Olaf Scholz wears an eye patch and shows completely new sides

Fried – view from Berlin
Thanks to the eye patch – Olaf Scholz suddenly overcomes the distance between office and people

Nico Fried on Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new eye patch and his surprisingly calm approach to it

© Illustration: Sebastian König/Stern; Photo: Henning Kretschmer/Stern

The eye patch was good for Olaf Scholz. The otherwise stiff Chancellor showed humor and self-irony. The Germans learned: He can do things differently.

It sounds a bit paradoxical, but the days with the eye patch were among the most successful in the Chancellorship Olaf Scholz. His view of the world may have been limited by the black curtain, but it changed the way some people view the Chancellor. In Germany, Scholz gained sympathy points because of his relaxed approach to his mouth and his own tiredness. But the bandage and the underlying injury also had a significant impact internationally.

In the always carefully staged world of politics, there are spontaneous situations in which official distance seems to unexpectedly dissolve. The Germans experienced this with Angela Merkel in her first year in office: at the 2006 World Cup, after the 1-0 win against Poland in the Dortmund stands, she cheered so uninhibitedly that her wide-open mouth actually gave a deep look. It was a moment of surprise in the relationship between the citizens and their then new chancellor, who was always so controlled by the state: she can do things differently.

He can do it differently – that’s what citizens may have thought when they saw the Chancellor after his jogging accident. One of Scholz’s abilities that had fallen into disrepute as a problem area in the first year and a half of his term in office made a significant contribution to this: his communication.

In the foyer of the Chancellery, Scholz was photographed wearing a blindfold, in a casual pose and with a slight grin. Then the picture was distributed, accompanied by an appeal in which the Chancellor, half resignedly, half encouragingly, accepted the inevitability of the all-encompassing commentary: “Whoever has the damage…”

The flap brings sympathy

Of all things, Scholz’s often mask-like, impenetrable face now took on human-friendly features, albeit with blood-encrusted scratches. The Chancellor, who often uses automatic language, bridged the distance between office and people with just one photo and presented two character traits that have always been there but were almost lost in his Chancellor appearance: humor and self-irony.

Scholz quickly got used to the flap. It may have helped him that as a child he wore occlusal plasters, which are used to cover the stronger eye under the glasses in order to train the weaker eye if the eyesight differs. In any case, neither at the opening of the automobile trade fair in Munich nor during the G20 summit in India was it noticeable that the Chancellor read speech manuscripts more erratically than he already does with two eyes.

In Delhi, among his colleagues, Scholz explained around 30 times: “I was jogging and had an accident.” When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the chancellor the floor in a large gathering, he thanked him for making the journey to the summit despite his injury and wished him a “speedy recovery.” Scholz is said to have then made a dismissive hand gesture: It doesn’t hurt anymore. Basically: A strong chancellor knows no pain. But he may have enjoyed the friendly praise for the seriousness of his diplomatic intentions.

He suspects that, at least at home, many people will soon open their mouths in a super-critical way when his mouth is gone.

Published in stern 38/2023

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