Rider after Rider

Rider after Rider

Michal Slupski

When the days shall be done, the Angels will open the sky to pour on earth
seven bowls of God’s wrath. Then the smoke from the pit will fade the sun and
the air and then lightnings, voices, heat and earthquakes will come. The rider
on a white horse from the east will come, he shall receive a garland and as
a winner shall go on a journey to win more.

The garden gnome, or garden dwarf (gartenzwerge), was created in 1872 by a journeyman
ceramist in Turing. The gnome market (including dwarfs) can be regarded as an
indicator of German trends. For the Nazis they were not worthy for the German
nation, short dwarfs were not Aryan enough. In the GDR they were considered
as a bourgeois relict. With the economic growth due to modernization and technologization,
the famous "deer on a meadow" -landscapes and gnomes became fashionable again.
For millions of Germans there were few pleasures in life greater than buying
a dwarf and putting him in the garden. And there are still a few people doing
this nowadays, although it is kitschy and can cause problems. Girls would refuse
to date the owner of one gnome-making company once they discovered that he and
his father were gnome makers. Whoever decides to have a dwarf in the garden
may face the opposition of the International Dwarf Protection Society, Dwarf
Liberation Front, etc. Swiss activists steal the figures from gardens and place
them in forests. After one elderly dwarf owner noticed that her statues were
gone, she suffered a heart attack. She had been seen talking to each and every
gnome every single day. And in keeping with Plotki’s style, here’s a rumour:
John Major – former Prime Minister of Britain – had a father who was a gnome
maker. This didn’t stop him becoming Prime Minister, but did You ever hear Major
being proud of it? Of course the rumour is true.

Recently the rider from the east made a lot of disturbance in the west. The
rider’s name is dwarf, the turtle serves as his horse! He rides in from the
East – Poland!
The opening of the borders between Poland and Germany made free trade possible.
Polish gnomes, their cost a fraction of their German counterparts and their
quality not worse, were leaving their WaXXsa fatherland in German cars and trucks.
Manufacturers just copied German Gartenzwerge. They bought a dwarf, made a silicon
mould from it and started production. They made dwarfs in abandoned bus depots,
disused mess halls or at home. Several farmers sold their pigs, dismantled the
troughs and stalls and took a dwarf production line into their barns.

Is the Polish invasion in the German gnome market a kind of revenge? Economically
it is simply the usual case of an imitator country taking advantage of lower
production costs. But it struck deep! One of the best known manufacturers was
Rot-Ceramic from Crailsheim. Rot-Ceramic stopped this business because of the
flood of cheap dwarfs from the East. But there are many other German producers
and traders who went bankrupt because of Polish Gartenzwerge. There were many
lawsuits against German traders who had been selling Polish Gartenzwergen in
Germany. Most of the German traders had not worried about the fact that these
dwarfs are illegal in Germany because their patterns are protected by Berlin’s
Patent Office. Nor did Polish traders and manufacturers.
The producers in Poland are facing now a decreased demand from Germany because
the market is saturated with dwarfs; Polish health and safety officials are
also acting against dwarf producers because of asthma, nausea, permanent headache
and other sicknesses among workers. One of the retailers from the outskirts
of Warsaw said: The Germans were good clients. But not Poles. The only Polish
clients that wanted to buy them were the ones I was most afraid of: the Gypsies.
They were coming in groups of ten, fifteen people. They were saying that they
like dwarfs because they want to differ from Polish people. It’s all gone, I
stopped selling dwarfs a year ago. Now I sell floating ducks and frogs, you
know, to put on your small lake in the garden.

Now Polish traders must turn to face their own rider from the East – the Vietnamese.
They have spotted a business in dwarfs. Theirs trade for less money and even
if they face obstacles on the Polish-German border they will find their way
through the Czech Republic. And of course they are cheaper. Who’s next?


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