GERMAN IN AMERICA.

A Log post by Mark Liberman takes a look at the history of German immigrants and their language in the United States, focusing on an 1861 uprising against the Missouri authorities by a bunch of Achtundvierziger (“Forty-Eighters,” after the European uprising of 1848 many of them had fled); the comment thread gets into a discussion of Karl May and his vast readership in Central Europe. (And here‘s an old LH post about Texas German.)

Comments

  1. Many were republicans. They led the uprisings of 48 and then fled the reprisals. Unlike Metternich, who slipped off to London, narrowly missing the embarassment of sharing a steamer with Lola Montez.
    Friedrich Hecker settled in Belleville, IL, which is more or less a suburb of St. Louis, although those times made petty distinctions critical. (His lieutenant Gustav Struve, a founder of the German vegetarian movement, lived in Philadelphia and New York for a while.)
    As the LL discussion makes clear, this is only a footnote in the history of the American Civil War. But it is one that St. Louis schoolchildren are taught. Due in part, I rather think, to Busch marketing money. It was half a century ago, but I don’t think there was any particular mention of the issue of language, though. I’d like to think that’s changed, in light of current affairs.

  2. Was Jack Teagarden a Texas German?

  3. For those who are young amongst thee, I mean this chap. (Observe! He does his famous trick with a beer glass.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc8D46tJuFM

  4. John Emerson says:

    Katherine Anne Porter wrote an amazing semi-autobiographical story called “Holiday” about a summer spent in about 1910 with a German-American extended family in Texas led by a Marxist patriarch. She had trouble figuring out an ending and held it back from publication for decades, and the ending it has is sort of an anti-climax. Highly recommended.
    A friend of mine who teaches at Texas Lutheran says that Texas Germans are still noticably less insane and horrible than normal Texans.

  5. I can’t believe good ole Karl May got a mention on a language blog. It inspired me to write a blog post about his influence on (or lack of) on the morality of Central Europeans – it seems incomprehensible he isn’t at all known in the English speaking world: http://metaphorhacker.net/2011/03/are-we-the-masters-of-our-morality-yes

  6. They led the uprisings of 48 and then fled the reprisals.
    Yes, sorry, that’s what I meant, but I didn’t phrase it very well.

  7. It isn’t a coincidence that one of the distributors of Reinl’s successful Winnetou films, Constantin, was a co-producer of the Man with No Name trilogy.
    Ennio Morricone perfected what Martin Böttcher began.

  8. The first director of the Adelsverein colony in Fredricksburg (see previous LH post), Friedrich Armand Strubberg, also wrote German fiction of the American west under the name of Armand. Here is a reproduction of the title page of a Russian translation.

  9. It inspired me to write a blog post about his influence on (or lack of) on the morality of Central Europeans – it seems incomprehensible he isn’t at all known in the English speaking world
    Anything will seem incomprehensible when you try to comprehend it by applying inappropriate principles of evaluation. In fact it’s easy to recognise when you are on the wrong track – it’s when you find yourself getting nowhere.
    In order to understand why one person likes tomatoes and another person doesn’t, it is not a promising start to evaluate their moral character. Similarly, an evaluation of moral character does not often begin (in Christian lands) with an inquiry into eating habits.
    It seems you expect that Karl May’s trivial literature should have been successful in America because it was “about the Wild West”. But there has been trivial literature “about Europe” written in America that is unknown in Europe. In any case, such things are likely to be more susceptible to comparative literary and sociological analysis than to astonishment.

  10. I didn’t get the impression he meant “incomprehensible” in the rationalistic sense you’re giving it, but rather as an equivalent of “it’s hard to believe that an author of Westerns we in Central Europe know so well is unknown in the home of the Western!” It’s a perfectly understandable reaction, even if not philosophically grounded.

  11. copperykeen says:

    Normal Texans are insane and horrible, huh? What a typically Minnesotan thing to say.
    I’ve lived in both states (though I’m a native of neither) and in my experience Texans are a helluva lot nicer than Minnesotans. For one thing, Texans have an ethic of hospitality that Minnesotans notably lack.
    Texans are generally friendly to strangers and welcoming to outsiders. Minnesotans generally are not. They’re too busy congratulating themselves on being so enlightened, and despising non-Minnesotans – especially those from the RACIST SOUTH!
    Most Minnesotans have never been to the South, but somehow they just know that the people there are wall-to-wall racists. Which is curious, considering that the Twin Cities boast a bigger gap between white and black employment rates than any other major American metro area: http://www.startribune.com/local/118476099.html
    If anyone’s in the market for a stereotype for Minnesotans, I’d suggest making John Emerson your poster boy: smug and nasty.

  12. John Emerson says:

    My friend from Idaho who went to U Texas confirmed my opinion, especially about the non-urban areas. He was hardly an effete snob. Southern hospitality is wonderful, as long as you pretend you don’t hear a lot of the the things that are said.

  13. It’s a perfectly understandable reaction, even if not philosophically grounded.
    That was just my point (which has nothing to do with philosophy). The incomprehension of Mr. Lukes is understandable. As I said: “you know when you’re on the wrong track – it’s when you find yourself getting nowhere.” I believe he is missing opportunities to overcome his incomprehension, for instance those which a sociological analysis might offer. Actually, at his link Mr. Lukes makes more of an attempt to get to the bottom of his puzzle than he indicates here.
    One often hears people exclaim: “I just don’t understand it !”. If this is meant as a request for advice, I have offered some in the present case: “Try to find a new approach”. In other cases, it may be a kind of appeal to the similarly perplexed to stand up and be counted into the fold: “this shouldn’t be happening !”, with the suggestion of foul play or devious forces at work elsewhere. As in: “I just don’t understand why they don’t throw those bankers into jail.”
    In all cases, one has the choice of continuing the search for understanding, or else snuggling down into annoyance and outrage.

  14. Another possible choice is to discontinue the search for understanding, but without rancor. As when someone not a physicist sighs: “I just don’t understand quantum chromodynamics”.

  15. Stu: In fact it’s easy to recognise when you are on the wrong track – it’s when you find yourself getting nowhere.
    How true.

  16. Nice try ! Of course I don’t regard myself as getting nowhere merely when other people don’t agree with me. That’s because I no longer try to get people to agree with me. I used to try, but then changed my goals when I found I was getting nowhere.
    Now there are people who don’t bother to disagree with my occasionally unusual views, but instead prefer to resent the very fact that I don’t agree with their commonly held views. This has given me an opportunity to rethink, in theoretical terms, what the relationships might be among understanding, not understanding, consent and dissent.
    Clearly rocking the boat is not conducive to consent, although it is a good policy for getting the boat off the discursive rocks. People who moralize everything under the sun should not be surprised when they meet with as much dissent as consent. Morality is inherently divisive.

  17. it’s easy to recognise when you are on the wrong track – it’s when you find yourself getting nowhere.
    Stu, I just saw that as a very useful insight. I might paste it over my computer.
    On your other point, morality can’t be inherently divisive when a moral code only exists by mutual consent.

  18. morality can’t be inherently divisive when a moral code only exists by mutual consent.
    The very point of morality is to separate the Good from the Bad – by decree, by appeal to Nature, God etc. But different people, and different peoples, and different moralists, have and always have had different ideas of what is Good and Bad. On these ideas they are divided. This can hardly be denied.
    I’m not saying that moralizing is inherently Bad. I am merely pointing out that it is a source of conflict, and that this cannot be otherwise so long as dissent is possible – i.e when killing off your opponents is not regarded as acceptable. Dissent, as well as consent, is possible whenever any claim is made. QED.
    Another way to put this is that ethics – the study of morals – might find, if it were dispassionate and took historical events seriously, that it should be warning us against moralizing, instead of searching for the Principles of the Good and the Just. Unfortunately, most kinds of ethics simply assume that they are on the Good and Just side. Another opportunity missed !

  19. How does one (one who sees himself as a seeker after the Good and the Just) distinguish between “moralizing” and “searching for the Principles of the Good and the Just”? If one finds any such Principles, should one proclaim them? or would that be mere “moralizing”? Is divisiveness good? Is it bad?

  20. Actually, at his link Mr. Lukes makes more of an attempt to get to the bottom of his puzzle than he indicates here.
    You mean an extended piece of writing is more comprehensive than half a sentence in a blog comment? You astound me!

  21. marie-lucie says:

    it’s easy to recognise when you are on the wrong track – it’s when you find yourself getting nowhere.
    I have found this principle extremely useful in my own work.

  22. How does one (one who sees himself as a seeker after the Good and the Just) distinguish between “moralizing” and “searching for the Principles of the Good and the Just”? If one finds any such Principles, should one proclaim them? or would that be mere “moralizing”?
    Morality and the legal system in Western countries: compare and contrast.
    Is divisiveness good? Is it bad?
    Morality applied to itself ! That produces some curious quandries. Isn’t morality intended to help one know what one should do ?
    As to divisiveness, I was simply making an observation. Perhaps you think it is not possible to make an observation without taking sides in the war between good and evil ? Is that an accurate description of everyday life in America ?
    What are the social functions of morality, its roles in interaction and communication ? Is it immoral to ask such questions ?

  23. michael farris says:

    “wow it is great news for me, i like it.
    Posted by ‘African Mango Plus’”
    Challenge for Stu, dissect this (probably deleted by now) posting by African Mango Plus and identify the epistomological errors inherent therein.

  24. What is an epistemological error ? I remember Ryle’s “category error”, but that probably wouldn’t draw a crowd nowadays.
    In statistics I have no problem with “standard error”. In everyday life I have no problem with “mistake”. But I have to admit that “error” is another one of those words for which I have no use in theoretical discussions about theoretical discussions.

  25. Well it may well be a source of conflict, but neither that nor separating things into lists of good things and bad things is the same as “divisive”. My point is that morals only work by consensus: it’s no good my deciding unilaterally not to kill other people if they are still going to come and murder me in my bed.
    ethics – the study of morals
    Saul Bellow’s lawyer told him “‘Ethics’ is money, ‘morals’ is sex”.

  26. My point is that morals only work by consensus: it’s no good my deciding unilaterally not to kill other people if they are still going to come and murder me in my bed.
    How do you intend to reach consensus with people who are going to come and murder you in your bed ? You seem to be saying: “it has to be unilateral in this case, so let’s zap’em first.”
    Remember, though, that those people, when they get wind of your consensus plans, may decide to preempt them. You can’t seriously complain if they do, since it is what you yourself are planning to do.
    This example of yours of how decisions are made on moral issues seems to amount to: “us or them” plus first-strike capability. It’s soooo ’60s. Do you also decide whether to return a lost wallet (with contents intact) on the basis of such dramatic considerations ?

  27. Each new contribution to this thread is implicit confirmation of my claim that morality is divisive.
    Suppose someone replies: “No, it’s just you, Grumbly, who are divisive”. That too would be confirmation.

  28. How do you intend to reach consensus with people who are going to come and murder you in your bed ?
    If you’re deliberately misunderstanding me, it’s a waste of time my explaining.

  29. You accuse me of deliberately misunderstanding you. That I might just be misunderstanding you, or disagreeing with you, is not good (!) enough – in order to make your point you think it appropriate to incriminate my motives.
    In this comment thread sufficient evidence has accumulated to show that morality is divisive, even when the contrary is being claimed – so I too can rest my case.

  30. Sorry I was rude, Stu! You’re first paragraph is quite right…
    In this comment thread sufficient evidence has accumulated to show that morality is divisive
    … but not your second, and I didn’t say I’d rested my case. For one thing, you haven’t shown why we should suddenly accept that half-a-dozen comments proves anything.
    I’d also be interested to know if you’re making an oblique reference to the war with Libya, because I’d probably address this differently if you were.

  31. I briefly considered being rude back, but remembered just in time that I have consistently overdrawn my rudeness account, and my spank manager is not extending any more credit.
    The half-a-dozen comments don’t “prove” anything, but they are typical of the turn that discussions about moral and morality often take. I am trying to introduce certain non-moralizing observations on morality – sociological ones, in a way – yet the feedback I get is to have my motives impugned.
    My observations are Luhmann-driven, of course. But I underestimated how hard it would be to communicate unusual views about morality. I haven’t yet applied for a position as Martyr to Advanced Thinking – because I don’t know the going rates, and whether the perks meet my requirements.
    Yes, the war on Libya is a good reference point. I was in fact thinking of all the previous murderous episodes of the 20th century, which all took place under the same motto: “We are really, really right and they are wrong, so once we kill off the wrong guys that will be the last time anybody has to be killed”. The Germans called a particular operation of this kind the Endlösung, but all of those campaigns were intended to be Endlösungen.

  32. I don’t think morals per se are very influential. You know a million times more about this than I, but I thought that one of Kant’s claims to fame was having said roughly that having morals was its own reward. My experience is that few people believe this, that their motivation for following a moral code is a)they don’t want to get caught and punished in those places is follows the criminal code and b) where it doesn’t, and where it doesn’t follow a religious code they believe in, either, they couldn’t care less about morals, middle class westerners care about things like “getting ahead”. There are exceptions: vegans, for instance, often believe it’s morally wrong to eat or otherwise abuse any sentient creature; many people are morally opposed to slavery, etc. That vegans will disagree with others is obvious, but that’s not the same as saying the moral point is divisive. In fact it forms a consensus; the moral issue is a gathering point for like-minded people.

  33. There are islands of consensus, sure. But those islands are often at loggerheads with each other, for instance vegans and meat-eaters.
    There is no guarantee of “like-mindedness”, however. Minds cannot be observed. And what about the non-like-minded, and the dissenters ? Is it OK for them to avoid the gathering-point ? Do they belong, or are they tolerated ?
    Could the answers to these questions – the very ability to formulate such questions – be correlated with the kind of society involved – segmentary, stratified or functionally differentiated ? Or is this all a matter of individualistic preferences, say for tomatoes over beef, that may or may not overlap ?
    I see that what I am saying is too brief to be intelligible: “What the hell is he getting at ?”. Sigh. If I can get permission from Suhrkamp, I suppose I should translate one of Luhmann’s longer essays on morality from Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik. Just because I myself find them so lucid.
    In the preface to Soziale Systeme, Luhmann explains the overall idea of the book, and says: “Although, as regards the choice of concepts and the statements about individual matters, the theory was as easy to formulate as if it had written itself, still I had to spend considerable time and thought on problems of arrangement. Thanks to support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft I was able to devote a year to this task. I hope the outcome finds favor.”

  34. I’m sorry, gentlemen, but this is abuse; you want room 12A, just along the corridor.

  35. Morality and the legal system in Western countries: compare and contrast.
    My point of view seems to be so far from yours, Stu, that I can’t imagine what you are getting at here. Honestly, I can’t compare and contrast them as you want me to because I don’t understand the assignment.
    Many wrong-headed and damaging things have been done in the name of “morality”, yet I have not learned to condemn “morality”. I think that the legal system is, at least partly, based on ideas of “morality”. An individual’s ideas about what constitutes morally correct behavior for himself, or others, are necessarily different from ideas about what the state can impose punishment for, or what another can sue you for. I am really lost here. What are you getting at?

  36. what about the non-like-minded, and the dissenters ? Is it OK for them to avoid the gathering-point ? Do they belong, or are they tolerated ?
    Tolerated by one another, the dissenters form their own groups. Even anarchists form groups, for god’s sake.
    I’d be delighted if you would translate anything by Luhrman. We’ve been hearing about him for all these years, I almost feel I know the old blighter. I suppose I should attempt the German, I just know it ain’t gonna happen.

  37. empty: Many wrong-headed and damaging things have been done in the name of “morality”, yet I have not learned to condemn “morality”.
    I have not condemmed morality. I said it was divisive and polemogenic. The course of this comment thread has demonstrated that even talking about morality generates more heat than light. The course of history provides plenty of other examples.
    Most of what follows is GS speaking, not Luhmann.
    Bungee jumping, and invading countries to support the good guys against the bad ones, are dangerous – but to observe that does not by itself amount to a condemnation of these practices. Many people believe that moral principles are “basically” a good thing, the foundations of social consensus and cohesion etc – but then we find that disagreements about, say, religious practices and the legality of abortion lead to people killing each other.
    To lessen the argumentative effect, I might have said that morality easily becomes polemogenic – but that implies that it is basically pacific, and becomes dangerous only when misused. Such a discussion gets us nowhere, I find – because the social functions of morality are not being addressed. Society is not just a bunch of people living in the same place, sometimes agreeing with each other and sometimes not. That is a completely inadequate description not only of the complex societies which exist in the West, but also of simpler societies.
    Judging from what various people have written here, it appears that moral preferences are seen to be matters of individual taste that somehow overlap, or don’t – possibly with anthropological, utilitaristic and quasi-religious arguments lurking in the background to the effect that “we are all made the same”, “without such preferences society would not be possible”, “with a good will everything will work out OK”. But this is not an adequate description of our own societies, and does not even begin to describe societies in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan – unless you assume that “they’re basically all just like us, we merely need to get rid of the bad guys who are now in charge there”.
    The resistance I have encountered here to the idea that morality is polemogenic is, I think, due to the Western individual-rights take on it. In an Islamic country, more people might agree that morality is polemogenic: adding that the war in question is of believers against infidels, so I better make sure I’m on the right side.
    It seems like you get in everybody’s bad books when you say you want to take a sociological look at morality. In Islamic countries this would be tantamount to an attack on God. In Western countries it is tantamount to an attack on individual preferences that somehow have universal backing. In both cases there is a feeling that someone is setting himself up as a know-it-all who will relativize all values out of existence.
    Dispassionateness is just as polemogenic as morality.

  38. It would seem everything is polemogenic if looked at properly.

  39. Polemogenic = From Greek polemos. Adj. that qualifies something as evoking or causing ‘war’, (provokes conflicts and war). From here.

  40. Stu, some combinations of morals may provoke conflict, but not all. Pacifism isn’t polemogenic.

  41. It would seem everything is polemogenic if looked at properly.
    Maybe “photogenic” was the word I should have been using.

  42. J. W. Brewer says:

    Pacifism most certainly can be polemogenic if it emboldens a would-be aggressor who might otherwise be deterred. A good anecdotal example (which may or may not be entirely historically accurate but is structurally plausible enough to illustrate polemogenicity is possible in principle) is the conclusion a famous resident of Germany supposedly drew about British fortitude from the “Resolved: This House Will Not Fight For King and Country” debate at the Oxford Union. See also the cummings poem beginning “i sing of Olaf glad and big.”

  43. JW, if Stu were only saying that a moral position can inflame a situation, I wouldn’t argue. Few people would, probably. But he’s going a lot further than that: he’s saying it’s a characteristic of morality to be divisive and polemogenic. Yes, my example, pacifism, can be polemogenic, but it’s not always the case. It’s not inherent.
    If Stu were to say only that morality is divisive in the sense that some people are bound to disagree with any moral position, he’d be on firmer ground, but I think that’s a truism.

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