“Thanks for adding the minced meat to our potato gratin.” – Idil Baydar about racism, values, and national identity in a globalised world

Idil Baydar [screenshot]

Screenshot of “Freiheit für Böhmermann”-Show at Tipi am Kanzleramt [Source: rbb]


Heinrich Heine once wrote, “Denk ich an Deutschland in der Nacht, dann bin ich um den Schlaf gebracht.” [Thinking of Germany in the night robs me of my sleep.] After listening to Idil Baydar this morning, I could add, “Denk ich an Deutschland in der Bahn, treibt‘s mich stetig in den Wahn.” [Thinking of Germany on the train, slowly but surely wrecks my brain.]

Sometimes, when you live far away from home, you can barely keep up with the news there, let alone know of every TV show, musician, or comedian that are popular. But for a while now, I’ve been listening to a back catalogue of podcasts from “Sanft & Sorgfältig” [Gentle & Caring], a very popular radio show by German satirist and TV presenter Jan Böhmermann and singer-songwriter Olli Schulz, and there are many occasions where I struggle to avoid laughing out loud on the subway. This morning, however, it was different.

You may have heard of Jan Böhmermann, who shot to fame beyond German borders first with #Varoufake in 2015, and a year later with #Erdogate, a political affair caused by an experimental poem he presented on his satire show Neo Magazin Royale, in which he deliberately insulted the Turkish president Erdoğan by using obscene language.

In his show, Böhmermann announced he would try to illustrate what is the line between legitimate criticism such as the [satirical music video Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdoğan by German satire show extra 3 that had infuriated Erdoğan], which is protected by freedom of speech legislation, and “abusive criticism” (German: Schmähkritik) of a foreign state leader, which in Germany is a punishable offense. [The controversial and little-used law that makes it a criminal offense to insult foreign heads of state will be scrapped, effective Jan. 1, 2018.] Openly acknowledging that his experiment would be deliberately offensive, and standing in front of a Turkish flag and a portrait of Erdoğan, Böhmermann presented an experimental poem that not only harshly criticized Erdoğan for his human rights record, but also contained profanity. [Source: Wikipedia]

This morning, while I was once again riding the subway to work, I listened to a podcast from about a year ago, where satirists, journalists, and well-known jurist and political artist Klaus Staeck discussed the fallout of the affair in a talk show entitled “Freedom for Böhmermann”.

I could quote many of the good things Klaus Staeck said during the show, like for instance: “Let’s definitely not calm down. Hearing the words ‘calming down’ mobilises my last remaining life energy. Unrest is the first and foremost civic duty!” Well roared, lion! But who impressed me even more than Staeck was lioness Idil Baydar, a German actor and comedian, whom, I admit, I didn’t know before although the YouTube videos of her fictional characters, racist German pensioner Gerda Grischke and 18-year-old Turkish “ghetto chick from Berlin-Neukölln” Jilet Ayşe, are immensely popular and she has quickly become a staple of the German comedy scene.

Gerda Grischke, Jilet Ayşe and Idil Baydar [httpidilbaydar.de]

Gerda Grischke, Jilet Ayşe and Idil Baydar [Source: idilbaydar.de]

Baydar appeared on the “Freedom for Böhmermann” show as Jilet Ayşe, and the concentrated truths she delivered during her 12-minute stand-up performance moved me to tears. It’s not as if the points she raised were necessarily news to me, but to hear them one after another, packed into that excellent performance of hers, made the sense of shame over German weapon exports, racism and sense of superiority all the more palpable. For this post, I wanted to translate at least a few quotes from her performance (see video below) but once I began, I couldn’t stop translating longer and longer passages.

Idil Baydar…

On name-calling

“One has to speak the truth. Did you know what I thought was the satire in all this? I thought the most satirical element of the whole thing was [the fact that Böhmermann called Erdogan a ‘goat fucker’], because that’s what you Germans have been calling us for 50 years! Think about it. It’s actually true. For 50 years, you’ve been telling us we’re criminals, goat fuckers, we are this, we are that – you’ve really exposed yourselves. Because, look, if I call you a ‘cunt’, what does it say about me? Something to think about. What does it say about me when I call you that? Who am I? Does it make me better? I don’t know. Maybe you oughta think about that.”

On German weapon exports

“It’s really a double standard. One the one hand, the whole country is screaming ‘No refugees, no refugees!’ – maybe that’s because of the trauma regarding East Germany, 18 million refugees, ya know what I mean? – and then, [Merkel] goes [to Turkey], she really crawls up into [Erdogan’s] ass, and you scream ‘She’s degrading herself, she’s degrading herself!’ – well, what did you expect would happen? [You say,] ‘One has to degrade oneself so much to negotiate with Turkey’ – but when you sell weapons to Saudi Arabia to fight ISIS, you’re not degrading yourself, yeah?”

On the discussion about values

“There are a couple of things that are going wrong here. Values, for example. What’s that discussion about? Values, values, values! As if all other people in this world had no values! Just Germans have values. Nobody else. The values not to lie, not to steal, not to betray, not to harm others only exist in Germany and not anywhere else. …yeah, I think you need to emphasise that so you can continue to nicely sit atop of that shitpile of ethnocentric values. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I have the feeling that all this talk about values is just about one thing: white privilege. Nothing else. It’s only about keeping that privileged white group nicely on the top, you know? Like fat. Always floats on the top. That’s what it’s about. Why don’t we talk about that? Why don’t we talk about it that there’s a white, privileged group that’s becoming extinct and panics!”

On prejudices against Turks

“I know people, the parents can’t read and write but the daughter is studying [at university]. Why does nobody actually say, fuckin’ A, how quickly you Turks are learning? Amazing! Why does nobody say that? Because you’re so busy thinking ‘Damn Turks, Damn Turks, Damn Turks’, then you never stop to think, ‘What’s actually good about them?’. You know? Let’s finally tell some stories about what’s good about us, and not just what’s bad about us. We know we’re all psychos. We all are. If I take a closer look at you, I’ll find the dirt, I’ll find the skeletons in your closet. That’s what I was born to, y’ know what I mean? Because this [points at herself], Erdogan didn’t make this. This was a German-German production of Hauptschule [a secondary school, starting after four years of elementary schooling, which offers five to six years of lower secondary education].”

On racism

“My heart aches when I think of my cousin. She busts her chops because she grew up with his hope for equal opportunities, she grew up with this hope for anti-racism, and she sits at school and busts her chops, she takes care of her family that’s in poor health, and she’s got a grade point average of 1.7 [B+]. Know what her [female] teacher says? ‘Yeah, well, great, Fatma, then you can apply at ALDI now.’ [a German discount supermarket] – Yes, that’s the reality here. Okay? That’s what we gotta talk about. Why is there so much racism in this society?! Why [scattered applause] … yeah, applaud, applaud, please [rising applause] … because there’s one particular thing they want to conceal. They’ll say ‘Yeah, well, Germans are racists’, but you aren’t even that racist. Look at Orbán. Since he’s around, Germany’s sorta getting off scot-free. No, really. Not you are racist, the system is racist. This is Rome all over again – divide and conquer. That’s what it is. You tell us that story in school – lan, that’s lived reality! They pit one group against the other. It’s time to stand together!! We have no more time to lose! Do you even know that of 7 billion people, 5.2 billion are living in poverty? [She appears to refer here to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).] It’s just a question of time until that arrives here. That’s what it’s about. Who’s distributing what? That’s what it’s about. Not about whether this culture is good or that culture is good. All cultures are equally fucked up!”

On refugees

“Look, we live in a globalized word. We can no longer say, this is none of my business. Yes, it is your business. If you sell these weapons to that country, when you destroy this place and that place, and the people are forced to come here – do you think they wanted to leave? You don’t even know how cool Syria was before. Syria was Masha Allah, who wanted to leave there? Great weather, know what I mean? As if Germany is heaven and everybody’s dream land. Nope, it’s not. But anyway, I think it’s good that we opened our doors a bit and said, ‘Okay, come”. Because there was a time when nobody open the doors for the Jews. Haram! Nobody let them in. That’s a disgrace, really! And that’s what I want to say. We need to change something. And not just by talking. Talk is good, but we also need actions. It’s good that they come here, there’s nothing wrong about it. Later, when their country has been rebuilt, they’ll all go back. It’s not a problem. And if they stay, then what? When do we finally get to the point to say ‘Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thanks for adding the minced meat to our potato gratin. Thank you’. [applause] When do we get to the point that we say ‘Thanks, dear Turks, for putting up with all this shit here. I think most people don’t even know that we cleaned up all your shit for so long, now with Erdogan and the refugees, it’s him who has them shot – it’s actually still the same situation. I get it. It’s like a habit. But you’ve got to change habits or else you’ll die. That’s how it is. We gotta change habits. [Teasing a person in the audience] Habibi, did you learn something from what I’ve just talked about? Yeah, don’t just pretend to be smart with your glasses. Yup, I gotta check that you’re paying attention. You seemed so dreamy. [continues] See what I mean? No, really, we have to stand together, there’s no other way. Because in a globalized world, you can’t afford to say, ‘I’m German, I have values, all others are crap’ – that doesn’t work anymore. In a globalized world, there’s only one mindset and just one nationality: and it’s called HUMAN.”

Translation of the above quotes by Matthias Lehmann. Every effort has been made to translate this article verbatim. Feedback is welcome should you want to improve any part of this translation. To watch the above mentioned videos by Jan Böhmermann with English subtitles, please click on the titles below: 

Varoufakis and the fake finger #varoufake [please turn on English subtitles]
Erdogan Schmähkritik [English subtitles]


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