My mother’s side still has distant family members in Munich so I’m told. From what I understand it’s an ancient city in the heart of Bavaria. I really don’t know much more than that. Being able to have a solid knowledge of your own family history is a pretty big privilege and I sometimes think I don’t take enough advantage of that fact. My grandparents didn’t share many cultural traditions aside from consuming copious amounts of meat, so I didn’t have a tangible sense of where their parents came from. They wanted to be American so they did. Like many others coming to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, they used their whiteness and flair for business to move up in the socioeconomic ranks.
The only thing I knew about Germany when I was growing up was that the holocaust happened there and the tourists I saw from there were blonde and wore sensible shoes. Because the idea of celebrating early Germanic culture is so deeply entrenched in white supremacist rhetoric it’s not something I was excited to broadcast to the world. On the flip side, many liberal white people like to parse out their ancestors in order to seem “ethnic” and assure the world they are not WASP’s. For me, it’s more about realizing that even though my family, after learning English, was able to assimilate and shed their “otherness” some DNA-based cultural leanings still exist within me. To me, it at least seems nobler to embrace my unique Germanic stoicism than to pretend like I deeply connect with yoga or any other number of Asian, Native American, and African traditions white people have managed to co-opt.
When I was in my teens, after moving through the world of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, I gravitated towards German industrial music and discovered how, in the 90’s, artists living in newly post-Communist Germany were protesting the ideas of collectivism and group-think that their grandparents’ so willingly embraced. The name of the German electro-industrial band, KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid), literally translates to “no pity for the majority.” That was when I made the connection. Industrial was sad but powerful. It was dark. It was a strange blend of metal, electronic music, and the sounds of machinery. It made me feel like there was something innate about my fascination with the darker side of things when other people failed to understand why anyone would listen to something so depressing.
Germany’s neighbors, the Dutch, have been hailed for their “happiness gene” so named in a 2014 study. This makes me wonder if Germans and other similarly stoic peoples have a “darkness gene.” I feel like it might be true. I know I’ll never be sure what affects my general demeanor more, my German side or my Irish side, two equally depressive peoples in two totally different ways. All I know is something about darkness in music, art, dress, and philosophy speaks to my core. My people invented Nihilism even before Nietzsche put a name to it. This fact makes me feel better about choosing to forgo meditation and green tea for spiraling deep thoughts and alcohol. Joy is overrated.
Es lebe die Goten!