WHAT HOLDS A SOCIETY TOGETHER?

1. TENSIONS

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.

Searching For The Right Response


I live in Germany. Just two days ago, my wife, our two kids and I were at the Christmas Market in Frankfurt. It was jam-packed, and most people seemed relaxed and happy. We had lots of fun, rode the giant carousel with the kids, laughed out loud, ate extra-large Brezels with hot steaming Glühwein for Yvonne and me, and for the kids warm Kinderpunsch.

And we stood in front of a super-sized Manger and I told my daughter the story of the overwhelmed shepherd to whom a host of angels appeared and brought the glad tidings of great joy: that God had sent His Son to bring Light and Love as salvation to mankind. Pointing at each figure in the Manger, I told her about Joseph and Mary, about the three wise men, and about the Child in the crib in whose heart was Magic. Because Love is Magic. It was a beautiful day.

What religion, what philosophy, what doctrine, what hatred, what madness, what smallness makes a person drive a truck into a packed Christmas Market? How can such a thing be rationalized or comprehended?

I think of the people at the Christmas Market in Berlin yesterday – and inwardly I see the faces of the people I saw at my Frankfurt Christmas Market two days ago. The same kinds of people. Happy people. Full of the spirit of Christmas. I see myself and my family. I see mankind, up against an Evil; an Evil that is slowly uniting the rest of mankind against it. It might take long for the right response to intuite itself into conscious thought and into a visible systemic form. But one day… one day… it will.

Mankind is not perfect, it is true. But this kind of Evil… is beyond all depths.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

BEING GERMAN IS MORE THAN BEING WHITE

Being German is more than being white – as hard as this may be to grasp for someone who is fully genealogically descended from the whites of the Germanic and other European tribes. And – this is more important – also as hard as this might be to conceptualise for someone who is descended from the black tribes of the African continent. Children of migrants however, in the second and further generations, may sometimes – but not always – be in a better position to more easily perceive the self-evident and natural truth of this reality. Being German is more, deeper, then being a colour or a name. The nation has a heart, and it pulsates with the love of those who call it, intimately, Home, each in their own way; who identify with it; who carry within themselves the urge to protect it, it’s history and its values, to develop it and move it forward, to interpret it from the depths of their own personal authenticity.

One of the most incisive challenges that face people who do not seem to be fully descended from the white stock of the teutonic tribes – as impossible to measure as this may be – is to experience their German-ness being questioned, the authenticity of their citizenship being attacked, their loyalty and love for their home being subjected to scrutiny, and their sense of belonging being trampled underfoot or conditionalized. It takes many forms – be it divisive politicians who publicly try to awaken resentments against german footballers of a different background, or be it cowardly citizens who shoot on darker-skinned germans, or be it the encountering of a glass ceiling in the corporate world. Eventually it all crystallizes into experiences that make the so-called ‘german of migrant origin’ feel that he or she is systematically or instinctively excluded from certain opportunities or from deeper degrees of appreciation and acceptance, either due to distrust or dislike.

Some people react to this challenge by succumbing to the temptation of going through extra lengths to prove and justify their right of belonging, either by demanding for acceptance or struggling to be twice as good in everything. Some other people’s reaction to this subtle wall of rejection might be in turn to mirror this wall by transmitting the negative experience inwards into an exercise in self-rejection. And then there are those whose radical reaction may be a partial or even total rejection of their host nation, Germany, leading to the curious instances of children or grandchildren of migrants – in a kind of cultural trauma – suddenly reverting back to the cultural background, the seat of which their parents once left behind. This creates the impression of a desperate scramble for an illusion, because inspite of everything, they still find it hard to totally detach from Germany in form and in attitude.

If being German is then not about being white or bearing a certain type of name, what then does it entail to be German? Some will tell you it is about an ascribing to and a living of certain ‘Values’. You will hear of ‘punctuality’, ‘hardwork’, ‘tenacity’, ‘exactness’, ‘discipline’, ‘perseverance’, ‘straightforwardness’ and similar things. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is not as simple as that. True, these values and virtues are highly priced in the german soul from time immemorial, but in truth they cannot be germanized and apportioned to only one people. They are human qualities that can be lived by all peoples who so desire, each in their own way. Conversely, within our german societies you will also find those who do not embody these but rather other characteristics – and yet they are german too. Apart from that, following this line of thinking is what often leads to the ‘herrenmenschen’ mentality, the sense of superiority over others, a poisonous inchoate emotion that carries in its heart the seed of future defeats or disappointments. For Values are goals that are continually striven after and served, never owned and mastered.

The global mixing of races and cultures that began hundreds of years ago with the self-propulsion of white peoples and white cultures into all the corners of the earth, continues in its ramifications to press organically forward, irreversible, and keeps on surprising mankind in every new century with the challenges and demands, opportunities and mysteries it presents us with. And also for the German of part or full African origins, the challenge is not in trying to be like others, or in making a contrived effort to be what you already carry in your soul. For what we carry in our soul is the true essence of being German – it is our love for Germany, our deep inner connection with her, her values, history, language, nature, culture, mentality, mystery, her basic law. It is one of the many puzzles that the global dispersal of races has produced. Just as the white South African is at home there, so is the Black German here. And our most special contribution is exactly that which makes us, to some, so seemingly different: our Blackness.

We should not hide it, we should show it. We should not denounce it, we should celebrate it. We should not deny Germany our uniqueness, we should share it with her. Don’t wait for anybody to accept you as a german; you accept yourself as a german. We accept ourselves as germans. There is that beautiful saying: if no one will give you a seat at the table, bring your own chair along – and enough food for all. Sharing is learning, is refining. We have a role to play in the upholding and further upbuilding of this society, it is a duty. And what we need to accomplish that will be awakened in us by the society itself, if we are bold and innovative and refuse to allow our spirits to be broken. Thus we grow and acquire new parts, by sharing of our origin. Change is happening fast and no one knows what’s coming next, but we can be a part of it. And by claiming and asserting and living our German-ness in the process of transformation, we stop being people waiting to be accepted and acknowledged, and become part of those acknowledging and ushering in the future.

Being german is more than being a colour. It is being a type. It is being a part-bearer of Germany and Germany’s future within you. It is a love you cannot describe.

Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

Published in the August/September 2016 edition of The African Courier.