What is the disadvantage of being human

The benefits and disadvantages of home for life

"Ubi bene, ibi patria"? Why do we still need a home in a globalized world in which migration is becoming more and more the norm and where the place of residence is less and less the same as the place of birth? The image of roots, wrote Salman Rushdie in his novel “Shame and Shame”, is a myth that is supposed to tie people to their places of origin, while migrants have learned to overcome gravity. Not only a look at the new blog “Thinking about Heimat”, but also many other public debates in recent years show that interest in Heimat is not diminishing, but is still booming despite - or perhaps because of - current challenges.

If you look at when the homeland movement began to flourish in the German-speaking area, a connection with industrialization, urbanization and the growing dominance of capital interests emerges. Was home in this constellation just a compensation space that promised a refuge from the unreasonable demands of modernity? Did the idealization of Heimat spring from a defensive reflex against all manifestations of modernity, which since the First World War has contributed to the xenophobic, ethnic-racist and anti-Semitic charge of ideas about Heimat? Or wasn't the commitment to “homeland security” just a means of balancing the demands of acceleration and shrinking space, of mass society and the commercial interests of the market, of controlling them and bringing them into harmony with social interests?

The fact that the term home was and is used in very different contexts depends on his Openness of meaning together. It can stand for origin, childhood memories and tradition as well as for the acquisition and creation of a new home. He can describe the lost place that only appears in dreams, as well as in Rafik Schami's “Die Sehnsucht der Schwalbe” a dreamed place that becomes a real home. It can stand for the small area of ​​the immediate living environment as well as for a nation or for communities without specific spatial ties. It can be exclusionary if what is traditional and one's own identity are to be sealed off from outside influences and intruders, but it can also have an integrative effect by offering people of different origins a space to feel at home.

As different as the associations that are associated with the term “home” are, most people who use it have a positive connotation. But that is precisely what makes him susceptible to instrumentalization of any kind. “Heimat sells” - in product advertising as well as in popular culture and politics. The fact that Heimat had served the National Socialists to make their idea of ​​a homogenized national community attractive to the Germans and to mobilize them for their racist and imperialist policies did not prevent the German communists after 1945 from claiming Heimat for themselves and using a nation-specific concept of Heimat propagate, which should encourage the GDR citizens to socialist construction and to identify with their new state. For democratic parties, too, it is still tempting to make use of various homeland associations in order to win the favor of the electorate. If, for practical reasons alone, it is primarily about integration, the concept of home propagated by the new right-wing populist, “identitarian” movements is geared towards exclusion and the defense of an occidental cultural identity that is supposedly threatened by oriental migrants.

While home is being reforged into a political battle term here, with recourse to well-known arguments, we are only at the beginning of answering the question of what perspectives an integrative home term can offer in a society shaped by migration. Most of the refugees who immigrated to Germany in the last two years wanted to escape the threats and persecution in their countries of origin, not to find a new home, apart from the fact that in most languages ​​there is no synonym for the vague German term home. The experience of all migrant societies corresponds to the fact that in many cases there is a prospect of remaining after fleeing. These experiences also include the fact that migrants, even when they integrate, develop new social networks and thus create a home in their new place of residence, always remain connected to their old home. With the modern electronic means of communication it is now possible without any problems to stand with your feet in Berlin and with your ears in Damascus.

In view of a world that is increasingly characterized by mobility, it would therefore be appropriate to pluralize the term “home”. That would not only make it easier to concede everyone to have several homes, but also to sharpen the awareness that the term “home” is a container that can be filled with completely different contents, but that those who want to sell their ideas of home as the only true ones, must be examined particularly critically. To come back to the initial question: Heimat is just as relevant today as it was in the beginnings of the Heimat movement at the end of the 19th century. After the experiences in the “age of extremes” we are called more than ever to oppose an ideological appropriation of the term.