Bulbous noses – happy news from Mrs. von der Leyen

The candidate arrived with the tie at his back – and was immediately kicked out of the room by the HR department. We, of course, see such rude treatment as a crying injustice. Why should someone with a tie hanging down his back not be suitable for the post of engineer, department head or at least that of a servant? The personnel manager in charge justified his rejection in a totally irrational way. If someone is so inconsiderate about breaking the generally accepted rules, how can we trust that he won’t suddenly get the idea of waving a fork in our face instead of the roast beef while eating with colleagues or with a customer?

This harebrained statement reveals how unenlightened large parts of our society are even today. Most probably, our man with the reversed tie is quite a harmless person, perhaps even downright likeable. What evil can a tie on the back do to his fellow human beings? Are we not dealing with cultural self-assertion, even special spiritual independence?

Personally, I would like to see more people muster the courage to wear a colorful tie demonstratively on their backs, just as, for example, some women already have the guts to hide their entire faces, except for a tiny slit above their eyes, from the all-too-curious gaze of men. I would say, this too is a proof of particular originality! If people get so excited about cultural outsiders, how hard must it be for the ordinary type of philistines, conformists and other unenlightened people, when from time to time Mother Nature herself resorts to such creativeness?

Take, for example, the most prominent part of human faces: the nose. Aesthetically educated people whose minds have been shaped by the sublime art of a Leonardo or Piero della Francesca will experience an elementary psychological shock when confronted with a potato-shaped bulbous nose, even if the presumption of innocence applies to its wearer and nothing else incriminating can be said about him. In this an similar cases, it is apparently nature itself that must be accused of a prank against good taste.

This is what happens not only with bulbous noses, but also when we look directly into two challenging nostrils instead of a well-formed face with a decently shaped olfactory organ. In German, we resort to a poetical paraphrase, namely the beautiful expression “ascension nose” (Himmelfahrtsnase). A nice word, to be sure, although few of us feel inclined to religious rapture at its sight. Rather, the view into the two open holes usually makes us freeze, it is almost as if their unfortunate owner is directing two chimneys or, to use a more modern term, two exhaust pipes against us. A sensitive person will desperately look for consolation – for example, in two daringly curved eyebrows, in a sensual mouth or the profound gaze of the person in question – if such a thing is available. Fortunately, Mother Nature sometimes makes up for a faux pas in one area with compensatory justice in another.

Be that as it may, the problem is serious – it should not be underestimated. As everyone knows, bulbous and ascension noses are a matter of social concern at least in Western countries for several decades already. I would like to say, they are so quite rightly. After all, why are people punished by nature with such facial aberrations continue to be the victims of ugly prejudice? What a monstrosity to find contempt against them even among high placed personalities, like for instance politicians!

Conferring equal rights to bulbous noses and normal people cannot be done in Bavaria,” proclaimed CSU leader Markus Söder in 2008. Incidentally, this man had also campaigned for European anti-discrimination law to give the owners of bulbous, balloon and ascension noses less protection than other groups – unbelievable. Fortunately – in view of his political survival – the man recently showed a certain ability to learn, or should we better speak of opportunism? In the last week of his election campaign, Söder declared that he did not want to reverse the opening of marriage to bulbous and ascension noses. He justified his change of mind by saying that science has now been able to produce robust evidence that deviant noses are not passed on to future generations. Bavarians may therefore be confident that their offspring of strong autochthonous girls and boys would not be harmed by these marriages. Bavaria would continue to supply the world with the most beautiful specimens of human noses.

So far, so good. We did, however, hear objections of a different kind, diabolical objections, to be precise. Due to increasing shortages in above-ground drinking water supplies, major German cities are now forced to turn to those limited reserves to be found only very deep in the ground. For some years already, Bremen has been getting its drinking water from the Harz mountains via a 200-kilometer long pipeline. Hamburg helps itself to water from the Lüneburg Heath. Munich plans to secure its supply by accessing underground water reserves in the Loisach Valley near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We are faced with the emergence of a new class society divided by access to drinking water: poor citizens – for example, those of heavily indebted Frankfurt – have to make do with contaminated drinking water, while citizens of wealthy communities are much better off – a typical sign of an incipient shortage situation. Does the Bavarian prime minister, the malicious critic asks, have nothing better to do than to get excited about noses, while his citizens some years from now will be in danger of dying of thirst or of contamination?

Well, such criticism is, of course, stupid and superficial. You will notice that immediately when contacting the discriminated noses themselves and hear about their suffering. For centuries, these people have been looked at askance, they have been ridiculed and pushed to the fringes of human society. How can you blame them for finally having the courage to come out and even face the world with pride because their originality? And remember, drinking resources can be replaced with soda water at any supermarket on the next street corner, but our noses provide us with air not available for purchase anywhere.

The newfound pride resists all criticism. “I’m an ascension nose, and I want to be one,” says one, “taste is relative.” “I’m a potato nose,” says the other. “We need an aesthetic canon where the potato finally gets its long overdue appreciation.” Yes, these people are deadly serious, but at the same time selfless, because they care not only about themselves, but about all their fellow sufferers. In fact, their solidarity extends globally across all noses, that is, all bulbous noses, sloping noses, crooked noses, flat noses, stump noses and balloon noses, for which a common term, a global acronym so to speak, has now finally been found: the lyrical sequence of letters BSCFSB. You see, a new generation of self-confident original nose pioneers has emerged. We are dealing with people who no longer cower from us standard noses, the representatives of sad and unimaginative normality, but proclaim their BSCFSB-ness with pride and, yes, even with special demands on the general public. They know that what seems to be the exception today will be the rule tomorrow, because tastes are relative and naturally change all the time. They are sure, these pioneers enthuse, that one day your own children and grandchildren will rave about Homo naso-optimus and they will be ashamed if they themselves do not have a potato nose, or at least a nose that aspires to ascension.

The prospects for this to happen are quite favorable for the first time since the EU itself has taken the lead in this evolutionary shift. No less an authority than Ursula von der Leyen, the German Commission president, has denounced as a disgrace the outrageous law passed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban that victimizes deviant noses. “The law discriminates against people based on their olfactory system. It violates fundamental values of the European Union: human dignity, equality and respect for human rights,” the EU president said Wednesday morning in Brussels.

These open and upright words speak directly from the heart of every decent person. In this situation, civil courage is demanded from each of us. We should be grateful to culture when it produces innovative people who dare to wear their damned ties on their backs. But we should be equally grateful to nature when after so many millennia it finally comes up with something challenging new. Instead of the previous mass production of standard noses, spat out, so to speak, from the genetic assembly line, it now overwhelms us with its glorious BSCFSB. With reverence we should bow before this newly found originality. Please do not forget: Europe is a continent of innovation. Therein, if you please, lies our greatest strength.

Well, as always – that’s life! – the eternal grumblers continue to raise their dissonant voices.Europe, those misanthropes say, is currently experiencing what may be the worst upheaval in its entire history. In the coming decades, we will be allowed to consume only one planet instead of five at a time – otherwise there will be no more Europe for our children and grandchildren. Not only do we have to end the fossil fuel era – this Ursula von der Leyen has fully understood – but nuclear power will only be available to us for a few decades to come. The Commission President has nothing to say about this fact. And what will we do if there is no more coal, oil, gas or uranium and the renewables, even if we pave the entire landscape with wind turbines, will only provide us with a fraction of the energy we need? Ms. von der Leyen is equally silent on this perspective. Is it possible, the malicious critic continues his tirade, that she devotes so much of her passion to noses only because the luxury spoiled citizens of old Europe are not ready to hear about the world’s true and real needs? In other words: Is it possible that Europe is currently in a deep sleep, a sleep that the European Commission is actively promoting with sedatives?

The educated reader can, of course, only shake his head in displeasure at such insinuations. This gives me hope, because it proves that he belongs to that fundamentally decent part of society that does not allow itself to be irritated by superficial doubts. No, we want to and we will continue to fight for the freedom of the nose. And we will joyfully welcome its further proliferation, because it is by no means certain that the number of unusual and original varieties of the olfactory organ will not increase significantly in the times to come. In addition to all BSCFSB already among us, there will most probably be the split nose, the tank and the spray nose – to name only the most conspicuous creations. Our society will have to adapt institutionally to this wealth – fortunately, it is already in the process of doing so. We already know from scientific expertise that women react differently than men to many diseases and therefore need to be helped by different medicines. The same insight has now been experimentally validated for the carriers of stump and bulbous noses. Thus, the European Commission reached the obvious conclusion that there should be specialized general practitioners and various departments in hospitals and spas not only for women, but equally for the representatives of the most common types of nose. And while we are talking about special doctors and departments, we must not understand this requirement only in a physical sense, the psyche also demands its right.

Yes, the psyche. Here, too, the Commission is producing beneficial effects in its own way. How long was it accepted without resistance throughout Europe that mischievous people compared bulbous noses with potatoes and in this way caused immeasurable suffering! Now, the Commission has finally put its foot down and backed its determination up with a plethora of decrees. The word potato has been completely banned from our vocabulary – from daily language use and from the literature down to the classical period. All places, where the unfortunate word is used, are now blacked.  Under penalty of social ostracism no one is allowed to even whisper the word potato or bulbous nose – in France pommes nose. Instead we now speak of “flourishing”, “rich” or “substantial” noses. It is to be hoped that the long overdue cleansing of language and literature from all remnants of prejudice will soon be introduced for stump and balloon noses too. There is still a great deal to be done!

However, with all the tasks still to be accomplished, let us not forget, that in the midst of a world of lies and deceit only old Europe has the privilege of being the last heart-warming island of reason and enlightenment. Vladimir Putin, the ruthless Russian czar, has even less sympathy for fancy noses than Orban and Söder. While we on the side of progress are outdoing even the Bible as we love flamboyant noses more than ourselves, Putin drives his military to tinker with murderous toys – supersonic missiles and the steady expansion of his nuclear arsenal. His intention is obvious: in the next clash with the West, he wants to eliminate not only us, the standard noses, but all the fancy luxury noses as well. “You are hopelessly decadent,” sneers the uncanny gentleman from the Kremlin. “For noses, you take to the streets, for noses you reshape your language, for noses you ruin careers or elevate political clowns to the pinnacle of power. You’re obsessed with noses and don’t realize you’re sitting astride a seething volcano with the first flames already erupting from its mouth. You are decadent, ripe for destruction!”

Fortunately, such words emanate from the mouth of a dictator, so they are self-defeating! As for us, the progressive and enlightened citizens of Europe, we know about our mission. We want to show the world that the true problems of our time are neither the poisoning of nature, the climate crisis, the nuclear threat nor the fermenting of social discontent. These are the superficial phenomena that we delegate to our capable specialists who, in league with all-mighty science, always find the right solution for every problem. The real and pressing problem of our time are noses. After all, we all must come to terms with our own. Discriminate against noses and you will leave the deepest traces in your own soul.

No, Mrs. von der Leyen says nothing about the extinction of species, the poisoning of drinking water, the nuclear threat, the end of our luxurious life when we get out of oil, gas and nuclear power and only renewable energies are left to compensate for our previous luxuries. About all this she has nothing to say, because 450 million citizens of pretty old Europe are not in the mood for fashionable scaremongering. How beautiful the message that she does tell us – it could have come from the Sermon on the Mount. She believes, says Ms. von der Leyen, in a European Union “where we can all be who we are” and “where we can love exactly the noses we want to love – bulbous noses, flat noses, balloon, stump or ascension noses.” How humane, how conforting and how right!

Jenner: I don’t expect any reactions to this essay (except perhaps from the wrong Side). In the well-known barbaric way, the topic is only discussed among right-wing extremists, otherwise it is taboo. In our supposedly free society, most people are afraid to expose themselves, even if they only want to distinguish existentially important matters from far less important ones, such as noses.

Author Sanjeev Ghotge writes:

Dear Gero,

Hugely enjoyed your piece on European noses! I think you should write more often in this vein. I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed the original German version but I can’t read German. Long time since I enjoyed a tongue-in-cheek piece of political writing.

Best, Sanjeev Ghotge