TheBigPond - spotlight on what South African business and business people have been up to in Europe. Edited by South African journalist Christo Volschenk from Stuttgart, Germany. Note: This blog has migrated to a new home at www.thebigpond.eu.
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Need an experienced web-editor, copywriter, or corporate newsletter writer? Christo Volschenk worked as a financial journalist in South Africa for 16 years, before moving to Germany in 2002. Go to his website (www.creativenglish.de) for more on him, his rates and his skills.

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BILD, THE PROZAC OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE

The big German society "Krankheit" showed its ugly face again today.

The "Krankheit" is known as the "can't-take-responsibility disease". It's common German name is "jemand-anderes-ist-Schuld". The symptoms are easy to detect: German citizens afflicted with the disease are often seen pulling their shoulders up and making a holier-than-thou face in the classical "I've-got-nothing-to-do-with-it" pose.

If left untreated long enough, this disease can kill a whole society. As far as I can detect, no-one has identified the disease in Germany to date - let alone start with a treatment.

And today it surfaced again in one of its many forms when Bild, the biggest daily newspaper in Germany, wrote in big, fat letters on the cover "So macht ihr Deutschland kaputt."

The lead article was full of accusations against the politicians in Berlin who were supposedly "playing around while Rome burns". In what was called the "Polit-Chaos" the finger was pointed at everyone but the real culprit: the German voter.

Yes, the German voter is to blame for the current mess in Berlin. And anyone who denies it, is a "jemand-anderes-ist-Schuld" sufferer.

Every German citizen who deliberately used his vote on election day to prevent any one party from getting a strong mandate and so forced a situation where power has to be shared between the big parties, is to blame. (This is known as "splitting your vote" and was done by several people in my circle of friends.)

All who hated the SPD in May but voted for the party again in September; all who ignored the fact that the SPD was nothing if it wasn't for Schr?der; all who voted for a one-man party; all who didn't understand the need for, or was afraid of reform, all who didn't understand how important it was that a party (any party) got a strong mandate in the election - all of you are responsible for the current mess in Berlin.

Of course, Bild understands many readers are suffering the "jemand-anderes-ist-Schuld" disease and "exploits" this society "Krankheit" with articles like the one published today.

These Prozac-like articles divert the collective attention from the real culprits and leave readers floating in an artificial feel-good state of mind. Long-term exposure to these articles turns readers into "jemand-anderes-ist-Schuld" sufferers.

That would have been OK, if the political and economic situation was not so serious. In the circumstances articles like these are nothing less than unpatriotic.

The time has come to calmly and clearly communicate to the people what has gone wrong and appeal to everyone to accept the cure, namely a number of painful economic reforms to be implemented over the next 3 years.

In fact, Bild was the one "playing around" today, while "Rome is burning".

2.11.05 18:27


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ABOUT "NEID" AND CONTRADICTION IN THE GERMAN SOCIETY

Few Germans would disagree with the statement: "der Neid" (jealousy, envy) is alive and well-established in the German community.

A few days ago I was reminded of this "fact", while reading a German gyneagology magazine (no, the pictures didn't make me jealous...well, maybe a bit envious of the younger generation).

But, let me throw a bit of a "jakkelsdraai".

Back when I was a journalist in South Africa (80's and 90's) I always enjoyed reporting on the "occupation status ranking" - a survey on the standing of different jobs and professions in the South African society. A new ranking was released every few years, but it hardly ever changed.

I enjoyed it, even though journalism (then and now my dream job) always came in at the bottom of the ranking as one of the jobs least respected in the South African society. I must admit, I drew some comfort from the fact that the bank manager was (then....I don't know about now) respected even less than the journalist!

This week the results of a similar survey were published in the German gyneagology magazine. This time around I found it interesting, because it offered a peep into the psyche of Mr Average German.

In the past months reseachers asked Germans (older than 16 years) to list the 5 occupations they respected most (or had the highest regard for).

And, yes. Again journalism got a bad score card. Also in Germany journalism enjoys a below average standing in the community. In fact, only 10% of Germans included journalism in their lists of "5 most respected occupations".

This time I drew comfort from the fact that the German community had even less respect for its politicians and trade union leaders!

But, here is the big observation: The German community seems to have very little respect for its businessmen, entrepreneurs and managers - the people who create wealth and jobs in Germany. The people who (meiner Meinung nach) should have a high standing in the community.

But, no. Only 21% of Germans included the entrepreneur in their lists of most respected occupations and only 14% included the occupation of "manager in a big company" in their lists.

What a contradiction. This is a result I would have expected to find in Cuba, Russia and Zimbabwe. But not in the country which is the current world champion exporter of goods (Germany exported more goods than any other country last year) and whose economy is the envy of many a country.

My second observation: The respected occupations in Germany are all public sector occupations. Medical doctors (who mostly work in state hospitals), nurses, policemen, university professors, teachers and diplomats.

And, they are also all relatively "low-paying jobs". (Yes, even the doctors in the state hospitals. These guys work themselves to death for almost nothing.)

So, now you get the picture: Germans think its honourable to work in the public sector and hold those workers in high esteem, while they (generally speaking) hold the higher-earning private sector workers in low esteem.

How different from South Africa (and the USA), where respect rises with the salaries.

When I saw this, I understood why a politician like Franz M?ntefering could hit out at "unbridled capitalism" and label certain types of entrepreneurs "locusts" earlier this year and get away with it (he is about to become Germany's vice-chancellor).

The big question is, of course, why doesn't Germany like its high-earning entrepreneurs and managers even though they are also "high-performers"?

The only answer I can think of is this "Neid" thing.

In a country where the stated goal of the economic system is to "equalise all", the people won't (and in Germany certainly don't) like co-citizens who are "not equal" (read: have more).

...and I'll get them back by saying I have no respect for them.

I've said for some time now that the social-market system as implemented in Germany today (read: government hand-outs are the order of the day) breeds jealousy and envy as an unfortunate by-product. And this survey seems to support that contention.

Why is this interesting? Well, Germany opted for a social-market system back then to build an open, just and "zufrieden" society, where everyone would live with everyone else in brotherly love and peace.

Maybe the social-market system is not such a "wonder system" after all....


7.11.05 00:41


NOW FOR THAT VITAL NEXT STEP....

The long-overdue "consolidation" of financial titles (and/or brands) in the Media24 stable was given a big boost (in the right direction) with the recent creation of the FIN-brand.

I'm sure all the titles involved in this "consolidation" will be awarded with positive developments on the reader and income fronts almost immediately.

The next step is, of course, to also consolidate the daily financial news publications. Why the newspapers in the Media24 stable have resisted this obvious step, is a mystery to me. The separation of the financial news from the (general news) daily newspapers and consolidation in a single brand can only lead to bigger profits.

("Nicheing" is done everywhere...just not in the Media24 newspaper stable.)

Let's call it: FINBLAD - die nasionale sakekoerant in die Media24-stal. Or something to that effect.

If FINBLAD is published by a separate legal entity, with it's own management, but co-owned by the newspapers (to avoid a loss of income), it will be a win-win situation all around....also for the Afrikaans business news reader (who will get a better product.)

But, of course, this will result in the loss of control over the business news by the editors of the daily newspapers. And this they don't want...

So, until the editors swallow their pride, the Afrikaans business news reader will have to be content with "second best" (behind the English business press).



9.11.05 10:10


ACH, NO-ONE WILL NOTICE.....

Here is something which might interest the managers at FINWEEK, the financial weekly magazine in South Africa.

Your very creative new advertising campaign (as it appeared in the November edition of WEG magazine on page 47) is not original. In fact, it's a blatant "crip" of an advertising campaign currently run by BILD, Germany's biggest daily newspaper.

A 100% similar advertisement to yours appeared in today's Financial Times Deutschland (FTD). Well, the creative idea is 100% similar, the copy is different and BILD's ad is in, yes, you guessed it - German.

Maybe you should chat to your advertising agency about this - it's not really "kosher" for creative teams to steal ideas in this way - even if the campaigns run in different countries.

Or, was this an ad created in-house? And someone at FINWEEK thought no-one will notice?



9.11.05 10:32



AND SUDDENLY ALL IS HONKY-DORY IN GERMANY

I didn't plan to write something this morning. But, after reading the morning newspapers I have something on the heart - an observation about the German media which I've been wanting to get off my chest for some time now.

And now is a good moment - the publication of the so-called "Koalitionsvertrag" yesterday and the reports which followed it, will make it easy for me to motivate my observation and difficult for the (German) reader to disagree.

Here we go: In the days before the publication of the "Koalitionsvertrag" all of you must have read in the daily press and (even) the financial magazines how absolutely dreadful this "thing" was which was being negotiated in Berlin between the two big parties - SPD and CDU/CSU. The absolute horror for the German consumer and the economy!

And then you woke up this morning (the day after the publication of the final agreement) to read that it's a good agreement, which won't touch the consumer's pocket for at least the next 12 months and will actually push the economy onto a higher growth path. Apart from the smaller opposition political parties, who all critisise the agreement (because they must), there is only praise for the agreement and the political heads behind it.

Like chalk and cheese. From the one day to the next. You might have thought you woke up in another country!

You'll be forgiven for being a little sceptical about the real "goodness" of this agreement. But, believe me, you should be sceptical of the media.

I don't believe they misunderstood what was happening behind closed doors in Berlin the past 2 weeks. Rather, they were always just thinking how they could turn the process into a "reader-puller" for them. And this I find very, very disappointing.

As I said before, in the circumstances I find this behaviour from Bild and some other media downright unpatriotic. These editors are the "locusts" in the German economy - not the foreign private equity firms.


14.11.05 10:15


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