Germany: How Culture and Politics Bring About Social Change
German history and culture are complex, and the country has been through a lot of changes, both in the past and more recently. In order to understand the cultural and political issues today, it is important to see where they have originated from and where they appear to be headed. That can also help foster social change and development, which is needed in every country in order to keep that country moving forward. Here, the political system of Germany will be addressed, followed by a cultural problem that is being seen in the present day. Once those two areas have been discussed, it will be shown how the German culture and political system can come together to create solutions to the problem, including the development of new policies and procedures. Germany has a rich history and there is a good quality of life there for many, but for those who immigrate and those who have little money, there is not enough assistance to allow them freedom or opportunity.
The Political System of Germany
The German political system is a federal parliamentary republic (Dempsey, 2011). Legislative power is vested in two governing bodies: the representative body of the regional states, and the parliament (Dempsey, 2011). The multi-party system has generally been dominated by two groups, which are the Social Democratic Party of German and the Christian Democratic Union (Dempsey, 2011). This has been the case since 1949 (Fulbrook, 1991). Even after the German reunification in 1990, the political system as laid out in 1949's constitution remained largely the same (Heckmann, 2003). There were only a few minor adjustments made to it. Germany also has a judiciary that is independent of both the legislature and the executive branch (Dempsey, 2011). Individual liberty is emphasized by the constitution, and there is an extensive catalog of civil and human rights that divides powers between state and federal, and also between executive, judicial, and legislative branches.
Right now the Christian Democratic Union is in power, with Angela Merkel as chancellor. The Social Democratic Party, after suffering an electoral defeat, has a new party chairman in Sigmar Gabriel. He may bring new ideas to that particular party in an effort to see it return to power. The recent federal elections failed to see Merkel's party reaching an absolute majority, so a grand coalition was formed with the Social Democratic Party. That made Sigmar Gabriel vice-chancellor and everyone was satisfied with the outcome -- except for outlying parties that are not strongly represented and that receive very little of the vote. While Germany has a very clear political system when it comes to how its government operates, it is less clear where its citizens are concerned. That is not so much in the form of laws and regulations, but in the form of people who need assistance.
One Cultural Problem of the Nation
Not being accepting of immigrants and/or people who have very little money is one of the cultural problems that Germany faces (A German, 2006; Meek, 2005). It is not the only one, but it is one that affects a large number of people. While some immigrants come to the country with a lot of money, and many people who live there are financially secure, it can be difficult for people who want to move to Germany permanently from other countries. Getting a visa to remain in the country for an extended period of time is not always easy, and can be unduly harsh on people who want to remain in the country but do not have a job yet and/or do not have a lot of money saved up. For those who are already German citizens but have fallen on hard times or come from poverty, there are many struggles (A German, 2006). Protests have been launched by some grass-roots organizations in an effort to get more help for people who are struggling, but so far these have been largely ineffective in the political arena (A German, 2006).
One of the main issues with this cultural problem is that change comes slowly, and many people who are already established do not feel as though they want to do anything to change the status quo. There is no need for them to do so. This is not to say that no one in Germany is concerned with the struggles faced by the "underclass," but only that it is not much of a political issue in that Germany does not want to acknowledge and recognize it as a problem (Meek, 2005). It is, naturally, easier to ignore it or to say that is it less of an issue than it really is, but that does nothing to solve the problem or help the people who are homeless or struggling. Many of those who have immigrated do not have money to return to anywhere else, and those who are German citizens and need assistance do not have the means to live for "greener pastures" of any kind in other countries. Looking the other way is part of the German culture, but it is not necessarily the best way to handle issues.
Politics and Culture Can Create Solutions
There are ways in which solutions could be created for the problem of the underclass. One of these ways would be for politics and culture to come together for the good of everyone (A German, 2006). The smaller political parties that are trying to make their voices heard may be able to shed some light on the issues with which they are struggling, and when that is the case more people will be aware of these problems. Additionally, the larger political parties could start a dialogue by acknowledging the underclass and working with society to develop goals regarding how to help them and what types of assistance they should receive (Meek, 2005). That assistance may be different for immigrants than it would for German citizens, but those are the two groups who need help the most. Until both of those groups receive some form of assistance, they are always going to be "stuck" and unable to move forward.
That is, of course, not true with everyone from those categories. Some of them are able to move forward on their own, through education or employment. Too many of them remain trapped, though, and unable to get the help they need. A grass-roots movement to make sure political parties know about the problems is a start, but it is not going to be enough to make real change happen. The only way to do that is to make sure that the political parties in power in Germany recognize the seriousness of the problem and start making changes that benefit all of society. That can come in a lot of different forms, as long as they are able to be used by the people who need them most, which are the immigrants and the underclass. Those who have enough do not need as many options for policies that will be specifically targeted to them, because they are able to care for themselves.
Policy Development Through Culture and Politics
Making policies through the merger of culture and politics is an excellent idea, but not always easy to do. Two things have to happen for policies to change through that merger. The government has to acknowledge the problem and be willing to change or create policies that will help those who need it most. Additionally, the culture of the country has to also acknowledge the problem, and become vocal enough about it that the political parties decide something must be done. Societies generally have to push for change, especially if the current system already works well for those who are in power. It is the underclass of a society that struggles, but often they do not have enough of a voice to affect change (Meek, 2005). When the rest of society begins to stand up for them and when the rest of society makes it clear that something should be done to help them, real change can begin.
Policies that would help the underclass could be based on many different things, including taxes, welfare, education, homelessness, and other types of issues that are faced by people who do not have enough money (Meek, 2005). Even being able to get enough to eat and stay in out of extreme weather matters, but those are not always luxuries the underclass has. They should, however, be basic human rights that can be used by every citizen and resident of a country, especially in times of need. Those who are not in the underclass never really know when hard times could put them there, so they should be more aware of how people in that situation handle the difficulties they face. When a government works with society to create policies, those policies are more likely to be enforced and valuable, because they will be chosen by the…