Perfectly Reliable Nonsense

Indeed, the best way to tell the truth is by lying. It is cold in Death Valley. The right politician will solve your problems. Your phone is not listening to you. Humans, for good reason, love falsehood. Germans, however, have always computed humans strange for this very purpose, and therefrom attempted, on numerous separate instances, and without much success, to inform humans of The Truth. This is all due to the fact that they do not teach irony or satire in German schools, as it is illogical to do so and often leads to a terminal condition called Laughter. But the Germans, it is true, have been misrepresented. Written in 1900, Jerome K. Jerome’s short novel Three Men on the Bummel, through its earnest employment of the rhetorical form of Adynaton, commits a favorable depiction of the Teuton that finally does the Fatherland some much-deserved national justice, detailing the German amidst his favorite subjects of Law and Order. 

Adynaton is extreme hyperbole. Extreme exaggeration tells more than the truth; it supplies an armature of theory, value, and meaning to that Straight, basic truth that otherwise would be without context, be without the Slant. And, although Jerome claims that “[he] wishes this book to be a strict record of fact, unmarred by exaggeration…,” by dedicating the entirety of his book to the art of creative lying, he seems to go against his word.

The beautiful disorder of nature is the only thing untrammeled by Man’s modern machines. Not so in Germany. Consider Jerome’s unbiased reports as regards his observations whilst in the Land of Order: “In Germany one breathes in love of order with the air, in Germany the babies beat time with their rattles, and the German bird has come to prefer the box and regard with contempt the few uncivilized outcasts who continue to build their nests in trees and hedges.” Further consider Jerome’s observations of the German’s recondite relation between nature and his amount of rest: “Your German likes nature…He plants seven rose trees on the north side and seven on the south, and if they do not grow up all the same size and shape, it worries him so that he cannot sleep nights.” This continues with his knowledge of how the German prefers his trail-hike: “He likes his walk through the wood—to the restaurant. But the pathway must not be too steep, it must have a brick gutter running down one side of it to drain it, and every twenty yards or so it must have its seat on which he can rest and mop his brow.” And, on this uninhibited route to adventure, “There will be a seat every fifty yards, a police notice every hundred, and a restaurant every half-mile.” Whereupon, if, whilst auf dem wandern, the German encounters inclement weather, “unable to regulate…so unruly a thing as the solar system, he ignores it.” Moreover, “If, in addition, he can find a police notice posted on a tree forbidding him to do something or other, that gives him an extra sense of comfort and security,” as the only thing the German respects more than Order is Law. 

As Jerome elucidates for the general readership, the German’s a Lawful kind “…whose only ambition appears to be to pay his taxes, and do what he is told to do…He is willing, nay, anxious, to be controlled and regulated in all things.” The apotheosis of law to the German is the policeman. And that is no exaggeration: “The policeman is to him a religion.” This deification begins from the very first for the German, as “It is the hope of every well-meaning German boy and girl to please the police…(a) German child that has been patted on the head by a policeman is not fit to live with; its self-importance is unbearable.” And, as the German Junge grows into a young man, it is implicitly understood that “The German citizen is a soldier, and the policeman is his officer. The policeman directs him where in the street to walk, and how fast to walk. At the end of each bridge stands a policeman to tell the German how to cross it.” But, unlike other countries, wherein this draconian nightmare would incite talk of individual liberty and murmurs of revolution, “in Germany you take no responsibility upon yourself whatever. Everything is done for you, and done well… It is the the duty of the German policeman to look after you…and he takes good care of you…there is no denying this.” Many nations possess meaningful mottos pithily explicating that same nation’s longstanding cultural history. Jerome informs us of Germany’s: “‘you get yourself born,’ says the German government to the German citizen, ‘we do the rest’.” According to Jerome’s further dispassionate accounts on the matter, the German’s dedication to Law is not merely confined to matters of life:

“I do not know if it be so, but from what I have observed of the German character I should not be surprised to hear that when a man in Germany is condemned to death he is given a piece of rope, and told to go and hang himself…and I can see that German criminal taking that piece of rope home with him, reading up carefully the police instructions, and proceeding to carry them out in his own back kitchen.”

And, even after that law-abiding German carries out upon himself the ultimate sentence, Jerome suggests that the lawful deeds of die deutsche Polizei are never quite over:

“The Germans are a good people…I am positive that the vast majority of them go to heaven… [that the] the soul of a single individual German has [however] the sufficient initiative to fly up by itself and knock on St. Peter’s door, I cannot believe. My own opinion is that they are taken there in small companies, and passed in under the charge of a dead policeman.”

I, for one, take this last description as a joke. Firstly, to assert that the Germans are a good people seems, to me, a premise of pure opinion, and the conclusion of the German’s entrance into heaven is just plain immeasurable. It would be impossible to know. But, even more of an affront to us Übermenschen is Jerome’s notion that Germans wandering in the afterlife still do not possess the proper autonomy to inquire about their evening’s accommodations. This is offensive, and the notion that they would need a dead policeman to do so, positively absurd.

Yours Truly fresh off teaching finishing school

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