Rene de Bakker wrote:
>...i remained under the impression of Heidegger's word of a
>Jewish-German destinal relation, and reread the first 10
>pages of Hannah Arendt's "The origins of totalitarianism",
>and found such a density of Leitmotive that the anxious
>narrowness of nowadays discussion demonstrates the free
>fall we're in momentarily.
>I repeat that it is fatal to leave out those factors from
>European/planetary nihilism, that participate in it:
>christian, jewish, greek, german.
>Hannah Arendt has protested lively against Jewish and
>non-Jewish tendencies to leave out the responsibility,
>or the lack of it, of the Jews themselves (see those first
>10 pages) Paradoxically, this defense of the Jews excuses
>those who almost wiped them out... (anti-semitism as something
>irrational and eternal, e.g. Goldhagen's anti-Jew gene,
>commanding the Germans) So when it is true that said defense
>only blinds, the current developments just go on leading nowhere
>and remain inside the vicious circle.
>While there are even more serious threats. But those in power
>don't care, they don't even have the excuse of Stalin, who said
>to Eisenstein: how much cruelty do you think is necessary (in
>order to beat a real and close enemy for instance) They just
>despise us all and the democracies we think we have.
>Here temperatures are quickly rising, the mediterranean
>area will soon be part of the Sahara. But precisely at the moment
>that, after decades of wishy-washy discussion of the Anthony-kind,
>the certainty is there, nobody cares anymore! Apres nous le deluge,
>goddammit, they're playing roulette with my children.
If you really want to talk about playing roulette with your children, stop
the smokescreens for your anti-capitalist views like rising temperatures and
the war in Iraq, and focus instead on the very, very real nihilstic results
of the socialstate:
Aging Europe Finds Its Pension Is Running Out
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
The New York Times
AD FÜSSING, Germany, June 25 ? This spa town in the Bavarian countryside,
blessed with natural hot springs with reportedly curative powers, does not
resemble Fort Lauderdale or Miami Beach, but it is the rough German
equivalent, the place where retirees go for their comfort and well-being.
But if Bad Füssing is small compared with senior citizens? centers in the
United States, it nonetheless represents a big part of the future in Germany
and elsewhere in Europe, where a population that is both living longer and
producing fewer children is beginning to change some of the fundamentals of
both social and political life.
The changing demographic picture has produced political uncertainty and
crowds of angry demonstrators in European countries whose governments,
reacting to the shift from youth to the aged, are moving to reduce social
services, including the pensions that millions have been counting on for
their golden years.
"We?ve only seen the beginning of that," said Wolfgang Lutz, a demographer
at the Austrian Academy of Sciences who projects a steep upward curve in the
average age of Europeans in the years ahead.
But while pension reform is the urgent political issue of the moment in
Germany, Austria, France and other countries, many experts see it as a
harbinger of things to come, a sign of a demographic shift with important
implications not only for the welfare of retirees but also for European
societies as a whole. The crucial factor is age.
One study by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in
Washington, predicts that the median age in the United States in 2050 will
be 35.4, only a very slight increase from what it is now. In Europe, by
contrast, it is expected to rise to 52.3 from 37.7.
The likely meaning of this "stunning difference," as the British weekly The
Economist called the growing demographic disparity between Europe and the
United States, is that American power ? economic and military ? will
continue to grow relative to Europe?s, which will also decline in comparison
with other parts of the world like China, India and Latin America.
With its population not only aging but shrinking as well, Europe seems to
face two broad possibilities: either it will have to make up the population
shortfall by substantial increases in immigration, which would almost surely
create new political tensions in countries where anti-immigrant parties have
gained strength in recent years, or it will have to accept being older and
smaller and therefore, as some have been warning, less influential in world
"The European countries are aging in a world that is becoming younger," Mr.
Frey said in a telephone interview. "And in a global economy, they?re not
going to share in the energy and vitality that comes with a younger
Mr. Lutz, who with Brian C. O?Neill and Sergei Scherbov wrote an article on
the subject in Science, agrees that the crucial issue is less a smaller
population than an older one.
"There is a fear that just as the world is entering its most competitive
stage ever, Europe will be less competitive vis-à-vis the United States and
the Asian economies, which are much younger and are benefiting from what you
might call a demographic window of opportunity," he said.
The first effect of this has taken the form of efforts by European
governments both of the left and of the right to trim the pay-as-you-go
pension system, under which the taxes paid by current workers are used to
pay the pensions of current retirees. This has produced angry protests. In
Austria, which has one of the most generous social welfare systems, workers
have staged the first general strikes in that country since the end of World
War II. In France, there has been a series of national one-day work
stoppages as the conservative government has put forward a proposal that
would require workers to stay on the job several more years than at present
to be eligible for pensions, which would be smaller.
But some experts are convinced that the reform efforts being proposed,
difficult and controversial as they are, will prove inadequate to cope with
an aging population.
"In reality, a legal retirement age of 80 is what we should aim at," Erich
Streissler, an Austrian economist, wrote in a newspaper article.
Mr. Streissler?s basic argument is one that applies to most of the countries
of the European Union: people are retiring well before the official
retirement age of 60 to 65, depending on the country.
Across Europe, only 39 percent of men age 55 to 65 still work, according to
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
This means, given the historically low birthrates of "old" Europe, that a
decreasing number of young people are paying into pension systems that have
to support a larger number of people who, on average, will be in retirement
for almost as many years as they worked to earn their pensions in the first
Or, as Mr. Streissler put it about his own country, the system works "to
give every Austrian the right to retire in midlife with what is
internationally a particularly high pension, so that he can waste an ever
increasing portion of his lengthening life expectancy in unemployment."
Here in Bad Füssing, the population trends in Germany are easy to see. Forty
years ago, when this village decided to turn itself into a holiday resort,
the local population was a grand total of 38, according to Rudolf
Weinberger, the spa?s director. Now, Mr. Weinberger says, Bad Füssing is the
biggest spa in Europe, with 250,000 guests coming each year and a permanent
population of 6,400, including 2,400 retirees.
Two other spas in addition to Bad Füssing have sprung up in this area not
far from the Austrian border, along with four- and five-story chaletlike
hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and shops.
"It?s a good life in Germany as a retired person," Günther Burhenne, 67,
said, immersed in an indoor pool at one of Bad Füssing?s three elaborate
hot-spring bathing complexes. Behind him was a gaudy mosaic of fish and sea
anemones. Outside, a crowd did calisthenics while standing waist deep in
There are many people here like Mr. Burhenne, who had a 34-year career in
the German Army, and then worked briefly as a real estate agent before he
retired. The guests at Bad Füssing seem far from old and decrepit. They are
just a bit beyond middle age and are still vigorous enough to play 18 holes
at one of the eight golf courses built near here in the last two decades.
But that is the point about Germany, which, like Austria, is at the leading
edge of European population change with its anxieties about the future.
People like Mr. Burhenne can enjoy their retirement, but some people here
see the national debate about what is called pension reform as a dark cloud
on the horizon.
"It will definitely get harder because there are not enough jobs," said
Helga Schimpfhauser, 63, reclining on a chaise longue in another part of the
spa. "They talk about raising the retirement age, but nobody will hire you
after 50 anyway."
Lounging with his wife nearby, a man who would give his name only as
Reinhardt was fuming because the spa refused to accept his state health
insurance this year and he had to pay the $8 daily entrance fee out of his
own pocket. He had not been told that most health insurance programs in
Germany removed spa treatments as an automatic benefit last year, though if
doctors prescribe such treatment a person is still covered for one visit
every three years.
For European governments, there is no alternative to reform, which means
lower benefits and higher retirement ages. Austria, despite the labor
walkouts, has passed legislation cutting benefits by 10 percent and
gradually raising the retirement age to 65 from 60. Similar legislation
seems almost certain in France and here in Germany, which has one of
Europe?s lowest birthrates.
Indeed, Germany?s Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and
Youth has compiled figures showing just how much the population is changing.
The fertility rate itself is 1.34 children per woman, well below the rate of
2.1 said to be needed to maintain a stable population.
The reasons given for this apply throughout the industrialized world: people
in highly developed, prosperous societies tend to have fewer children; women
postpone childbearing to pursue careers, or forgo having children
In Germany, among women born in 1950, 14.9 percent of west Germans and 8
percent of east Germans are childless. By comparison, of women born in West
Germany in 1965, 31.2 percent are childless along with 26.4 percent of women
born in East Germany.
Even more striking are the differences by social strata. Fully 39 percent of
the most educated German women are childless, the government?s statistics
show, compared with under 25 percent for women with less education.
"The more money you make, the greater is the opportunity cost for having
children," said Bernd Raffelhüschen, a member of a German governmental
commission studying pension reform.
Projecting the population into the future is difficult because nobody can be
sure that the birthrate will not begin to increase, as it has, for example,
in recent years in France. Indeed, a higher birthrate, combined with
immigration, could significantly halt the trend toward an older and a
smaller European population.
Mr. Lutz and his colleagues estimate that one million immigrants a year into
Europe would be the same as women having on average one more child. But one
million immigrants a year would mean 50 million by 2050, and that alone
would be a demographic shift that many Europeans find culturally and
In Germany, all government projections show a downward population trend,
even after factoring in a high number of immigrants.
But more important in Germany, as in the rest of Europe, is the rapid growth
in the numbers of the elderly. In 1950, 30 percent of the German population
was under 20 and only about 2 percent was over 80. By 2050, under-20?s are
expected to be only 16 percent, while the over-80?s are estimated to reach
about 12 percent.
The consequences of this shift are already striking, Mr. Raffelhüschen said.
"At the moment, we really have two working people and one retired person,"
he said. "In 2035 or so, every worker will support one retired person."
The solution being recommended by the pension reform commission is to reduce
the pension amount from 70 percent of the average national salary to less
than 60 percent.
That is a large drop in a country where 80 percent of pension income comes
from the state, but few experts see any hope that this reduction can be
This is because even if there were to be a sudden increase in the fertility
rate, it would take a generation for the additional people being born to
enter the work force.
"The only thing that can help a little bit," Mr. Raffelhüschen said, "is
age-specific immigration, people 20 or 30 or so, because they would
substitute for those who are not being born."
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