Regression to the middle is what psychologists call the tendency to fall back into old patterns after a shock. This applies not only to individuals, as it turns out, but also to parties and entire nations.
I was with the wine growers in the Ahr Valley. The winegrowers’ association had invited me to its annual meeting. I should say a few encouraging words about the political situation. My specialty: getting something cheerful out of the fright.
I can only recommend a visit to the Ahr to anyone who despairs of Germany. It is impressive what love of homeland, solidarity and perseverance can achieve. You can still see the traces of the devastation everywhere. But the construction work is surprisingly far advanced.
I don’t know if I would have found the strength to start all over again after the disaster. The water was eight meters high. At lunch, the person sitting next to me told me that a car suddenly got stuck in her window on the first floor. Others had the neighbor’s oil tank in the garden. What was upstream had made its way through the water.
The stench was the worst, the winegrowers said. When the water finally cleared, an oily sludge lingered, contaminating everything it touched. To this day, the ground floor in many houses is uninhabitable because the oil seeped into the walls.
One would assume that the authorities would do their part to make life easier for the suffering people. What do you think when you have the announcements from summer 2021 in mind. But if that were the case, we wouldn’t be in Germany.
The region is famous for its wine. The vines reach to the road. This has been the case for hundreds of years. Now it means: The lower ten hectares must give way to create a protection zone. Someone in Mainz has calculated that the vines cause a backwater when the tide is high.
When I asked the chairman of the winegrowers’ association by how many meters the vines had contributed to the flooding, he said: 1.5 centimeters, arithmetically. I thought he was joking. But he didn’t feel like joking, as I soon found out.
This is German thoroughness: we save 1.5 centimeters in the next eight-meter flood. For this we sacrifice the livelihoods of people who survived with a bang. If I were a winegrower, I would take a flail and storm into the state capital. Luckily I’m only a journalist.
We are dying of our bureaucracy. It’s inevitable. I see no way out. Our obsession with regulation is a noose that keeps tightening. Nobody can do anything about it, not even the politicians who promise to remedy the situation.
I don’t blame the bureaucrats. They may even find what they are instructing absurd. After all, there are no stupid people who work in the office. They are also not malicious or take pleasure in tormenting those around them. They just want to do their job conscientiously. And if the task is to ensure water protection or flood prevention, then they just jump on it.
In the “Zeit” there was a report about nurses from the Philippines. We desperately need people to help with care. There are currently 20,000 vacancies. By 2030, it is estimated that 500,000 such professionals will be needed. In the Philippines, they have specialized in nursing. There are universities where you can acquire a corresponding bachelor’s degree. The applicants even speak German because they have also completed language courses at the same time.
A perfect match, one would think: we have the positions, in the Southeast Asian country they have the staff. It could be so easy if it weren’t for the regulators. In the responsible district governments, they have calculated that the Filipinos spent only 1776 hours in practical training during their studies – and not the required 2500 hours.
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“The basis for comparison for training that was acquired abroad is the respective training and examination regulation of the corresponding regulated reference occupation in Germany,” it says. In English: better no nurses than cutting back on the number of hours. In Canada, Australia or Great Britain, the Philippine degree is recognized without any problems. They also urgently need nurses there, which is why many of the nurses who wanted to come to Germany are now moving to Canada or Australia.
It goes on like this. A friend of mine has thought about becoming a teacher. She would enjoy it. She works in the human resources department of a large German company, but she would like to do something else. She would be willing to give up her salary for that.
Then she asked what you have to do to become a teacher. She heard that career changers were wanted. She graduated with honors in business administration and law. But that doesn’t count. Nothing works without a state examination and legal clerkship. Where would we be if we let people loose on our children who have practical experience and enjoy teaching?
Would you like another example? Germany is looking for 100,000 educators. In many places, daycare centers are therefore closed, or parents have to pick up their children earlier than work actually allows. There is a legal entitlement to a daycare place, it is not like that. We are great at writing laws. Unfortunately, we’re not that big when it comes to filling the beautiful plans with life.
My children go to a private day-care center so the rules can be less strict. One supervisor is from Wales, another from Thailand. I didn’t ask about the qualifications, but I would be surprised if the non-German educators had all the certificates. What they may lack in state-approved qualifications, they make up for in love and care.
I have never heard any complaints from my children. But maybe I’m too careless. The next time I hear the word “Zeitenwende” I have to laugh hysterically. I’m a skeptic by profession. When someone says that everything is going to be very, very different now, I think: let’s see. But the fact that we don’t make any preparations to adapt to the changed reality does amaze me.
Psychologists call regression to the middle the human tendency to return to the old ways after the initial shock. This applies not only to individuals, as you can see, but also to large organizations such as parties.
The Greens are going through with their energy transition, despite the fact that the business basis has changed fundamentally with the loss of Russian gas. SPD continues to rely undeterred on the concept of trade through change. As a morning gift on the chancellor’s trip to Beijing, Olaf Scholz brought with him the sale of 24.9 percent of the Port of Hamburg to the Chinese state-owned company Cosco.
At the beginning of the week it became known that the Chancellery, against all odds, also advocated the entry of the Chinese into the chip company Elmos. The technology is outdated and the Chinese can’t do anything with it, it is now said to calm people down. But if nothing can be done with it, why do the Chinese want to buy from Elmos? I have a number of prejudices against the Chinese. That they’re jerks isn’t one of them.
The aim is to present the German arguments to the Chinese in order to get them to think, is the statement on the Chancellor’s trip to China. I picture the Federal Chancellor meeting the Chinese President, who says after a long, trusting conversation: “I have listened to the arguments of our German friends. You have convinced me. Today we will end our support for the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and make human rights and climate protection a priority in the ten-year plan.”
It will happen, I’m sure.
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The readers love him or hate him, Jan Fleischhauer is indifferent to the least. You only have to look at the comments on his columns to get an idea of how much people are moved by what he writes. He was at SPIEGEL for 30 years, and at the beginning of August 2019 he switched to FOCUS as a columnist.
Fleischhauer himself sees his task as giving voice to a world view that he believes is underrepresented in the German media. So when in doubt, against the herd instinct, commonplaces and stereotypes. His texts are always amusing – perhaps it is this fact that provokes his opponents the most.
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