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德国人有效率“只是一个传说”

更新时间:2017/10/16 11:24:01 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

Why people think Germans are so efficient
德国人有效率“只是一个传说”

In summer 2011, I was working at a small Berlin travel agency and facing a conundrum: my clients literally held tickets to nowhere. Their planes would be taking off shortly, but their destination – Berlin-Brandenburg Airport – would not be open to welcome them. Six summers have since come and gone, but each year the same news, almost gleeful at this point, trickles out of that massive construction site south of the capital: the project has gone billions over budget and is nowhere close to opening. So whatever happened to German efficiency?

2011年夏天,我在德国柏林的一家小型旅游公司工作的时候遇到了一个难题:我的客户拿着机票,但哪里都去不了。他们的飞机很快就要起飞了,但是目的地——柏林勃兰登堡机场——并未开放迎接他们。六年过去了,但柏林南部这个大型建筑工地都每年还是传来同样(现在看起来很搞笑)的消息:项目超出预算数十亿,但是距离机场开放还遥遥无期。那么所谓的德国效率到底怎么了?

If the overdue airport weren’t enough of a hint, I’ll let you in on a secret: German efficiency is a myth, with roots in religion, nationalism, enlightenment thought and a few major wars. It may have reached its pinnacle in the 20th Century, but since then it’s survived as a useful stand-in for everything that confuses the world about Germans – that in spite of a war that decimated them, a wall that divided them, a currency designed to weaken them and a financial crisis that could have ended them, they still seem to come out on top.

如果机场工程逾期还不够说明问题,我就揭开一个秘密:德国效率是一个传说,它植根于宗教、民族主义、启蒙运动和几场大型战争。德国效率在20世纪可能登峰造极,但是德国效率的说法之所以留传至今,是因为它解释了德国人让世界感到费解的所有事情。几乎让德国亡国的二战、把德国一分为二的柏林墙、以削弱德国为目的的欧元、原本可以终结德国的金融危机,这一切都未能阻止德国依旧鼎立世界先进行列。

Just not where airports are concerned.

但效率跟机场无关。

Much like German humour, German efficiency (or the lack of it), is often a hot topic among visitors as they marvel at trains that follow their schedules to the minute, pristine autobahns where German-produced cars seem to drive at warp speed (while getting into statistically fewer accidents), and, perhaps every foreigner’s favourite gripe, citizens who wait for the walk signal before crossing the street – and admonish you if you don’t do the same.

德国效率(或者缺乏效率)和德国幽默很像,是游客的一个热门话题。他们惊讶于火车的时间表精确到分钟,崭新的高速公路上德国生产的汽车以飞快的速度行驶(统计结果是事故发生率反而较少),还有最让外国人苦恼的事:德国人过马路严守红绿灯——如果你不这样做,他们还会警告你。

Yet what they mistake for German efficiency is, in many instances, a German fondness for rules – a trait that leaves foreigners equally puzzled. While rule following may help in the seamless execution of everyday tasks, it doesn’t really make a difference when it comes to big, symbolic projects of national significance. Berlin culture mavens waiting for the long-extended renovation of the Staatsoper (State Opera House) would concur; so would those in Hamburg who saw costs balloon for their new philharmonic hall.

然而,在很多情况下,他们把德国人对规则的偏爱等同于效率,虽然德国人对规则的偏爱也同样让外国人感到费解。虽然遵守规则有助于严丝合缝的执行日常任务,但是对于大型的、具有国家意义的工程项目,它并不会带来效率。苦等国家歌剧院(Staatsoper)装修延期的柏林文艺界人士对此会表示赞同;见证新的爱乐音乐厅成本飙升的汉堡文艺界人士同样如此。

Sooner or later, however, talk of German efficiency always points to Prussia. Known for its militarism, nationalism and ruthless work ethic, the kingdom spanned centuries, and, at its 19th-Century peak, much of northern Germany and present-day Poland. Supposedly, while the humourless northerly Prussians were busy marching around, coaxing potatoes out of arid, infertile land, the Bavarians were happily swilling beer in warmer climes.

谈到德国效率,总是离不开普鲁士。普鲁士在数百年的历史中,以军国主义、民族主义和严谨的职业道德著称。在19世纪的盛世,普鲁士的领土覆盖德国北部大部分地区和如今的波兰。在一本正经的北方普鲁士人忙着到处行军扩张,在干燥、贫瘠的土地上努力种植土豆的同时,巴伐利亚人正在温暖的气候里愉快的饮酒。

The gulf between the two was further widened by Prussia’s adoption of Lutheran Protestantism. It was Martin Luther who had imagined a new kind of German Christianity far from the Catholic confines of the Holy Roman Empire, and his writings further shaped the image of Germans as hard-working, law-abiding and authority supporting (by no coincidence, the same characteristics Hannah Arendt would observe during the Adolf Eichmann trials when she coined the term ‘banality of evil’ to explain how Germany could have allowed Nazism).

随着普鲁士遵从路德教(Lutheran Protestantism),两者之间的鸿沟进一步加深。路德教是马丁·路德(Martin Luther)构想出来的新型德国基督教,远离神圣罗马帝国的天主教禁锢。而他的作品把德国人的形象进一步塑造成勤奋工作、遵纪守法、支持政府的特点(无独有偶,后来在阿道夫·艾希曼(Adolf Eichmann)的审判中,汉娜·阿伦特(Hannah Arendt)发明了"平庸的邪恶"这个词来解释德国是怎样孕育了纳粹主义,当时她就提到了德国人的这些特点)。

Prussia not only laid claim to these characteristics; it also helped them become national traits. Up until the mid-19th Century, Germany had been little more than a cluster of disparate kingdoms banding together once in a while for border disputes with the French or Slavs. Prussia changed all that when it fought off Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and steered the country towards what begins to look like modern-day Germany.

普鲁士人不仅标榜自己的这些特点,还把它们变成民族性。直至19世纪中叶,德国仍然不过是一连串分离的王国,仅仅在与法国或斯拉夫发生领土争议时才会团结一致。普法战争(1870-1871)时,普鲁士打败了拿破仑三世,从此改变了一切,开始朝着现代德国的方向发展。

In fact, according to James Hawes, author of The Shortest History of Germany (2017), it was this victory that really cemented the image of German efficiency. To the British in the early 19th Century, “Germany [was] this kind of backward country… Then suddenly, seemingly overnight, they crushed the French… the premier military power in Europe. It seemed like a kind of weird, black miracle at the time.”

事实上,根据《德国简史》(The Shortest History of Germany)作者詹姆士·霍斯(James Hawes)的看法,正是这次胜利塑造了德国效率的形象。19世纪初,对英国来说,"德国是有点落后的国家……似乎一夜之间,他们就打败了欧洲的军事强国法国。当时看来,这是种有点奇怪的黑色奇迹。"

Gone were the images of lush romantics and wine-drinking philosophers, of dark forests and rolling hills and lone travellers overlooking hazy vistas à la painter Caspar David Friedrich. All of Germany – or at least the most that ever had been – was now captive to militant Prussia, and all of Europe knew the Prussians were a people to watch out for.

画家卡斯帕·大卫·弗里德里希(Caspar David Friedrich)作品中愉快的浪漫主义、品酒的哲学家、暗黑森林、起伏的山峦还有眺望着迷蒙远景的孤独行者都一去不返。整个德国现在已归入军国主义的普鲁士的统治之下,而全欧洲都知道要提防这个民族。

By the start of World War I, this was more than just a fear of the ‘other’, Hawes explained. “If you’re going to make the world safe for democracy… it’s handy to be able to say that your enemy is almost alien in its weirdness… its superhuman cunning.” WWI propaganda posters, some of which can be viewed at Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM), upheld this myth, superimposing the face of the German Kaiser on a spider’s body, and generally promoting the image of Germans as all-knowing, all-seeing and omnipresent.

到第一次世界大战开始时,这已经不仅仅是一种对"他者"的恐惧。霍斯解释道:"如果你要保护世界的民主……可以说你的敌人太过诡异……它的狡诈超越了人类。"位于柏林的德国历史博物馆(Deutsches Historisches Museum)可以看到一战期间的宣传海报鼓吹这一神话,有的把德国皇帝的脸放在蜘蛛的身体上,通常都宣传全知全能的德国人形象。

But why does this obsession with German efficiency still exist today, even though it should have rightfully been quashed by Allied victory in 1945? Markus Hesselmann, local editor at Tagesspiegel, has an idea, though he’s not too keen on admitting it: “In Britain… there is a very strange kind of fascination (I have to be very careful how I phrase this) of Nazi Germany. There is this wish to strip away all the bad things [about the Nazis] and leave only the things you respect…”

但为什么对德国效率的痴迷持续至今?在1945年协约国胜利以后,它不是理应破灭了吗?德国《每日镜报》(Tagesspiegel)的本地编辑马库斯·黑塞尔曼(Markus Hesselmann)虽然并不想承认,但是他认为:"英国仍然存在对纳粹德国的一种奇怪的痴迷(这里我必须小心用词)。人们希望消除纳粹的一切坏的东西,只留下受人尊敬的一面……"

Members of the former Allied powers, the US and UK chief among them, like to marvel at how the Germans were hobbled by reparations after WWI yet still emerged to fight a second war – though those sanctions were partly responsible for that war. They like to believe the Wirtschaftswunder or ‘economic miracle’ of the 1950s and ‘60s was due to a ruthlessly efficient work ethic, ignoring just how much money was being pumped in to bolster West Germany against the Russians. As Hawes points out, the myth “has nothing to do with history and more to do with fantasy”. In making a myth of the Germans, we make a myth of ourselves.

前协约国主要成员美国和英国惊讶于一战后背负沉重赔款负担的德国如何能够崛起发起第二次战争——尽管这些制裁对二战负有部分责任。他们情愿相信20世纪50和60年代的经济奇迹是因为残酷无情的高效职业道德,而忽略为了抵制俄罗斯,西德获得了多少投资。正如霍斯指出的,这一神话"与历史无关,更多的是与幻想有关。"在创造德国神话的同时,我们把自己也变成了神话。

Perhaps no-one knows this better than non-German Germans; those who have settled here from elsewhere and encountered stringent rules and unending bureaucracy in daily life, even as public works like Berlin’s airport languish.

在这一点上,可能没有人比非德裔的德国人更加了解。他们从别的国家移居至此,在日常生活中遭遇严苛的规定和无休止的官僚主义,甚至像柏林机场这样的公共工程也停滞不前。

In a delightfully ironic twist of fate, though, the much-maligned airport now offers guided tours. So, in addition to Berlin history museums like the DHM, brazen battle monuments like the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, and the chilling Holocaust memorial, visitors can now add Germany’s latest folly to their itinerary.

命运的讽刺之处是,颇受诟病的机场现在提供导游陪同的观光服务。所以,除了德国历史博物馆、勃兰登堡门、胜利纪念柱和让人脊背发凉的大屠杀纪念馆以外,游客的行程中又增添了一个最新的项目。

According to Joseph Pearson, however, who explores German idiosyncrasies on his blog The Needle and in his upcoming book Berlin, the delayed airport shouldn’t be denigrated but celebrated precisely because it contradicts the long-held myth; a sign of history correcting its course.

不过,研究德国特点的The Needle博客的博主、即将出版的《柏林》一书的作者、研究者约瑟夫·皮尔森(Joseph Pearson)认为,机场施工延期不应该受到诋毁,反而是值得庆祝的,因为这恰恰否定了长期以来的神话。这是历史自我修正的标志。

When things like the airport don’t work out, “It humanises the Germans; it shows that they don’t fit easily into useful stereotypes that foreigners might have about them,” he told me, adding, “Nearly every example of German inefficiency makes me as happy as it does frustrated.”

当机场这样的工程遭遇不顺,"这为德国带来了人性;这表明他们并不是那么容易归入外国人心目中的刻板印象。"他对我说,"几乎每一个德国低效率的例子都让我喜忧参半。"

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