Photo Friday: Turbulent
Cutlery and Treachery

Merry and Gay, and Often Both

Lots of people shitcan the Germans for having no sense of humour.  Bollocks, I say. 

Germans have an exquisite sense of humour.  They invoke sarcasm.  They savour irony.   They ridicule any target worthy of it, and make sure no worthy target escapes.

The official humour season in Germany for 2011 has reached its peak.  Today is Shrove Tuesday, and that means Karneval—or Fasching, as we say in Bavaria.

Pre-Lenten festivals take place in many parts of the Christian world.  In Rio, nubile cariocas samba down the street wearing littleIn New Orleans, revellers flash tits, tush and trouser-snake to snare a gift tossed from a float.  In Sydney, topless Dykes on Bikes whip armies of speedoed lads into step for the world's biggest pride parade

Germans are a practical people.  It's cold.  We keep our clothes on. 

But the spirit shows in many ways.  Grown men can be seen smiling, without provocation, while completely sober.  And silly hats.  We're big-time into silly hats.

This portrait sourced from the Aachen Karneval Verein website, and links to source.
The silly hatted gent to your left owns one of the most famous senses of humour in all of Germany.  He's Guido Westerwelle, Foreign Minister and Deputy Chancellor of the Bundesrepublik.  That is, Angela Merkel's right-hand man.

Reacting against generations of dull political hacks, he declared Spaßpolitik ("fun politics") the official schtick of the Freie Demokratische Partei, which he leads.  Among his many jokes, we count a bright yellow campaign bus called the Guidomobile, an appearance on Big Brother, and a plan to wipe trade unions from the face of Europe. 

He may stand against trade unions, but he stands in favour of civil ones.  Last September, Westerwelle got hitched to his partner of several years, sports manager Michael Mronz.

As a seasoned homosexual, let me make an observation.

Take a look at the fifth frame in this photo essay from Die Zeit, snapped as the happy couple shared a toast at Karneval in the Rheinland.  The Foreign Minister wears a smile of adoration for his husband; Mronz returns the favour with a wolfish leer.

Now, remember that gay relationships take many forms; that one can't generalise; that assumptons are odious; that queer couples negotiate their personal boundaries in unique ways; that it's invalid to apply heterosexual models to homosexual relationships; that what goes on in private need not follow convention; that stereotypes oppress; that there are no rules; that one can't be sure of anything; and that what I am about to say is no more than speculation.  But I suspect that the Deputy Chancellor, the second most powerful man in the German government, might be a classic, old-school—how shall I put this?—catcher.

Before we go any further, let me shout big deal, and add a not that there's anything wrong with that for good measure.   What Guido and his husband get up to in the bedroom (or other places if they're feeling frisky) in no way reflects on his competence as a minister, his political authority, his policy acumen, nor his capacity to argue for his country's interests on the international stage.  Just because you might be a bottom, doesn't mean you're a pussy.  

A cheap jibe?  Well, it's Fasching.  Smutty jokes about politicians are de rigeur.  Have a look at this gem from the Düsseldorf parade in 2010, sourced from the excellent Düsseldorf Blog.

Merkel_steuer_cd1 duesseldorf blog
The float shows Chancellor Angela Merkel chasing after the notorious CD-ROM which contained Lichtenstein banking details of prominent German tax avoiders, for which the government reportedly paid over four million Euros. 

It may be racy, but it's hardly unflattering to the Kanzlerin.  If I were she, I would view it as a compliment if someone sculpted my 57-year-old bustline so perkily. 

Some caricatures are worse.  If you check the link, you'll find a float which shows Berlusconi being rogered by the Mafia, under the title Homo Marriage, Italian-Style.  

By that standard, this blog's affectionate tease of the foreign minister seems quite mild.   After all, I didn't write "Hey Guido, don't drop the soap when Vladimir Putin is around!"   Did I?

Is there a point to make from these rambling Karneval thoughts?  I think so.  And it has to do with sexual jokes being less insidious than we imagine. 

Humour is powerful—laughter makes it hard to hide malfeasance behind a cloak of false dignity.  

Acknowledging that the powerful are sexual beings, too, is a leveller of the highest order.  And that's good.

It's hard to be pompous with your legs in the air.  Right?

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