Rich Americans are selfish and ruthless

opinion : Are Americans socially cold egoists and gun freaks?

“Role model Joker?” From July 25th

Doesn't society itself, with its Batman, Rambo, and Terminator idols and glorifications of violence, provide the models for what subsequently erupts in rampages like the cinema in Aurora? A country in which there is practically no social conscience, no authority that urges moderation and pause, in which nefarious Wall Street actors can do what they want, in which violence, cunning, shamelessness, greed for profit are part of everyday life, in which irresponsible politicians lie and manipulate people in which there is no real opposition to denounce these shortcomings, in which there are only iPod, cell phone, flat screen and talk show truths. A society in which only those who have ruthlessly pushed themselves to the top count? A society as a set for egomaniacs, crazy, ice-cold, cynical gamer professionals? Instead of dealing with these questions, one deals with the weapons law, the most brutal possible form of non-clarification, with effective media coverage. Probably more out of fear that a fundamental discussion about the state of American society could be started.

Wolfgang Gerhards, Berlin-Tempelhof

Much about America is alien to us Germans. And some things do not become more understandable even on closer inspection. This includes the gun law. It is the downside of an excessive freedom from state tutelage. In view of the accumulation of fatal shootings with many dead - most recently in a cinema in Colorado and in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin - many Americans also want an open discussion as to whether there should be more hurdles to buying weapons and better controls, so psychologically Ill get weapons not so easily. But even if horror spreads after such tragedies, a clear majority is against the fact that the state makes access to weapons more difficult for citizens who are not guilty of anything wrong.

The right to own weapons is as sacred to Americans as is the right to many Germans to drive a car without a speed limit. In German road traffic, there are deaths from speeders or jostlers - and most people abroad it is similarly incomprehensible why the Germans would rather accept that than introduce a nationwide top speed. The right to own weapons has constitutional status and goes back to the time of the settlement of the then still wild West, when there were no law enforcement officers in many areas who could have enforced a state monopoly on the use of force.

Given the current situation, I share the criticism. However, this does not apply to all other key words in the letter to the editor. In the USA there is supposedly "virtually no social conscience"? Americans donate nine times as much as Germans to social and charitable causes. They also do more voluntary work for the socially disadvantaged, paint their apartments with fresh paint free of charge, donate food and clothing. So do bankers, investment managers, and other super-rich. In a self-respecting company, one of the criteria for promotion is that employees do social work.

The USA should be an elbow society in which only those who ruthlessly fight their way up counts? Most Germans who have lived there would categorically disagree. Americans are generally extremely helpful and open to fellow human beings. The everyday tone is friendlier than in Germany. Certainly the income disparities are greater than in Europe. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the majority of Americans see this as a problem. Amazingly, as a rule, more than 50 percent are against higher taxation of the rich - although only a small percentage are rich. The majority distrust the state and believe that it is not handling taxpayers' money sensibly. Compared to Germany, it is noticeable that many Americans have a much greater confidence in the private sector. The conclusion that those who are successful are likely to have done a lot of things right in life.

You might think that this is due to indoctrination and lies and because “there is no real opposition”? No, it's not like that. In the USA, the dispute between the political camps is much more intense than in Germany. The diversity of opinion in the media is wider than in this country. Of course, there are also many views that you or I do not like.

It is not my intention to gloss over America. I too am appalled by the shootings and the gun law. I would add other criticisms that you did not mention, such as the death penalty and the use of energy. Conversely, Germans can learn a lot from the USA: more personal responsibility, less state. It is worth looking carefully and differentiating.

- Dr. Christoph von Marschall, America correspondent for the Tagesspiegel, Washington

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