Why the Duality? or What is it with German History?

Ok, so having spent the past week in Germany, I now have a better understanding of the history and actions from this part of the world. Or at least I thought I did.

I started to understand things in a nice, and safe, dualistic way. Things were not like this, they are rather like that. Problematic areas of Germany’s past are expressed in one way or another, and just when I started falling into one area of the dualistic divide, another notion hit me that helped shatter it and illustrate how the rhizome moves and undulates. Let me explain.

As I continue to process our #rhizo15 experience, and particularly when considering various forms of #rhizomatic learning across variations in contexts, worldviews, and histories, I thought I began to appreciate the German habit of following the rules. After all, have rules that are fair and consistent, and what could be better?

That is, until we perceive them from a different perspective.

A tour guide we met emigrated to Germany many years ago, and told us a story that happened recently. He returned home one Saturday afternoon to find a note on the floor, inside his apartment, alerting him to the game t that the police entered his apartment, when nobody was at home, to do a 5 minute security scan. Heading down to the police station to inquire and ultimately complain about this, he was told there was a complaint about there being a gun in his apartment. You see, in Germany it is a No-No to have guns, so the neighbor’s complaint followed the letter of the law. The only problem, thus far, is this person’s son had a gun, one that was quite evidently a plastic toy.

This is where it got interesting for me, as the guide commented that he felt the police overstepped their boundaries when they entered and searched the apartment for the offending weapon, only to leave with nothing. He contended this action typified a German infatuation with laws, reporting on one’s neighbor for infractions, and a zealous use of policing. Sounds, perhaps, a bit like much of modern German history?

It certainly did for this person, though I found myself pausing to think of this story from a different perspective (or two). German gun control is somewhat different from that in the U.S., where guns are even sold at Wal-Mart, but my musing left me with more questions than answers.

  • Is the issue mainly one of nosy neighbors or concerned citizen?
  • Could somebody really mistake a plastic toy gun with a real one?
  • To what limits can the authorities move to enforce laws?
  • How somebody be offended when another person contacts the police to help make the neighborhood safer?
  • To what extent does this person’s experience, as a somewhat recent resident (almost 20 years) affect his experiences now (as he came from an oppressive regime)?
  • How do my own experiences of guns, police, laws, and travel affect my own reading of this situation (not to mention how tired I was at the time, overwhelmed after a tour of a Concentration Camp, recent considerations of alternative ways of learning and knowing, etc.)?

For me, the take-away was not my reaction, of agreement or disagreement or anything else. Instead, I found myself thinking beyond the dualism of simple yes or no answers. Perhaps that is the trap of dualism: questions are often only phrased to expect a yes or nothis or that answer. In fact, life is often quite a bit more complicated than a duality suggests. A Yes or No may be easier to box in our understandings, but do they really express the complexities of our experiences or beliefs?

As a lifelong learner and educator, what does all this mean when I teach or learn . . .