BERLIN -- Only a month since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the country to a historic influx of refugees, Germans have begun to worry about the limits of their country's capacities. And talk of integration brings up an even larger question: how does a country afraid of national identity present itself to newcomers?
It is an irony of history that the same Germany that had set out to exterminate one group of "Semites," the Jews, in the last century is now laying out the welcome mat for another Semitic group, the Arabs -- considering that the majority of the migrants are from the Middle East -- in this century. So what caused the springs of human kindness to gush forth in German hearts?
What is feared today is not the loss of any particular country to foreign conquest, but the loss of an imagined entity that binds us together. The Occident is a central piece of our mental maps and our cultural inventory. In a very visceral sense, Europeans are seized by fears of decline and by memories of cultural blossoming. Those fears culminate in the belief that our cathedrals will eventually turn into mosques, that their bells will fall silent and will be replaced by the cries of the muezzin.
As the Netmundial conference on the future of Internet governance starts, rather than asking "What can we expect from it?", we might ask instead whether this future might be more promisingly reformed by political, technical and architectural innovations than by a preach to a so-called multistakeholder choir convened in Sao Paulo.
It's been a very bad week for the merchants of austerity. In Europe, the just-released statistics on first quarter performance show EU nations sliding deeper into recession. In Spain and Greece, unemployment rates are approaching a staggering 30 percent. In Britain, the Tory government took as good news the fact that the UK managed to eke out 0.3 percent growth. Even Germany, the prime sponsor of these policies, is on the edge of recession. You don't promote growth by slashing demand. Supposedly, fiscal tightening improves business confidence. But if some entrepreneur somewhere decided to break ground for a new factory because the president and Congress at last cut the budget, nobody could find such a person. Even the Washington Post editorial page, which has long been promoting a budget bargain built on more cuts, warned in its lead Sunday editorial, that austerity is pinching too hard -- in Europe, that is. How about at home?