We are truly sorry for this Hartz IV thing
10 years after the Hartz reforms we thought it is time for the Ministry of Work of Social Welfare to apologize for this sociopolitical catastrophe. Because sometimes it is difficult to come up with understanding and remorse, we took over.
In political and media discourse there is a flawless image of Germany as the strongest economic power in Europe, with its economic supremacy based on thrift, efficiency and virtue. Germany should be a role-model: export champion, economic driver in the Eurozone with one of the lowest unemployment rates and for three years in a row has managed to break even. But what is left unsaid under this shiny surface? The country is socially divided, the economic success came at the expense of the poorest.
The labor market reforms of Agenda 2010 raised povery, increased social inquality, work got devaluated and precarious.
A repressive, highly bureaucratic and degrading system of sanctions was developed to make sure that people would submit to poor working conditions, so the profitable low-pay sector could grow. Unemployment has been stigmatized to be individual failure, even though there are by far less vacant positions than applicants and a lot of jobs are precarious and insecure.
We felt that it is time for reflection, honesty and insight! It is time to show the flip-side of the coin. And if there is no intention to political change, an apology is better than nothing. So we started “Germany says sorry!“.
This apology comes from the heart
The tragedies in biographies of millions of unemployed people were a necessary evil to bring Germany to where it is today. And because ministry and government really appreciate that, we promised a hand-signed letter of apology from President Joachim Gauck to everyone who shares their personal story of suffering on our website.
Naturally, the Federal Ministry was not amused and threatened with legal consequences if we didn’t make it clear on our website, that this is satire. Unfortunately they were not willing to get into substantive debate on the topic.
But the campaign is more than only satire. It is a platform for people who are affected by inhumane labor market policies to make their stories public. And even though nobody believed in the letter of apology by Gauck, we received tons of emails and phone calls of people who were thankful that we put attention to this topic. We struck a nerve.
On the next day, we carried the good news into the real world and visited the Jobcenter in Dortmund in the name of the Federal Ministry of Work with a singing and dancing flashmob. With the self-produced “Deutschland sagt Sorry” song, a giant inflatable heart and lots of gold we wanted to disrupt the dreariness and humiliation of the Jobcenter and criticize the Hartz IV system and the hypocrisy of the politics. Also we fulfilled our dream to produce a smash hit and a music video!