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The Director of the Youth Institute Comments on the Progressive Alienation of the Young People in the GDR (November 21, 1988)

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– We need a very realistic relationship to the reality of mental and cultural manifestations and ongoing processes.

I think that, at high levels of leadership in particular, we do not want to realize reality with all its contradictions and new manifestations to the extent that we should.

Reports are still being whitewashed as they move “up the ladder” and information is passed on selectively.

[ . . . ]

5. On the change in mentality in the GDR

For a long time, we have already been dealing with processes of change in the consciousness and behavior of our youth. These are certainly also present in the adult population, perhaps even more distinctively, but we are not quite familiar with them.

On occasion, I have characterized these processes as changes in mentality, and I would like to interpret this expression.

[ . . . ]

I base my interpretation on the hypothesis that there is a syndrome around which the changes in mentality revolve: that is, a shift in people’s self-confidence toward a higher level of self-esteem, a stronger sense of self-determination and self-fulfillment. Such an epochal trend must necessarily lead to important changes in personality structure, in the framework of value orientation, and in behavioral patterns among the people.

I see (in the first-draft hypothesis, the matter needs further empirical verification) the following components of the “self-confidence” syndrome:

– Development of the experience of self-esteem, of demands on oneself. [ . . . ]

– Development of self-determination. [ . . . ]

Sometimes this results in exaggerated anti-authoritarian behavioral patterns. The consequences are as follows: conflict with authority figures of all type (parents, teachers, self-righteous functionaries, and media or media actors who lack credibility and offer slogans rather than realistic information); rejection of the adulation of politicians, artists, athletes (unfortunately also Katharina Witt!*), and other people; general rejection of all forms of know-it-all behavior and the cult of personality.

* Two-time Olympic gold medalist (1984 and 1988) in figure skating from the GDR – trans.

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