CITIES, how the world works

Quick note to David: listen to the crackle

Ali Fathollah-Nejad: You just mentioned your article in Die Zeit. I’d like to move on to the situation in the media. There was all the fuss about the Rütli School.[6] I think you’ve contributed a great deal to the debate through your publications, but I still have the feeling that in the media in general there’s a certain atmosphere of inertia. I get the feeling that not a lot is changing. What’s your view?

Feridun Zaimoglu: I’ve given hundreds of readings in schools, mostly in Hauptschulen and in youth clubs. So these experiences are the basis for my views. One thing is that the three-tier school system is also subdivided according to ethnicity. There are the failures – who aren’t failures at all; dammit, I very nearly ended up in a special school. It’s true – I was that close to landing up there! Your typical Turk is generally seen as a PISA [7] failure and a playground yobbo. That stereotype exists. There’s a male problem going on, a problem with boys. This crap about male honour. If what that amounts to is some nasty coward who goes and shoots his sister, what do we do with him? There’s no straightforward answer to that. It’s different from case to case. You’ve got to look at it carefully, talk to people. I’m not surprised – the notion of a dominant German culture, a Leitkultur, the cartoon controversy, then Necla Kelek,[8] Seyran Ates,[9] and now there’s open season on all male, Muslim, immigrant adolescents. That’s why I say to people “Wakey wakey!” Did they think the class society no longer exists, or what? It still exists, and will continue to exist. And the ethnic factor is how the ruling class wants to look at it. It’s as simple as that. And anyone who comes along with their neoliberal crap, who stops thinking politically and starts looking at things ethnically, is behaving just like the ruling classes – and that includes the media and its movers and shakers. They talk about school and then they lay into the teachers. Yes – but if you thought politically, you would look at what is being done in schools. What funding has been slashed? What’s left in the pot? What’s happening on a day-to-day basis? That’s one thing. But the other thing is then also to say: “You know, guys, your honour, you can stick it up your immigrant arses. Your fucking male honour!” What is that? That is a crime. Those people are criminals. That’s how it needs to be discussed. The rightwingers always step in and say “Hey, they come from a different cultural background.” True, we mustn’t trivialize things that come from this different cultural sphere either. That would be idiotic. But nor should people play the white man by coming along as a feminist activist and to a certain extent shooting down these kids, then talking about religion and making their ethnic background the topic of discussion. These people are the white man’s little women. And these little women come and go and come and go. Here you might see the label “feminism”, there it’s “a particularly self-assured Green”, or whatever all these opportunists are called. You look at all that, but you must never stop looking at it politically. The political viewpoint rocks!

AF-N: But politics is only possible through participation. Yet in our society there aren’t that many people with a non-German background who take part in public discourse.

FZ: That’s changing.

AF-N: But it can only be changed through education?

FZ: It can be changed above all by means of the German language. For the sake of the children’s future we shouldn’t moan about German being compulsory. That’s yet another piece of ethno-nonsense. And then all these Turkish spokesmen come along, and these lefty liberals, all these jokers, and they tell us “Oh, but we can’t ask that of the children.” You twits! How much do you earn in a month? You’ve got it made. What is participation? Involvement starts from early childhood. When my parents couldn’t go through my homework with me at primary school, what are we supposed to say about that? That’s a built-in disadvantage right from the off. Yeah, so what? Did I cry? Did I hell! I fell for Petra at school and wanted to impress her. I wanted to stand out a bit by using classy German. You can’t say “Oi, mate!” to a woman! So what sources of motivation do people have? Politics is all well and good, but when the political class ignores the human situation, it gets detached and loses touch with reality. You’ve always got to look at what’s going on at the bottom!

  • [6] The Rütli School is a Hauptschule (secondary modern) in Neukölln, Berlin. In 2006, the school’s headteacher, unable to control the violence in her school, made an appeal for help to the Berlin Senate. This led to a debate about the school system in Germany, violence in schools and the integration of the children of immigrants.
  • [7] Programme for International Student Assessment
  • [8] Germany’s foremost critic of the treatment of women in Islam, also present at the Islam conference.
  • [9] A Turkish lawyer and women’s rights activist, she gave up practising in 2006 following threats from legal opponents.

from You’ve got to swing your hips! A conversation with Feridun Zaimoglu

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