a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

The Federal Center for Political Education

Posted by Thomas Nephew on February 8th, 2002

No, it’s not where the secret U.S. government keeps its black helicopters and the Roswell alien; it’s Germany’s Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (BpB).* From the “about us” part of the site:

The Federal Center for Political Education was founded in 1952 as subsidiary [nachgeordnet] office of the Federal Department of the Interior, to “solidify and disseminate democratic and European ideals among the German people (founding legislation).”

On the home page, the current BpB tagline is a (quite decent) quote by Max Frisch, the Swiss writer:

The man who doesn’t concern himself with politics has already taken the political position he was trying to avoid.

Under the sidebar option “Zielgruppen” (target groups), one learns that

The most important target groups are multiplierettes and multipliers [Multiplikatorinnen und Multiplikatoren] of political education, people who are active with their social engagement in clubs, groups, but also in educational and media fields…

I point this site out just because this seems to me a very weird sort of thing for a government to be up to. I’m curious what German readers think of it. Doubtless many hadn’t heard of it either, it seems like the earnest, slightly out-of-touch kind of outfit most people ignore no matter where they’re from. But does the mission statement above get heads to nodding, “Well, nice idea,” or does it seem like a mildly offensive waste of your taxes? Which is how it would seem to me. (And now I bet I’ll learn about some obscure federal office I’d never heard of before that survived despite Reagan, Gingrich, Lott, and Bush, and does the same thing.)

The site ties in to the main ongoing theme of this blog with its 11th of September and its consequences page. You can subscribe to a daily digest of online media articles, compiled by one Thorsten Schilling. I’ve subscribed, and find that Mr. Schilling’s selections and tone are often more than a bit snarky. Today, for example:– “Mon père etait un terroriste” by Gilles Lestrade describes the life of a fighter in the resistance against the German invasion in WW II. The retreat to the mountains and the carpet bombing by the Germans remind one of very current events. (Link of October 26). […] – US soldiers abroad don’t necessarily attract attention for their cultural sensitivity. Whether it’s about the proper clothing in Saudi Arabia (see the link of January 16, or rapes by Marines in Japan, Pat Hold believes that it’s urgent that something be done to teach the troops how one behaves towards foreigners.. (The Christian Science Monitor 4.2.)

Maybe I’m being a bit thin-skinned here. But this is an official German site, disseminating a 9/11-news mailing list to key members of German society (judging by the target group claim). I have no idea how widely the e-mail is distributed, or what its ultimate impact is. At any rate, my German readers, it’s your tax Euros at work, I assume you feel it’s worth it. It just seems a little odd to me that you would pay your government for help with developing your own political opinions.

*“Bildung” might also be translated as “development,” in the sense of formation or growth. “Education” is a good enough translation here, I think.

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