Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lessons Learned

I woke up with the song "I'm Walking on Sunshine" stuck in my head this morning. No excuse for that. Moving on...
Thanks for all the re-assuring comments guys. I don't feel like a terrible person anymore! But let's abandon that little "episode" and keep rockin'.

Today, I had another one of those experiences where it made me feel good to be a tour guide. Like I am actually making a difference. However, the tour started out pretty boring. One thing I notice is that groups either dig ya or don't.

And this group... uh....... don't.

They were boring as hell. Most times it is actually a matter of peer pressure (as many things are). If one person is feeling good and laughs at one of my (many) lame jokes, most of the others will see it is "all right" to laugh and do so... most joyously. This group did not find me amusing. I know that Matt's schtick, so to speak, is that I am overly enthusiastic and a bit theatrical, and then I make fun of myself for it. It's how I roll. They were not digging me. No laughs. No smiles. No souls? Maybe.

But at the end of the tour, I start talking about how Germany deals with its dark history. It's a serious matter and one that makes some people uncomfortable, but probably the most important part of the tour. Today, I saw this old woman who looked kind of like a Gypsy stumble into this part of the tour. I often attract the attention of locals on my tour, but I like that and try to draw them in. She didn't look amused. "Hey lady, you can't be any worse than this group" I think.
So I start getting into the part about how Munich doesn't have huge memorials (or even slightly bigger than small memorials) dedicated to the Second World War (a much more scholorly way of saying World War II). Some say this is because Munich is trying to hide its history, but I disagree. I started talking about how 90-95% of today's Germans have nothing to do with the crimes of the Third Reich (as they weren't even alive) and how there is only so much guilt that you can burden, especially the young generation, with. Munich is looking to have many small memorials, not as the absolute center of attention, to use for rememberance and education, and is also trying to show that there is a lot more to Germany and Munich than its Nazi past.

Then the woman (remember her?) said something like "Thank you" in broken English. She seemed completely elated at the words I had just said. That made me feel great.

It got me to thinking: Modern Germany is one of the finest examples of learning historical lessons. Truly, how could they conduct themselves with any more respect and sincerity than they do now? Berlin is filled with massive memorials dedicated to their Nazi past and the nearly incredible crimes of the Holocaust (I use "incredible" in its true meaning, as meaning "beyond the realm of possibility.") Young Germans are truthfully and honestly told about their nation's crimes and instructed in how wrong it was. Munich, while not having massive memorials as the center of attention in the city, has numerous small memorials spread throughout the city to serve as a reminder of its dark past. Rememberance, education, honesty: yet not getting bogged in self-hate. That's why I love this country and these people.

It reminds me of something else. In one of John Keegan's books (a prominent military historian) he says the world is getting better. WHAT! A military historian, who writes about how we all kill each other, says that the world is gettting better?
I am paraphrasing, but he basically said that the policy of nations used to be expansion of empires with the public goal of obtaining colonies and other territorial possessions. People wanted to conquer each other.
That is not the case anymore. No (sane) country has a stated policy of expansion. The war in Iraq, you may say? Look at the outrage over it! Prime example of how people are getting, truly, more peace loving. Who wants war? Honestly, find a (sane) person who truly wants to conquer the Maldives. That idea comforts me.
Ok, the thought that economic expansion is the same as political expansion just entered my mind, and I tend to think that capitalism has brought people so close together that we realize that we are all quite similar, but that's a can of worms that I am not ready to open. Perhaps later.
Until next time!


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