Sloterdijk is correct to point out the hypocrisy of Europe: doing nothing when they could or should have and is now expecting Germany to handle this situation. He is also correct that Merkel is in a deal with the devil here, especially when engaging the eastern European countries.
With the recent Austrian elections it’s clear the far-right has a grip on the political imaginations of the people. As this map shows Norbert Hofer won in a majority of area in Austria:
The issue is not one of far-right populism, or not just. In fact, when it comes down to it far-right populism has the unfortunate side effect of bringing far-right extremists along with them. In Germany Frauke Petry (the speaker for the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)) stated in an interview that gun violence should be used against refugees on the border to stop them from entering. In the last year over 1K incidents of violence/harassment against refugees has been recorded in Germany, over 100 incidents of arson against refugees homes. Chants of “Wir sind das Volk!” are heard frequently at Pegida rallies – an ironic chant since it was previously to protest the East German regime. In the last year or so since this crisis got big there have been 369 claims of refugees doing violence to citizens (rape, assault, etc.) and all 369 turned out to be hoaxes.
There is no easy solution to the crises. But Identitäre have interrupted two plays about refugees in Vienna, blaming Europe and Austria for having a role in the deaths at the Bataclan. Norbert Hofer, the leading candidate for president in Austria, wore a blue flower in his lapel in 2013, this blue flower was a way for Nazis to identify each other when the swastika and such were banned. Refugees are in camps (like Idomeni). Refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean as they try to come over to Europe. All of this is happening, and Viktor Orban and others are leading the charge to block refugees, to shut down their borders, to deport refugees, all in the name of defending their culture.
This defense of culture sounds less and less like a defense of traditions and more like a defense of Leitkultur.
Again, there is no easy solution. I have no idea how to solve this. From an ethical perspective Merkel did the absolute correct thing in welcoming so many refugees. But from a practical political perspective it is a nightmare for Germany. The social system is being strained, people are frustrated, and those frustrations are understandable and (in some cases) valid. But this frustration has led to the AfD winning their place in the local state parliaments in three German states, it’s led to the increased popularity of National Front in France and Marie Le Pen, of Orban and company. And a naive humanism won’t work. A naive humanism that says: welcome them all! They’re human and deserve safety! While true, these naive platitudes, lacks teeth to resist the inevitable surge of racist rhetoric and action.
The far-right isn’t just a populism anymore here, there’s a very real fear of the lengths they have (and are willing to go to) to stop Middle Eastern and North African immigrants. Any solution will end up angering someone else. But what is incredibly clear is that resistance to the far-right is needed, that fascists are running over Europe, and that the chant “Nazis Raus!” is all too relevant still, and that refugees have nowhere to go back to. They’re stuck between camps with measly tents and destroyed cities, abused and harassed by smugglers, the women are assaulted, put in front of gates telling them they’re outside of the human.
And this is what it fundamentally comes down to, I think: any defense of tradition or culture or place is not absent its context. In this case, the context is a Europe not too far removed from nationalism and colonialism. That being the case it’s hard to hear Norbert Hofer saying he wants to protect Austrian culture, tradition, etc. and not hear a man determining what is acceptable and human to an extent. It’s hard to hear this and not ask: what the hell do you mean? Wiener Schnitzel (ironically, probably not from Wien) and Lederhosen and Dirndl’s? And I mean that in kernes: if you defend culture and traditions: what the hell are you specifically talking about?