There are a lot of very annoying things about living in Germany: shoes are expensive, bureaucracy is intense, people can be unfriendly, a lot of people are racist, everyone, and by this I mean everyone white, is insane about the headscarf, you can’t get oral thrush treatment from the pharmacy and you only get it from the doctor if they like you very, very much, are a very, very, VERY kind person, and you have had non-stop itching genitals for the past 700 years.
But the most annoying thing about living in Germany is the way that liberal non-Germans and neoliberal Germans propagate this myth that Germany is a Sozialparadies.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are things we enjoy in Germany, which we wouldn’t enjoy in other countries, which make living here, if not easy, then at least bearable. It always amazes me how relatives of mine in the UK – including relatives, by the way, who voted for Corbyn, find zero hour contracts okay because they’re so “flexible” (WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, LIKE YOUR BOSS WON’T NOTICE IF YOU DON’T COME IN KINDA FLEXIBLE, WHY GO INTO WORK AT ALL THEN?) or how friends and family in Britain worry about being evicted from rented accommodation – even, sometimes, shockingly, when pregnant. However these examples don’t, to me, suggest that modern Germany is a Sozialparadies but rather that Brexit Britain, is, quite literally, a living hell.
But Germany does, sometimes, have welfare utopia elements to it. Nursery school costs in Berlin are so low, they are almost negligible. But what does it say that they are just as negligible for the poor, working or otherwise, as they are for the wealthy? Does that seem fair to you? Or take child benefit, if you will. The Job Center certainly does – from the children of Hartz-IV welfare recipients. Does that seem fair to anyone in the world? I don’t know who could possibly think it is fair that people to whom 200 euros is not a lot of money get to keep it, and people for whom 200 euros could mean the difference between a dignified life and barely surviving – people who can’t afford to buy their kids fresh fruit and veg every day, get a washing machine repaired, take them ice-skating – get it ripped from them? I don’t know how anyone, of any political persuasion, can find this acceptable. I also don’t see how it is legal. Hartz-IV welfare recipients are allowed to earn extra money and I don’t see why their children are not allowed to do so too. The clue is in the name – KINDERgeld. It’s a fucking travesty, and it makes me angry every time I think of it.
And now the Kinderbonus! During the half-hearted German lockdown, lots of married German women, or women with partners, were, it seemed to me, using solidarity with single mothers as the main reason why nursery schools had to open as quickly as possible. Where is this solidarity now? Where is the empathy? Where is the anger? All I hear is the sound of total indifference!
Single mothers, who often, during our half-lockdown, were stuck indoors on their own with kids for weeks and weeks and weeks on end, are now being forced to share the measly 300 euros with their ex-partners. IT IS INFURIATING. The very people who suffered the most are benefiting the least! Ex-partners are legally entitled to pay 150 euros less maintenance (Unterhalt) if they wish to.
“I’d like to see him try!” my friend Carola says. Her useless ex, as we nickname him (look, #notallmen but really #almostallmyfriendsexesnooffenceboys) saw her two kids TWICE over lockdown, even though he was still going to illegal raves in Hasenheide. In fact, he generously justified his lack of contact as being due to his inability to stop attending dance parties in the park. SOMEBODY GIVE THE GUY A MEDAL – oh wow, you don’t need to! The German state has given him a 150 sperm donor achievement unlocked bonus. What a, pardon my French, fucking joke!
Would it have been the worst thing in the world to pay single parents twice? WOULD IT? Would it really? Would it have been the worst fucking thing in the world, if the German state had decided that because it would be unfair for conscientious part-time non-custodial parents to be totally missed out of this corona compensation, the lone custodial parents (let’s face, it the single mums) were given 300 euros, and the non-custodial parent got a 150 euro bonus? Yes, it would be a tiny bit unfair on married couples – BUT THEY HAD EACH OTHER TO SURVIVE CORONA WITH. And to be honest, it wouldn’t be some kind of brave, social decision made which was “fairer” for single mums – it would just make things a teeny-tiny weeny-tweeny TINY minsicule ant-like microbe-sized bit less unfair.
All those crocodile tears shed about single mothers during half-hearted German lockdown – and now nobody can even be bothered to pretend to give a shit. Germany is a Sozialparadies – for the middle-class. I don’t know how anyone, anyone alive can think this is okay. The only way you can think this is okay is if you secretly think the children of women who are prepared to leave their husbands/get pregnant without being in a stable relationship with a man deserve to be punished, just like in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, when they wouldn’t bury her illegitimate dead baby inside the graveyard.