Die LinkeDie Linke anti-military sticker. Berlin, August 2012.

This sticker, the final installment in Souciant’s series on the German Left Party’s youth outreach campaign, complements the other anti-military message in the series. But, whereas that one builds on a pull-no-punches approach developed in the Weimar Republic, and reanimated by punk, today’s is strangely subdued.

Over and over, the only lesson communicated, is that everything to do with the army is doof,  a word as non-threatening as it looks.

In American English, the closest equivalent is “dumb.” Yet even that family-friendly pejorative has harsher undercurrents than doof. While there’s irony on display here — the desert, the commander, land mines, and getting blown up are all reduced to the least common denominator of “doof-ness” — it’s hardly the sort to pick you up by the scruff of your consciousness. Truly, this sticker is a soft sell.

Why, though? It used to be that radicals could count on youth to demonstrate more enthusiasm for change than their elders. But that largely ceased to be the case once the Baby Boom generation had entered middle age. Now educators lament that it’s hard to get their charges excited about much of anything. And activists worry that there simply isn’t enough passion among students to sustain a movement.

Interestingly, this critique of contemporary youth is often grounded in an examination of their stunted lexicon. Whether because of lax standards in school, an excessive use of tactile personal technology, or a simple failure to seek out complex forms of self-expression — all three, most likely — most teenagers of today simply don’t demonstrate the vocabulary necessary to make nuanced arguments about the world.

Perhaps they could, if sufficiently challenged. Yet this sticker shies away from such stridency, opting instead to mirror the impoverished vocabulary of the very young people it’s seeking to win over. While the concessions this tactic implies may help to distance the Left Party from the “hard” radicals of the 1960s and 1970s, thereby making it more difficult to dismiss its message out of hand, the overall effect is unsettling.

After all, in a world where so much is subject to belittling descriptions, what’s to protect the Left from being ravaged by the same mindset? If guns and tanks are doof, why not stickers like this one? That question can be answered. Indeed, the sticker series does an admirable job of doing so. That said, the wisdom of posing it in the first place is doubtful.

 

Commentary and translation by Charlie Bertsch. Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.