Published on Current Cooncerns, by Professor Dr Eberhard Hamer, Mittelstandsinstitut (SME Institute), Hanover, Germany, No, 14 /July 2010.
The onset of the financial crisis surprised most people. And until today most people have not yet realized the importance of it.
About 50 experts in my institute published a book as early as 2002 studying the question “What to do if the crash happens”? (“Was tun, wenn der Crash kommt?”), a book, which the dominant circles among bankers, politicians, journalists and unfortunately also my scientific colleagues laughed about and dismissed as absurd. In the meantime, however, our hypothetical analysis has become reality … //
… After the crisis:
In each crisis there is a ray of hope: It does not last eternally. The last world economic crisis lasted 5 years. The corrections of this crisis won’t take much longer, perhaps less. We must thus try to get through the crisis with defensive strategies as well as possible during the next two or three years so that we will be able to reconstruct afterwards.
I don’t want to catastrophize but I want to prepare the reader for predictable developments so that the coming events won’t be suppressed but considered in due time. Only those who anticipate and accept a danger will be able to survive it.
We have to accept the identity crisis in this crisis as a challenge going beyond our self-interest, which has to do with our personal identity and the aims of our society: My generation experienced times after World War II when people were looking for new purposes in their lives. It was then that there was a sense of a new piety, the search for a life in Christian faith.
However, the Americans with the help of media manipulated by them, made it clear to us that idealistic aims were no longer on the agenda, but that our lives had to be dedicated to the achievement of prosperity and material goods. Our elite then changed from the arts into economic and technical disciplines and the economic miracle developed.
For too long a time we have however believed in prosperity as a purpose in life, even when we did no longer achieve genuine prosperity, but increasingly achieved a kind of illusory prosperity. This purpose in life of reaching material goods will now collapse in the crisis. People will realize that they stand empty-handed, having chased the wrong idol. Just like after 1945, they will be searching for a new and viable sense and purpose in life. No society can keep together without common aims. If the old aims proved to be a fallacy, the people need new ones in order to find not only the sense of their own lives, but also in order to stick together and develop the society that pursues common aims.
Where do we find the new sense of life for ourselves and for our society after the economic collapse?
We do not know this yet. 98 per cent of our people do not see the necessity for a new purpose in life yet, because they have not yet realized the crisis with the collapse of the old material values.
We therefore face two crucial questions:
• Where will we have to look for new viable purposes in life for ourselves and for our society?
• And from which groups can we expect the development of such new central ideas?
If we examine the different epochs in history and their central ideas, we will realize that there has always been a change between material and immaterial, idealistic or religious dominant ideas. The happiness of people was even more frequently considered to be immaterial than material. Remember the Gothic period, the Reformation, the Classic period, Romanticism or also the different socialist ideologies. They all saw the people’s happiness is being brought about in the realization of religious or idealistic instead of material aims. Indisputably, people can also be happy in their faith, in their idea, in the realization of personal aims, such as having a family or other immaterial aims.
When it becomes obvious, how thin and ephemeral material aims in life have become, the next central idea will probably be searched in idealistic, religious or humanitarian purposes in life. Whoever can formulate these new central ideas for our society after the collapse of materialism will be able to present a new sense in life and thus inspire people for a new beginning. Our task is thus to formulate new, non-materialistic central ideas which can show people how to live happily without prosperity.
If we think about who could develop such new central ideas, we will have to forget about the big world powers: The USA, as the export country of materialism, will implode in this crisis, will lose their empire and will be more severely hit than other countries. And China is only at the beginning of materialism, without an ethic change emerging. I assume therefore that new central ideas may be developed particularly in the classical cultural areas of Europe and India. Above all, it will happen in Europe, because Europe still owns a unique cultural variety and tradition despite all globalization and centralization tendencies.
Where however are the masterminds in Europe that can think about new central ideas, about idealistic happiness of the people and about viable ideas?
In former times, these viable central ideas for our Christian West were taken from the Christian churches. I doubt whether these still have the power for a new reformation today.
In Feudalism, new ideas and new values were predominantly developed by the upper class of the aristocracy. However, they have not only lost their function, but also their power and importance.
The middle classes remain, in particular the cultural middle classes. We owe them all the great ideas of the last 200 years. Just remember what the parsonages meant for our cultural history, for literature, philosophy and science. As a researcher of the Mittelstand, after the past 50 years of the enormous achievements of the SMEs and the entrepreneurs, I see a revival of the time of the cultural middle class – the scientists, the teachers, the artists or writers. Of all the subpopulations, they seem to be closest to new idealistic central ideas. But this would however require from our cultural middle class in Europe that it divorces the leadership and manipulation of the still materialistically oriented global media rule and gets deeper to the roots of our national education and ideas, mentally. This is the task for the best of our people, i.e. to look for a mental rise out of the economic crisis and to find new idealistic aims for the people beyond materialism.
Anyhow, it would be worth all nobles’ efforts to jointly meet such a task and adopt their new role in searching for a new central idea and the aim of the people’s happiness.
Let us understand the crisis as a chance in this sense. A lot will break down. From this collapse, however, new things will develop. It would be nice, if towards the end of the crisis a new idealistic and cultural resurgence were then developed by us and we could contribute to a new happiness of the people with new viable essential ideas. (full text).
(Translation Current Concerns).