Thursday, 21 May 2009

Germans are proud again - and a good thing too.

So, the Daily Mail tells us that the Germans are no longer ashamed of themselves and are now proud of their country.

Even since I lived in Germany in the mid 1990s, I have always been stunned by the capacity of the German people - even those born long after the war and with no personal reason for guilt - to readily assume the burdens of earlier generations. Of course, it was drilled into them, at school and elsewhere - that overwhelming sense of collective guilt - they were presented with the Holocaust, with German war crimes, German blockheadedness and German cruelty at every turn. Not only domestically, also internationally, the Germans were constantly reminded of the crimes of their forefathers - with the Daily Mail, unsurprisingly, in the vanguard.

Unsurprising, therefore, that - for all its achievements - Germany never wrapped itself in the flag, or proclaimed a simple pride in itself. What nation in the world could have resisted such an onslaught?

Of course, it is right and proper that the German people should be reminded of their own history and of the bestial crimes committed by their forebears, but when it gets to the point that this sense of guilt transcends the generations and turns into an ongoing national sense of shame - then it has gone too far.

Thankfully, as this new survey seems to show - the German people have now shed their hair shirt. They have troops in Afghanistan, they are a full and vital member of the EU, and they are lobbying to join the UN Security Council.

There are many reasons for this. On the simplest level, the passage of time has healed many a national would, and for most of the younger generation the Third Reich is (as for the rest of us) nothing more than a fascinating period of history. But there are other reasons. Reunification, for one thing, removed one of the longest post-war political hangovers. As did the end of the Cold War. It was an unusual, but heartening, sight to see young Germans enthusiastically waving theit national flag at the World Cup in 2006.

In short, Germany has achieved what social scientists call "normalisation".

About time, too.

No comments: