Column german angst: towards the demarcation line

At the border, fantasies of power, domination and ethnic homogeneity condense. Where there is a border, there is no solidarity.

Borders are in again: Here, Austrians must show identification when entering Germany. Photo: reuters

"I’d cross your shitty Mediterranean if I were a sneaker," the Golden Lemons sang some time ago. That for goods, unlike for people, the national border has no reality is a law of capitalism. This line is not only topical since we let thousands of people drown in the Mediterranean within sight of the freighters, because they are merely human beings. I think of them when I stand in line for passport control.

Rarely do you see people standing in line waiting so patiently and calmly. Surrender to that which makes the idea of national homogeneity, that vicious and dangerous fantasy, a reality for a moment. Of course, passport control at the airport, for example, marks a fantastic border, not a real one. And anyway, we know about their social constructedness. Step by step, we move forward on this mental map of us and them towards the demarcation line.

There, power and domination are condensed. Here the fantasy of ethnic homogeneity materializes, which in recent years has advanced from the so-called Balkans, where Western Europe had externalized it since the brutal wars of the 1990s. It is back as a desire for uniqueness, for a community of descent that can unite in one place: the border. And the established parties are doing everything they can to ensure that this fantasy also becomes a dismal reality. And speaking of goods – in Great Britain, the desire for the border is so strong that even free trade is sacrificed for it.

In Germany, too, the illusion of the homogeneous community has long since become an alternative to a society based on solidarity. The people as our "we" has become the consensus from the far right to the far left. What has remained of the social demands is this: The others should not have more than we do.

Milestone to murderous nationalism

Yugoslav author Ivan Colović once said of the social protests in Serbia in the late 1980s, "They came as workers and left as Serbs. These protests, the so-called "anti-bureaucratic revolution" against those upstairs – led by the first European populist Slobodan Milošević – was a milestone on the road to murderous nationalism, the desire for ethnic homogeneity. The discontent dissolved into a nationalistic collectivism.

The path there is reminiscent of what came after Pegida in Germany. A movement of those who already perceive the multiplicity of everyday life as so threatening that they settle into collective unity. Those dissatisfied people have never been concerned with struggles for distribution, but always with struggles for demarcation. What they have in common with neo-Nazis, identitarians, Reich citizens and the bourgeois right is the crazy idea that foreign domination ends when Germans can be Germans again.

So anyone who speaks of the people has already rejected the demands for participation. It is this moment when the border becomes brutal reality.