Prof. Brando Okolo: A LETTER FROM GERMANY
Germany needs a national-dream to foster integration
– Prof. Brando Okolo
“It must be a dream weighted with integrative elements such as the “Du bist Deutschland” slogan that was adopted prior to the 2006 football world cup held in Germany”
The efforts so far put into fostering social integration in Germanyhave been immense. These efforts have though produced results which are so weak and meagre that it may appear the concept of social integration is not a front line national issue.Germanycan become an exceedingly much more progressive nation if opportunities are presented to all residents on an equal basis. Although the social system operated in North America is not as sympathetic as that inGermany, there are core aspects of their social model which are certainly worth emulating. For example every North American resident is made to know that there is a national-dream. This dream is open for exploitation by every one whom sets foot on the North American soil with the guarantee that the individual’s contribution will make the nation stronger, a better place and be well rewarded. A national-dream thins-out the fault lines running across racial, political, ethnic, religious and economic differences. This dream is presented before every child born inNorth Americawith a reminder that the stakes are high and that the child’s contribution is as crucial as that of the elders. For the sake of this dream being a North American is an opportunity presented by the State at the earliest possible instance. The State immediately confers the honour of citizenship onto a newly born child convinced that by this action the child is automatically streamlined into the “dream” structure. The child is weaned with this dream ever before it recognising that its loyalty lies with the nation and everyone who shares in this dream. This “nativity” process is so central for integration on several fronts.Germanylacks such an integration policy sadly denying the nation of the gains of a well integrated society.
In order to elaborate more on this theme, instances are drawn from the Turkish, East European and African communities residing inGermany. When a child is born inGermanyby parents from any of these communities, this child is documented as born inGermanyand shortly after birth is required to provide evidence of residency inGermany. If none of the parents is German (by birth or naturalization) then the child must within a certain timeframe meet a residency requirement. Such a process can inflict a deep sense of non-belonging to immigrant parents prompting them to wean the child on the belief that they do not belong to the German society and so must neither show loyalty to this nation nor trust its representatives. Nothing different can be expected from parents faced with such a situation for the State had taken the first step of alienating the child from birth using laws and methods crafted to keep immigrants at bay. The consequences of this governmental action is seen in the deep dislike which sometimes flare up when the interests of residents of immigrant ancestry are pitched against those of full German ancestry. Often the resident of immigrant ancestry is somehow communicated that they do not belong. Even when they are holders of a German passport the feelings are ever the same because their sense of national identity is markedly different. This difference in national identity has origins in the fact that policies inGermanyare not made to factor-in a “national-dream” component.Germanyneeds to define and nurture a national dream which is accessible to all residents in the country. This dream should be inspiring, free of divisive language and realistic in form. It must be a dream weighted with integrative elements such as the “Du bist Deutschland” slogan that was adopted prior to the 2006 football world cup held inGermany. That slogan which was so powerfully formed lost its public sense and feeling driving the nation back to its unintended image of a foreigners-not-allowed-here, form.
Can there be a national dream inGermany? I insist, yes, there can be one. A German national dream can be aligned to emphasise a collective drive to make peace, protect the environment, defend human rights or social equality. National dreams can be interpreted differently by individuals but the goals are often similar; equal access to education, social security, prosperity and a chance to reasonably anticipate existence. Politicians inGermanyhave a duty to define this dream, educate the residents and intentionally encourage them to contribute to the dream. This should be Germany’s contribution to humanity; a nation where every resident feels responsible for peacemaking, environmental protection, human rights or social equality, – a nation where no constraints are imposed on the individual due to their primal origins, – a country where wealth making proceeds from this unique dream.
A socially integratedGermanyis realisable. Lack of social integration is responsible for the non-participation of the immigrant community in nation building thus robbing this country of good image and the backbone to rise beyond its current socio-political level. When an authentic and legally permitted immigrant family resolves to make its home in Germany and the State excludes this family from privileges accorded to citizens then the nation must be prepared to suffer major setbacks in overall national development. Every child born, bred, educated and professionally practicing inGermanymust at infancy be accorded equal rights as a native for this way the child is assimilated into the national fabric. The gains accrued from such a process cannot be descriptively quantified but the losses are quite clear. Disloyalty is an overwhelmingly destructive piece of trait. Suppose that every family inGermanywhere there is an immigrant parent is disloyal to the spirit of this nation, with time sufficient anti-German feelings will build-up internally and if not resolved will eventually bring the nation to a self-destructive point. A point where a substantial portion of the national population will neither believe in this nation nor the people that lay claim to it, expressing their sense of exclusion – at sporting events by not supporting the nation where they reside – at the workplace by not getting along with colleagues – through outward show of anger at every opportunity because they genuinely have a chip-on-the-shoulder.
People who show xenophobic attitudes wherever in this world they may reside do so based on the impetus provided to them by the law of the land. When such a law is repealed and replaced with laws which protect social equality irrespective of race, caste, origin, religion and ethnicity then will society be more cohesive and bear the hallmarks of a nation where there is a national-dream with every resident enlisted to capture the essence of the dream in a humanely respectful manner.
A solidly genuine integration process can be initiated in Germany by first engaging every resident of this country to a national-dream, – a dream that is fulfilling and promises a reasonable measure of success to all members of the society.
Professor Brando Okolo, African Heritage Man of the year 2011 is a full Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the German University in Cairo – Egypt. Article first published 2008