When does patriotism become immoral?

Exactly one week ago Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was delighted again at the presentation of the final balance sheet for the World Cup, saying that "Germany" was "the winner".

Ten million viewers have now seen Sönke Wortmann's football film on ARD, which once again brought summer bliss to life. But Wilhelm Heitmeyer has exactly five words left for the thesis that the country has found a "tolerant patriotism": "Dangerous nonsense, a piece of folk stupidity".

"Misanthropy" as a collective term

The head of the Institute for Conflict and Violence Research at Bielefeld University yesterday presented the new results of a long-term study on "group-related enmity" in Berlin. This somewhat cumbersome term encompasses attitudes such as xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, but also the devaluation of homosexuals, the disabled and women.

Because the core is always the same: the idea of ​​inequality of people and the devaluation of different and dispensable. The Bielefeld researchers have been surveying around two thousand Germans every year since 2002, and each year they publish their essays in a Suhrkamp volume entitled "German Conditions". The major project is financed by a consortium of foundations led by the VW Foundation. In order to be independent and “not to be silenced”, as Heitmeyer says.

In this year's fifth volume, two essays are devoted to the football frenzy and the attempts at instrumentalization by politicians. In the first article, three young scientists use long-term data to demonstrate quite convincingly that national pride leads to "outgroup devaluation". (In contrast to a differentiated, "patriotic" pride in German democracy and the welfare state, which results in lower xenophobia.)

Respondents after the World Cup were more nationalistic

Using an additional survey in August, they show that people questioned after the World Cup were "more nationalistic" than those questioned earlier. And further: "The assumption that this is a new, open and more tolerant form of identification with one's own country cannot, however, be confirmed." Because this year's "party patriotism" did not break the connection between nationalism and xenophobia.

But apparently, writes Heitmeyer himself, the "black-red-cool mood" or campaigns like "You are Germany" are an attempt to create a "surrogate anchor on fluctuating social ground". In the future, an ethnic collective should offer what the social market economy can no longer achieve: "By emphasizing the 'community of fate' with whispering depth, those members of the majority society who on the other hand have been socially disintegrated should be emotionally reintegrated."

Higher educated people are also Islamophobic

The social soil of the republic fluctuates. It is well known that income and wealth are drifting apart considerably. And economic uncertainty, according to the Bielefeld researchers, leads to the spread of "latently always present ideologies of inequality" - by no means only on the right-wing fringes, but in the middle of society.

The five volumes of the "German State" write a kind of fever curve: Xenophobia, for example, grew continuously from 2002 to 2005 and stagnated in 2006. Since 2004, researchers have separately recorded the rejection of Muslims; it has also increased this year. Only less than half (of what was once almost two thirds) of those questioned now say that Islam has "produced an admirable culture". Incidentally, simple xenophobia generally decreases with higher education, but Islamophobia does not.

The statement "homosexuality is immoral" was affirmed by 21.8 percent of those surveyed this year (2005: 16.6 percent). 30.5 percent think women should "think more about the role of wife and mother". Interestingly, the anti-Semitism values ​​recorded by the Bielefeld researchers have declined since 2002, and after the Lebanon war this summer they skyrocketed - but only to the values ​​of five years ago. Alarm calls like those from the President of the Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch, who recently felt "reminded of the time after 1933", are "irresponsible" in Heitmeyer's opinion.

The middle class is afraid of decline

Social and psychological insecurity has long since reached the pillars of society. Even among the members of the middle three-fifths (based on income), almost 50 percent are now afraid of social decline. You may not be threatened by Hartz IV, but you feel threatened. And the middle reacts to it. Their conception of justice is changing: the proportion of respondents who only want to grant state aid if something has been done in return and who refuse it to those who are complicit in their own plight has risen since 2002.

And it is becoming more hostile towards fringe groups and competing foreigners: even among those who belong to the middle, xenophobia has been rising steadily for the past five years. Thanks to the abundance of data, the researchers even tracked down causal relationships: those who complained of a feeling of disorientation in an earlier survey showed clearly more xenophobic attitudes two years later. Of course, the good citizens will not continue to use violence - but their change of opinion is dangerous for the social climate.

Heitmeyer describes the situation in "downwardly drifting" regions as "dangerous to fire", where the number of jobs is falling, incomes are lower and people are migrating. There, unsurprisingly, the feeling of disorientation is more widespread and the climate is much more xenophobic (although the proportion of foreigners is far below that of the up-and-coming areas). These regions are (slightly) below the national average in only one point: hostility towards the homeless. "Own disintegration experience", so the conclusion, "leads to a lower willingness to integrate immigrants." Excluded Germans do not show solidarity with excluded strangers, but set themselves apart from them all the more.

Bavaria stands out when it comes to xenophobia

Eastern Germany can therefore be understood as a large disintegration zone. But in a country comparison, the economically strong Bavaria also stands out when it comes to xenophobic attitudes - the Free State is above the national average (in contrast, far below the number of right-wing extremist acts of violence). In a "right-wing populism index" calculated for the first time, Bavaria even ranks third behind Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt and ahead of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony.

A good 22 percent of the Bavarians surveyed agreed with these five statements: "Crimes should be punished more severely", "In order to maintain law and order, one should crack down on outsiders and troublemakers", "There are too many foreigners in Germany", "Die Foreigners living in Germany are a burden on the social network "and" Many Jews try to take advantage of the past of the Third Reich today and make the Germans pay for it. "

Heitmeyer does not want to speculate about the reasons for this. His findings, however, coincide with a study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. At that time, the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior declined that the database was too narrow. This is different this time: The Bielefeld researchers surveyed Bavaria over the years 1001; more is not common in nationwide representative surveys.