It is, in fact, this concern for the common good that many East Germans today find lacking. Wolf Wagner was right on the mark when he pointed out (taz, August 8, 1996) that West Germans have become very American. The unclouded faith in the limitless possibilities of the individual strikes me as just as naive as the basic notion that social phenomena have to be explained first of all psychologically.
After six years of unity, one suddenly realizes that this peculiar East German population is developing self-confidence instead of a sense of gratitude. Time to check and see what’s going on. And so one gets into an armored jeep and embarks on a safari into the reservation. Boldly, one looks through the binoculars and marvels: members of this species still greet one another with a handshake. And they move in hordes, even though word should have spread that it’s more profitable to set out for the watering hole alone.
Well, I guess there’s no denying it any longer: mentally, the new federal states are still part of Eastern Europe. And for forty years people there had a different relationship to sociability, to time, and to money. One of my statements, which is instantly understood in the East and just as quickly misunderstood in the West, goes like this: our capital is the experience that money is secondary.
It may well be that this sounds quite antiquated today. That’s why in the beginning I still had tremendous respect for tasks we were given, such as the modernization we had to catch up with. By now, many are beginning to suspect that a discontinued [clothing] model was foisted on them for the price of haute couture.
Nobody will take issue with Michael Rutschky (taz, August 15, 1996): the GDR was a “deeply unsatisfying way of life.” That also expresses my feelings quite accurately. But no small number of Easterners wonder how the FRG, in the form in which it was imposed on us, can be possibly perceived as satisfactory. The collapse of real socialism essentially caught the West on the wrong foot: the unexpected victory allowed the illusion to arise that the unsettled debts of history had now been settled once and for all.