I know this guy from East Germany

A guy on our team speaks with a very noticeable German accent. I never thought much of it. Another guy is from South Vietnam, another from China, the new person on our team (just today) and my officemate are both from India. If there is anything unusual about the foreigners around the office is that they work harder than the U.S. born people. This guy is no exception. I see emails sent by him from late at night and all weekend.

But he stopped by to talk about stuff last Thursday and we ended up talking about where he grew up. He was born in East Germany. I hadn’t realized that. For some reason I always thought of West Germany whenever I might have considered his origins. He hates the communists. “Communism makes people lazy. Yah!”

I said it always amazes me that experiment has been run so many times and resulted in 10s of millions dead and still people keep wanting to try it again. I told him of someone I know who told me they didn’t think people should own their own houses. The government should own them and allocated them on the basis of need. This person told me, “You and Barb don’t need such a big house. Some other family with a larger family needs it more than you do.”

His eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. “You tell them I lived that. You tell them to go visit this town. Yah!”, and he showed me a town on a map of Germany. “Not one bomb was dropped on that town during the entire war”, he said. “There was no fighting in that town. But if you go there that town looks like it was all bombed out. When people don’t own their property they don’t care. The roofs, they are all falling down. Yah! You tell him to go there and look for himself.”

After he got married they applied to the housing allocation board for a place to live. There was “nothing available”. But other people who applied after him got really nice places. But they were the children of the people on the board, and the people who had connections to people on the board. After two years the housing board told him that his parents had permission to make some changes to their place (I understood this to be partitions, plumbing, etc.) and then he and his wife could live there.

He told me he graduated, “The best in my class.” But he couldn’t get into college because his family weren’t “good communists”. He got a job in a picture tube factory (television sets I presume) and he did so well the company used its pull to get him a position in school. He got a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering. Then he got a PhD in Computer Science.

After the Germany’s were reunited his father obtained his secret police file. Every letter to or from West Germany, where some of their family lived, was read and a summary was put in his file. He found out who had spied on him and who said things about him that put his loyalty to the communist party in doubt and stopped his career.

“Joe”, he said, “People complain about how unequal things are with the rich executives in a capitalist society. But it’s just the same under communism–it’s the politically connected that have the money and the people that aren’t connected don’t have anything. I know. I lived it. Communism, it’s very bad.”

I need to ask what he thinks of the plans for health care and the take over of the banking industry, etc. in this country. That should be interesting.


11 thoughts on “I know this guy from East Germany

  1. That my friend, is what an American truly is. He just happened to be born someplace else.

    I’ve heard it said that to fix out housing crisis, we should immediately open up millions of immigration slots to Indians. In India, it is shameful to fall on your mortgage. They would come here, work 90+ hours if need be, buy up all the foreclosed houses, and improve their lives tremendously while simultaneously improving ours.

    It’s a shame that some of the best Americans live elsewhere and are hassled when they try to come home. And on the opposite side of the immigration coin, we’ve got millions on non-Americans who come only to leech off the system (as well as millions upon millions of non-Americans who were born here who do the exact same).

  2. Your (East) German friend should go on the speaker circuit, extolling the vices of the Obamanation socialist plans.

  3. God Bless him for getting ahead, and getting out and thriving. I went to East Berlin in 1976 on the way home from Overseas. I hitchhiked and got a lift to West Berlin down “the corridor,” and then while ion Berlin I went through Checkpoint Charlie on a day-trip. They hassled me about my passport, papers, and my money – and took some for themselves. And then deemed what I had insufficient and made me change more at a very unfavorable rate. It was a cheap, shakedown hustle by guys with guns.
    On a bright and sunny day it was still an ugly, awful place – with jovial (wealthy) Russian tourists wearing clothes that appeared as if they were from a mattress- or rug- factory. The only good thing was the bust of Nefertiti in the museum.
    The local people were tense, abrupt, and fearful – it was physical. I watched a goose-stepping guard change in front of a tomb and that really jangled my cognitive dissonance – goose-stepping?? WTF?? And they wore the old-style WWII German stahlhelm. Like the Nazis, not the flared-out bowl like the Soviets. I thought that was just about the weirdest two-things I ever saw.

  4. Holy partisan hyperbole, batman.

    If you people are genuinely worried about actual socialism coming to the US, you’ll have a LOOOONG time to wait, since no one is either advocating or acting to make such a thing happen.

    The economy needed to be fixed, critical pieces of infrastructure saved.
    The only way to do that is how it’s been done; investing, not ‘takeovers’.

    Don’t like the fix?
    DONT BREAK CAPITALISM with twelve years of Norquistian market fundamentalist policies.

    Ironically, the only thing that could bring actual socialism to the US is more of the same, causing people to reject nutjob market fundamentalism and its claim to being ‘the one true form of capitalism’.

    Yes, real communism is bad.
    Real socialism is similarly bad.
    We’re all sorry these folks had to experience them.
    We’re all glad that they escaped, and that for the most part, these methods have been disproven and defeated throughout most of the world.

    But every single capitalist country on earth, including and particularly the US, has always had both public/private institutions.
    It has always served us well.
    It shall continue to do so.

    I pity you,


  5. There is a certain degree of irony in a relatively unknown individual attempting to lecture us on reality, while simultaneously not having the slightest understanding of quite a few of the words he uses in his screed. I would suggest that he would do well to curl up with a dictionary, and then reread the original post and his comment, but I know as well as anyone that that will never happen.

    Suffice to say, only a fool disregards, out-of-hand, the opinion of someone who has been there, done that, and has the t-shirt. Am I saying that Joe’s friend is infallible, and 100% accurate in this particular case? Not at all. But his experience is not something you should cast aside simply because you do not agree with it.

    Your pity would be better served on yourself, EndIf, if you actually believe the things you are saying…

  6. I have smelled Socialism, from the full-stank East German sewage variety to the mentally impoverished Fabianism of open sewers in Calcutta, to the ripe foul utterances of Noam Chomsky’s breath – and it smells the same.

  7. It’s impossible to denounce any socialist program, and there are all too many, in the U.S. without someone (socialists) getting their hackles up. “Why, this isn’t socialism! How dare you even suggest that a government takeover of a whole industry is socialism! Take that back, you, you, partisan, you!”

    I guess we can’t use the “S” word until every scrap of property has been taken by the government and every citizen has a state caseworker assigned to him. But by then we’ll have been forced to use some other term, like “Fairness” or “Social Justice”.

    OK, Endif, we’ll call it “Social Justice” if you like, or even “Goody-Goody Magical Wonderfulness in a Basket” but it all means the same thing– state sponsored coercion. Can you say that? Slowly now; State. Sponsored. Coercion. I call that socialism, so next time you see any of my writing in which I use the “S” word, that’s what I mean. It can refer to a partial takeover, to a lightbulb mandate, or any form of redistribution, and it’s socialism. You see, it’s easier to type than “state sponsored coercion”, it’s a little more specific than calling it simply “bat-shit insane”, and Marx or Lenin would recognise it for what it is, so there you have it.

  8. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe is thoroughly socialized. They also get government homes and every few years contractors come around fix holes in the walls or ceiling, mostly deliberate damage by the occupant. Many will not work, not even at the casino. Why should they when they get a government check(and other perks) starting on the day of their birth. School teachers are frustrated trying to motivate kids to learn when the kids know they will always get a check from someone. The worst part is that this attitude is infecting kids who do not get any subsidies. The parallels between the lives of many tribal members and East Germans are many. I could go on and on, I will only say who would want to be part of a drunken nation. I believe what the federal government did to Indians was a crime and now politicians wish to do the same to me. That would have to be an act of war.

  9. In *any* society, there will be winners and losers. In facism, communism, socialism, winners are “picked” by connections to the “leaders” (chief thugs) of the movements.

    In fuedalism winners are “picked” by birthright, by religious connections, and sometimes by raising better armies and just plain taking the job.

    In capitalism, winners are indicated by money. Getting to be a winner is often based on luck (you were born in the US rather than Afghanistan), connections (child of a strong family), *work*, brains, education, and simple shrewdness. The greatest failing of America is that it cannot offer a similar (or even adequate) level of prepartion to all citizens (though it prepares many very well indeed.) That is, for whatever reason (not necessarily just schools fault) the US doesn’t educate *all* of its children well (where educate means more than just school learning, but very much includes it.)

    But then again, communism, socialism, facism, fuedalism, and the Talibarn aren’t known for doing that either.

    The point – it’s better to select winners by work, and luck, and the transparent instrument of money, than via hidden backdoors (connections to the communist party.)

  10. Bryan; The main defference is whether you have a government that protedcts human rights (all of which flow from the concept of property rights) or a government that violates human rights in persuit of other goals. That’s the difference between a purely capitalist society and any other. Unfortunately, we’ve never had a purely capitalist society. If we’re going to talk about “The greatest failing of America” that’s it.

    If you assume that the purpose of government is to take care of people, or make sure there is no failure, you’re off on the wrong foot right there, and what we’re currently seeing (the Europeanization of the U.S.) is the result.

    It is not the job of the U.S. to educate anyone, anymore than it is government’s job to run the churches and the press. In a free society the government simply stays out of the way until there has been a rights violation (with a definable perpetrator and a definable victim) in which case it steps in to dispense justice, and then goes back to its primary job of staying the hell out of the way.

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