Kronen Zeitung's front page on December 5th, 2013. The main headline writes 'Schnuffi Returns Home Safely After Odyssey', while the small box on the left features the news of Nelson Mandela's death.
According to the Global Peace Index, Austria is the third most peaceful country in the world. Which is kinda bad for Austrians like me because we really enjoy complaining about stuff. On top of this, as you can probably imagine, living in one of the safest countries in the world doesn’t make your life particularly exciting either. Safety is just another word for boredom.
Which I guess is how Austrian Problems came into existence—a Facebook page devoted to the most boring, news-devoid headlines in Austrian newspapers. The thinking behind it seems to be that since we don’t have any real problems in Austria, our press is just creating new ones out of thin air.
The day after Nelson Mandela died for instance, the front page of Austria’s most read newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, was taken over by the breaking news story of a dog named Schnuffi that had gotten lost but was now found. According to KZ, his owners were very worried but only Schnuffi knows what happened when he disappeared. Because this is not a real article, KZ speculated that he was taken from his owners' garden. A few days later, he was found in an animal shelter a few miles away from home and brought back.
Other headlines featured in Austrian Problems include: 'Cat Blacky ‘Marks’ Cellphone'– an interview with the 15-year-old owner of the cat and the (now broken) phone the cat pissed on; 'Brutal Beaver Attacks Family'—the story of a family who decided to go swimming in a pond because in the summer open-air pools are too crowded. While in the pond, they where attacked by a beaver. “He really threatened us,” the mother says; and 'Tragedy at Oktoberfest: Drunk Kills Bird With Own Vomit'—Some drunk, whose whereabouts the police cannot disclose, vomited on a little bird and the little bird died. Nobody knows if the guy killed the bird on purpose or by accident. Animal rescue could not save the bird's life.
"Brutal Beaver Attacks Family"
Besides the strange obsession with animals, the obvious thing here is that Austrians love to whine but seem unable to separate the issues that are worth whining about from those that are not. There is as much wrong and evil being done over here as anywhere on the planet: After all, Austria is still the home of the far-right Freedom Party (or FPÖ) which regularly gets between 20 and 30 percent of the public vote; a 47 percent of the Austrian population who don't really know what parties are in government at the moment; and men who think it's okay to attend balls in blackface and attack reality TV starlets.
But I guess these issues make for innapropriate conversation fodder, because they require a certain level of self-awareness from participants – along with the examination of social inequalities and confronting our own willful ignorance. Maybe, after all, the real reason why Austria is one of the safest places on Earth is because we are too stuck up to challenge the law whan it is outdated. To endure life in such an uneventful place without having to face ourselves, we make up problems where there are none. Maybe this article is an example of that.
But still, we’re glad Schnuffi made it back home safely.