There should be a discussion of what it means, and should mean, that a state of all Germans – together with many newly admitted to citizenship – is emerging once again, with the requisite openness towards others and as part of Europe.
There must be an agreement about the tasks that will confront the country and its citizens now and in the foreseeable future; how a new balance must be struck between rights and duties, and what the alternatives are if this is not possible or desirable.
People must be made aware – since unification is final, be it for practical reasons – that West Germans and East Germans have a great deal to do with each other, that they form not only one people but one national economy, and that they live in the most intimate political interconnectedness. Thus they must get to know each other, must dismantle many misconceptions, must continually reexamine many false qualities, and must develop a common language and common axioms. People will have to learn that the gaining of trust in the enlarged Germany presupposes above all that the superior part extends trust to the inferior part of the country, as a result of which trust will arise between both parts. The key to inner integration is far more likely to be found in the West than the East.
People should not console themselves by saying that the equalization of East and West will take decades, that it should be left to the passage of time. It need not be that way. And it must not be that way, since too much can happen during this time, since we cannot afford the current state of helplessness and defenselessness, in the context of which the various deficiencies are becoming symptoms of a crisis. The lack of integration also makes the creation of tolerance, of security for Jewish citizens, for example (not to mention foreigners), a task in East and West.
Bonn is not Weimar, people like to say. But Bonn is also not Berlin yet. And it is only the Berlin democracy, the all-German democracy, in which we can continue to live as a productive, free, Western nation. And this democracy must still be established. Within society.
Nothing would be more inappropriate than to overlook this fact or even throw in the towel. At the very least, democracies should have the possibility of embarking upon the unusual when they are already in a fix.
Christian Meier is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Munich.
Source: Christian Meier, “Nichts trennt die Menschen mehr als die Vereinigung” [“Nothing Separates People More than Unification”], Süddeutsche Zeitung, December 31, 1992.
Translator: Thomas Dunlap