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About Promises by HILDE JACOBS

Whenever I come across an article or a comment in the Internet written by a person from Pakistan concerning the Germans and their brave, disciplined and tidy behaviour in whatever subject matter, I feel uncomfortable. True, I am a German by birth, but I have visited quite a lot of foreign countries, always valuing as the saying goes “other countries – other habits”. The easygoing way of life, the “I’ll get there, when I get there” view of life, especially in South European and Oriental countries make me feel free and cheerful, if it does not get out of control. Sometimes I like to flee the somewhat cool and controlled way of life, which we Germans are known for far and wide.

It is a fact that the citizens of some countries understandably still hate the Germans concerning the two world wars, specially the persecution and killing of innocent people in the name of Hitler’s racial laws in WW II. Although I was a little child when the WW II started and thus have not done harm to anyone, I feel ashamed of most of our ancestors for not having resisted the ideology of the Nazis who were torturing and murdering political opponents. To my opinion, people in Pakistan should consider this dark side of our history as well.

At the same time, I feel embarrassed for the simple reason that we were not left alone in our post-war development and it was not merely our own merit to rebuild our country after WW II. The allied helped us to fight against hunger and cold (not wholly altruistic, indeed!) by dropping care packets from the so-called “Rosinenbomber” during the post-war period. No doubt, it is true, we managed to get back on our feet in a short space of time and suddenly there was the “Wirtschaftswunder” i.e. economic miracle, for which we were envied a lot. However, much time has passed since then; economics have gone down in Germany, and resulting in poverty and homelessness for the “losers” of an unjust social system meaning the gap between the poor and the rich is becoming larger and larger.

Still we Germans are admired ever since being brave, disciplined and tidy. Still many hype us in their articles and comments and – to put it straight – I must commit that in some respects I agree with their chorus of praise. I agree albeit just for the fact that in Germany, a promise is a promise and it is mostly kept even without a written contract. As critical as I assess the present political situation and established reputation of Germany, on the other hand I have to appreciate the fair game in regard of promises over here, be it due to our discipline or just for our understanding of honour to rely on each the other.

Being used to this habit of keeping one’s word, I am highly irritated by the carelessness with given promises by some friends in Pakistan. Their unbelievable reckless handling of promises given to close and enduring friends is puzzling me largely. To give an example I just recall a friend’s promise: „As soon as I have finished the great task of translating a book of Rumi into English I will answer your long E-Mail consisting of several questions”. The promise was given about one year ago, and I am still waiting for its fulfilment. Furthermore, he promised to send me the translation of the book the moment he would finish it, quite aware of my loving Rumi’s writings. However, nothing of the sort happened so far.

Similar occurrence transpired recently when I happily finalized my – as I supposed – long awaited (online) book. After informing all friends who once were yearning to read my Story “Orient meets Occident” I expected to meet with a positive response, a kind of cheering, “great! At last we are able to read your story! “– but alas! No such thing happened; instead, I just waited in vain for orderings, and to make things worse, most of them did not even send me feedbacks of my E-Mail containing the good news.

The justifications were quite different: From “I have no time now, will open the link tomorrow” (but “tomorrow” never appeared!) via “PC too slow!” to “Can’t pay the fee!” to “Don’t like E-Books!” to finally “People don’t read books anymore, do they?”.

Sure, some of my friends are out of pocket, considering the delivery charges. However, even those who could afford and those who were well educated thus living in good financial terms, let alone all those residing abroad holding a good job did not show interest in my book anymore.

Reflecting my own interest in books, I decided to read the online book “Towards a New Culture” by the German author, historian and psychoanalyst Dieter Duhm, which originally is written in German. It was published as a real bound book. However, being very fascinated by his writings and his commitment for a Life in Love generally, I read the English version from beginning to end – online, as I said before. Well, sitting in front of the PC for hours, reading page after page is exhausting, no doubt. But who prevents me from having breaks? I bore this extra burden for the sake of English-speaking people, to share it, to discuss it, to let them take part in the very interesting plea for new ways of living on love. I did not hesitate to do it for reasons of solidarity with my English-speaking friends. Now I wonder: why is this act of solidarity so difficult to achieve for my dear Pakistan friends regarding my online book?

If they are praising the Germans truly on behalf of their brave, disciplined and tidy behaviour, then why don’t they try to get along the same way in some respects?  Residing in Pakistan many years ago I was so very fascinated by various customs and habits – for example fasting in the month of Ramadan – that I could not resist achieving them. I was always in the right mood to join my Pakistan relatives and friends in adopting their habits! Even living here in Germany again I now accommodate myself to some Pakistan/Muslim habits, i.e. wearing Shalwar Kameez, eating hot spiced food and learning the Urdu language (however, not very successful – without a teacher!), just to name but a few.

Quite a lot of my friends in Pakistan lamented from time to time “circumstances are getting worse in Pakistan! We can’t trust anybody anymore!” — As sorry as I feel regarding the difficult way of life over there, the more I feel sad about the fact that most of the citizens in Pakistan do not finally aspire to strive for an easier way of life. Again I appeal to them to get active in whatever way is possible instead of just admiring and respecting the German way of brave, disciplined and tidy behaviour. The first and most important step to success might be keeping to promises whatsoever because sturdiness and honesty are the fundamental basis for a better life. Showing the world that “Yes, we can achieve progress!” will create admiration and astonishment. The rest will follow.

HILDE-HABIBA JACOBS IS A WRITER AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST BASED IN GERMANY. 

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