I was just in Vienna on family-related matters. But I tried to keep my eyes and ears open. Here a some fragments I collected.
Walking through the halls of the University of Vienna I noticed an English-language sign about an international conference titled something like "Exploring alternatives to warfare". Academia in the service of a Weltanschauung, if you ask me, but maybe I'm too sensitive. After all, what could be bad about averting wars?
The entire city was preparing excitedly for Life Ball 2010, an extravaganza for the benefit of AIDS research and the promotion of nice feelings. Come Saturday night part of the show was disrupted by a thunder storm (the police said they were afraid of lightning), but before the disruption the audience was introduced to some groups of children musicians brought from all over the world, to demonstrate that we're all the same and shouldn't squabble. There were girls from the Ukraine dressed as Ukrainian girls do, some South African kids with war paint as is customary in South Africa, and a few other stereotypes. The penny fell when one of the hosts identified a Sari-clad girl with "you must be from India!" Not, mind you, Pakistan, or Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka: the organizers had cleared safely away from bringing children from complicated places. It might have sullied their message.
These things aren't evil, of course - but they are silly.
When I first lived in Vienna, in 1981, I was struck by the omnipresence of Franz Josef, the Kaiser who had been dead 65 years at the time. Festooned with his outlandish sideburns, his picture was everywhere: on posters, postcards, and of course he was the driving force of the tourist shops (tourism is a very big thing in Vienna). This time it eventually occurred to me I wasn't seeing him much. I can only assume that capitalism is functioning well, and the purveyors of endless trinkets have noticed that Korean and Japanese tourists - or even American ones, for that matter- have never heard of the Kaiser and care even less. I even heard a young local tour guide spend 45 minutes talking about the Opera House; while she repeatedly mentioned the generic "emperor", the words Franz Josef never passed her lips.
Meanwhile, however, some things don't change. On the inner door of a synagogue there's a list of Does-and-Don't-Does: Don't loiter in front of the synagogue. Stay away from anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish demonstrations. If you're confronted or abused by anti-Israeli or Anti-Jewish demonstrators don't respond to them, move away as quickly as possible, and if you must, call attention to your predicament for example by screaming.
Finally, a story related to me by some friends. A business woman was on the phone with a potential supplier whom she had never met. They chatted for some 15-20 minutes, at which point my friend made a comment which indicated she might be Jewish. There was a silence on the line, then her interlocutor said : "Yes, I knew I recognized your upper-class (ober beurgerlich) Jewish High-German". The woman was convinced this was related to anti-semitism; her husband poo-poohed. Yet later in the discussion he was amazed, totally incredulous, by my assertion that American Jews can choose to be American, or Jewish, or both, or neither. "Being a Jew isn't something one can choose! If you are, it's impossible not to be, and even if you wished it the rest of society would never allow it!"