What holds a society together?
This question crosses my mind a lot in these times of terror threats and terror attacks, religious fanaticism, right-wing political extremism, left-wing reactionism, fear, reflection, polarization, racism, nationalism, migration, integration, refugeeism, falling wages, widening circles of poverty, animosities, dual nationalities, multi-national companies, cross-cultural love affairs, mixed children and mixed heritages, highspeed long-distance travel, nuclear tests and missile launches, global ease of communication, internet battles between love and hate, and all the rest of that stuff.
Being a part of the German society, the many observations I make everyday trigger intense bouts of reflection and thought within me. These observations are made in the private sphere, at work and in the public domain. While taking in and analysing the news – the content and selection, the context, pattern and nature of the news – over the radio or on TV and while following events on the internet. While interacting with other citizens in sports arenas, on the public transport, in parks and clubs, at the playground, in restaurants and during private events. While playing the requisite roles on the corporate theatre and being politically correct. And simply while living.
It’s hard to miss the tension that exists between those who, genealogically, have for hundreds of years fallen into the category of that which was traditionally labelled ‘German’ or ‘European’ or of such descent, and those who, by appearance, betray some other culturo-geneological descent, in part or in whole. Going deeper, it is fairly easy to feel the palpable front-lines of ancient cultural conflicts, old racial tensions and, above all, very deeply felt religious differences, a clash of political ideologies that seem mutually exclusive. Certain social scientists, broadening the spectrum, may even choose to point out that front-lines also exist in the realm of opposite genders and opposing sexual orientations and indeed even in the age-old question of age differences. By their thesis, the human being it would seem is simply a creature of division and conflict along lines and within groups of perceived primary homogeneity.
2. WHAT IS HOME?
The world appears to be changing faster than our world views, and our self-images, and our capacity to adapt in thought, in action or emotionally seem able to keep or catch up with. Fundamentally the core question to which the times seem to be driving us is the simple puzzle: “What is Home?” To what extent can differentiation within a society go without tearing it apart? The issue of ‘mutual incompatibility’ is a concept that occupies many thinking minds within the context of possible lasting damage to a societal unit. On the other hand, the sense of belonging, of having a stake in preserving the present and future welfare of the nation and the national community of which one feels oneself to be a part creates a feeling of oneness, a binding force, a desire to act beneficially in the cause of the society, that informs the unchanging root intuition in good and bad times.
So, for a German citizen, like myself, the question becomes: what is the root intuition that must guide the sense of connection and bonding between a citizen and the nation in order for the citizen to be an authentic bearer of the nation within himself? In other words, what makes me or anyone a German? Is it the language, the passport, a sentiment, an ideology? Is it the colour, the genealogical inheritance, both of which I lack? Is it a ‘way’ of doing things, of seeing things, of feeling things? What is the difference between those who want to keep it the way it is or was, according to their perception, and those who want to change it? And, for those who want to change it: Along what lines do they want to change it? These are terse fields of even if unspoken conflict, and they stir deep passions, especially in these days of the re-solidifying in large numbers of a political machinery of minds that seems to want to define Germanhood solely in terms that exclude anything not of ancient aryan or germanistic culture in its primordial origin.
However, as with everything to do with elementary outworkings of our Humanness, the answer cannot be derived within the drawn borders of the issue at stake alone, because some qualities are neither African nor Asian, nor White nor Red, but are simply basic attributes of human nature and human character, intermittently spotted across history in different peoples at different times to various degrees of expression. However, at various points in time in the seemingly never-ending process of development, groups of people begin to congeal around similar thoughts and characteristics, in the face of similar challenges and experiences, assuming linked group identities. And Nations take shape. The shape-taking never ends, as history attests to, and the global forces at play today put particular, in the entirety of its effects yet unknown, pressures on the process of identity-seeking of nations in the future.
And for the answer to this question – what makes me a German? – there is no logical intellectual formulation of requirements that can express something that exists deep within the soul. The very fact that in order to make this brief literary excursion into reflection, I availed myself of the distance and perspective offered by a foreign language, touches on the Heisenberg-like puzzle that is embedded in any personal attempt at national self-reflection of this nature.
3. A COMMON GROUND
When a society has many living parts, and the parts are not only different each from the others, but indeed stand sometimes in stark contrast to one another, what then is the binding element that holds that society together in a way that brings it together to keep it together, to preserve and protect it, to press forward towards its development in a way that respects human life and human rights and furthers human feeling of belonging and sense of justice?
Ultimately, Nations must rise all to the minimum standard as a basis of nation-building whereby the progress of one nation cannot be tied to the detriment of another. This applies, by extension, also to philosophies and ideologies. This then frees the conscience of every earth-citizen from the potential clash of interests that arises from the question: “In a war, which side do you take, if you have multiple nationalities, or married ideologies, or a deep love for both sides?” Because the only humanity that will avoid self-destruction is one in which the minimum ethical standards of nation-building are above the baselines of the selfish interests and extremist ideological deformities that have birthed our wars. That will then be the true era and definition of the United Nations.
This is thus for me the engine room working within the heart of my Germany. It is an ideal that came to light with the transformation that took place after and as a reaction to the Third Reich. It is an idea that there must be a Basic Law that brings out, protects and furthers the best in us, while simultaneously working against the arising and strengthening of that which birthed the evil monstrosity of the past, in whatever form it tries to cloak itself in the future. It is the awareness that a search for this middle line is a pressing duty for a Nation that wants to ensure that humanity does not go extinct within it, but thrives and pushes towards higher levels of inner and outer development. It is a thrust to travel the harder path – that of applying intelligence in the service of the upbuilding of human capabilities, the liberation of human potentials locked within. Nothing is more fulfilling too for a nation, for a people and for each individual.
No nation and no people on Earth today, politically, intellectually and socially, carries within its soul DNA and its ideological database and its collective cultural memory a greater antidote to the poison of destructive nationalism, self-propagandization and xenophobia than the Germans do. No nation can, and no nation should. No nation has a greater potential to find the answer to how to ensure a balance between, on the one hand the integrity of national identity, cultural heritage and spiritual beliefs; and on the other hand the unending movement and transformation of society, inwardly and outwardly, that continuously takes place in human history on Earth; than just the Germans do. In this regard, Germany has the capacity to lead mankind, by how it resolves the puzzle. We live in times that bring new – or old – responses and solutions to life’s questions.
Be it Arminius and the Romans, be it Bonifacius and the conversions, be it Karl the Great and Widuking, be it Rotbart and the Crusades, be it Martin Luther and the reformation, be it the bringing of innumerable fiefdoms into one German Kingdom, be it the refereeing of the Scramble for Africa, be it the first or the second World War, be it a peaceful split and a peaceful reunification, be it the Euro, the EU, or now the unprecedented displacement and resettlement of peoples, somehow ever and again Germany seems to be thrust – or to thrust herself – into the midst of some of the most incisive shifts in human history. And in every generation, in every constellation and constitution, those who are a part of it, feel very passionate about it. There is always a sense of making history.
4. NATIONS AS INCUBATORS
Every nation eventually is an Incubator of SOMETHING. For me, that is the definition of Nation – Incubation. What do you, as a nation, by your nature and direction, willy-nilly foster and incubate? What is it that must rise to birth and being as a consequence of your internally lived national character?
It is along these lines that every thinking person defines, or should define, for himself his relationship with the society to which he or she inwardly feels himself or herself to be a living part. What am I taking part in preserving or creating?
5. THE BINDING FORCE
Because somewhere down the line, there is only one thing that holds a society together, in times of change and transformation, of movement and uncertainty, of upheavals and tension. It is something stored in the hearts of those who are the parts of that society, who ARE that society. It is the one unifying thing, the point at which every concerned member of that society, no matter how different they each are, all become similar, united in that one intuition. There is one thing they all feel for that society, and it is the one thing that keeps that society together. One simple thing: LOVE.
It is Love that holds a society together – the love the people all individually feel for their society.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.