Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Austria needs a make-over ?

Austria’s having a bit of a bad press at the moment.

Obviously the paedophile incest in the cellar horror was never going to be good for the tourist trade. The Austrian government is trying to re-establish the country’s good name – you can just imagine the PR brief ‘emphasise the Sound Of Music and Mozart thing but play down the whole Hitler and child molesters angle’.

In this country the red-tops are carrying pictures of the small town of the Amstetten at the time of the anschluss. Unsurprisingly pictures from the time have surfaced of townspeople and members of Fritzl’s family giving Nazi salutes. The implication is something along the lines of 'see they’re all Nazis really with a genetic disposition to do evil'.

Naturally any sane person regards this kind of inherited collective guilt as absolute bollocks. Otherwise we’d be blaming all the serial killers in the USA on that country’s shameful near-genocide of its indigenous peoples and an inherited predisposition to callous violence. Truth is, no nation is any more predisposed to these horrors than any other. But when small town values predominate it doesn’t half help in keeping every thing hushed up.

And here is the serious and valid point: Culturally Austria is an affluent and conservative country with a strong Catholic influence. Attitudes that Hemmingway, in a different context, called ‘wide lawns and narrow minds’.

The sort of place we are told where neighbours address each other by their surnames and respect each others’ privacy. Where the word of the ‘head of the family’ is respected when he is asked where his children have gone. Not the sort of place where liberal nosy-parker do-gooders from social services stick their noses in.

In fact it sounds suspiciously like the Conservative vision of ‘family values’. Come to think of it - a bit like our own island of Jersey.

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