Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Aydan Özoguz "A specifically German culture, beyond language, is simply impossible to identify

Aydan Özoguz "A specifically German culture, beyond language, is simply impossible to identify. Time 2017 T. Summer In May, the Hamburg-born SPD politician, daughter of Turkish guest workers, had written in the Tagesspiegel: "A specifically German culture is, beyond language, simply not identifiable." Gauland referred to this sentence at an election event in Eichsfeld, Thuringia. Literally: "That's what a German-Turkish woman says. Invite her to Eichsfeld and then tell her what specifically German culture is. After that, she will never come here again, and we will then also, thank God, be able to dispose of her in Anatolia." It would have been bad enough if the notorious rabble-rouser Gauland had said: dispose of her in Anatolia. But he stooped to the phrase "dispose of in Anatolia." One can, indeed must, understand this as an incitement to murder. Such a person has no place in German politics, and certainly no place in the talk shows of our public television stations. He belongs in court. What actually got Aydan Özoguz when she reduced German culture to language, however, is something quite different. I've known and appreciated her for decades, but that's where she got it wrong. "Plain" German culture may indeed be unidentifiable. Less plain - say, more nuanced and profound - it can be. Many great minds have labored over the subject: Goethe and Schiller, Friedrich Nietzsche and Thomas Mann, Theodor Adorno and Karl Jaspers; most recently, Dieter Borchmeyer presented his 1,055-page work Was ist deutsch? in the spring. The multifaceted discussion cannot be traced in 5,000 characters. I will leave it at five remarks. 1 Aydan Özoguz does not limit herself to the question of whether there is, should be or may be a German Leitkultur. Rather, she questions whether there is a German culture beyond language at all. Of course it exists - just as, which cannot be denied, a French, British or English national culture exists beyond languages. German culture is not just a language, but also a political culture, i.e. constitutional patriotism and loyalty to the Basic Law. It is a mosaic of the literature, music, art and philosophy of a country that encompasses its entire intellectual and aesthetic space. Faith also shapes - and even those who are no longer Christians of faith, whether they want to admit it or not, are still cultural Christians - right up to the Lord's Prayer at the grave. In addition, there is the everyday space of feeling and behavior, of building and living, also of eating and drinking. Tradition and history shape all of this. In the collective consciousness, it comes together to form a national identity. Ortega y Gasset was absolutely right when he said: "Four-fifths of our inner possessions are European common property. That leaves only 20 percent for the purely national. 3 Identities are changing. Immigrants also have a share in this process of change. There have been many in our history. Carl Zuckmayer mentioned them in "Des Teufels General": "There was a Roman field captain, a black fellow, brown as a ripe olive, who taught Latin to a blond girl. And then there was a Jewish spice merchant, a Greek doctor, a Celtic legionnaire, a Grisons lansquenet, a Swedish horseman, a soldier of Napoleon, a Cossack who had deserted, a Black Forest flagt man, a wandering miller's boy from Alsace, a fat skipper from Holland, a Magyar, a Pandur, an officer from Vienna, a French actor, a Bohemian musician - all of them lived, fought, drank and sang and fathered children on the Rhine. " Nietzsche put it less poetically. He wrote that the Germans, more than the other European peoples, were "a people of the most monstrous mixture and agitation of races." The mixing ratio has been constantly changing in the German amalgam and it will continue to change. Like most chemical amalgams, it is irreversible. 4 In the course of the centuries we have assimilated many foreign things and made them our own. But what has been stirred together into Germans has always sought support in what is our own. That is the most natural thing in the world. Why should it be any different today? Transformation is the task. And let's not fool ourselves or the immigrants. Integration of those who are allowed to stay and want to stay means nothing other than assimilation in the perspective of two or three generations. 5 Germans without an immigrant background should concede two things. First, our regional cultures are just as formative as our common national culture. Sanssouci and Neuschwanstein, half-timbered houses and thatched roofs, Leberkäse and Labskaus.