Germany has been getting a lot of bad press recently thanks to the Pegida and "Pegada" marches. International observers have been wringing their hands, worried that the country is sliding back into a permanent xenophobia. This is unfair. The Pegida "movement" is just a German variation of the American Tea Party, complete with its own Sara Palin - but without the eyebrows (Kathrin Oertel). Like the Tea Party, Pegida is comprised primarily of frustrated middle-aged white men who feel marginalized in a globalized world they no longer recognize. Unfortunately, this group is easily manipulated by right-wing, even neo-Nazi, elements (especially pronounced in the Leipzig "Legida" copycat marches). For the most part, the Pegida (and Legida) protesters have been vastly outnumbered by "anti-Pegida" demonstrators - although this is not often reported in the international press:
The other day, Anna Sauerbrey, editor of the Tagesspiegel, had a nice op/ed piece in the New York Times - Germany Isn't Turning Backwards:
"There are two ways to look at the situation. The optimistic take is to note that, for all the attention Pegida gets inside of Germany and abroad, Germany has never been as liberal, culturally diverse and open toward minorities as it is today.
Last year a biennial poll conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a foundation associated with the left-wing Social Democrats (and thus unlikely to underestimate the problem), found that anti-foreigner attitudes were at a historic low. While its 2012 poll found that about a quarter of Germans reported hostile views toward foreigners, only 7.5 percent did in 2014. And anti-Semitism, which is on the rise elsewhere in Europe, has dropped significantly, to 4.1 percent from 8.6.
Apart from the polls, there is quite a bit of evidence for a new openness. On Jan. 12, 100,000 people went to the streets nationwide in counterdemonstrations against Pegida, showing their solidarity with German Muslims. In Leipzig, 4,800 pro-Pegida protesters were met by 30,000 counterprotesters."
I expect that the Pegida movement will play itself out in the near future - just like the Tea Party in the US. Already there are signs that it is self-destructing. Hate requires quite a bit of energy and is unsustainable over the long run. Think of Brecht's poem Maske des Bösen:
An meiner Wand hängt eine japanische Holzmaske
Maske eines bösen Dämons, bemalt mit Goldlack
Mitfühlend sehe ich die geschwollenen Stirnadern, andeutend
wie anstrengend es ist, böse zu sein.