Germany – between Trauma, Hope and a Bright Future

The Fulcrum periodical is now up and running for 20 years, with a steadily growing subscriber base from around the globe. Next to its core business of coaching senior executives and leadership teams, Future Dynamics is now expanding its offering, in the way of providing a platform for sharing unique perspectives in the realms of human development by people who stand out in their contribution in making the world a better place to be in.

I am delighted to share with you a contribution by Roland Böhringer.

A catalytic coach, writer, and creative artist, Roland is an inspiring presence.

His passion is in unfolding the human potential and out of that, contributing to multicultural projects and pioneering ground-breaking innovation methodologies.

To assist people in transitional processes of change, he co-founded a seminar dynamic and a network for human growth in the Westerwald/Germany. His coaching helps the younger generation in realizing their creative potential and assists regional leaders in developing a future-minded regional identity.

Roland’s projects receive positive reviews by prominent people in the public arena, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

His Fulcrum writing reflects his deep concern not just for his country and its future potential, but more so for a world in need of fundamental change.

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Germany – between Trauma, Hope and a Bright Future

The following is an attempt to approach the needs, questions, and challenges that face Germany and the world.

How can it be explained that German universities, which 100 years ago had a very high reputation, today, according to the QS World University Ranking 2020, don’t make it into the Top 50 worldwide? According to this ranking, only three German universities made it into the Top 100, whilst the US has 29 universities in the Top 100.

In 2019 the 500 largest companies worldwide (market value, turnover, net profit, number of employees) consisted of 45% US companies, 9% China, 8% Japan and 3% German companies.

How can it be that the ‘Land of Ideas’, the new motto promoted by the German President Christian Wulff in 2005, 15 years later has not shown many signs of living up to this proposition?

Could it be that Germany is currently not able to connect to its fuller potential? Could it be that Germany’s education system does not match the needs of today? The German author and philosopher Richard David Precht says in his book ‘Jäger, Hirten, Kritiker’: “all aims of education, which rate the job market higher than personal development are short-sighted.”

To ask further, could it also be that there is some influence in the German psyche that is preventing the wider range of people’s talents from blooming? Does the causation for Germany’s increasing mediocrity lie much deeper, somewhere in the recent post-war history of Germany? This is what this article is trying to open up, and it asks the questions: to what degree is Germany still in the grip of its past?

A deeper blockage

The writer wants to put the finger on the pulse of a deeper wound, a deeper blockage that is still active in the German psyche, which may be preventing Germany from rising to a wider range of genius  in humanitarian efforts, sustainability beyond the green idea, universal values and ethics, and the existential questions of life.

It is these non-materialistic properties that flank the materialistic achievements of our world and they are essential for humanity to re-find its senses and its common sense. We humans of today are in danger of becoming unrooted from our intrinsic human feelings of belonging. Belonging to oneself, belonging to a stable and caring society; belonging to a future that one wants to be part of. If the world does not find ways to address these issues then it inevitably leads to escalating imbalance and dissatisfaction, social instability and unrest, greater costs for the health, public security and social welfare systems, and consequently possibly to a situation beyond anyone’s control.

This article is not a complaint about Germany, for I love my country, and there is much the world holds in high esteem about it. But is there not much more that this country is able to contribute in the process of creating a bright new future for humanity? What can Germany’s natural genius give rise to, to meet the needs, perceived and still unperceived, of this time?

Where are the Humboldts, the Hildegard von Bingens, the Beethovens or the Raiffeisens of today? Why are they not more prominent in new, futuristic contexts? Might there still be present a lingering blockage in the German psyche besetting Germany following the tragedy of the Second World War?

It is this seeming impossibility that I am trying to open up here. Do you, particularly if you are German, now hear this ‘voice’ in your head saying, “Things are not so bad, really, we are again lamenting whilst we are doing pretty well”. Perhaps ask yourself: whose voice is it?

Is it the voice of conformity? “We can’t do much about the state of affairs anyway.” Is it the voice of angst, that fundamental changes might be needed?

Fundamental changes called for

Developing a holistic mindset, after the great tragedy and disaster of the war, seems to be no longer an option for Germany. The post-war mindset has been: “Put all your brilliance into industry, hard work and technology, but don’t waste your time with ancillary questions or matters. Don’t stick your neck out too much in other realms. Don’t bother too much about existential questions, there is no reward in this. Stay in mediocrity and those around you will love you for what you can do for them.”

As a German, can you relate to this voice that fundamental changes may be needed? Because the writer does. The world we live in needs an awakening of new forms of brilliance and I believe that the German nation may play a pioneering role in this process.

I am not talking here about the technological dimension, which the world has in abundance. We have so much technology that it seems to keep our world hostage to it and especially to its cut-throat competitiveness.

Are not deep, impartial human-first considerations and technologies the achievement that our world is in desperate need of today?

Is there not a bit of the DNA left in the German mind naturally driven to discuss and deepen the essential questions of life? To ask first principle questions is, in my view, a natural way for the German mentality: Why are humans on earth? What are we meant to be doing? Surely we have a function, like almost everything we can see. What is it?

If I can’t find an answer to the question of what do I live for, then all decisions I take in life are coming out of second principle considerations, as the first principle questions have never been answered. To ask first principle questions, to consider first principle issues is, in my view, a way of reasoning naturally to the German mind, to the minds of this country.

The quest for meaning

I would argue that some of the best German achievements, be it Hildegard von Bingen, Luther, Kant, Bach or Einstein, were not driven by materialistic motives as a first principle. Materialistic thinking focusing on commerce should only be second principle. Meaning comes first, once the basic needs are taken care of. The quest for meaning has been lost, which is however intrinsic to human life, and the connection to our strength, genius and creativity. The quest for meaning has been forced to retreat by a too strong focus on materialistic achievements, by neglecting the existential questions of life, and by a sense of over-carefulness and political correctness.

I also believe that the philosophical and spiritual quest of this land naturally lends itself in an energizing way to these essential questions.

A mind with a 1st principle orientation is capable of living with the conundrum that such questions may never be fully answered; it is simply keeping these questions alive whilst work, life and family go on. In doing so it builds a mindset and a charisma which is an anchor of humanity, sanity, and stability that creates an intactness in these times of radical change and uncertainty.

In the very last chapter of “The German Trauma”, the author Gitta Sereny concludes: “The seriousness and the intensely moral content of the questions they (the young Germans) ask about the past however, and the concerns they voice for the present, remain the same, and with that, they have become the hope of Europe’s future.”

New thinking – but how?

Hope is a quality this country and the whole world are in need of. Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her New Year speech to the nation recently “…more than ever does it need the courage for new thinking, the strength to leave known paths, the preparedness to venture into something new, the determination to act quicker, in the conviction that the unusual can succeed, and must succeed if a good life on this planet for the young generation and those to come after them should still be possible…”

I believe that the ‘new thinking’ needed, as stated in the above quotation, must come, can only come, if we manage to bypass the blockage that still exists in the German psyche. And it is this unconscious stopper that prevents some of the originality, depth and ability to think outside of known frameworks that this country of Germany could contribute to a future of brightness for humanity. It needs an octave change in perception and illumination, beyond trauma and history. And because the whole world is in desperate need of change, it may well catalyse a renewed Germany, based on principles of humanity, manifesting in finding its roots in an unknown yet exciting future.

What are we waiting for?

Roland Böhringer

One thought on “Germany – between Trauma, Hope and a Bright Future

  1. thank you for this very compelling contribution. I live in Germany’s ‘twin sister’ country, the Netherlands, sharing many of the same hopes and concerns for the future generations. I feel equally strong addressed, and charged as human being alive now to reach within myself for the first principle core questions that intrinsically are questing for new intelligences to grace and unlock the inherent dormant human potential. The needful awakening is on the rise, that can be registered. It seems to half consciously respond to the greater calling for upgrade to ‘universal human citizenship’, anchoring deep within the fact that we share this nursery of each land for growth of new ideas, new possibilities, new break out in the humanities. Once in the great history of Germany universities were a response to a calling for renaissance that gave birth to new humanities. The big burning question is for me, what does it call for now, in new update, in new ‘naissance’, because it cannot be a recycling of the past, if we seek transforming into a better future beyond current limitations in our thinking? What intelligences can land upon teams of collectives forming now that are prepared to stay in that first priciple for as long as it takes, to not be distracted by flattening second principle solutions? It is exciting, within the seeming impossibility.

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