The fear of a national identity

When we talk about identity, we usually mean our personal identity. When we talk about European identity, we refer to our cultural identity in Europe. But what actually happens when we talk about national identity? Does it mean to celebrate your national soccer team during the world championship or to raise your flag in order to proof your national pride? 

“Islam belongs to Germany.” German Federal President Christian Wulff expresses himself to the argumentative Sarrazin debates (Thilo Sarrazin wrote a controversial book about integration and Muslim immigration in Germany) and the reproach, Germany fails because of the integration. For months it went therefore of finding out the meaning for this sudden knowledge.

The knowledge that integration went wrong in Germany. Hidden behind the “multicultural phenomenon” and the fear of the identity loss Germanys way of the examination proceeds. Multiculturalism is called the magic word. But what exactly is culture in Germany?

Beer-drinking, Potato-eating with lederhosen and exceedingly on time; thus a European sees the typical German. The former Stuttgart lawyer Fritz Bauer (1903 – 1968) saw a deficit in the typical German:

“Unfortunately, it is a typically German quality to hold the obedience par excellence for a virtue. We need the courage of the convictions to say no.”

Well, where is the courage? Whereas culture concentrates on the set of meanings and the characteristics of a community, national identity means recognizing and identifying these qualities. National identity can therefore be seen as a sense of culture. But the Nazi Régime in the 20th century with its mass media propaganda and mind manipulation left a deep wound in modern Germany. Developing a national identity seems therefore difficult. Or even more, Germans develop a national sense of shame for their history in which Hitler takes apparently a big role. This feeling of guilt hinders them from perceiving characteristic features and qualities in their Community. A national broadcasting is forbidden in Germany (Deutsche Welle, for instance is broadcasted everywhere in Europe except in Germany), in order to prevent mass media propaganda like in the Nazi Régime era. Somehow, the fear of getting manipulated to support a mass murder of a minority or a religious group is very present. It is important to talk about this topic (especially in class rooms) and reflect about it.

The feedback from the outside seems to worry the German a lot. Nevertheless, by the fear Germans forget that cultures are always connected with clichés and thereby fall under influence strongly. Afraid to be connected with Hitler or called a Racist, they try to show up cultural interest and an open mind. So by taking a little step forward to national identity the German must look after the “luggage behind his back”.

Now, there is something new in modern society. The young generation is confronted with developing a European culture. With a look at the European map one recognizes fast the differences between north and the south which stress the religious tradition. Religion: A phenomenon, a conflict-preparing subject which searches somewhere its place in the European culture. Can there be therefore a common European culture? This continent is differentiated very much. The differences of the cultural and ethnic societies and communities lead to a unity with diversification, to a balance between differences and a kind of unity. Is the national identity endangered by a common European culture? What do you think?


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