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Rammstein’s “Amerika”

Rammstein drummer Christoph Schneider plants Old Glory on the next planet over

1,254 words

In 2004, the German “New Hard Rock” band Rammstein released their fourth and greatest album, Reise Reise (Arise, Arise). The second single from Reise, Reise is “Amerika,” which was released on September 13, 2004 and immediately leaped into the top 10 charts across Europe. The video of “Amerika,” directed by Jörn Heitmann, was filmed August 6–7, 2004 at a ruined cement factory near Berlin.

“Amerika” is one of Rammstein’s catchiest and most cutting songs, featuring such immortal rhymes as Wunderbar/Wonderbra. The video is also highly entertaining.

http://youtu.be/hBgAQc-MnGM

Here is a translation of the lyrics (they rhyme in German, of course):

We’re all living in America
America is wonderful
We’re all living in America
America, America

When there’s dancing, I want to lead
even if you’re whirling around alone
Let yourselves be controlled a little
I’ll show you how it really goes
We’re making a nice round dance
Freedom is playing on all violins
Music is coming out of the White House
and Mickey Mouse is standing in front of Paris

We’re all living in America
America is wonderful
We’re all living in America
America, America

I know moves that are very useful
and I will protect you from missteps
And whoever doesn’t want to dance at the end
doesn’t know yet that they must
We’re making a nice round dance
I will show you the way
Santa Claus is coming to Africa
and Mickey Mouse is standing in front of Paris

We’re all living in America
America is wonderful
We’re all living in America
America, America

We’re all living in America
Coca-Cola, Wonderbra
We’re all living in America
America, America

This is not a love song
This is not a love song
I don’t sing my mother tongue
No, This is not a love song

We’re all living in America
America is wonderful
We’re all living in America
America, America

We’re all living in America
Coca-Cola, sometimes war
We’re all living in America
America, America

(You can read the original German lyrics here.)

The theme of “Amerika” is American cultural and political imperialism. We’re all living in America, because America has gone global. The immediate occasion for the song was the beginning of the second Iraq war in 2003, which sparked widespread protests in Europe from both left and right. But American imperialism is a much older and bigger problem.

Although bemoaning American cultural imperialism is a cliché of the Left, it is also a staple of the European New Right. I have argued elsewhere that Rammstein is a German nationalist band, although they are not racial nationalists. Thus their critique of America is from the right, and it overlaps significantly with the critique of the European New Right without necessarily drawing from it.

In the “Amerika” video, the members of Rammstein are dressed as American astronauts playing the song on the moon. The moon landing was America’s finest hour, the pinnacle of its international prestige. Although the Russkis had a head start, America framed victory in the Space Race as landing on the moon, and beat them there. The images of thousands of clean-cut white men working together, heroically engaged in dazzling and risky technological feats, sent a message of national, and racial, superiority. (It was German engineering, of course, that got us there.)

The members of Rammstein are also shown on the moon acting like typical American tourists: snapping photos, as well as playing pinball in a loud, animated, argumentative fashion. (I didn’t know that is typically American.) Naturally, it is a Star Trek pinball machine. Another amusing touch is the wind machine that stirs vocalist Till Lindemann’s hair.

The moon scenes are intercut with non-whites around the world both performing distinct national customs (dances, prayers, songs) and consuming products of American culture (hamburgers, pizza, cigarettes). We see Africans, Australian Aborigines, and Southeast Asians dancing. We see a Muslim take off his Nike tennis shoes and say his prayers beside oil wells. We see Buddhist novices eating hamburgers, Africans eating pizza and sitting on Santa’s lap, a Japanese on a motorcycle with a big, greasy ’50s-style pompadour, Eskimos watching television, etc. As the song comes to an end, we realize that all this apparently archival footage is of recent vintage, because everyone is lip-syncing to the chorus “We’re all living in America.”

One verse of “Amerika” is sung in English:

This is not a love song
This is not a love song
I don’t sing my mother tongue
No, This is not a love song

In case one hasn’t gotten it yet, this is not a love song to America. The line about “not singing my mother tongue” of course refers to the fact that many European music groups sing in English, not their native tongues. Singing primarily in German, however, is one of the defining traits of the New German Hard Rock movement that Rammstein pioneered.

These words are accompanied by one of the oddest scenes of the video, in which the Members of Rammstein dress as American Indians and glare angrily into the camera. The message is clear: Germans today are like the Redskins of the past and also non-whites around the world insofar as they are equally threatened by American cultural and political imperialism.

A similar point is made by Laibach in their song “National Reservation” on NATO, their concept album on Western imperialism. “National Reservation” is a droll remake of “Indian Reservation,” which became a US number one single for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1971. “National Reservation” substitutes “Eastern” (i.e., Eastern European) for “Cherokee” and leaves the rest of the song pretty much unaltered, including the lines “Though we wear shirts and ties, / we’re still the red men [i.e., Communists] deep inside.”

From a New Right perspective, genuine nationalism does not mean mere self-assertion of one’s own way of life. It also implies respecting the rights of others to their specific ways of life. Thus it is perfectly consistent for nationalist whites, whose culture and sovereignty are being menaced by American imperialism, to sympathize with non-whites who are facing the same challenges.

That kind of respect is impossible for Americans, however, because they think that their way of life is universal and that all other people yearn to be like them. America claims to be a universal nation, bringing the universal values of freedom, creature comforts, and pop culture to all people. But that is just an ethnocentric illusion that masks American political and cultural imperialism. Americans — and whites in general — need to recognize that our universalism is not universal. It is an ethnic peculiarity that we project on the rest of humanity, to the detriment of all.

As the song ends, lead guitarist Richard Kruspe — looking quite handsome, clean-cut, and “American” — winks and points at the viewer. Then the camera pulls back to reveal the studio behind the fake backdrop, and Kruspe, looking rather pleased with himself, receives the ministrations of a makeup woman. As the camera continues backward on its tracks, we see the band members posing and snapping photos with an African dancer, a prop man carrying a giant paper-mache rock, and crewmen scurrying around the set, all showing us just how contrived and illusory “Amerika” — and America — really is.

The last shot is the surface of the moon. A photo of Rammstein lies in the dust. Over it, we hear a staticy voice like the original transmissions from the moon: “We’ve got a problem here.” Yes, Houston, we certainly do.

 

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14 Comments

  1. Petronius
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    When this came out, I was heavily into Alain de Benoist, and this video and song fitted perfectly as a soundtrack of my reading. This was when I realized that Rammstein actually are what the Left feared they were. I see them on the good guy’s party ever since.

    An aside: there is a long German tradition of siding and sympathising with the Indians. In the Wandervogel and Youth movement (1890s-1930s) they were idolised as romantic counterfigures to technical and urban civilisation. James Fenimore Cooper was very popular in Germany during the 19th century and “Leatherstocking” was filmed there in 1920, starring Bela Lugosi (!) as Chingachgook on his way to Hollywood. Karl May, the country’s most popular writer at the turn of the last century, created the immortal blood brotherhood of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand (an immigrated German, like most of May’s heroes), made into a successful Kraut-Western series in the Sixties with “Aryan”-looking Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand. In 1936 mountain movie pioneer and Fanck disciple Luis Trenker shot one of three Western movies produced in the Third Reich, “Der Kaiser von Kalifornien”, feat. a Tyrolian immigrant becoming friendly with the Redskins and getting crushed by American capitalism, which the movie portrayed in a very critical light. A highly successful children’s and youngster’s book during the Third Reich was Fritz Steuben’s series “Tecumseh” about an heroic Apache warrior, which was reprinted as far as the 1990s. Steuben (pen name of Erhard Wittek) was a very conservative, very nationalist writer from West Prussia. And finally, in the Sixties and Seventies DEFA studios produced quite a few Western movies starring the “Eastern Winnetou” Gojko Mitic, battling Imperialist capitalist Yankee invaders.

    @Carl

    Kafka’s pessimist version of “America” shows how educated Europeans regarded the USA as a “moloch” of moneymaking, banking and “social darwinism” quite some time before “the Jews took over” (it was written before WWI). (Kafka seems to have been influenced by Chaplin movies.) His vision was very much like Fritz Lang’s actual impression fifteen years later, whose US-visit partly inspired his urban dystopia “Metropolis”.

    As for Kafka’s “Germandom”, his mindset is very Jewish (a very complicated brand of Jewry), but he is also one of the greatest writers in German language that ever lived. Kafka also wrote a famous brief piece called “Of Wishing to Be an Indian”, in the light of May and Rammstein I take this as a further proof of his “Germandom”. Karl May saw the USA only after he had written most of his novels, though he claimed to have been himself the original Old Shatterhand, as part of his self-made legend.

    • Petronius
      Posted February 23, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Well, I am German, too, so I should know a few things.

  2. Petronius
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    >(Kafka seems to have been influenced by Chaplin movies.)

    Ah, no, he couldn’t have, Chaplin started not earlier than 1914…

  3. Stig
    Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Excellent essay, Mr. Johnson! You make some fine points, and this type of essay is exactly what should be spread all around the block, since it carries within it the possibility of expropriating much of the debate today led by the so-called “Left”, and substitute it with our domain, which contrary to their shallow hypocrisy actually carries deep meaning.

    “From a New Right perspective, genuine nationalism does not mean mere self-assertion of one’s own way of life. It also implies respecting the rights of others to their specific ways of life. Thus it is perfectly consistent for nationalist whites, whose culture and sovereignty are being menaced by American imperialism, to sympathize with non-whites who are facing the same challenges.”

    Not that I suggest that the New Right become the kind of fake ethnopluralists the “Left” is compromised of (they pay lip-service to the idea, but in reality, they are smug closet-racists wishing everyone to become Westernized), but still, once sentiments such as that in the quote becomes the household mark of the New Right, the debate will already be won by us. We’ll be morally unassailable, and although it will irk some of the people that frequent resource sites such as Counter-Currents, we could build some genuine bonds of mutual respect with other segregationists of other races and so on. My point being that we actually respect and wish to promote diversity all over the globe, whilst our enemies only do so nominally, something you can see if they for example meet a genuinely religious Moslem: they don’t know how to react to the fact that someone actually believes in something higher.

    More essays of this sort to come, I hope, and before you know it, we’ll both be rid of the worst guys in “our” camp and acquire the best of our adversaries.

    • White Republican
      Posted February 23, 2012 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      I’ve heard that a New Right slogan in Germany is “for a heterogeneous world of homogeneous peoples.” Garrett Hardin concluded his article, “How Diversity Should Be Nurtured,” on a similar note:

      “Any proposal to limit diversity in the population is sure to be criticized as provincial, parochial or chauvinistic. In a sense, it may be. But notice that diversity-limitation passes this test of a good policy: Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

      “Should, for instance, a theocratic Muslim country admit large numbers of American immigrants who believe passionately in free speech and the separation of church and state? Should a central African country that practices female circumcision admit large numbers of immigrant American feminists? Should a polygamous country admit large numbers of outspoken Christians who condemn polygamy? Should a country that practices animal sacrifice admit large numbers of immigrants who belong to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?

      “The answers to these questions should be beyond dispute. Diversity is the opposite of unity, and unity is a prime requirement for national survival in the short run. In the long run, beliefs must be susceptible to change, but massive immigration is a dangerous way to bring about change in ideas and practices.

      “To nurture both unity and progress a double policy should be embraced: Great diversity worldwide; limited diversity within each nation.”

      http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc0103/article_42.shtml

  4. German
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    A little correction from a native speaker:
    The German word “Reise” means “journey”, not “arise”.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted February 23, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      Apparently, “Reise” means “arise” in Middle High German, but that usage survives only among sailors today. Since the song is about man and the sea, “arise” is the correct translation.

      • elkj
        Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        Korrekt. Reise is Low German dialect for arise and Reise, Reise is a reveille used by the German navy.

  5. Owlbear
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    @ Greg Johnson:

    Correct.
    For example the phrase: “Reise, Reise, nach alter Seemannsweise!”, often used as a morning call on ships translates as “Rise up, rise up (from the bed) in the old fashion of the sailor!”

  6. elkj
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink
  7. rhondda
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Oh my, as a Canadian, I can surely relate to this song. I love it and it does express that the rock and roll I used to love. You can dance and sing to it. We up north have always had a strange relationship with America as in the United States of America. Yet, there really is no overt Canadian identity. We get taken over too and blame America. It gives one pause to think; Just where one’s loyalties should be. I say this because I have not found any Canadian website that is really getting what is going on. My hope is young white people who can clue in, which seems to be in America and some European countries.
    I read ‘On Being a Pagan’ and was blown away by De Benoit’s stepping outside the Christian rule book. The thing is I do believe when you do, there is solid ground underneath and not some existential void. The opposite of a vacuum is a plenum and that my dear brothers is the key. ( oh I may be too forward here, but I just am just so “enthralled” by this site– a silly female)
    Does it show that I have had a beer or two?

  8. BasilX
    Posted February 25, 2012 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    This is the first time I hear about Rammstein . I am not a lover of contemporary music.This video’s images are a parody of transformation of the U.S. We see culmination of technological achievement a spirit of white people who land on the moon,and changes on the land, ‘diversity’ .Another aspect of contemporary white people is not only technological, scientific achievement but frolicking (pinball machine) which cancels the achievements.

  9. rhondda
    Posted February 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Carl. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would start questioning World War 2 and the narrative about Hitler. I had never thought of white identity either. Yet, on the other hand, I had an intuitive doubt which I dared not express. For example I had a high school history teacher who said he won the war in a prisoner of war camp. I wondered just how he did that, but knew to ask that was to risk passing his class or not. Isn’t that a liability and not an asset? The whole question of what these men actually did in the war was not allowed. They saw too much or did they do too much? ( Bad girl, go to your room. Germans bad, allies good. You impertinent child. God was on our side.)
    Is it any wonder then with all the lies we were told that the 60’s would explode? I actually went to New York city to protest the war in Vietnam. I knew nothing about it, but hey how else do you get to New York City but with a church group who are self-righteously sure of themselves?

  10. Jj
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I thought it was one of the best videos I had ever seen, but I couldn’t help wonder if there wasn’t a little hypocrisy involved. After all, rock is an American cultural icon and Rammstein is a rock band.

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