(Un)healthy skepticism

Kenne mer nit, bruche mer nit, fott domet – loosely translated as “Don’t know dat. Don’t need dat. Get it outta here.” A well-known figure of speech in the dialect spoken in the Rhineland. The German fear (Angst) of change. Too much, too fast. A never-ending story.

Especially the older and well-established generations are skeptical of any change. Skepsis is then passed down from one generation to the next, ankering itself deep into the German psyche.

The digitalization of the economy. The move away from fossil fuels to natural energy sources such as wind. A free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States. These and other topics are ever-present in the media, triggering in many Germans feelings of worry. “Why should we change things which have worked for us over the past decades?”

A good example is the reluctance in Germany to make necessary changes in education. “Why should we all of sudden put computers and tablets in the classroom? Do we really need new media in all areas of society? Let’s first take a step back and analyze it carefully. No hasty decisions!”

While the Germans in their ministries and commissions are studying the issue other countries are moving ahead rapidly and preparing themselves for the digital world.

Often, when it comes to reacting to change, Germany, the Land der Dichter und Denker – literally the country of poets and thinkers – falls into a kind of lethargy, of Schockstarre – shock + numbness.

There is nothing wrong with being skeptical about change. It is often difficult, however, for the German people to find the right balance between pessimism and optimism.