Euro04: Berlin + Prague

The Myna Lady

Tuesday, March 9th, 4:38PM

Someone has a friend...

In the bird house we came across this woman who apparently came to the zoo regularly and had built up quite a relationship with the myna bird (barely visible at the top of the photo). She had trained it to say a few cute German phrases.

So another strange thing about Germany: Crazy people. Berlin has crazy people, for sure, as any city must. And we came across several of them. But. They dress well and generally look healthy and clean, even though their behaviors (loudly arguing with their reflections in metro trains, for example) are clearly nuts. We saw few outright bums on the street. In the US, crazy people look poor and dishevelled (generally).

The only explanation for this difference I could come up with was that the social safety net in Germany was higher, so even these people received enough support to do reasonably well. I mean, they pay, like, 60% of their paychecks in taxes -- but this is the sort of thing they get in return. Bad? I don't know. But then I generally favor the more socialist European systems to our own agressively individualistic one.

The edition of the Economist I had with me on the plane back included a report about universal health insurance and health care that made the rather obvious argument that countries with one majority culture have an easier time implementing universal health care because nearly everyone falls into the perceived "We" category and, of course, "We" should work to help "Us." Citizens of countries with large multicultural populations consider too many of their countrymen to be "Someone Else" -- alien -- and not deserving of their money for social support. An over-simplification, sure, but a good thought, nonetheless.