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Quo Vadis, Germany?

2-09-2010, 14:00

 

 

Wohin treibt die Bundesrepublik? (Munich, 1966, Piper Verlag, 288 pp.) by famous German philosopher Karl Jaspers (the English translation of which The Future of Germany appeared in 1967) still stirs up discussions and is behind numerous publications in Germany and elsewhere. Despite the lessons of its recent past which should have supplied Germany and the Germans with an immunity to all sorts of "ideological confusion" the identity crisis which spread far and wide affected Germans as much as other nations, individuals and institutions.

Until recently the "self-purification" idea the importance of which Jaspers had never failed to stress remained Germany's postwar identity which forced the nation to cast off its historical skin in a painful process. This dented the divided nation's stamina yet in the final analysis it adjusted itself to postwar Europe. America did a lot to help the Germans acquire their postwar identity in the country which served the border between the world of capitalism and the camp of socialism.

The Germans' doggedness and their mentality never allowed them to succumb to deliberations of "what is to be done?" type the Russians are fond of. The Germans are doers rather than daydreamers (Schtoltz vs. Oblomov in the great novel by Ivan Goncharov serves the best example of this); with them "functionality" is inseparable from "mission."

The hard postwar years were not a painful inoculation against Nazism but rather a frantic effort to regain the place in the sun and a Lebensraum in a new historical context after the trial and retribution and the court sentence which resounded all over the world.

Karl Jaspers promised this if Germany repented and never tried to justify itself.

Forty-five years ago, on 10 March 1965 Der Spiegel carried an interview Karl Jaspers gave to its Editor Rudolf Augstein entitled "Fur Volkermord gibt es keine Verjahrung" (Time Cannot Exonerate Mass Murders).

Augstein introduced the subject of collective guilt by saying that when Napoleon had taken Jaffa he had captured 3000 (or rather they let him capture them in exchange of life). He had never lived up to his promise: to save ammunition they all were slaughtered with bayonets. Many of them had families the members of which, wives and children, were likewise massacred. Nobody, however, at that time heaped the guilt on anybody else except Napoleon. Today, Rudolf Augstein went on, the scope and nature of the Nazi crimes seemed to justify court trials of those who had acted on orders.

Karl Jaspers, in his turn, pointed to what he believed to be an important factor. Napoleon as an embodiment of state had committed this crime while the state itself had not been a criminal state, while all Germans had known that the Nazi state had been a criminal state.

Jaspers was very sensitive of everything that might have detracted Germany from the road toward revival achieved through the nation's moral revival. Very much like Ivan Ilyin he learned to mistrust the unshakeable nature of "formal democracy" and an alleged impossibility for it to degrade into its opposite (which happened to the Weimar Republic). Neither Germany, nor Europe nor the West as a whole has unfortunately learned this lesson.

In 2005, Russian jurist Igor Isaev in his paper under the telltale title "Political Demonology of Karl Jaspers" presented at a scientific conference said: "Karl Jaspers turned to the new German statehood to revive the subject of chaos. He was convinced that chance and neglect produce chaos while chaos produces dictatorship. The law does not guarantee order - it is its external rigid shell. The spirit and the living texture of life demonstrate real dynamics which, in the final analysis, determine the order of our existence. This delicate substance is vulnerable to demonic impacts to a greater extent than anything else ... This is a parallel hidden history, a different life, invisible yet stormy which creates forces unconabroad outside NATO with peacekeeping operations.

At first glance the moment is opportune: a locomotive of European economics, guarantor of European currency and donor of the weakening European economies Germany can expect understanding from its EU partners. Today, it is becoming increasingly clear that leadership in united Europe is developing into one of the forms of German's identity despite the fact that in Germany the majority objected to financial aid to Greece and other EU countries. It seems that Karl Jaspers would have been very much concerned with the attempts to put pressure on the EU partners which Berlin is increasing together with its awareness of its leading role.

The partners did not wait long to express their displeasure. Italian political scientist Paolo Manasse wrote: "Do they [national policies] obey the diktats of 'fiscal dominance' from Germany, possibly under the implicit threat to leaving weak Southerners to their own destine?" The Europeans did not hail the idea of bankruptcy of debtor countries lobbied by Chancellor Merkel. The procedure, for some very unclear reason, is patterned on the bankruptcy procedure of private companies.

Responses and negative historical associations followed suite: Premier of Greece Georgios Papandreou reminded Berlin that the issue of German reparations for the World War II occupation of his country was still open. Europe, however, knows that Germany's steadily increasing export incomes are an important safety cushion for European economy. Germany with practically no reserves for domestic economic growth has to rely on export which is expected to bring up to 80 percent of possible GDP growth in the next year.

This means that German economy depends on the world markets; the fact of geographic proximity of Russia and Germany and their economic interdependence is another aspect of the FRG's new identity. Prominent French thinker and one of the last Gaullists Emmanuel Todd described this new role: "Germany has been quicker to establish mutually advantageous ties with Russia, particularly because of Russia's vast natural resources and Germany's need to sell its industrial goods. Besides, Germany needs stability in Eastern Europe for its own dynamic growth. Speaking strictly, if Berlin and Moscow can hit it off, the rest of Europe will fall in line."

Today, the German eagle has two paths to fly: leadership in the European Union and a connecting link, or a bridge, between Western and Eastern Europe and Russia. If German temperament does not develop trolled by human mind. 'Devil ex machina' is an eloquent symbol of irra-tionalism of our day."

Had Jaspers lived today he would be very much amused by the statement: "It is sheer absurdity to be afraid of totalitarianism in super-democratic Germany of our days." "Germany" can be easily replaced with any other of the "super-democratic countries." Several postwar generations built up the country we known now: it has resolutely rejected Nazism and is less than many others inclined to erode humanity. Erosion of democracy, on the other hand, manifests itself consistently and in a diverse way at all levels of political and public life in the conditions of "formal democracy" which, at the present stage, is not fatal for the order. Jaspers, in his time, described the FRG and its political order as an "oligarchy of parties rather than democracy."

Jaspers treated attempts at sanctification of war as political perversions of the worst kind.

Germany owes many of its convictions and responses to Jaspers. On 22 May 2010, President of the FRG Horst Kohler shocked the German public by saying: "In my estimation ... given this strong focus and corresponding dependency on exports, a country of our size needs to be aware that where called for or in an emergency, military deployment, too, is necessary if we are to protect our interests such as ensuring free trade routes or preventing regional instabilities which are certain to negatively impact our ability to safeguard trade, jobs and income."

Scything criticism from all sides - the opposition and the CDU, the president's own party - forced him to step down on 31 May. Der Spiegel wrote that President Kohler was suspected of imperialist convictions that might have discredited the missions of Bundeswher abroad. It seems that many in Russia and elsewhere were amazed at the resignation. Is it not clear that what the United States are doing in the world can be justly described as a use of force to ensure its economic interests?

This was not all. When talking about the coming reforms of Bundeswehr President of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hans Heinrich Driftman said to the Focus magazine that Germany, as the world's exporting leader, would have faced a catastrophe if the trade routes, especially those leading to East Asia were threatened. Society would have been affected too, he added. He is obviously a lesser political figure yet insistent and word-for-word repetitions of the same encouragement of the Bundeswehr coming from the German elite speak volumes; in fact, the Constitution limited the German army's involvementinto an open pressure which the Europeans might associate with a new Ordnung and if Germany demonstrates unflagging initiative despite the obvious problems and even risks it might come close to Jaspers' cherished dream.

According to Jaspers, unity of mankind is the aim of human history. History's hidden meaning, therefore, is gradual realization of this aim.


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