Friday, 23 January 2009

"Yes We Can!" can't we?

As President Obama gets down to work many here in Vienna are wondering what kind of stuff the new Austrian Bundeskanzler is made of, for after only two or maybe it's three months in that high office the Bundeskanzler, Herr Werner Faymann, is appearing courtesy of the Austrian Mint on a limited edition gold coin. It is his first real achievement.

The great message that the United States of America sends out to the world today is this: Here in the United States, 45 years after Martin Luther King marched on Washington and 44 years after Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Law, Barack Hussein Obama a man of colour, a man with roots in Africa, has attained the nation's highest political office. We are now truly a land where all can make it to the top; race, creed, colour of skin, and even your parents' choice of your name will not hold you back.

In Austria the situation is, quite frankly, grim. The following letter, is typical of an attitude that is all too prevalent. It appeared in the Kronen Zeitung, the country's best-selling newspaper, only three weeks ago.
Dear Editor,
The Vienna New Year's baby came 47 seconds after midnight and his name is Hasan. With this name the child sits between a rock and a hard place. In the homeland of his parents and grandparents he is a foreigner. Is it for our integrating citizens really so impossible that they cannot give their children typical Austrian names? Their children feel Austrian and speak the Austrian language and most will spend their lives here. Do our integrated fellow citizens really think that Hasan, with this name, in 15 to 20 years has a better chance of a job than if he were called Franz or Karl?
from Richard Reichart (Vienna).

We can only hope that the writer of the above is wrong. That the name of a person is a deciding factor in suitability for a job and will still be so in 20 years time is a diabolical indictment.

Perhaps one day the Vienna New Year baby will overcome the Austro-Germanic obstacle that is his Turkish name and rise to a high position; maybe one day he will also have his name and profile on an official gold coin. Who can tell?


ps - My forename is distinctly un-Austrian. It is Welsh. And I am proud that it is. But here in Vienna with such an un-Austrian name to handicap me would there be any point in my applying for a job? That is the question. According to citizen Reichart and his ilk unless I am prepared to change my name to something with a solid German ring; Franz, Karl, Werner etc. my place is, and will remain for the next 20 years, with baby Hasan in the unemployment queue.

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