The Fading Social State – Facing Reality

As native European observer from abroad I am getting the impression that life has changed …

… in Germany, as in the rest of Western Europe, with regard to our economy that no one sees as a wonder anymore but only wonders about. With the help of satellite television and annual family visits it seems to me that the same is true for the situation of our education that according to the PISA study revokes the reputation of having the highest educational standards in the world. People are beginning to question the image of our model social states that have previously created the impression in the rest of the world that milk and honey flow in our rivers with the result that Western Europe has become a favorite immigration continent. Values that are proclaimed in our national anthems such as unity, rights and freedom or equality and brotherliness no longer reflect the situation on our labour market, in politics or religious tolerance. Social descent and the increasing number of people living below the poverty line are hidden behind so-called promising social and labour scheme reforms.

Even as European emigrant I remain European which bestows some sort of responsibility on me for my native continent. But what does that look like? Well, first of all as emigrants we still have the right to vote in our native country’s general elections. Our forefathers have long fought for this right and for women it might be even more precious. However, when living abroad it is difficult to choose and make up one’s mind. Politicians usually hold impressive speeches during their election campaigns (which I occasionally watch on satellite TV) that they may or may not remember afterwards when they increase their parliamentary allowances as a precaution for worsening times that the others soon will have, for instance single-parents or the unemployed. New reforms, as promised, may change but not always improve things, although they were carefully developed by competent but probably not unemployed experts just like Mr. Hartz in Germany, who does not have to live on a few Euro a month, but who gave the labor and social reforms his name. How appropriate! Considering all election propaganda and promises dished up by the politicians during their campaign it appeared as if we were given the choice between Ali Baba and the 40 thieves or the Punch (the reader may decide for him-/herself who is who).
It seems once again that the rich become richer and the poor poorer in Europe. However, abroad far away from Europe and its internal problems I still profit from Western Europe’s exemplary reputation for our strong economies, jurisdiction, constitutional and social states in which people receive unemployment and social benefits unlike in the rich but non-social states of Asia. For example, Islamic states rely on their Sharia law according to which the ones that have give a fifth of their accumulated wealth to the have-nots that is not regulated by governments and thus totally up to each individuals commitment to his/her religion.
The fact that the situation is not as florid as in the post second world war decades has not been quite accepted by the developing world. Although it is difficult to admit, but it can no longer be ignored that Western Europe is not as social as it used to be. Germany for example has lost its charismatic personalities in politics and is more and more governed by people who seem to use their political values and beliefs mainly for marketing purposes and who want to talk the population into believing new unsocial laws to be a necessity for the improvement of social affairs.

Who is responsible for this situation? The politicians? The citizens themselves? The immigrants? The extension of the European Union into Eastern Europe? Capitalism? People’s strive for increasing consumption with which they manipulate their own brains? What is still significant and for whom? Is it high time to awake from the sleeping beauty dream of the prosperous years? No one can say for sure and probably it is a combination of many factors. But I have noticed something from the point of an outside observer; many people have exchanged their political interest with watching popular entertainment shows that have also had an influence on the presentation style and contents of news programs. Somehow there is not much time left beside job and daily life routine for more concern about national or international political issues and an interest in actively engaging oneself in political parties or organizations. Looking at our young and famous these days it seems that general knowledge has been replaced by a sound information background on popular soap operas, reality documentaries and the lifestyle of pop or movie stars and high society. And what about politics? Sometimes I get the impression that a group of people with political and economical power pretends to serve their nation, however not always very effectively nor efficiently because there are all too busy quarrelling about who has the better reform ideas and power to implement them. May be it will help the people, may be not, but that is not so important, because no one is prepared to take any responsibility for their broken promises and the things that went wrong.
The European citizens meanwhile are watching in despair and disbelieve that things are not improving despite all well-meant intentions. As I no longer live in Europe I do not want to interpret my impressions as judgment, but I also know after having lived half of my life in Europe, grew up and received my education there that the European civilization will not lose its social consciousness because of hard times or new challenges. May be we might become inspired again by bethinking our rich literature written by poets and writers once famous and admired in history.

There is a poem by a German poet and writer which we had to discuss in secondary school that keeps coming to my mind in this respect. I think it might be of interest again, especially in times of social deterioration and political dissatisfaction.
Günther Eich (1907 – 1972): BE SAND IN THE GEARINGS OF THE WORLD!

„No, don’t sleep,
while the stewards of the world are busy!
Be suspicious of their power,
that they pretend they must acquire for you!
Keep vigil that your hearts are not empty,
when they rely on the emptiness of your hearts!
Do useless things; sing the songs,
which are not expected out of your mouth!
Be inconvenient; be sand not the oil in the gearings of the world!“
(from: Günther Eich/“Dreams“)
In other words, don’t be ignorant but be aware while others control your life.

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