless of the validity of it I would always say I was ‘Northern Irish’ and ‘British’.

    Should a canadian call himself american as they are part of the geographic North America?

  • seabhac siulach

    Aaron_Scullion:

    “except for the Windsor Park Green and White Army, obviously, who are doing a grand job of reclaiming the identity”

    Their real indentity can more easily be seen in the stands where the fans frequently use Union (Jack) flags and sing the UK national anthem…hardly reclaiming anything…

    Not talking about football, I know, but
    I can also refer to the fact that, for example, the UUP (with a straight face) were able to define themselves as ‘Simply British’…which sounds pretty conclusive that there is no Irishness involved…
    Apparently, one cannot be an Irish unionist.

  • The lost tribe of Israel sure have an identity problem. Still, at least they have the Somme to remember.
    Germany and Ireland are hardly comparable. In one, the national game is soccer and in the other it is GAA. Neither are particularly good at rugby.

  • George

    Everyone thinks of Ballack as an East German like everyone thinks of Roy Keane as a Corkman.

    Sammer was also an East German. Zickler is too as was Thon.

    Keithm,
    East and West Germany didn’t unify, West Germany for all intents and purposes took over East Germany and closed the state down.

    East Germany was then called the “neue Bundeslaender” for a few years.

    Pretty much the only thing that has surived is the Jugendweihe.

    As for sluggish Germany, it is doing very nicely thank you very much. Don’t believe the anglo-centric hype.

    True it’s had to digest a country of 17 million where it closed down every factory in the place.
    It still isn’t in recession, exports more than the United States and has a trade surplus with China.

  • seabhac siulach

    G:

    “Did you never consider that possibly people do not want to be called ‘Irish’ which by implication suggests being a citizen of the Republic?”

    And, by god we wouldn’t want that, would we? The awful slur of it…
    It only implies what you say because the term was meekly surrendered by unionism…

    “Should a canadian call himself american as they are part of the geographic North America?” ”

    No, but then neither really should a US citizen as the Americas are more than these two states…

    It is not a valid comparison, in any case, as Ireland as a nation was in existence for hundreds of years prior to partition in 1920.
    There was never a case for a national territory called North America. That there is such a thing as Ireland is not merely a hypothetical geographical exercise…it is a historical fact.

  • “How one can be born in Ireland and claim to be only British is beyond me…it happens neither in Wales nor Scotland nor England. “

    I know of very few people who do – most are perfectly comfortable with the term Northern Irish in addition to Irish or British, with only a small minority of extremist pedants on either side rejecting this.

    “the UUP (with a straight face) were able to define themselves as ‘Simply British’…which sounds pretty conclusive that there is no Irishness involved…”

    Admittedly I appear to be in the minority but before I read all the ranting and raving I understood it as “We just are British” (in other words it’s just a fact of life and needs no justification) rather than “We are just British”.

    “The awful slur of it… It only implies what you say because the term was meekly surrendered by unionism…”

    No, the reason it was given up on was because it became widely associated with the Republic after they misleadingly named their state simply ‘Ireland’. I’m sure you’re aware that the NI government in the 60s rejected a move to rename Northern Ireland to Ulster because they didn’t want to surrender the term Ireland to the Republic.

    I think any comparison between Germany and Ireland is flawed though given that both West and East German governments claimed, IIRC, to be the true government of all Germany – in Ireland we only have one state claiming the entire island as its own.

  • Tochais Siorai

    …..know of very few people who do – most are perfectly comfortable with the term Northern Irish in addition to Irish or British, with only a small minority of extremist pedants on either side rejecting this……..

    Beano, I don’t doubt you on Unionists being comfortable being described as Northern Irish & British but the vast majority of northern nationalists I know do not like being described as Northern Irish at all.

  • lib2016

    Irish unionists reject what everybody else accepts, the fact of their own Irishness. Look to history including their own, for confirmation if you like. Who were included in the ‘Irish Regiments’ on the Somme and elsewhere.

    Like so many other threads this one serves only to emphasise the cul de sac unionism has found itself in. The breakup of Britain with the return of the next Conservative government if and when it happens will provide another possible end to the Six County story.

  • G

    lib: Like so many other threads this one serves only to emphasise the cul de sac unionism has found itself in

    Wind your neck in ffs. So people on here who aren’t citizens of the country of Ireland and therefore don’t want to be called ‘Irish’ are getting themselves into a cul de sac? Quality!!

    It’s so hard to fathom isn’t it that not everyone has the same views and wants as yourself?

  • “the vast majority of northern nationalists I know do not like being described as Northern Irish at all. “

    I can only talk about the nationalist I’ve met, and it’s clearly anecdotal, but a few I used to be friends with didn’t seem to have a problem although another girl sent her boyfriend a bit psycho when she used the term, saying “There’s no such thing…” blah blah blah.

    I wouldn’t suggest it was universal, but it does seem to be a trend that’s growing, even if only as a second preference term.

    “Irish unionists reject what everybody else accepts, the fact of their own Irishness. “
    Lib did you not read anything of what was written above? They reject the Southern state. Unfortunately that state has wed itself completely to the concept of Irishness to the point where to many they are indistinguishable. It is that which has led to the unfortunate discomfort felt by unionists towards the term.

  • Typo:I can only talk about the nationalists I’ve met,

  • DK

    Lib2016: “the ‘Irish Regiments’ on the Somme and elsewhere”. But that was back in the days that there was a united Ireland – only as part of the United Kingdom – so it was OK for both sides to be refferd to as Irish, in the geographical sense, since that was the island they were from.

    Once Ireland split you then have to come up with terms for the 2 ethnic groups on it. Unfortunately, the term “Ireland” was used for the sate that contained the celtic race, and the term “Irish” now exclusively means someone of celtic descent from Ireland. But the remaining “Northern Irish” are not ethnically celtic, being descended from assorted settlers from across the water. So what do they call themselves since “Irish” is no longer available? They seem to have plumped, unfortunately, for “British”. Probably Anglo-Irish would be more accurate, since the Scottish settlers are lowland scots who originate from the same set of invaders that the English do. I understand that Anglo-Irish is even an acceptable term for those in the Republic that are not ethnically Irish but descended from settlers. They certainly don’t call themselves British!

  • lib2016

    Irish unionists face certain identity problems, or do I mean that they refuse to face certain identity problems? 😉

    The fact is that up until the middle of the last century both Australians and Canadians carried British passports and thought of themselves as British. Then things changed.

    Now, once again there are questions about ‘Britishness’ and what it means. On the other hand once you pass Larne nobody has any doubts about what ‘Irish’ means.

    After three hundred years it’s a little late to get cold feet, lads. Ireland and ‘Irishness’ includes the whole island and temporary little poltical arrangements like Partition haven’t affected that no matter what a shrinking local majority claims.

  • George

    DK,
    the Anglo-Irish south of the border always came under the green in the flag.

    The term doesn’t really exist that much if at all in 2006. Now, they are just Irish.

    Even Keith’s beloved West Brits are on the verge of extinction, having been swamped by the Dorts.

  • Lafcadio

    George – “As for sluggish Germany, it is doing very nicely thank you very much. Don’t believe the anglo-centric hype.”

    what “anglo-centric hype” would that be? Most of the recent articles I’ve read in the British financial press in the last few months have actually been relatively positive.

    However there is no other way to describe Germany’s economy but sluggish – expected GDP growth of not much more than 1.5% this year and 1.2% 07, GDP per capita now below the EU average, over-taxed, excessive red tape, inflexible labour market.

    There are some encouraging signs – but it’s only doing “very nicely thank you very much” if you’re not one of the 5 million people unemployed.

  • George

    Lafcadio,
    I was one of the five million unemployed at one time and I could still afford three holidays a year.

    The British media has been reporting for years that the German economy was on its knees. Much of that in my view has been out of a wish to see Germany change its system to the Anglo-Saxon economic model.

    The Germans play a long game and they’ve had a lot on their plate in recent years between investing in half of eastern Europe and upgrading the DDR.

    I’m sure if you had a closer at the American employment figures you’d find that it’s a hell of a lot more than the official 5.5%.

    If you work more than one hour a week in the USA you aren’t unemployed. You can also be classified as “temporarily absent” from work.

    The true measure of unemployment and an economy is poverty levels in my view. German poverty levels are nothing compared to the USA or Ireland for that matter.

  • DK

    George: “the Anglo-Irish south of the border always came under the green in the flag.
    The term doesn’t really exist that much if at all in 2006. Now, they are just Irish.”

    Well, the 2002 census has 20,461 people describing themselves as “Irish English”. Not sure if this is people moving over or original inhabitants though.

    “Even Keith’s beloved West Brits are on the verge of extinction, having been swamped by the Dorts.”

    What is a Dort?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi All,

    For what it’s worth, I for one would describe myself as Irish and British. I don’t think there is any conflict between the two. British is just a broader description of my ethnicity. In the same way that being described as an Ulsterman is a narrower description than just Irish. I have no problem with the island being described as Ireland as I describe the whole Archipelago as the British Isles.

  • Congal: That is nice to know. The idea that any well stocked lunatic asylum has at least a few Napoleons comes to mind. So too does Jonathan Swift but…

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Taigs,

    Cheers. Glad to have amused you…

  • Lafcadio

    George “…I could still afford three holidays a year…” while being unemployed has historically been relatively cosy in Germany (although your experience is by no means typical) this is now a liability, bespeaking as it does a rigid labour market which suits insiders (who are well-paid and expensive to sack) at the expense of outsiders (the 5 million). The high unemployment has a negative affect on consumer sentiment, which is one reason why Germany’s economy is ever more reliant on exports (i.e. consumption and investment in the rest of the world), and is experiencing low growth.

    “The British media has been reporting for years that the German economy was on its knees. Much of that in my view has been out of a wish to see Germany change its system to the Anglo-Saxon economic model.”

    seriously, what are you reading??? can you give me any examples?

    “The Germans play a long game and they’ve had a lot on their plate in recent years between investing in half of eastern Europe and upgrading the DDR.”

    German investments you speak of are rather an example of high labour costs pushing German companies to invest outside Germany – some big companies are starting to use this as a stick in wage negotiations with some success which is a welcome development.

    There’s no doubt that the East has been a big drag, and has affected Germany’s performance dramatically and continues to do so.

    The “long game” is more through lack of option than by choice – with the grand coalition remaining uncertain the odds are against meaningful reform, and policy options are limited, with monetary policy set by the ECB, and fiscal policy constrained (in theory) by the 3% limit, which Germany has already exceeded.

  • Brian Boru

    ““We were born after reunification. It doesn’t matter at all.”

    Maybe the children of the Unionists will start to feel that way after a hypothetical reunification, and a harmonious society will be facilitated by this. 🙂

    “Well, the 2002 census has 20,461 people describing themselves as “Irish English”. Not sure if this is people moving over or original inhabitants though.”

    I think this refers to people born in England of Irish descent, in the same way that the term “Irish-American” means an American of Irish descent. A lot of them are the children of Irish emigrants in the past returning to their ancestral homeland.

  • George

    DK,
    I don’t know who the “Irish English” are exactly but it would be the opposite of Anglo-Irish I would think.

    “Dort English” is the language that used to be spoken near the Dart but has since spread and is also favoured by many Leinster rugby fans.

  • Levi

    I don’t have an ID crisis.. I am simply Northern Irish. I have a British passport because my country, Northern Ireland, is part of the UK. Internationally that makes me British.. locally, I am still Northern Irish.
    If I were to have a passport of the Republic,(and i would want to be anble to vote if i were to be a citizen of that country) then I would be Irish in the international world.. but still Northern Irish locally.
    The pedantic nonsense sometimes spouted on this is ridiculous.

  • Lafcadio

    Lafcadio,
    I am surprised that you seem to have missed the crowing over the Anglo-Saxon economic model that was virtually an epidemic in the last decade but I recommend you read some of Gordon Brown’s speeches about how the UK was outperforming Germany. Or try Tony Blair’s push for “reform” last year.

    All I can tell you about Germany is that the social fabric there is a lot better and that things are still better there than the “better performing” UK, in my view.

    The UK officially has “full employment” but it could be argued that in large swathes of the country the whole fabric of society seems to be breaking down.

    Germany wants to and will retain its more social model with a few tweaks here and there, I hope.
    Germans are still a more productive workforce in Europe despite all this talk of rigidity. God forbid that a worker has rights.

    On the 3%, it’s back below that this year although I would have given them a yellow card.

  • Brian Boru

    However I would still contend that Irishness is now the dominant identity of the descendents of most of the Southern Unionists – increasingly even in the border counties.

  • Brian Boru

    While it is true that the UK economic model is far better in terms of outcome than the “European Social Model”, I prefer what I would call the “Irish Model”. The Irish model keeps economic growth and low unemployment while preserving the society, something mortally wounded by Thatcherite policies on the unions. I support privatisation, but think she went too far in crushing the unions. In the Republic, our Partnership talks every few years help reconcile the economic needs with the social needs of the country. It is a sad time to be a British worker when you’re capacity to defend your rights are so restricted.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    and the term “Irish” now exclusively means someone of celtic descent from Ireland

    Unionists all seem to believe this as an article of faith even though it’s clearly nonsense.

    So yer telling me David Norris, Jason Sherlock, Phil Lynott, Paul McGrath and Samantha Mumba aren’t Irish? Eh?

    Repeating silly myths without foundation endlessly just doesn’t make them come true.

  • Brian Boru

    “So yer telling me David Norris, Jason Sherlock, Phil Lynott, Paul McGrath and Samantha Mumba aren’t Irish? Eh?”

    To be factual about it, Lynott and Mumba had Irish mothers. Also English-sounding surnames are often Anglicised versions of Irish surnames on this island – especially in the South. However if the Celtic-descent issue is to be brought up, then it could be argued that because of Scottish ancestory many Unionists are also of Celtic-descent.

    On the question of whether someone not with Gaelic blood can be Irish I would say yes but in a different way. There is “civic Irishness” and “ethnic Irishness”. Civic Irishness being Irishness based on citizenship and the latter being based on being of Irish descent.

  • D Day Dawson

    There is “civic Irishness” and “ethnic Irishness”. Civic Irishness being Irishness based on citizenship and the latter being based on being of Irish descent.

    I presume by ethnic Irishness you mean those descended from British, Viking, French and other settlers as well as a smattering of indigenous DNA? Recent research has shown there is no such thing as an Irish race. To be fair to unionism, which I do not subscribe to Nationalism in Northern Ireland has made such a good job of making Irishness a catholic thing, that some can hardly be blamed for rejecting it.

    BTW – The Union Flag is very rare at NI games, apart from being incorporated in the NI flag. It does however contain St Patrick’s Saltire, so is in fact 25% Irish. A person can be Irish and British, just the same as being Scottish and British.

  • Lafcadio

    George – “I am surprised that you seem to have missed the crowing over the Anglo-Saxon economic model that was virtually an epidemic in the last decade but I recommend you read some of Gordon Brown’s speeches about how the UK was outperforming Germany” what, British politicians saying that the British model is best?? whatever next.. I thought you said in the press – well I read the financial press in the UK extensively, and while they often spell out the need for reform, I’ve not encountered anything in the last few years that I could call crowing. That Brown/Blair talk up the British economy should surprise nobody, particularly given its solid performance over the last decade – and its also natural that Germany should be used as counterpoint, as its Europe’s biggest and most influential economy.

    As for Britain’s society breaking down – only if you read the Daily Mail; since time immemorial people have thought that they’re living in a society which is in the course of breaking down. In truth everything’s knocking along much as it ever has..

  • harpo

    ‘There was never a case for a national territory called North America.’

    seabhac siulach:

    No? Before the colonies that ended up becoming the US engaged in revolution to break the British connection did so, what were they part of? British North America.

    Now let’s say that things had gone differently and that BNA had stayed together until they got to the point that Canada or Australia actually reached. British linked independence. What do you think British North America would have become at that point? I’d say it would have been North America. Dropping the British part of the name.

    ‘It is not a valid comparison, in any case, as Ireland as a nation was in existence for hundreds of years prior to partition in 1920.’

    A nation in what sense? This thread started off about Germany, and it didn’t become a nation until 1871. Before that it was a load of bits and pieces, with various peoples linked in some ways but different in others. With domination at times by one or other of those peoples. It all sounds like what was going on on the island of Ireland.

    And of course the Celts who are the group that I am sure you see as providing the glue that made this Irish nation were just as much invaders as the Normans or any other group of planters who came from the neighbouring island. The Celts didn’t originate on the island of Ireland. They moved in.

    Of course you ignore that and when the development of any other nation is mentioned, the Irish argument is always ‘we have been a nation for a long time’. As if invading a place long ago in the past and developing a nation as a result of that makes your nation better than any modern nation that has developed.

    In 1,000 years time, the US will use the well worn cliche that the Irish currently use that they are an ancient and honourable nation, as if that justifies what was done to create that nation – invading and taking over. I don’t see that it does, but it’s reality.

    So when the descendents of the Irish Celt invaders get all uppity about other folks who dared invade and take over somewhere I don’t see that they have much of a leg to stand on. They did exactly the same. But that is ignored when it comes to the Celts in Ireland. There is no history before this Irish nation in that case.

    I don’t see that it does.

    Ireland may be a small island but the same principles apply as everywhere else. The dominant people on the island came from somewhere else. There may be this myth that the Celtish Irish were always there, but it is just a myth. History shows us cases of territory that has been invaded over and over again, but the Celtish Irish have decided that history of Ireland started with them and ends with them. The island is thus theirs according to this theory, no matter who has moved in since.

  • Brian Boru

    “I presume by ethnic Irishness you mean those descended from British, Viking, French and other settlers as well as a smattering of indigenous DNA? Recent research has shown there is no such thing as an Irish race.”

    DNA evidence in studies by TCD found in 2003 that 78% of men born in the Republic are descended from the first inhabitants of the island and are of Mesolthic origin, which would seem to discount your theory. Dr.Emmeline Hill explains here: http://www.insideireland.com/sample19.htm

    “To be fair to unionism, which I do not subscribe to Nationalism in Northern Ireland has made such a good job of making Irishness a catholic thing, that some can hardly be blamed for rejecting it.”

    I think Unionism has done a great job of making Nationalism mostly Catholic by refusing to support the Home Rule movement in the 19th century despite a number of Protestants being leaders and senior figures in that party e.g. Issac Butt, Parnell. Much of this was based on primeval fears of Catholic Emancipation and equality and the threat it posed to the “Herrenvolk” mentality, not unlike the attitude of the Aparteid regime to Black equality. Having said that some Protestants did play a senior part in the movement as I said, and not just in the Home Rule movement but also in the Old SF e.g. Robert Barton, Erskine Childers, Roger Casement.

  • Brian Boru

    “A nation in what sense? This thread started off about Germany, and it didn’t become a nation until 1871. Before that it was a load of bits and pieces, with various peoples linked in some ways but different in others. With domination at times by one or other of those peoples. It all sounds like what was going on on the island of Ireland.

    And of course the Celts who are the group that I am sure you see as providing the glue that made this Irish nation were just as much invaders as the Normans or any other group of planters who came from the neighbouring island. The Celts didn’t originate on the island of Ireland. They moved in.”

    The above research indicates that while the culture of Ireland was certainly Celtic in terms of language and at one point religion and culture, that the majority of Irish are quite homogenous and descended from the very first inhabitants of the island 11,000 years ago. It will be interesting to see the genetic map of the North which will probably will part of the all-Ireland genetic map the RIA is drawing up. Some scientists now argue that Ireland was never invaded by the Celts, and that we simply adopted Gaelic as a language, whereas others argue that they did invade but only in small numbers and formed a ruling caste that introduced the Irish language here.

    You make the oft-repeated error of equating the terms “nation” with “state” in your analysis of Germany. The Germans were separate states for hundreds of years yes, but they were together as autonomous states of the Holy Roman Empire until the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon then formed most of them into the “Confederation of the Rhine”, after which they became the “German Confederation” in 1815. In 1871 the states united into the German Empire. At the same time, it cannot credibly be denied that the people of German had long since considered themselves a nation. As early as 1512, the Holy Roman Empire was called the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation” – clearly evidencing the common national identity of the German-speakers therein. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Roman_Empire

    For example wikipedia says of the term “nation”:

    “In a more strict sense, however, terms such as nation, ethnos, and peoples denominate a group of human beings, in contrast to country which denominates a territory, whereas state expresses a legitimized administrative and decision-making institution.”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself. 🙂

  • George

    Lafcadio,
    as I’m away I don’t have access to business papers but I must have been living in a different world to you for the last decade if you haven’t experienced the crowing about the success of the Anglo-Saxon economic model and the demise of Germany. Here are some things I found on the first page of Google by simply typing in “Germany economy paralysis”:

    Times last October after the election of Merkel:
    “One has to acknowledge that the ageing electorates of Germany, France and Italy are entitled to vote for political paralysis, economic decline and global irrelevance.”

    New Zealand media:
    “Despite its moribund economy and the widespread recognition of the need to prune the expensive welfare state, loosen labour regulations, cut taxes and wind back public intervention in business, the German political system has thwarted reform. As in New Zealand, Germany’s election last weekend has delivered an inconclusive result. The ‘sick man of Europe’ is likely to remain bedridden for some time yet.”

    The Guardian:
    “Those feeling the most frustrated by the election result were likely to be in the US and Britain…. They hoped it would usher in a German government that would lead the rest of Europe in free-market, pro-US directions.”

  • harpo

    ‘How one can be born in Ireland and claim to be only British is beyond me…it happens neither in Wales nor Scotland nor England.’

    seabhac siulach:

    It’s like being born in the Americas and only claiming to be Mexican.

    The issue is that since partition the definition of Irish has changed. Pre-partition the Irish were part of the British family, like the Scots, Welsh and English. After partition however and the limited form of Irish independence that brought, being Irish came to mean being part of the Free State/ROI as it became. At that point being Irish did not automatically mean one was still part of the British family. Unionists naturally dropped the Irish tag as it came to mean not British.

    You can go on and on about this but since being Irish has come to mean not British to most people, unionists in NI are naturally going to avoid calling themselves Irish.

    Frankly I have no idea why nationalists spend so much time on this non-issue apart from it being unionist baiting. If the only argument that some nationalists have is ‘you were born on the island of Ireland so you must be Irish’ (in that sneering nah nah nah nah nah tone) then I’d say nationalism is the ideology that has painted itself into a cul de sac.

    On a related subject I have never understood why nationalists and republicans support so many other causes around the world that take the absolute opposite approach on this issue. Like the Tamils and their bid for independence from the rest of Sri Lanka. Here again we have an island with several peoples on it. But the IR attitude is that they support the Tamil’s right to independence? Why is that? Since they have all been born on Sri Lanka, aren’t they all Sri Lankans?

    The same goes for the Basques and the Catalans in Spain. If they were born in Spain aren’t they Spanish?

    The argument in those cases of course is the opposite of the argument on the island of Ireland. In those cases the Tamils, Basques and Catalans are suddenly not defined by the geographical entity they live in. They become a seperate people with the right of self-determination. But if that’s the case then why are the unionists on the island of Ireland not the same? They came as planters and are different from the Celts who were there before them. Aren’t they different enough to count as having the right to self-determination.

    That’s the double standard of nationalism. If you’re on the island of Ireland you are supposedly automatically Irish, but Catalans are a different people, even though they were born in Spain.

  • Brian Boru

    “The argument in those cases of course is the opposite of the argument on the island of Ireland. In those cases the Tamils, Basques and Catalans are suddenly not defined by the geographical entity they live in. They become a seperate people with the right of self-determination. But if that’s the case then why are the unionists on the island of Ireland not the same? They came as planters and are different from the Celts who were there before them. Aren’t they different enough to count as having the right to self-determination.”

    But you see harpo, NI is not independent and the Unionists were not seeking independence but rather continued British rule. That is one difference. Another is the absence of a widely-spoken group-language that marked them out from Southerners. Another very important factor is fact that the other groups have – unlike the Unionists – already experienced the rule of those they consider extraneous to their national identity and endured oppression at various times. A key issue in my moral support for many separatist causes abroad is the question of an existing situation involving state-oppression of a particular ethnic or religious group. If there is oppression then this group becomes more deserving of independence in my view. But then there are other groups internationally who do not seek independence as they are not being oppressed e.g. ethnic-Slovenes in Austrial, ethnic-Hungarians in Slovakia. So making comparisons with Unionism and its ‘right’ to partition is not comparing like with like, contrary to what you. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it yet.

    Former president Mary Robinson has ancestory on both sides of the religious divide. Michael McDowell had a Northern Protestant grandfather (William McDowell). It is also possible that with most of Scotland being Gaelic-speaking in the 17th century, that some of the Unionist planters shared common origins with the Irish given the 5th century Irish invasion of modern Scotland which brought Gaelic to Scotland. So maybe we’re not so different after all! 🙂

  • harpo

    ‘The reason why I believe a united Germany will work well in the longterm is that there is no real movement for secession. Unlike places like the UUSR, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and the former Pakistan where a large proporion of the populance were uncomfortable in a united state. Everyone sees themselves as “German” as neither the GFR or DDR tried to re-define the national identity in an exclusive way.

    Givenm the other threads running on Slugger at the moment, that should be a lesson for people in this country.’

    Keith M:

    Well put. The only lesson that I see is that on the island of Ireland the situation is nothing like the situation in Germany. In Germany you had 2 states that were formed as the result of outside forces at the end of WW2. East Germany was separate becuase the Soviets wanted it that way. The East Germans didn’t get asked if they wanted that. Thus there was an ongoing desire by ordinary Germans for unity. They pretty well all saw themselves as Germans – the same people.

    Our lesson from the island of Ireland is that the situation is more like your situation where ‘a large proporion of the populance were uncomfortable in a united state’. That’s a lesson from the past and for the future.

    That certainly applied before partition when many on the island of Ireland were uncomfortable within the UK. That led to events as we know them. But partition was a sensible attempt in my opinion to prevent another one of these situations arising. If the whole island of Ireland had constituted the Irish Free State, you would immediately have had a mini version of the pre-partition situation. Unionists in Ireland would have been uncomfortable within a united Ireland.

    That’s why unionists fought for partition. To avoid that very situation. And if a united Ireland ever comes about in the future we will have that Sri Lankan type situation all over again. An unhappy unionist minority in a united Ireland. Like the Tamils in Sri Lanka do the unionists have a right to independence in that case?

    Your analysis seems to make out that the German scenario is good, and those others (Sri Lanka etc) are bad, or the wrong way to approach it. The big problem is that most situations today follow the Sri Lanka pattern, and the German situation is very rare. There aren’t too many peoples who make up just about 100% of 2 states that are split apart and are trying to get together these days.

    And the main point is that you don’t get to choose which scenario your situation falls into. Thus you can’t define the situation in Ireland as a German type situation and that makes everything OK, when you know very well that it is a Sri Lanka type one.

    The problem back in 1920 in Ireland of course was that it wasn’t a German type scenario. And it still isn’t. In 1920 not all of the people in the territory shared the same opinion. Partition recognized that. Partition avoided yet another of these Sri Lanka type situations.

    The sad thing is that much of Irish nationalism has never been honest enough to face the fact that unionists are different from the Celtic Irish. Many of the Celtic Irish have always been more interested, and still are, in preaching the nonsense that unionists are the same as them and are thus Irish. Using idiotic ‘arguments’ such as ‘if you are born on the island of ireland you must be Irish’. I doubt that a Tamil on the island of Sri Lanka would go for the similar ‘you were born on Sri Lanka so you must be Sri Lankan’ argument, so why should unionists have to accept this? Those sort of nationalists aren’t actually interested in the peoples involved, they just want the territory of the whole island of ireland, no matter who is living on it.

    Of course another strain of nationalism ignores this ‘you’re Irish’ theory and is honest enough to state ‘you are invaders and you should be kicked off the island back to where you came form’. These folks at least acknowledge that unionists are a different people. Which in the end is a fact. The fact that means that there will never be a German style scenario on the island.

    For all the whining about occupation of 6 counties, the situation on the island is not the German one. There is no external force that is keeping 2 places apart, when just about 100% of the people in each part are the same, and want to be united. That was the case in the 2 Germanies, where only Soviet occupation kept east and west apart.

    On the island of Ireland the problem is the presence of a large number of a different people on the island. Partion sensibly recognized this. Much of Irish nationalism tries to ignore this away.

  • Brian Boru

    “That certainly applied before partition when many on the island of Ireland were uncomfortable within the UK. That led to events as we know them. But partition was a sensible attempt in my opinion to prevent another one of these situations arising. If the whole island of Ireland had constituted the Irish Free State, you would immediately have had a mini version of the pre-partition situation. Unionists in Ireland would have been uncomfortable within a united Ireland.”

    Your community didn’t seem to mind forcing the 3!% Catholic minority into an “uncomfortable” situation by forcing so much Catholic territory into NI. That border was not drawn strictly along religious lines and you know it. The South started life with a 7% minority whereas the North started with a 31% minority. Practice what you preach harpo. 4 of the 6 counties are Catholic anyway as were 2 in 1920 (Fermanagh and Tyrone).

  • harpo

    ‘In the places that were West Germany, no one cares where he’s from. But in his homeland, to some, he’s a figure of hope, of pride and of progress.’

    If a united Ireland came along and was peaceful afterwards (big assumptions) wouldn’t the same be true for a sporting star who arose in the recently unified Ireland, and who came from the former NI?

    Most folks in the former 26 county ROI wouldn’t care where he came from, but he would likely be a figure of hope, of pride and of progress to those from the former NI. Especially if he was from the nationalist community of the former NI. Say the UI football team did well as a result of this superstar (as Germany is doing with Ballack). Wouldn’t ‘northern’ nationalists claim him as theirs, setting him up as an icon of how the new part of the UI can produce talent at least equal to what the 26 counties can? And how the ‘new’ 6 counties can contribute to the united country.

  • George

    “In the places that were West Germany, no one cares where he’s from. But in his homeland, to some, he’s a figure of hope, of pride and of progress.”

    Yeah, they were really starved of sporting success in the old DDR alright. That’s what your average East German needs, another sporting hero.

    As if Jan Ulrich wasn’t enough.

  • Nevin
  • harpo

    ‘But you see harpo, NI is not independent and the Unionists were not seeking independence but rather continued British rule.’

    Brian:

    I know that, but I didn’t claim that NI was independent. Nationalists usually come back with this bogus counter to my point. Peoples have the right to self-determination – that’s what I said. Not that they have to have independence.

    The point is that peoples have the right to self-determination. That means that they get to choose what they want. In many cases that will mean they want independence, but it doesn’t have to. All it means is that they get to choose.

    In the case of unionists on the island of ireland, I think it’s not that surprising that since their ancestors came from various parts of GB that their choice is to be united with GB.

    I didn’t mention independence, so drop it as a difference between the situation on the island of Ireland and anywhere else. If the principle is self-determination then the situation is exactly the same.

    ‘Another is the absence of a widely-spoken group-language that marked them out from Southerners.’

    Shouldn’t that be the other way around if it is to support your theory? If your argument is suddenly that because unionists speak English and southerners/nationalists do to, then isn’t that an argument for ‘the Irish’ being considered to be part of the British family? Since folks in GB and the unionists have it alone as their native tongue? I think you have just defeated yourself here. If the Irish actually used their own language as first choice and the unionists on the island did too, then you would have a point that uniopnists have ‘the absence of a widely-spoken group-language that marked them out from Southerners’. But that isn’t the situation.

    Essentially your argument here is ‘you speak English like us Irish, so that makes you Irish’.

    I’d say if you have a point it’s that all the people on the island of Ireland are British because there is ‘the absence of a widely-spoken group-language that marks them out’ from the reast of the British.

    Did you want to try arguing that one again?

    ‘Another very important factor is fact that the other groups have’

    Again you refer to other groups, meaning that unionists are a different group from these other groups.

    Your arguments seem to support my contention that unionists are a separate group.

    ‘So making comparisons with Unionism and its ‘right’ to partition is not comparing like with like, contrary to what you. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it yet.’

    Don’t knock what? Making up my own rules as you have done? I’ve never heard of this ‘the right to self-determination only counts if you are being oppressed’. I don’t think you will find much support for that, except of course from your fellow Irish nationalists who engage in double standards.

    The principle of self-determination is simple – peoples get to choose what they want. And there doesn’t have to be persecution/oppression involved. That may your easy out for ignoring the claim of unionists to this right, but so far as I know the right is absolute. It isn’t qualified with a ‘well that country treats that group nicely, so they don’t get the right to self-determination.’ That ain’t how it works.

    But now that you raised it, unionists back in the early 1900s feared, probably rightly, that they would be oppressed if Home Rule had applied to all of the island of Ireland. So they took measures to avoid ending up in that situation.

    Under your theory I suppose you would say that they should have gone into a UI to give it a chance and if there had been no oppression, everything would have been OK. But that’s nonsense. You don’t put yourself into that situation based on blind hope, especially when you have the right to choose what you actually do want in the first place. Why would a people who were happy with the country they were in (the UK) give that up just because Irish Home Rulers thought it was a good idea?

    What you ignore is that unionists were a different group from the Home Rulers, and as such have the right to self-determination. They were under no obligation to go into any all Ireland Free State. And partition ensured that their right was respected. In the case of partition it meant that unionists got to choose what they wanted – staying in the country they were alreday in, the UK.

  • harpo

    ‘Sport, unification and reconciliation’

    I don’t see that reconciliation comes into the German situation. Germany ended up united once the Soviet influence left. You had 2 lots of people who at a just about 100% level considered themselves to be the same. So what needed to be reconciled?

    It isn’t as if there was a roughly 50/50 split in East Germany between those who wanted to stay independent and those who wanted German unity. Just about everybody wanted unity. Unity didn’t mean one bad situation replaced with another one, where 50%-1 of East Germans suddenly found themselves in a united Germany and didn’t agree with it.

    In Ireland of course there is that situation. If NI ever does become united with the ROI there will be a large number of people (50%-1?)in what was the former NI not very happy about it.

  • harpo

    ‘Yes, it would be nice if everyone born on the island of Ireland could at least agree to the label Irish’

    seabhac siulach:

    But that’s not the point. You are wishing that the German situation applied to the island of Ireland. It doesn’t.

    Reality is that unionists in the main don’t consider themsleves to be Irish. Thus we have the alternative scenario that is mentioned by Keith – a Sri Lanka style one, where not everyone on the island sees themselves as being the same thing.

    You may not like that, you may wish it was different, but that’s reality.

  • IJP

    Lots of things here:

    1. I’m really not sure that you can relate Germany to Ireland in any meaningful way, although sometimes I wonder (for example, many people in the DDR supported the West German football team).

    2. While most of what Beano says is correct in my view, West Germans did generally refer to their country as ‘Germany’ and to East Germany as ‘die DDR’ (always initials – ‘DDR’ in fact became one of the most common words in the German language in its own right).

    3. Germany’s economy has significant structural problems that are not to do with unification – unification itself has been quite a success economically all things considered.

    4. Germany certainly has a lot going for it, as George says – huge external markets, an astonishing sense of safety on its streets (females happily walk around Berlin on their own at any time, for example), and environmental advancements the envy of the rest of the world.

    5. People tend to forget the German-Austrian relationship, which is in some ways more obviously comparable to the NI-RoI one.

    Off to Germany myself next week…

  • IJP

    Re Ireland:

    1. Interestingly, my sense is that there is a growing ‘Northern Irish’ identity among young people, yet at the same time there are more extreme ‘Irish’ (i.e. allegedly not British in any way and ‘Irish’ means ‘Gaelic’) and ‘British’ (allegedly not ‘Irish’ at all) identities.

    2. Brian should be careful with his comparisons. The Tyrol was partioned after WW1, the North and East remaining in Austria, the South handed over to Italy despite a 97% German-speaking majority. Mussolini attempted an Italianization (including a plantation and banning of use of German), a terrorist campaign began in the ’60s as German speakers rose up. Yet German speakers my age in South Tyrol are not only content with the constitutional status quo (i.e. strong power-sharing devolution within Italy), but have come unquestioningly to support Italian national teams…

    3. harpo therefore makes a strong point. There’s not much point in talking about anything if we have two ‘sides’ unwilling to ‘reconcile’ with each other. That is the lesson from Germany, the Tyrol, and most other successful conflict resolutions.

  • harpo

    ‘That is the lesson from Germany, the Tyrol, and most other successful conflict resolutions.’

    IJP:

    What made the German speaking ‘ethnic Austrians’ in the south Tyrol accept ‘reconcilition’, if as recently as the 60s some of them tried terrorism?

    They could have done the Irish Republican thing and complained from day 1 that the partition of the Tyrol was unfair/wrong, just as NI nationalists have. They could have had a rising every generation and kept it up until today. So why didn’t they, whereas NI nationalists have done so?

    The partition of the island of Ireland in my opinion was fair, as it led to NI being set up with a majority of people who wanted to stay in the UK. That’s as good a partition as you will get. One where 97% of the people in an area end up on the wrong side against their will isn’t fair. And one where I’d have thought they’d have had strong support for correcting it. So why are those folks in the south Tyrol happy, whereas NI nationalists still aren’t?

    Are they just realists – they accepted that it happened and wasn’t changing?

  • harpo

    ‘There’s not much point in talking about anything if we have two ‘sides’ unwilling to ‘reconcile’ with each other.’

    The big problem is that nationalists are not prepared to reconcile. They want it all their way. For them they won’t be satisfied until there is a united Ireland ie total victory for their side. That isn’t reconciliation.

    Unionists on the other hand have always been, and still are, prepared to share the island of Ireland.

  • Brian Boru

    “In the case of unionists on the island of ireland, I think it’s not that surprising that since their ancestors came from various parts of GB that their choice is to be united with GB.”

    Like the Americans in 1776….;)

    “Under your theory I suppose you would say that they should have gone into a UI to give it a chance and if there had been no oppression, everything would have been OK. But that’s nonsense. You don’t put yourself into that situation based on blind hope, especially when you have the right to choose what you actually do want in the first place. Why would a people who were happy with the country they were in (the UK) give that up just because Irish Home Rulers thought it was a good idea?”

    Actually in case you have forgot the Home Rulers were not calling for us to leave the UK. They wanted autonomous status for Ireland within the UK, like what Scotland now has. 26% in Scotland voted no to devolution, but you don’t see that country being partitioned. The partition plan preceded the Treaty and envisaged 2 Home Rule states remaining within the UK.

    I also believe that the Unionists were just being paranoid which is a forte of theirs. Further to that I believe a certain element of the opposition to Home Rule was a Herrenvolk mentality that didn’t want “a Catholic about the place” in govt. I think your community should be honest about your real motivations at that time and what a mess you made by partitioning this island and consigning thousands of people to chaos.

    Is it not also ironic that for all the warnings of “oppression” there would supposedly have been in a United Ireland, that the Unionists then inflicted this on their Catholic minority including the McMahon family massacre by an RUC deathsquad and decades of gerrymandering and pogroms?

  • Brian Boru

    “The partition of the island of Ireland in my opinion was fair”

    What was so “fair” about handing huge tracts of Catholic territory to the Northern Ireland state? That has nothing to do with self-determination.

  • harpo

    ‘I also believe that the Unionists were just being paranoid which is a forte of theirs. Further to that I believe a certain element of the opposition to Home Rule was a Herrenvolk mentality that didn’t want “a Catholic about the place” in govt.’

    There were plenty of Catholics about the place in government in the UK when Home Rule started being debated. What are you on about?

    This argument is nonsense. Being opposed to Home Rule meant keeping lots more Catholics within the UK, meaning that some of those Catholics could have been in the UK government. Getting rid of Irish Catholics out of the UK would have meant a less Catholic UK.

    Why can’t you simply accept the obvious reality that unionists liked being in the UK, and didn’t want to leave it? What about that is so hard to understand? Why is it that you have to invent all sorts of conspiracy theories to try to deflect from this simple fact?

    You approach the whole issue from the point of view of unionists wanting control of something. They didn’t. When the whole of Ireland was in the UK, unionists were a small minority in the whole country. How did they control anything or have that much influence? So what’s the ‘Herrenvolk’ crack about? There was no NI parliament at that time, no Stormont. So unionists in Ulster had no control over nationalists.

    I don’t see what’s so hard to understand that they simply wanted to stay in the UK, instead of entering this new Home Rule Ireland where who knows what would have happened. You approach this from the point of view that they were essentially the same as the Home Rulers and had no reason to not want the same thing. But it’s clear that they did. They wanted to stay in their country. What’s so hard to get about this? Why would you leave a country you are happy in?

    ‘I think your community should be honest about your real motivations at that time and what a mess you made by partitioning this island and consigning thousands of people to chaos.’

    What you mean here is the motivations that you ascribe to unionism. I’ll say it again. Unionists simply wanted to stay in the UK. If they had been forced to leave the UK against their will at that time, there would have been an equally big mess. Partition avoided that big mess. If that big mess had happened tens of thousands of people would have been subjected to caos. Civil war etc etc.

    Or do you think that Home Rule or a Free State without partition would have all ended up well, with unionists saying ‘we were only trying it on’?

    BTW
    What do you see the real motivations of unionists as?

  • harpo

    ‘What was so “fair” about handing huge tracts of Catholic territory to the Northern Ireland state? That has nothing to do with self-determination.’

    Brian:

    No partition is ever completely successful, but the one of Ireland was pretty good. It would be impossible to ensure that everyone ended up on the side of their border of their choice.

    What is ‘Catholic territory’ BTW? Were all Catholics solidly for nationalism? No Catholic unionists existed?

    Let’s say only 4 of the 6 counties had ended up in NI. And each had a unionist majority. Would that have been OK with you? Or would you then be complaining that within those counties certain ‘Catholic’ towns, villages, wards, down to even townlands should have not been in NI either?

    Where do you draw the line? And does it work the other way? Could parts of the 2 counties have been carved off if there was a unionist majority in the area concerned.

    Counties was used as an arbitrary unit, but I still think that they did a good job. I’d say that the minimum amount of people were inconvenienced by partition.

    BTW
    Does this mean that you don’t object to partition in itself as a method of ensuring the right to self-determination, so long as it is fair?

  • Brian Boru

    “BTW
    What do you see the real motivations of unionists as?”

    I don’t want to tar them all with the one brush but in general it was a sectarian attitude that feared Catholics and therefore Catholics in govt over them. I think they also feared they would be discriminated against because of the wrongs their ancestors had committed against the Catholics e.g. land confiscations. A hypothesis that I disagree with.

    “No partition is ever completely successful, but the one of Ireland was pretty good. It would be impossible to ensure that everyone ended up on the side of their border of their choice.”

    All the 26 counties were Catholic at the time of partition. Only 4 of the 6 counties were Protestant. Furthermore the 2 that were Catholic were geographically contiguous with the Southern Irish state, and your minority was 31% compared to 7% in ours. Which is easier to integrate 7% or 31%? The will of the people should have come first. I am opposed in principle to partition, but Nationalist Ireland wouldn’t have gone on about it so much were not so many Catholics excluded from the Irish state. I don’t think Unionists would have accepted Protestant border counties going to the Republic yet we had to accept that happening for Catholic ones.

    “Let’s say only 4 of the 6 counties had ended up in NI. And each had a unionist majority. Would that have been OK with you? Or would you then be complaining that within those counties certain ‘Catholic’ towns, villages, wards, down to even townlands should have not been in NI either?”

    I would have been more comfortable with that. The sense of injustice and resentment would have been a lot less. I would still find the existence of a border an irritation, but not the kind of outrage the present border became. The suspension of Tyrone and Fermanagh Co.Councils for refusing to recognise the Northern State is an example of how their incorporation into the NI state was opposed by the majority of the people there. As was the fact that Unionists rejected proposals in the earlier Home Rule talks for a referendum in each of the 6 counties to determine where the border should lie.

    The way NI was governed from 20-72 was nothing short of disgraceful. We saw on our very TV screens Catholics being burned out of their homes while the RUC and B-Specials either took part of did nothing. No wonder so many people were outraged. The Unionist community is still in denial over this period in history and that should end.

  • Lafcadio

    George,

    Of those three citations, only two are British; none are from financial press; and none are crowing – the Times, a de facto tabloid, is the tetchiest, the Guardian, no lover of markets, will probably de delighted if no pro-market reforms take place.

    Listen, I’d be amazed if at various times over the last while the British tabloid press hadn’t crowed about British growth compared to German stagnation – it’s part of their bread and butter after all.

    However to claim that there’s some sort of systematic conspiracy among anglo-saxons to belittle the German economy is nonsense – although it may be more palatable to attribute all of the studies and articles on the need for reform to this, than to apply Occam’s razor and say, maybe it’s because there IS a need for reform.

    What you say flags another point which is often made, which is that because the big Euro economies (particularly Germany, France and Italy) are after all, still advanced and rich, that for many people it doesn’t feel like there’s a real need for change – of course things are a bit different if you’re a second generation Algerian living in a Parisian ghetto, or a German graduate who has been unemployed for 10 years..

    But at the minute there is no real momentum from voters in favour of reform, although in France Sarkozy’s popularity is holding up and he has often spoken about a “rupture” with the past (although he hasn’t been above changing his spots when the need has arose). And the problem is that with very few exceptions there is limited responsible political dialogue to explain the need for reform – the danger being that things will continue in their slow (but comfortable) downward trajectory until the need for reform is more obvious, more serious, and much more painful.