June 13, 2021

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The "working class" by Julia Friedrich: When hard work is not enough - culture

The “working class” by Julia Friedrich: When hard work is not enough – culture

© dpa

Joanna Knightfield

The author notes a classroom that has no real name in Germany. It includes an academic worker as well as a cleaning lady at the subway station.

Karstad became a sad affair: ugly on the outside, empty on the inside. It was formerly the epicenter of the middle class that was destined to grow, and now it is the center of disappointment. Branches have closed, staff are laid off, and the range is weak, at least compared to Amazon.

The decline of the supermarket chain represents the shrinking of the middle class. An ideal location for Julia Friedrich. In her new book, The Working Class, she continues to return to the Karstadt branch of Hermannplatz in Berlin. There she tries to understand why so many people in Germany can barely survive on their income.

The author with a childhood in the eighties of the last century in West Germany Write one of those factual books that have come out frequently recently. It tells from a first person perspective, with a personal touch, rich in commentaries and anecdotes. Friedrich notices a class that has no real name in Germany.

It is about those hard-working people for whom it is still not enough. Those with no reserves, inheritance, or return on investment. About a quarter of the people couldn’t afford to pay the 1,000 euros immediately. They are no longer the classic workers. How different was this group that Friedrich showed on the basis of its heroes.

At first, it is disturbing that Friedrich summed up these heroes

There is SITE, which cleans sub-contractor stations from Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe. Alexandra, a freelance music teacher with a PhD, and Christian, who completed his high school diploma in Track Two, went to study and then worked in consumer research.

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The fact that Friedrich summarizes these heroes is disturbing at first. Alexandra pursued her passion, studied music, but accepted a precarious existence as an artist. SITE has never had the opportunity to do something he was enjoying, he is unskilled and dependent on an employer who does not need any training. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that what matters is not how the protagonists got their jobs, but how serious their financial situation is.

The author is Julia Friedrich.  Photo: Andreas HornovZoom in
The author is Julia Friedrich.
© Andreas Hornov

With the onset of Corona, Alexandra’s life is turned upside down. Jobs in music schools are no longer available, there is no compensation, she works as a first assistant. Christian’s job is slowly being dismantled – in his presence. First of all, all the duties in the home office are pulled from him, then work for a short time follows, and eventually he executes the termination agreement himself. There was short applause for Sait, but he only received a 20 € purchase voucher.

The author has always been concerned with the unfair distribution of wealth and precarious working conditions. She is the co-author of the great ARD / WDR documentaries “Ungleichland”, “Neuland” and “Heimatland”. Even the “working class” sometimes reads like a text.

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Friedrich zooms out, looks at him from above, reports data and facts, and then jumps back into the personal stories behind the numbers. She also speaks to those Boomers who have benefited from the promotion promise. They can look back at tough jobs and get generous pensions.

Friedrich Böhmer asks for solidarity payments

Friedrich asks a retired journalist hired for a public radio station if it is willing to pay a solidarity payment into a future fund. The journalist was waiving a pension of 100 euros per month. “Grazie mille,” Friedrich commented. You ask again and again which rich people will voluntarily pay taxes. But does it make sense to rely on individual generosity?

Finally, Friedrich takes a look at politics and speaks to Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schmidt, Olaf Schulzen’s “Right Hand”. Unfortunately, the conversation is not very helpful. Schmidt blames globalization, which has increased wage pressure in industrial societies. This does not help Alexandra and Christian Cait. Sait is disappointed, Christian is unemployed and Alexandra is almost bankrupt. In the meantime, the protagonists of the novel are likely to be worse: the third shutdown no longer occurs in the book.