“The Culture Onion” or “Looking For Heroes”

A  Splitter of #pmcamp11

Eberhard talked about it at the PMcamp11. He drew a picture of it on a flipchart. Heiko (bartlog in Twitter) took a picture and I rather liked it. The Culture Onion. Here it is! A very spontaneous comment.

You find the explanation of Kulturzwiebel in the projekt-(B)LOG of Dr. Eberhard Huber.

“The deeper you cut into it, the more your eyes will water”

These words spoken by Eberhard remain in my memory.

I immediately had to think of the Federal Republic of Germany before and after 1990. Bonn and Berlin. And the no-longer-existent German regional corporations.

Germany. At times, it was an empire, at other times it was a republic. Named to last a thousand years, or according to a serial number or after an unimportant place.

Now I will peel my “German Onion“.


The colours of our ensigns come to mind. There is a symbolic meaning to our crests and to the sound and words of our national anthems. Black-Red-Gold or Black-Red-White. Both make me depressed. The top is black, the middle is red, the bottom is light. There are certainly ways to combine colour in a more friendly way. The Federal Eagle does not attract me. Instead, it tends to make me afraid.


I have to think of our German rituals – which I never particularly liked. How strange that, all of a sudden, the Pigor song “Grumpy Retired Persons Abroad“ comes to mind. (here is the full text with parts of the audio tape).

Values and Norms

Then I went to look for our values. What exactly are the, the German values? Order, diligence, punctuality, precision? Virility? Always knowing everything better? Clumping through history! I do not know. A wave of desperation hits me.

I have to think of an evil, terrible sentence: Lithe and lissom, fast like the greyhound, as unbreakable as leather, tougher than coffin nails. We used to be a superrace, that is how we were supposed to be at the time. I am more than happy that I was not around when it all happened.

How often is it that we want to better ourselves? Many years ago, I heard it in more places than just at home: We want you to have a better life than we have today. Today, we are well off. Basically, all that is missing is that the Non-Impairment of Vested Goods be made part of the Federal Constitution.
Or is the competence to organize perfectly one of our values?

I would wish for civil courage and constructive disobedience. But we have not yet reached that stage. The soldier’s discipline is still worth more than the respect you feel towards a deserter.

Basic Assumptions

Well, I think it is better for me not to start talking about the basic assumptions I was forced to learn during my socialization phase.


So here I am now talking about heroes. Let me think. So who are my German heroes?

Einstein? To be sure, he was a hero. Goethe, Schiller, Kleist. Nietzsche? Well, I think Goethe was OK. But Schiller or Kleist? And Nietzsche – between genius and insanity. Certainly a great man. But was he a hero?

Then I have to think of the great composers. We have plenty of them, don’t we?

Or is it more our politicians. Like Adenauer aund Brandt? Or Kohl and Genscher? Or maybe Schmidt and Schiller (I do not mean the author)? But none of them are heroes.

Marx and Lenin weren’t heroes, either. Was Lenin German? Ulbricht and Honnecker certainly were, but they were no heroes. I am looking for real heroes. Perhaps I will get lucky with the German Emperors. Or how about Bismarck and Clausewitz. Well, I am not sure. They are not my favourite heroes.

So I decide in favor of soccer. Now that is something typically German, isn’t it? Fritz Walter, Uwe Seeler and Beckenbauer. Maybe I should include Morlock. No. I think I would rather include Helmut Haller, because he is from Augsburg (like me).

But basically, they are no heroes, either. So I must continue looking for others …

I take a look at the engineers. After all, we are the country of engineers. We had Hahn, Porsche and Messerschmidt? No. I prefer the intellectuals. I rather like Carl Amery, not so  Günter Grass.
Comedians! That is it. I am looking for a comedian as a national hero. Loriot? Perhaps. Valentin and Polt do not sound a bad choice to me, but they are Bavarian heroes. We are looking for German heroes. Unfortunately, the same is true for Jörg Hube, the great Bavarian actor. A Bavarian who was born at the wrong place.

But stop. I will take an entrepreneur. How about Quandt, Henkel or Hopp&Plattner. No  – they are not a fit.

Suddenly I remember: we also have women! I am going to look for a female hero! Now I am disappointed in myself. So far, all I mentioned were men! I am sure there must be a German female hero. I think harder and harder. An Ice princess? Frau Witt? Or Claudia (Schiffer). No, they cannot be my female heroes.

Probably the greatest German heroes are still an adventurer and his friend: Old Shatterhand (alias Kara ben Nemsi) and Winnetou. To be sure, they never existed, but at least they were invented by a German!

I have to think of José Rizal, a national hero from the Philippines. He was a true hero. At one time, I spent a long day in Manila, waiting for the connecting flight in the evening. A local gentleman told me what I really had to see before leaving. And he even took me to the museum of the national Philippine hero. I rather liked José Rizal. I was truly imipressed to see how famous and much-loved he is. And how the people in Manila (Maylina) really like him. A true and the only national hero. And a really good one, at that. Even I would agree. But unfortnataly, I speak no philipino.

Well, the culture onion had the effect of reminding me of José Rizal. Isn’t it strange how we come to think of one thing or another. Thank you, Eberhard.

(Translated by EG)

For more on the cultural onion, see the blog of Dr. Eberhard Huber (on twitter, you can find him as @Team_im_Projekt).

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