Thursday, March 19, 2009

The B-word

There's been so much going on lately in German current events that I've been sticking with my cooking activities and shying away from any real commentary. But perhaps It's time to delve in a bit.

The most shocking of all the events lately was, of course, the school shooting at Winnendon. As an American living in Germany, this kind of horrible occurrence brings to mind the analysis (and Michael Moore films) that followed the Columbine disaster, all of which seemed to believe that such an event was a purely American creation, coming not only from such relaxed gun control laws but also from some kind of intrinsic cultural violence. Since then, this has been proven wrong and the western world has had its share of similar sad and horrifying incidents. Of course it's only natural to ask such questions as "why us" or "why here" and then "how can we prevent this" and "who is to blame". This discussion has been circulating in Germany for the week or so since the shootings and there is, of course, discussion of stronger gun laws or punishing the father for not locking up his gun. I, too, found myself blaming and questioning, wondering how this could happen in a place like Germany, where I often consider myself to be so insulated from the "dangers" of the outside world.

I also wonder, as an American, if these events aren't probably instigated by globalized media and violence, by a certain illusion of a community and a retreat into a virtual, far away world where such actions seem accepted. The concept of alienation from one's own culture due to rapid changes in that culture, anomia, is a term used in the study of socio-ethnic conflicts. In such a globalized, interconnected world, this phenomena is becoming ever more wide spread. Rapid societal changes instigates instability and insecurity and the ever changing world around causes a sense of isolation from one's surroundings. This term may not be directly applicable to the various psychological analyses of the shooter, but I think it describes the state of many societies right now. Those who are estranged by their rapidly individualistic and quickly changing culture do have an outlet, the internet, where they can try to find acceptance and a group which understands them. But what happens when that very group is one that encourages such acts, and takes participants further away from any sort of value sets or societal moral standards?

Another recent bit of news is that German youths are more right-leaning than ever, and are showing especially pronounced rates of xenophobia and hostility towards foreigners. It's no wonder, in tough economic times, in times where societal problems are nearly always blamed on the "others".

Blame. Finding someone to Blame. The Bush years were about Blame. Blaming the terrorists, the Muslims, the axis of evil. For the shootings, we blame the school, the parents, the gun laws. In this economy, some people blame foreigners for taking their jobs away, for working for lower pay, for ruining the economy. I'm starting to think that, in hard times, the best thing to do is to stay away from the B-word, and think about our own contribution to the solution.

In one of my classes, we are learning about the ZOP method of project planning (Zielorientierte Projektplanung), where, in order to solve a problem, a list of smaller problems that make up the bigger problem is made and put into a "cause-effect" tree. Then, the biggest "original problem" is chosen, the one that is the cause of most of the other problems. And here comes the important step: you turn the problem around into a formulation of what the situation will look like when the problem is solved. This is your goal. Example problem: the education system in Germany divides up the "classes" too early. Example goal situation: a flexible system where students are fostered in their strengths and helped with their weaknesses without a distinct "separation" at any point.

I think this method is a very good way to turn around blame and take real action. Find the root of the problem, and make it into a goal. Then, strive towards that goal.

If anything, I am hopeful for the triumph my American optimism…

1 comment:

Pastor St. John said...

I believe the shootings are unavoidable. There will always be a certain number of people who will be mentally deranged and unhappy, and who will try to kill a bunch of people. If they can't find a gun, they will try poison, or a sword, or ramming a car into a sidewalk cafe, etc. etc. It is unavoidable. By blaming "guns" or whatever, we are avoiding the truth about ourselves as "mankind." There will always be a few really bad eggs, for one reason or another. We just need to help the survivors, and move on.

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