Prompt courtesy of londonkds
, who was exposed to my Franconian-ness when I dragged him through Bamberg (which has seven hills, like Rome) on a really hot August day. It's a good question, she says, prevaricating.
When I was an idealistic teenager, I would have replied unhesitatingly: "World citizen". We have a long (as in: decades - as long as DW in Britain, almost) running pulp sci fi series in Germany, Perry Rhodan
, and in the first few issues, written all the way back in the 1960s, the hero, after encountering a stranded alien vessel on the moon (this having been written pre-Neil Armstrong, he's the first human astronaut there), comes to the conclusion that bringing back the alien tech to the US in the middle of the Cold War would be a terrible mistake, as it would be to give it to any other individual nation, and that what's needed is to think in world citizen categories, pronto. I found that tremendously appealing when reading it in the mid 80s, when the early issues started to be republished in collected hardcover form. It it with that I believed - and mostly still believe: that dissolvement of borders is a good thing, as is multiculturalism, that elevating one nation above all others never is. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and believe me, we were taught about the ultimate vicious result of nationalism in our own country quite extensively. To the degree that when I first visited the US at age 14, smack in the middle of Reagan's reelection campaign, the ever present flags freaked me out to no end because I was conditioned to find so many displays of flags (no matter of which nation) extremely disturbing and worrying.
(Sidenote: flash forward a few decades later, and I've visited the US often enough to not notice all the flags anymore, but when I had the Aged Parents along three years ago - and they haven't been there as often - they still flinched.)
So in my ideal world, we'd have universal peace and no borders. That, btw, still hasn't changed. I think the climax of my optimism was 1989 and the years immediately after. The fall of the wall, end of the Iron Curtain. No more Cold War (and fear of a global nuclear armageddon - I don't think anyone who hasn't grown up with the threat of this understands what a relief this was). Approaching European unity. Surely, in another century or so, world unity was in sight?
Well, I grew older, and wars and nationalism everywhere made their comebacks with a vengeance, or maybe I just grew more aware. Back when the war in Bosnia started in the 90s, it was a terrible shock, among other things, because this was the first war on European soil since WWII, and there weren't supposed to be any more wars there, ever, and then the Serbian rethoric brought up a battle between Muslims and Christians from the middle ages, for God's sake, were they serious? They were. Not to mention that I became more aware of dictatorships in Africa, of how the First World still exploited the Third. And I thought: isn't it arrogant to define yourself as a citizen of the world when you live in privilege and safety and so much of the world doesn't? Doesn't this pretend equality with a great many people who live under horrible conditions and would laugh bitterly, at best, while they're being barred from as much as entering the continent you live on, let alone the country, while you can travel whereever you want?
On another note, and speaking of travelling, which I've always loved, still do and always will: it's odd of how it also makes you conscious of where you come from and how much this imprinted on you. Not just in the negative sense (i.e. embarrassment of other tourists talking in your own language and behaving boorishly, to use the most every day example), but also in the positive: I remember standing on St. Peter's Square in Rome on an Easter Sunday morning, surrounded by millions of people from nations all over the world, and getting a kick out of hearing voices talk behind me not just in German but specifically with an Upper Franconian accent, i.e. the very one they speak in my hometown. Which as it turned out they came from. They even knew one of my grandmothers. Had I met them in Bamberg, I wouldn't have cared, but during that time in Rome I was delighted. Evidently, it was and is in me, that instinct to feel a connection via language and a shared geographical background. And then there was that time when I was staying in Los Angeles and interviewing still surviving emigrés who'd left - had to leave to safe their lives - during the Third Reich. I always left it up to them which language they wanted to use with me, and it usually ended up as a mixture of German and English, switching back and forth mid sentence all the time. I was very conscious of both what we shared and what divided us: each and everyone of them had lost family due to the country we were all born in, several decades apart. When they talked in German, they still had traces of their regional accents - you could tell where they'd come from, from Berlin, the Rhineland, or the South, like me - and they had the same verbal idiosyncracies my grandparents did ("die Taxe" instead of "das Taxi", for example, or "das Trottoir", not "der Bürgersteig" for the boardwalk). But my grandparents, both the paternal and maternal ones, had stayed. Obviously. Neither of them ever claimed to have saved anyone. My maternal grandmother was a sweet and kind woman, but she also was your archetypical denialist - no, she'd never known anything. So were there Jews in your home village, Granny, before Hitler? Yes. Were there still any by the time the war had ended? No. So what did you think had happened to them? I thought they had all left.
By contrast, my paternal grandmother, who'd worked in a hat store with a Jewish owner and thus had experienced the infamous shoutings (SA guys standing in front of the store and shouting at everyone who entered "Germans, fight back, don't buy from Jews"), boycotts, smeared windows and eventually broken windows right at the start of the Third Reich in a front row seat, and whose younger brother had been a soldier in Poland later, said yes, she'd known. Not the details or the full horrifying numbers, but the principle of the thing, that the camps weren't "just" prisons, that there were every day executions in Eastern Europe even on the streets, this she'd known. She and my grandfather kept their heads down. The big debate they had in those years were about whether or not to have children - because children, once old enough, could spy on you - not whether or not to leave Germany. (I'm not saying this to condemm them. I don't have the arrogance to claim that in their shoes, I would have acted differently, that I'd have spoken up or left. I don't think anyone can ever know how they'd act in such a situation until they're put to the test.) And that, too, is my heritage. It's part of being German post Hitler, and I would not be me if I was not this.
It's not like I want to leave behind being German, either. Not just because I love the language and the literature (well, part of it, as with every literature!). I feel an emotional connection that's also regional, which brings me to the "Bavarian" and "Franconian" part of the question. Germany is an historical oddity among the European nation states because the very idea of a Germany is relatively recent, historically speaking. For the far longer part of European history, there were German principalities connected via being in what was officially termed the "Holy Roman Empire" with wildly fluctuating borders. This had the lang term result that we were never centralized the way Britan and France were - i.e. one clear capital and cultural/economic centre surrounded by provinces in declining influence the further away they were from said capital. Instead, all those principalities had their own capitals (and by the time we hit the baroque age, every German prince wanted to be a mini Roi Soleil, too, which you can tell from the residences), and whether they were poor or rich wasn't dependent on proximiity to one central capital. The long term result of this is that even today, we have Federal States - Bundesländer - which are still far more autonomous than the regions in France or Britain (though in the case of Britain, this can and post Scottish referendum is almost bound to change). Said Bundesländer
, which sometimes consist of one, sometimes of several provinces, have their own regional dialects, idiosyncracies and sometimes quite different cultural history. Now yours truly lives in Bavaria, which got upgraded from dukedom to kingdom by Napoleon, when he re-organized the German principalities after officially dissolving the Holy Roman Empire. The Dukes of Bavaria had also ruled the Palatine, despite the Palatine being separated from Bavaria by several principalities in between (and a very different dialect). Napoleon when creating the Kingdom of Bavaria swapped the Palatine for Franconia, which was next door to Bavaria and thus made far better geographical sense. Today, the Federal State of Bavaria is still keeping within the Napoleonic borders which is why I'm both a Franconian and a Bavarian, regionally speaking.
Or rather: I'm a Bavarian if people outside of Bavaria complain about Bavaria. (Which happens inevitably. Bavaria used to be a mainly agricultural state and one of the poorer regions until the second half of the 20th century, which is when this changed to Bavaria as the richest of the German Federal States and home of the German version of Silicon Valley. And the state with the winning football team. If you think this makes Bavaria popular in the rest of Germany other than as a holiday region, think again.) Otherwise, I'm a Franconian. Not just because I was born there. Also because Franconia - which has its own dialect, and it sounds quite differently from the Bavarian one - often gets treated as the poor cousin by our Bavarian Overlords in Munich, especially when it comes to financing cultural events and/or returning cultural heritage. (See again under: Napoleon. He secularized the church-owned parts of Franconia while he was at it, which meant the treasures of same ended up in Munich. And they still won't give them back. *g*) Not to mention that the Franconian reginal kitchen is superior to the Bavarian regional kitchen. (It so is, too. Just try our Wirsing
in comparison to their Wirsing
, and if you prefer the Weißwurst
to the Bratwurst
, I can't help you.)
All kidding aside, now: I love my hometown (and surrounding area), but I'm also deeply fond of Munich and the Alps here in Upper Bavaria, otherwise I wouldn't live here. And there is nothing like a snotty North German harrumphing about Bavarians to make me feel instantly tempted to mutter something about Prussians in return. (Sidenote: for anyone born within Bavaria, no matter whether Franconian, Swabian or Bavarian, anyone born outside of Bavaria is a Prussian. This is especially ironic since there is no more Prussia and hasn't been since 1945, when the Allies officially dissolved it in a Napoleonic gesture of their own. And even if there still were
a Prussia, it would be in the Eastern part of Germany - that's where it used to be - , and to call Hanseates from Hamburg or Lower Saxons from Hannover or, God help us, Rhinelanders (who traditionally hate Prussians and got new incentive when the capital changed from Bonn to Berlin) "Prussians" is geographically and historically completely wrong. Which does not stop Bavarians from doing it if they want to complain about die Preußen
The net result of all of this is: I'm a Franconian and a Bavarian and a German. I also see myself as a European, not least because I don't see myself switching continents of residence. For travelling, I love to, but in terms of permanently living somewhere, I'm favourably biased for this one. As for being a world citizen, despite the above mentioned awareness of the problematic side of the claim, I still have that as an ideal.( Incidentally, I find it interesting that in English, you have two words - "cosmopolitan" and "world citizen", and at least in my experience tend to use the former more often than the later in every day language - while in German we do have "Kosmopolit" but almost never use it, whereas "Weltbürger" is a frequently used term. ) And I definitely intend to travel to as many of the world's countries as I can, and to learn about them what I can. Whether that will make me a citoyen or a bourgois of the world - they're both Bürger
in German and I think citizen in English, which is why I have to use the French words - I don't know yet; it's not that I'm politically engaged whereever I go, and quite often travel for fun. But I can't give up a political hope, either, that one day, we will get a dissolvement of borders world wide. It's the German in me. We did produce Schiller and Beethoven and the Ode to Joy (which currently also is the European anthem), after all: diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt
! December Talking Meme: The Other Days