The Euro Zone is safe; at least someone is propping up the euro.
The picture was taken last week in the financial center of Frankfurt, Germany. The handmade signs in the foreground are part of the Occupy Frankfurt movement, which is still active a year after it started.
This visit to Germany prompted some questions. While my observations are not scientific (nor statistically relevant) I'll share a
few of them with you anyway.
First, there seemed to be a pervading sense of wariness and weariness. I heard many people express concerns about the economy and the future. "Zeitgeist" is a German word that means spirit of the times ... and the spirit here seems somewhat dampened, despite a 24% gain in the German DAX Index this year.
Second, native Germans are not having babies at the rate they used to. This would typically result in an aging population. However, it seems to have triggered a major influx of immigrants from other countries in the region, like Turkey, but also from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Muslim nations.
Third, while stereotypical, my sense is that the German national identity was somewhat tied to "craftsmanship". But as their economy manufactures less, it's as if the nation struggles to figure out what it will become.
Fourth, while America may be a melting pot, historically Germany hasn't been. So, it isn't hard to imagine the cognitive dissonance felt by a Germans who don't know how to respond to a Germany that is becoming less "German".
As a result, this newly diverse population is struggling to decide how to allocate resources.
I'm reminded of the warning flight
attendants give you on an airplane; if the oxygen masks are deployed,
make sure you use them yourself first, before trying to help someone
else, because it's tough to help somebody else if you're incapacitated.
By many measures, Germany is the strongest nation in its region. However, the burdens of a new economy and a new world order are hard to ignore.
It may pay to remember the saying: "Pigs get meaner as troughs get smaller."