Dear Friends, this is NOT Germany!

This is a little off-topic – but I feel a strong urge to post something like this right now. About 80% of Mappalicious´ visitors are not from Germany; I get lots of traffic from North-America, the UK, Australia, but also other European countries such as Finland or the Netherlands.

Now, I don´t know how often you follow foreign politics, but if you have a look at what´s going on in Germany right now, you may find articles like this one from the Guardian:

Article_Guardian

What this is all about: there´s an organization that call themselves PEGIDA, an acronym that roughly translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident”. Right now, this group is able to mobilize some 15.000 people to demonstrate in Dresden (former East-Germany) every Monday against immigrants, against the “mainstream media” (which they call liars and things a lot worse), and other issues which are too many and too obscure to mention.

Their main argument is that Europe, and especially Germany, will be overrun by Muslims in the near future (what they call “foreign infiltration”). That is especially absurd as the percentage of Muslim inhabitants of Dresden currently is at roughly 0.4-0.5% – which is about one tenth compared to the 5% of the general population in Germany. And by the way, that number is going to rise to ca. 7% by 2050. Whoa, now this is what I call infiltration…

The founders of PEGIDA are a bunch of convicted criminals and/or covert or blatant Neo-Nazis, and most of the people walking beside them are die-hard bozos and hillbillies, and what in the U.S. would probably be called rednecks, and people who´s eyebrows meet firmly in the middle. And then, beside those, there are some pensioners and unemployed people who feel “left behind” – people who are in dire need of a scapegoat for the (alleged) misery in their lives.

These people make me (and probably around 98% of the German population) want to puke my guts out. 25 years ago, at that same place, the people of the former German Democratic Republic were protesting against the reigning Communist regime, they risked their freedom and their lives to get rid of Erich Honnecker and his band of crooks. Their rallying cry back then was “Wir sind das Volk!” (We are the people!”). It was a cry for equality, humans rights, and freedom!

Now, those PEGIDA shitheads are misusing that very same slogan, in a sort of deformation, when they roister through the streets of beautiful Dresden to rant and rave against everything that is somehow foreign, alien, and exceeds the capacity of their shriveled brains.

PEGIDA, you´re not “the people”. You are a pitiful, gruesome shadow of the past.

Dear friends all over the world – please remember: This is not Germany, and these guys are not “the Germans”. I´ve just had a look at my wedding photo from 3,5 years ago. Our maid of honor is originally from Italy, and the bridesmaid is from Syria. My very first girl-friend was from Vietnam, and among my best German buddies are people from Poland, Tunisia, and India. They´ve been working, and living and loving here, for ages! That, my friends, is Germany!

And “dear” PEGIDA! You are not “the people”. You are a sordid, gruesome shadow of the past. There is no future for you – for it will be bright and colorful. Two days to go until you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. May you remember that his message was one of kindness and compassion, not ostracism.

Merry Christmas!

 

Not what you see (Savatage)

No life’s so short it can’t turn around
You can’t spend your life living underground
For from above you don’t hear a sound
And I’m out here, waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am
But I know that it’s all that you see

No life’s so short that it never learns
No flame so small that it never burns
No page so sure that it never turns
And I’m out here, waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am
But I know that it’s all that you see

Can you live your life in a day, putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say as the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show – in a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go on this same piece of ground

(simultaneously)

Can you live your life in a day I’ve been waiting
Putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say I don’t understand what you want me to be
As the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show It’s the dark you’re hating
In a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go It’s not who I am, but it is what you see
On this same piece of ground

I’ve been waiting
I don’t understand what you want me to be
It’s the dark you’re hating
It’s not who I am, but it is what you see

Can you live your life in a day
Putting every moment in play?
Never hear a word that they say
As the wheels go around
Tell me if you win would it show
In a thousand years, who would know?
As a million lives come and go
On this same piece of ground

Tell me would you really want to
See me leave this night without you
Would you ever look about you
Wondering where we might be
New York is so far away now
Tokyo, Berlin and Moscow
Only dreams from here but somehow
One day that world we will see

I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand
I don’t understand…
…what I see.

I swear on tomorrow, if you take this chance
Our lives are this moment, the music – the dance
And here in this labyrinth of lost mysteries
I close my eyes on this night and you’re all that I see
You’re all that I see

The Ultimate Piece of “Positive Technology”? The Driverless Car!

Traffic Jam

Via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Yesterday, I did something that I have done just twice this entire year: I drove a car.

I was booked to give a talk in a smalller city near the North Sea coast and had to drive up there for about three hours. As I do not own a car, I had to rent one and then took to the famous German Autobahn. Yes, you´ve read correctly: I´m a German man and I don´t own a car. And in fact, I´ve never had one and I probably never will in this life.

And yesterday, I was powerfully reminded of why this is the case: because it´s a stupid waste of time. I wonder how many billion hours of human consciousness are lost each and every day because people have to sit behind a steering wheel staring at the car in front of them (or the empty road if things go well). How many books could be read in that time? How many blog posts or love letters could be written? How many business plans could be created?

I wonder how many billion hours of human consciousness are lost each and every day because people have to sit behind a steering wheel staring at the car in front of them.

Ok, not each and every country has the same quality public transportation system as Germany does (I take busses, trains, and the occasional cab to go basically everywhere). And yes, I do concede some people have fun while driving. Supposedly, it gives them a sense of freedom and being in control. And yes, driving a car, you can listen to music, you can make phone-calls using a hands-free kit, and you could even see driving as a mindfulness exercise – but let´s be honest here: how many people really do this on a regular basis? It´s no surprise that CEOs and other “VIPs” typically have a chauffeur. Their time is seen as too valuable to be driving a car. But isn´t that true for all of us?

That´s why I believe that driverless cars will be one of the most important pieces of (positive) technology to hit the market in the near future. Yes, it´s not that far away. If you´re interested, please check out this superb article that´ll tell you that they are already driving around on our streets, at least in some parts of the USA – and they are already (at least) as safe as the average human driver.

The point of market entry can and will be postponed by a couple of years, mostly because of juridical problems in the context of accountability (Who´s responsible when a driverless car causes an accident?) – but as always, those things will be worked out at the end of the day. Market entry will probably be postponed by the car manufacturers themselves, because they will – ironically –  be the biggest losers in this game (and that´s some very bad news for Germany, as millions and millions of jobs depend on the automotive sector). But it´s going to happen.

Here´s what we´re going to see in my imagination: Google will buy Tesla and afterwards Uber. Google has the navigational data and the necessary technologies in robotics and visual detection, Tesla has premium eco-friendly cars and especially the battery technology, and Uber will supply the reservation system. Of course, there could be lots of other contestants, but I don´t think this stunt can be pulled of by small start-ups – there´s too much money involved in R&D.

So, why is all of this bad news for car manufacturers?

Because personally owning a car is one of the most inefficient things a lot of us do. Cars that are not commercially used just stand around at least 90% of the day. And when we use them, we use them inefficiently. We´re driving alone most of the time instead of using up all of the available space, and we´re bad drivers in the sense that we do not take the shortest available route, that we create traffic jams, and so on. So basically, once the technology will be market-ready, the demand for cars is going to plummet to (my personal estimation) some 20% percent of the current level within a couple of years. This is also consistent with most surveys of Gen Y – most of them want connected and flawless mobility, but do not want to own a car. We will need to have a sufficient supply of driverless cars and they will have to be replaced regularly because they will be used almost without rest periods. And of course, some people still will want to own a car – just because. But otherwise, there´s going to be a lot less of them. And believe me, this is very(!!) good news for mankind, except for the automotive industry (and cab/truck drivers, probably).

Driverless driving means

  • more efficient usage (less standstill, more car sharing, always use of shortest distance etc.) = less cars = less use of fossil fuel/less pollution and other natural resources (this also pertains to the manufacturing process);
  • saver travel as driverless cars will produce far less accidents. More than 30.000 people are killed in the USA per year in car accidents. Most of those are caused by human error. Driverless cars will overlook fewer objects and they will also communicate with each other. This will not only minimize accidents but will also more or less eradicate traffic jams – as cars will be driving in a kind of convoy and otherwise, actively try to avoid crowded routes;
  • less stress and burnout and other health-related issues (see this Time article for an overview over negative effects of commuting);
  • massive unharnessing of human consciousness as people will be able to concentrate on more productive issues that steering a car from A to B.

The biggest hurdle to take (apart from the juridical challenges mentioned above) is the quality and cost of the visual detection unit that ensures the autonomous car does not hit other objects. The one that Google uses right now for their projects supposedly costs around 80.000 US$ per unit. But if you take a look at, e.g., the development of the cost for computer storage over the past decades, you basically know it´s just a matter of time until a system will be available for the mass market.

Positive Psychology is entering German Mainstream and Business Media

A couple of times, I´ve written about how German mainstream culture and Positive Psychology may just not be a perfect match. In spite of this, German mainstream media outlets start to discover the topic, especially reporting on the connection of being happy/satisfied and positive work outcomes. Heré, I´ve compiled a list of pieces that were published in 2013 and 2014.

Glück im Job - Zeit

SCHLAAAAAND! How the Soccer World-Cup helps to Build a Likeable Version of the “German Nation”

Just FYI: I´m writing these lines under the impression of watching some 400.000 people on TV cheering for our successful soccer team at their reception close to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (picture source):

Berlin - World-Champions

Truth is: I´m not really into soccer. I hardly care about the German Bundesliga (our “major league”). But today, I´d like to write about soccer. Or rather, about the role that soccer – and winning the world-cup 2014 – plays for Germany and the “German identity”.

Where shall I begin? Let me say, that it was kind of strange growing up as a young man in Germany. I was born 33 years after the end of World War II (my father was born during the last months of war) – and very soon, each and every person that has actually fought in this war will be dead and gone (like my grandpa). In spite of this, WW II (and Hitler, and everything that comes with that…) is still the big “national elephant in the room”.

Hitler is still the “big national elephant in the room”.

On a pre-conscious, between the lines level, it still affects everything a German does (or does not). If you want to put it in terms of transactional analysis: Many things that are “OK” for just about anybody in the world, are “not OK” if your´re German – at least not if you´re “too German” (whatever that may be…). As I´ve lived in Pennsylvania for a year during my adolescence (and additionally studied there over the last couple of months) I´d like to give you some contrasting examples from the US, especially concerning the use of national symbols.

  • When you´re walking around in the U.S. sporting a t-shirt displaying the “Stars & Stripes”, people will likely smile at you and give a thumbs-up.  It´s a cool thing to do. When you´re walking around in Germany sporting a t-shirt displaying the “Black, Red and Gold” there´s a good chance that people will frown upon you. What they say without saying it: “Are you a f…ing Nazi or what?”
  • Equally, it´s a really really bad idea to sing the German national anthem – apart from those rare occasions where it´s deemed appropriate, e.g., before extraordinarily important soccer games. In the U.S., you sing the national anthem almost every day (just because the school day starts, or because there´s a middle school basketball game, or just because it´s a beautiful day…whatever…). And it´s cool. The U.S. anthem was played “for me” at Penn commencement 2014 – and I sang it with my fellow American students – not because I feel like I´m American, but because it´s a beautiful song, and it was a celebratory moment, and it was the right thing to do.
  • And don´t even try to say something like “I´m proud to be German” in public. It´s the best way to ruin your reputation, your career, and might even bring you to the hospital if you happen to do it in the presence of people from the (far) left-wing scene.

By the way, I feel it´s not a very intelligent thing to say. It´s not an achievement to be born in a specific country, so philosophically speaking, it´s an “error of category”. How can anybody be proud of something that has just happened to him/her by chance? But the point is: in the U.S. (and probably any other country on this planet), it´s OK to do so.

And this is where the soccer world-cup tournaments come into play. The tournament in 2006 hosted in Germany was at least a light episode of thaw. Suddenly, you would see Germans carrying around German flags, cheering for their country in broad daylight (and late at night, for that matter). Regular, nice-looking people – not those skinhead neo-Nazi dickheads. Of course, they would put the flags onto their cars by the millions. And people from all over the world visited our country to celebrate. They discovered that Germans are mostly likeable, party hard and welcome foreigners with open arms (aside from the aforementioned die-hard assholes from the old school…that, frankly speaking, can be found in any nation on earth). The weather was really nice. The atmosphere was peaceful. And for five weeks or so, it was “OK” again to be German – and to even show it. That´s why we call that time “Sommermärchen” (Summer Fairytale).

Winning the three titles in 1954, 1974, and 1990 was probably equally important for our “rebirth as a nation”. Earning the title against all odds in 1954 is called “Wunder von Bern” (Miracle of Bern). For the very first time after WW II, there was a glimpse of hope. For the very first time, Germans weren´t constrained to the (Ex-)Nazi role. In 1974, we won the cup in our own country, during a time of thaw with regard to the former USSR and especially East Germany. To that effect, the “world spirit” moved forward in that direction, and we won our third title in Italy in 1990 – in midst of the German reunification process.

But it took 16 more years for the German nation to come to terms with itself – at least for the above-mentioned five weeks of the summer miracle. I mean, looking down from space, there are no “borders”, no “countries”, and no “governments”. But as long as we have to live in a geo-political system that endorses national states, in my opinion it´s a valuable and utterly healthy thing to feel at least a decent level of identification with regard to the country that the “karma lottery” has put us in.

Yet, being born in Germany still means carrying a small share of a huge “historical hypothecation”. And while there may be political entities in other countries that – once in a while – like to remind the Germans of their “historical guilt”, that burden is mostly renewed from within. As a nation, we´re still kind of obsessed with Hitler. Of course it´s not an obsession in an admiring sense. Rather, it´s that mode where one is not able to take the eyes off of a horrible car accident. You´ll find a Hitler story at least every other week or so on the cover of one of the important German weekly magazines. And sometimes, I get the impression that there´s a law requiring our German news channels to broadcast WW II documentaries on a daily basis after 10:00 pm.

To make things worse, there is a well-developed “self-abashment industry” that includes a big chunk of the (far) left-wing journalists in this country. I suspect that – out of utterly low self-regard (and even less self-compassion…) – their greatest pleasure and joy lies in trying to prevent other people from discovering and developing those qualities within themselves. Where foreign newspapers start to write really nice things about “Ze Germans” (please see the Washington Post, the Guardian, and ForeignPolicy.com for current examples), those poor creatures desperately try to find something to grouse about while the rest of the nation is busy celebrating “Jogis Jungs” (Jogi´s Boys).

This morning, they finally found the fly in the ointment so they could raise their priggish fingers: While stepping onto the stage in Berlin, a group of – most-likely dead-tired and hung-over German players – engaged in a dance/song that (in an utterly harmless manner that you´ll find in every German soccer stadium on any given Sunday…) lampooned the Argentinian players for ten seconds or so. The leftist press now tries to talk that up to a #Gauchogate – invoking images of the “Master Race” humiliating the rest of the “free world”.

Dear German self-abashment complex (including the political correctness thought police…): Even the British yellow press starts to really like the Germans. Maybe you want to join them?

I am not proud to be German. That´s bullshit. But I am proud of “our boys” – and how hard they´ve fought and suffered for their title. And I´m proud of my fellow Germans, seeing how they have supported and cheered for the team over the past five weeks, and how they have suffered vicariously by the millions in front of their TV screens and the countless public screenings.

We must never forget. But it´s time to forgive. And that includes ourselves.

We must never forget. But it´s time to forgive. And that includes ourselves. My son is 20 month old now. He was born 67 years after the war. I will work hard to make sure that he can grow up unaffected by that shadow of the past.

SCHLAAAAAAND!