Germany – Berlin
Germany at the dawn of 2018
Report of a Listening Post held in Berlin on 9 January 2018
PART 1: THE SHARING OF PREOCCUPATIONS AND EXPERIENCES
In this part, the Listening Post participants were invited to identify, contribute, and explore their experiences in their various social roles, be they: in work, unemployed or retired; as members of religious, political, neighbourhood, voluntary or leisure organisations; or as members of families and communities. This part was largely concerned with what might be called, ‘the stuff of people’s everyday lives’: the ‘socio’ or ‘external’ world of participants.
PART 2: IDENTIFICATION OF MAJOR THEMES
In Part 2, the aim collectively was to identify the major themes emerging from Part 1.
Theme 1: The bright and the dark side of the moon
This picture puts the negative references to the characteristics of our society such as mechanization, superficiality and self-centeredness in relation to positive expressions of helpfulness, willingness to change and solution orientation. Joining element is the group that includes both sides.
Theme 2: Surf-riders and dancers on the volcano
To this topic belong the expressions of powerlessness towards developments that are overwhelming, being left alone by politics and marginalized feelings because of anxiety and loneliness. In the discussion, fears of real threats were voiced such as poverty, violence and unjust distribution of resources, as well as fears of violence in the close neighborhood and of the anxiety of those who threaten others. The image also expresses that wealth and selfishness in our society covers hidden or far away conflicts. This was also formulated as: The world comes to us if we do not turn ourselves to it.
Theme 3: Pulling horse wished for (Zugpferd gewünscht)
This topic summarizes the discussions that express the will to concrete changes and improvements. That means not only actively looking to the bright side, but also strengthening it and seeing our own mistakes.
It was critically asked if we are looking for a leader and a hero. Although in the first part of the discussion also the word “hero” fell, and in the second part it was formulated that we are looking for “inspiring role models”, and in the third part we intensively discussed about religion – the majority of the group agreed that what was meant were pragmatic and practical ways of finding solutions, courage and confidence. Or in other words, finding “the hero within us”. One participant recalled the well-known poem of Bonhoeffer “By loving forces silently surrounded” [„Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben“, s.b.] as a search for the light, the power and help; but in the midst of a very deep darkness. Bonhoeffer was killed on 09.04.1945 in the concentration camp Flossenbürg.
PART 3: ANALYSIS AND HYPOTHESIS FORMATION
In Part 3, the participants were working with the information resulting from Parts 1 & 2, with a view to collectively identifying the underlying dynamics both conscious and unconscious that may be predominant at the time; and developing hypotheses as to why they might be occurring at that moment. Here, participants were working more with what might be called their ‘psycho’ or ‘internal’ world: their collective ideas and ways of thinking that both determine how they perceive the external realities and shape their actions towards them.
As in the group discussion in the first part, the participants also in the analysis in the second made part a gradual turn from the negative view of others and the lack of help and helpers to the more differentiated view of what is achievable through self-authorization and collaboration. It is a movement from the dark side to the bright side, from the global to the local, from fear and anger to action, from viewing the narrow thinking of others to viewing their intuition and understanding.
The image of dancing on the volcano and riding on waves could be an image of the awareness of our fear and anger, which can ingest us, but which we want to ignore in order to act. This was also expressed in the “metadiscussion” about experimenting in the listening post: Is it fruitful to work with metaphors or is something lost by using them und not sticking to the spoken word? The group was inclined to regard metaphors as useful. Maybe this was an expression that we know there are things in the background which are uncomfortable, but because of there existence we want to be able to act.
Because we see the dark sides of society directed against the community and know that they can destroy, we are forced, but also willing, to use our collective abilities to strengthen the bright side, even if doing so we ignore some of the existing anger.
The discussion in the group was somehow integrative. The group consisted of different circles that did not know each other: old and new participants, with many or few acquaintances, couples and individuals, and it was relatively large (15). Despite this, a friendly mutual interest arose, everyone spoke. The evening started with thanks for listening and not interrupting, ending with the comment that something is missing in the round, namely young people. One could see a desire for inclusion. We want to create a community, are grateful that we are admitted ourselves and want to involve others who are not in yet. In the background there could be a fear that one could not make it into the community. Because the fear is large, we have the desire to be drawn and supported in our efforts for integration and breakup. As for example one is inspirited by the ideas of French President Macron – here the term “inspiring role models” was used. With help and support, we even discover our own “horsepower” and energies and move from a passive to an active attitude, although the activity remains precarious.
Because we know the consequences of anger and hate, which also leads to being outcaste, we want and expect ourselves to being integrative and part of the community, not least because of our history. But we also know that the integration is precarious and therefore we desire inspiration, help and support.
Convenors: Friedrich Wilhelm Lindemann, Ulrike Beland