Completing the initial harmony
With the decision on potential church status for the Jehovah's Witnesses the Federal Constitutional Court has perfected pluralistic religious freedom
December 23, 2000
It is no exaggeration to call the founding given by the Federal Constitutional Court last Tuesday to the Jehovah's Witnesses a milestone - a milestone for the future arrangement of the philosophical state system of the Federal Republic. In that the court overturned a decision by the Federal Administrative Court which discriminated against the Jehovah's Witnesses, it completed the constitutionally legal side of that which has long been the case: that religious pluralism goes without question in this area, too.
Officially the case was about the conditions which a religious community has to meet before it can become a "corporation of public rights." That status is enjoyed not only by the churches of the two major Christian denominations (and the Jewish so-called "de facto denomination), but in the meantime a whole set of sects and non-denominational churches, from the Mormons and Pentecostals to the Salvation Army - no Islamic community yet, of course.
The Constitutional Court has now liberated this privileged church status from the state church's last stronghold. Remnants of liberalized state churches cling mainly to the spirit of the constitution of the Weimar Republic, the religious association regulation of which has, as is known, been overtaken by Bonn's Basic Law. The essential principle of this regulation is that the state recognizes that the legacies of the state churches as well as the public rights composition that gives tax privileges, the responsibility for religious instruction in public schools, along with extensive internal autonomy. In exchange for that the state has thus far demanded from the churches a specific political "support of state" or "loyalty."
And that is yet exactly the way the preceding Federal Administrative Court decision, which denied the Jehovah's Witnesses the privilege of a "corporation of public rights," must be understood. As one knows, this millenarian sect perceives all worldly state authorities as the "work of Satan." Their obedient adherents may not take part in either political elections or in recruitment or civil service. But the "Watchtower Society" does not provide the assurance of loyalty to the democratic system required by the Federal Administrative Court, solely for that reason. The anti-social compartmentation of their communities' lives and refusal to participate in any inter-religious dialogue also speak against the democratic dependability of the sect in the eyes of the court.
What's not being taken into consideration in this is the extraordinary resistance of this completely apolitical sect against totalitarian systems: they were persecuted in the most gruesome way by the National Socialist state (a third to a half of their 20,000 to 30,000 members which they had in 1933 were arrested as "enemies of the state" and put in prisons and concentration camps, at least temporarily, and about 250 Witnesses were executed for refusing to serve in the war). They were also suppressed in the GDR since the 1950s. Only in 1990, in the last months of their existence did the GDR, turning democratic for the first time, acknowledge the Jehovah's Witnesses as a religious community.
Occident & Democracy
The Federal Administrative Court, in its judgment three years ago, refused the sect the legal title of a "corporation of public rights" without any review of specific accusations (in particular the problematic raising of children, the pressure which is used on members and refusing medical treatment with blood transfusions.) The court was concerned about the basic relationship with the state. If a religious community claims any privileges, it "can be expected that it does not, on principal, put the fundamentals of the state's existence in question."
With that the mainly Protestant-colored tradition of marriage between the church and state is continued in a certain manner. As Hegel (Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831) very beautifully once described it as "prerequisite initial harmony" in the division of work between church and state, "Religion does not have its own principles which contradict those which are valid in the state." Because of this presumed homologue, the state could confidently relinquish morality to religious management, then later quasi-fiduciarily to specific church and government organizations which have missions of welfare. And it could do that insofar as this did not endanger the political "lead culture" in any way, but on the contrary, would morally verify it.
Democracy and the popular churches first appeared in place of the older marriage between throne and altar in the 20th century, and the quasi-state role of the churches was also de-monopolized, yet they have not given up their leading image completely. That is because the oligopolist model of the Christian church as state-aligned supporter of democracy's popular culture has played a deciding role in the founding and consolidation phase of the Federal Republic: this time, thanks to Germany's division and Adenauer's preferences for a para-state front runner of the leading culture of the "Occident & democracy."
This idyll was indeed secularized, yet post-Christian homogenous "Occident" political culture, whose left-over religious identity problem is being managed by several minor state-loyal and democracy-friendly Christian churches with corporation privileges has now received a repudiation: there is no longer a pre-stabilized harmony between organized religion and a liberally constituted democracy in a multi-religious society like the FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] in the 21st century. The status of the "corporation of public rights" is now solely and uniquely a "means for the facilitation and development of the Basic Right" of religious and other freedoms.
Naturally corporation status is tied to the provision of the religious community's "state loyalty." But "state loyalty," reminiscent of the civil service law, is no longer demanded from questionable churches or groups. The "vague concept of loyalty" to the state was explicitly rejected by the Constitutional Court because it addresses the inner disposition of the faithful and not just their external behavior. Religious communities' loyalty to the state refers to this external behavior; special state-monitored thought inspections contradict a liberal democracy.
Of course this guiding decision does not mean that the 160,000 or (according to their own numbers) 190,000 members of the religious community of the Jehovah's Witnesses will actually come to enjoy the "bundle of privileges" yearned for as a "corporation of public rights." The public discussion about that and the judiciary review of accusations of deprivations of liberty can - and should - now begin properly. And the "complex prognosis" of loyalty to the law - especially as concerns raising children - will now be cleared up in the technical [as opposed to administrative] courts. And in doing so the Constitutional Court has pointed out that "not every individual violation of rights or law" can place law-abiding behavior in question.
Never again: Papists out!
The decision from last Tuesday - above and beyond the actual case of the Jehovah's Witnesses - also set liberal standards for the acknowledgment of non-Christian religious communities, most of all of Muslim groups and associations. These have failed up to now not just at the hurdle of state loyalty and faithfulness to the law, but also in the milieu of the less clearly contoured conditions of membership for the Islamic faithful.
"Religious communities" in the sense of the Basic Law do not indeed have to be a democratic organization in their internal affairs; that was re-confirmed by the judgment - otherwise we'd be again hearing, "Papists out!" But as a "part of society" different from the state they have to be definable by no uncertain criteria in order to be able to be a legal subject with public accountability. Not every spiritist self-experience group or every philosophically unscrupulous commercial enterprise has claims to the bundle of privileges held by public corporations.
The German original was written by Otto Kallscheuer
"Anybody can be sucked into a cult"
Psychologist Dieter Rohmann on the reasons why people choose psycho- or guru- movements.
August 24, 2000
Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ)
Are cult members naive, emotionally unstable people? A study done by Munich psychologist Dieter Rohmann, who has been working with members and former cult members for 16 years, contradicts this stereotype. According to his study, cult members, as a rule, are extremely ready to help others, and are sensitive, idealistic people. They often grew up in a smaller city or in the country and often have some upper level education. Most joined when between 21 and 25 years old. The basis of the psychologist's research is his survey of family members and friends of 110 cult members from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
SZ: Is there such a thing as a "typical cult personality"?
Dieter Rohmann: I don't thinks so. It can happen to anybody, being pulled into a cult. There is a suitable cult for everybody. People who have an optimistic outlook on life are, perhaps, less at risk. But cult members are not more anxious, naive or weaker than others.
SZ: In your study you speak of external factors which have to come together before someone turns to a cult. Is the cult viewed as a saving hope in a desperate life situation?
Rohmann: Apparently. Even I was surprised that most cult members, at the time they joined, were struggling with three or four problems at the same time - in personal relations, in the work place or in school. Often there was an accident or the loss of a loved one in addition to that.
SZ: The statements you have on cult members come from their parents, siblings and former friends - from people, namely, who possibly were annoyed at the person's joining the cult. How objective is such data?
Rohmann: Naturally the tales from family members are tendentious. However I have taken the attitude that people who approach me with a request for help will at least give subjectively true answers. They are well aware that if they have not filled out the questionnaire properly that I cannot help them.
SZ: Among the 110 subjects, there are just three only children. Are only children less susceptible to sects?
Rohmann: I can only explain that by saying that only children have learned how to handle themselves better. They don't absolutely need affirmation from a group. Besides that, the idea of sleeping four or five to a room is probably nightmarish to them.
SZ: Is there a gender-specific motive for entering a cult?
Rohmann: It's obvious with women that often they are trying to break out of a family situation which they perceive as cumbersome. Besides that there are often women who get along well in the life cycle of "children-kitchen-church". Men, on the other hand, often explained to their families that their motives lie in the teachings of the group.
SZ: To what extent does the church connection play a role?
Rohmann: It is only in the Christian fundamentalist groups that there are a greater-than-average number of people who regularly went to church as a child. Religious training was less heavily emphasized in the so-called guru cults and the esoteric and psycho-cults.
SZ: Is there anything that all cult members have in common?
Rohmann: Yes. The search for binding authority and for binding answers is found in the classic forms of cult which turn away from the world, as well as in the new cults which say they make people more fit for the world. Management courses with esoteric overtones are rather strongly on the rise. People ask themselves, "Is my constantly ringing cellular phone really all there is to life?" Whatever answer they get is always the right one. It is just that people have to pay attention to the people who are providing the answer and whether they really mean it seriously.
Interview: Monika Maier-Albang
Munich becomes Pharmaceutical Stronghold
Isar instead of Alster: Glaxo SmithKline moves
The largest medication company in the world sees a better location in the south
August 3, 2000
by Rudolf Boegel
So long, Hamburg! Howdy, Munich! Glaxo SmithKline, the largest pharmaceutical concern in the world, is transferring its German headquarters to the state's capitol. After "careful analysis of sites," the corporation decided to move from the Alster to the Isar River for three reasons. Munich has a high potential in the labor force, a favorable political climate reigns and there is a clear recognition of high tech and bio-tech," is how press spokeswoman Judith Kramer summarized it. Glaxo brings the sixth corporation of the world's twenty leading pharmaceutical concerns to Munich.
But that number will drop back down to five in September. That is because SmithKline Beecham Inc., which is located on Leopold Str. in Munich, has plans to merge the middle of next month with Glaxo Wellcome, as long as the cartel authorities agree. Together, the two companies will attain sales from pharmaceuticals of almost 1.8 billion marks in Germany; they employ about 3,000 staff.
How many of those will be moving to 175 Leopold Str. at first is still not clear. At the GSK, the talk is of a significant portion, whereby the pharmaceutical production will not be re-located and, also, certain administrative portions will remain in Hamburg. In Munich they figure on about 500 staff, take from that the 250 SmithKline Beecham staff who are already settled here.
"In Germany, Munich is the leading location for high-tech and bio-tech," said Glaxo spokeswoman Judith Kramer and, in saying that, referred to the good training situation in the state capitol, not only in the universities, but also in the large number of start-ups in the bio-tech sector. The nearness to start-ups guarantees that pharmaceutical corporations will continue to receive the required supply of technology. The decision to move to Munich was not easily made, therefore the analysis was conducted very thoroughly. "We keep our workers very much in mind. When one has to decide on something as momentous as re-location, things get very basic." Therefore, location details such as planning times on the part of the community were included in the studies. In doing so, Munich was probably at odds with the competition from the far north on more than one occasion.
Glaxo sees itself as a leading corporation in AIDS therapy and in treatment of those with asthma. The strengths of SmithKline, according to company statements, are in vaccines (Hepatitis A and B) and in the treatment of epilepsy.
Zero Tolerance for Esoterica
Extra-sensorial thought is currently at a high point.
A Munich congress looks for counter-strategies
July 21, 2000
by Corinna Poll
"Wholeness and worry-free in the Republic of tomorrow. Irrationality - Esoterica - Anti-Semiticism" is the entire name, and even before it started, the Congress was being strongly attacked. Hardly surprising, because the stated goal of the event this last weekend was to bring to light the "brown aura" of esoterica, the function of the esoteric explanation-model to ensure control, as well as to discuss possible counter-strategies.
But first certain obstacles had to be overcome. Various parties had tried to get the University of Munich not to make the rented rooms available to the Congress. The Dalai Lama's representative wrote the arrangers because he felt he had been disparaged by the congress' poster. And even during the event, adherents of various esoteric groups expressed outrage at the analyses of the speakers.
Colin Goldner, director of the Forum of Critical Psychology in Munich, first determined the extent to which esoteric beliefs have spread. He said that twelve million people in the German-speaking world follow these beliefs and the associated products and "services" bring sales in each year of from 20 to 25 billion marks. "Every other German believes in extraterrestrial beings, every third in UFOs, every seventh in magic and sorcery, over 35 percent think the future is foreseeable, about 20 percent believe that contact can be made with the great beyond. A survey of young people between 14 and 18 years old showed that almost every other one put faith in extra-sensory practices like pendula or crystals." No doubt: extra-sensory thought is at a high point.
One runs into esoteric ideology in every area of life - most of them are a colorful mixture of ideological, religious and cultural stage scenery of the most diverse traditions. Although many esoteric practitioners propagate something they call new thought which has never been used before: they are part of a tradition which goes way back. Ultra-reactionary, folk, racist and anti-Semitic material are interwoven with a mostly strongly hierarchical associated weltanschauung. When statements are made on publicly accessible television in the "PSI" series like, "The form which you have in your current lifetime is a consequence of how you have behaved in your last life," that means in plain language: Those who are exploited are sick, victims of rape, torture and war are, in the end, to blame for their own fate.
According to that, analyzing, much less combatting, causes is neither possible nor necessary. Misery which is alleged to have been brought upon oneself thus has its justification, and besides that, there is always the hope for a better destiny in the next reincarnation. Consequently, the Holocaust is also justified as a "payment of a Kharmic debt" by esoteric interference-runner Erhard Freitag. The claim that Jews themselves are to blame for the Holocaust is widely made in these circles.
Colin Golder has worked out a total of five central points which shows compatibility between esoteric thought and fascistoid structures: Guruism with its central, untouchable leadership figure, the doctrine of salvation with its imminent, elitist elements, a hierarchical model of organization, forms of permanent indoctrination and a rabid dealing with critics.
Peter Kraz of the Berlin Institute for Research on Fascism (BIFF) has patterned a hypothesis after that of Georg Lukacs which states that the condition and chance of irrationality lie ultimately in the non-comprehension of reality. In times of political and economic upheaval, with their increasing social tensions, it is primarily the disappointment over unkept promises which favor the change of direction to irrational concepts. The 1990s were marked by the deconstruction of the social system and a massive bottom-up redistribution. The ever-increasing battle of competition is accompanied by a (renewed) debate over eugenics and euthanasia, which happens to play a big role in the esoteric scene.
And that's not all: according to Kratz, at least five members of the federal government have connections in the esoteric scene. He had earlier pointed out connections of the government parties to the irrational, brown swamp. In a current article (12/96) Kratz determined that the German Parliament's Enquete Sect Commission was firmly in the grip of rightwing sects. "Members of the Enquete Commissioner were speaking in favor of restricting civil liberties and they would like to get a grasp on religion competition, which has previously not been controlled, because the function of the newly awakened religiosity as a superstructure to social detriment is too important for one to leave the spiritual models up to chance. In looking at it more closely, the Commission appears to be a field experiment to collect reactionary, ideological developments which will be needed in the coming times of mass poverty." He said its goal was to undefine the concept of "sect" so that all weltanschauungs which have social change as a goal would be able to be combatted in equal measure.
Peter Bierl's presentation showed how a specific racism and anti-Semitism was developed in Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy. At the core of anthroposophical racism are the teachings of reincarnation, according to which one has to go through the teachings of the "original races" to to tread the path of the seven stages of enlightenment. According to this doctrine, every race has a spiritual mission to fulfill on earth - once they have done this, only the degenerated being remains. Steiner asserted that the "Aryan original race" came from the legendary continent of Atlantis which allegedly founded all high culture. The basis for anthroposophical anti-Semitism is supposed to be Christian anti-Semitism: according to Steiner, the Jews had two historical missions: the development of monotheism and "the preparation of the physical vessel for the reincarnation of the Son of God." Since they have already fulfilled these missions, they no longer have justification for existence from Steiner's viewpoint.
The concluding podium discussion was dedicated to the question of whether information would suffice as a means of counter-strategy. On that issue the podium speakers - Peter Kratz, Colin Goldner, Peter Pierl, Thomas Ebermann and Florian Beck of the Gegenuni Group - were agreed that information alone would not suffice. The center of dispute was not decided by philosophy, but by changing material relations. Peter Kratz again pointed out that even though a debate on the effects of sects had begun, that this had not served to explain everything, but only uncovered the crassest consequences so that others could better assess the situation. The Parliamentary Enquete "Sects" Commissioner was the best example of how this debate could also be used against leftist forces.
Colin Goldner once again spoke out in support of "Zero Tolerance" of all irrational elements: "If it turns out that this is an ideological trap door for forms of Fascism, if personal connections between the esoteric scene and fascistoid structures are there, then it is high time that we all wake up and work against it." Florian Beck stressed that since irrationalism already had a place in the dominant social sciences, it was now necessary to investigate the objective functions of science. Science in civilian society is oriented to evaluation of interests, it provides an explanation-model for ruling structures and social differences. Biological myths are not all that far from esoteric myths. By citing Thomas Ebermann, "We don't intend to be smarter than the market is," Thomas Ebermann indicated that the marketing fetish and irrationalism, after all, were part of the same structure. He stressed that factual counter-arguments only revalorized the irrational nonsense. By saying "we don't intend stones to replace arguments, but that a well-aimed stone can underscore an argument," Ebermann brought the esoteric representatives in the audience to the brink of rage. His facet was that in a capitalistic society, public information was used only as a band-aid.
Sects and Personalities
Everybody has his cult
by Dieter Rohmann
"Self-actualization is not at all the predominant motive for people to join a sect or a cult - it's probably the search for a binding meaning to life. As far personality and life history go, it depends upon who enters which cult when.
"Nobody joins a cult. People join interest groups which promise to fulfill their needs."
- Philip G. Zimbardo
"In spring of last year I was stuck in a situation like probably everybody is familiar with: nothing went the way it should - criticism came from all sides - self-determination was nearing zero.
I was no longer even interested in my studies. I felt very lonely and completely misunderstood on all levels. Everything I did or experienced simply came to me as infinitely senseless. I had the constant feeling of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was a state which had already lasted too long. But it had to get better sometime, and so I no longer wanted to admit to my unease. So I told myself that it was really going well, even though that was not right. Many problems, some of which I had been dragging around for a long time, were getting me down. To at least have the money for bare necessities, I had had a job for years which since repulsed me. Since I could think of nothing better, a certain loss of perspective came over me and spread.
On top of that, what was especially getting me down was that my friend, the person I liked the best, apparently was not sharing in all this. I stood on principle and, in spite of friends and countless acquaintances, completely alone waited for a suggestion. So I only knew that I expected something from life, but unfortunately I didn't know what it was. Somewhere things had to come to a stop, something had to happen. Something that could tell me, like an inner voice, where my place in this world was, something for which it would be rewarding in which to get fully involved. At that point I heard, for the first time, of ..."
That or a similar story is one of many people who joined a sect or a cult during a period of crisis in their lives. They became members of a mostly authoritarian structured group which promised them meaning, goals, identity and community spirit.
In the continually newly revived discussion on sects, it always strikes me that the issue is seldom that of individual members. The individual with his needs, motives, anxieties, problems, yearnings, wishes and dreams is hardly taken into consideration. It always goes the X cult claims this or the Y sect plans that. The fact that every cult consists of an aggregate of individual people, meanwhile, drops from view.
"I expected something from life - but what?"
The topic often focuses on manipulation, control of consciousness or even brainwashing to explain the sometimes exotic sounding and sometimes also tragic and difficult to follow conduct of cult members. In doing that these people are regarded in advance as passive victims who have been put under the spell of a totalitarian movement with no action on their part. This view of things seems to me, however, to be very one-sided. Part of this entrance into a sect includes a person who, whether consciously or not - was definitely searching for and actively entering a cult.
The event has two sides, too. On the one side one finds the cult with its members, its ideology, its world values, its truth, its ideals and its promises, which one can basically understand as an offer. On the other side are found people who feel like these offers are being made to them, or maybe not.
For 16 years I have been employed in counseling and providing information in the area of so-called sects and cults. During these years I have often been asked why people would join such a group and whether perhaps a particular type of personality could be distinguished as being particularly susceptible to these offers, a "sect personality," so to speak. I have answered this question in approximately this way:
Cult members are, on the average, intelligent, extremely sensitive and idealistic people who are on the look-out for meaning and for binding answers. People who risk questioning outward appearances and everyday life in order to look for meaningful connections hidden from view. There is probably nobody who carried out his entrance into the cult with his "head." As a rule, cult members followed their "gut."
Although this answer continues to be valid as far as I'm concerned, I wanted to find out, using an empirical study, whether there were actual, tangible factors which could make people more "sensitive" to joining a sect or cult.
Internationally, there is hardly any empirical research done on this issue. Observations, experiences and statements abound, however they are also very contradictory. For instance, one researcher suggests that most cult members come from dysfunctional or disturbed families or that there was a psychopathology, a psychic disturbance, before joining. Others, in contrast, have the opinion that cult members are completely normal, functioning people who come from protective families and are not at all psychically disturbed.
All research data comes from families who have turned to me for counseling because one or more family members had decided to join a cult at the time. The basis of my research is a questionnaire which was given out during the first personal encounter with the involved family, spouse or friend. What was mainly asked about was the family background and the personality of the cult member, as well as their life situation and psychic constitution immediately before the entrance into the cult. The quantitative and qualitative data gathered referred to 110 cult members in the ages of 12 to 50 years. This is - at least in Germany - the largest random test to date on this theme.
The results make it clear that a certain age group in particular is at risk. Most entrances into cults occur in the ages of 21 to 25 years. According to this, people join cults primarily in the adolescent stage or in the post-adolescent stage. Most of the "typical" cult members grew up in a small city or in a rural environment and had some higher education. Professional prospects among those being researched was seldom available. The family they came from was mostly (upper) middle class and had two or three children. Amazingly, there were only three sole children of the family among the 110 people.
Most of the subjects had a problematic family background and, right before their entrance into the cult, suffered several bothersome experiences in their lives, for instance, within their family, in their training, in school or on the job. These problems accumulated to an enormous burden of stress; entrance into the cult promised relief.
Only a small portion of the members had psychological problems beforehand. Almost half of the subjects were described by family or friends as helpful and sensible, but also as lonely. Only about a quarter of the people were described as naive, unstable, introverted, idealistic or low on self-awareness. In at least half the cases, the cult members themselves gave the desire for binding teachings as the motive for joining the cult. Only a few gave self-actualization or dissatisfaction as a reason.
So much for those findings which relate to all the cult members addressed in the research independently of the peculiarities and ideological alignments of individual cults. Yet could the cult members be differentiated from each other according to which teachings of faith they felt attracted? In order to research this, the cults were divided into three categories according to their ideology, structure and alignments: fundamental Christian groups, guru movements, and esoteric and psycho-cults.
· People who had joined a fundamental Christian cult did this primarily between the ages of 21 and 25 years. Most of the adherents in this category regularly used to go to church. Relatively frequently, the young men and women grew up in families in which personal problems or feelings were hardly ever discussed. They often gave the reason for their joining as the desire for a community, for binding teachings and for more meaning in life.
· For guru movements, the entrance age was between 16 and 20 years. Members were often first-born and male. Most of them went to high school, but did not graduate. People in this group also went to church regularly. Bothersome family situations and lack of communication in families was seldom reported. Adherents of guru sects were not described as either altruistic or as depressive. But they were regarded as introverted. They, themselves, said that they were seeking binding teachings and less for meaning in life.
· With the group of psycho-cults and esoteric movements, entrance took place somewhat later, namely between 26 and 30 years. In these categories, the people involved were overwhelmingly female. They often came from families in which the parents had divorced, and they did not go to church regularly. They experienced increasingly bothersome family situations and they suffered from professional or academic problems right before joining their cult. Those familiar with them did not describe them as introverted, but more as egotistic people. They, themselves, did not give the need for binding teachings or searching for community spirit as a reason for joining.
It therefore becomes clear that people lean toward certain categories, depending upon their personality and their life history. In this connection, a "dynamic adaptation model" has been recently theorized: for every individual case, there is a corresponding cult.
It can also be recognized from the research results, however, that joining a sect cannot be traced back to several, pregnant factors. Most of the time there is a whole assortment of individual causes. These should also be more strongly taken into consideration in the work with cult members, former cult members and their family. At the same time both sides should be given consideration, namely the person with his individual needs and the specific cult and its offers - the "key" and the "lock."
"Don't believe the books, don't believe the teachers and don't believe me. Only believe that which you yourself have carefully checked out and have recognized as serving the welfare of yourself and others."
- Gautama Buddha
Cults surely offer simple, yet binding, answers to complex questions of life, thereby enabling the member to practice a simplified black-and-white manner of thinking. The concept of membership is shaken when a discrepancy inside the movement between everyday dealings and the current ideology is recognized, from which doubt arises as to the "absolute truth." This chasm, this "Is-Should-Dilemma" and the doubt arising from it is essentially the reason sect members develop a readiness to have a discussion outside of the cult - their "island." It is a good strategy in these discussions with cult members to clearly delineate the one-sidedness and the narrowness of black-and-white method of thought. Aren't all the alternative ways of defining and explaining our world and its complexities as comprehensive as the color spectrum of a rainbow? Why stick so rigidly to a narrow world image and to a closed ideology?
Most of the time, leaving the cult is tied with a heavy psychic burden on the member. On top of all the problems - as mentioned - which already existed before joining and which the member has since put "on ice," come all the difficulties which are tied to leaving itself. In this phase, people leaving therefore urgently need expert help. What needs to be looked at in therapy is not only the obvious pains and symptoms, but also the motives which led to joining the sect to begin with.
In summary, it has been determined that people who join cults do not absolutely belong to the stereotypes or fit the prejudices which have been spread about them. They don't come more from divorced families or broken homes than do other people, nor are most of them mentally disturbed or extraordinarily naive or unstable. Which, in turn, leads to the conclusion that a troublesome enough life situation - which could happen to almost any of us - can cause one to fall into a cult.
Dieter Rohmann's study has appeared in social science publications [in German] and is entitled "Ein Kult fuer all Faelle." It can be ordered from "Edition Soziothek, Lorrainestraße 52, CH-3013 Bern."
Dieter Rohmann also has a web site in German.
Stock pick of the day: Intertainment
Increasing capital brings down Intertainment trend
June 27, 2000
Berlin - Film rights dealer Intertainment AG prices have not moved on the new market for months. That is the case even though the company's profits rose 158 percent last year and even went up 808 percent in the first quarter of this year. The corporation is suffering from the general aversion investors have for media offerings: the media index of the new market lost nine percent last week alone. In addition, now the capital increase in the amount of about 225 million Euro planned for July is weighing upon stock prices: investors who speculate on sinking stocks are not holding back from buying the new stock. But that is not the only reason the majority of analysts advise not to buy the stock.
Harald Woelfle of BW Bank Securities is leaving this stock on "hold." However, even though prices have declined significantly after the increase in capital was announced, further loss cannot be ruled out. The analyst also sees weaknesses in the company on the more fundamental side. Intertainment is currently having difficulties putting its films onto the German market. TV broadcasters are occupied with the re-structuring of the market and the acquisition of movie rights is taking second place. Iris Schaefer of the Baden-Wuerttemberg State Bank also advises against buying with that same argument. Since Germany is the second largest European market, unclosed business could even turn around the profit plans of this company for this year. One of the few optimists is Sandra Egerer of the Security Trade Bank's Equinet Services. She says that short-term gain cannot be counted upon because of the increase in capital, but she sees an increase of 125 Euro as realistic on a yearly projection. The analyst bases her optimism primarily on the cooperation of the corporation with the American film producers Arnold Kopelson, who has already proven himself capable of some success in the movies. Since Intertainment is assured of marketing across Europe, in contrast to its competitors, she said the Munich company is increasingly independent of the difficult German market. IM
Fear of erupting Violence
December 31, 1999
The USA, more than anybody else, fears the fanaticism of the doomsday prophets.
by Nico Richter
The end of the world will never happen if everybody is expecting it - therefore Buford Furrow, Ben Smith and John William King wanted to help it along a little bit. All three believed that a holy race war would break out in the USA in 1999, and they wanted to get a jump on the bloody battle between good and evil: Furrow opened fire in a Jewish day care center, Smith and King executed non-whites and Jews, after it was over Smith killed himself.
The US FBI fear that the potential for extremist violence at the beginning of the year 2000 is greater than any other time. In a recent report on possible year 2000 terrorism, the crime fighters presented the motives of people who now anticipate the end of the world or intend to bring the end about themselves. The federal police christened their 32-page paper "Project Megiddo"; Megiddo is the name of a hill in Israel where, according to the Bible, the decisive battle between good and evil (Armageddon) is to be fought.
The ideology of the "Christian Identity" movement, according to the FBI report, is a sort of a mixture of racism, hatred, biblical belief in the Apocalypse and a potential for violence: the adherents believe in an impending return of Christ, who is predicted to carry out a purification process of the earth. When that happens the forces of God - the white race, according to the beliefs of Christian Identity adherents - will fight non-whites and Jews. The community has been preparing itself with survival training and paramilitary courses and is hoarding food and weapons. The FBI believes it is possible that, at the turn of the millennium, extremists from groups such as this will seek confrontation with security forces which they hold to be the "long arm of Satan." Other sects, in turn, limit themselves to "defensive violence," such as the Davidians and the doomsday fanatic David Koresh, who set themselves on fire in 1993 in Waco, Texas, when the FBI wanted to storm their ranch.
The US police calculate Jerusalem to be the most likely place for violent confrontations: extremist adherents from millennium cults could get violent because they hope to force a return of Christ by doing so. For instance, there was the "Concerned Christians" sect leader, Monte Kim Miller, who moved with adherents from the USA to Jerusalem in 1998. They wanted to provoke street battles, Miller was to die in doing that and so invoke the messiah.
In Germany, neither the Federal Criminal Investigative Office nor Constitutional Security are concerned about those kind of scenarios; the sect researchers of the churches also view the coming of the year 2000 calmly. Besides that, the world has been largely "de-Christianized"; collective doomsday sentiments are a phenomenon of the past, the Duesseldorf professor of medieval history, Rudolf Hiestand, said recently. The year 2000 will go by more as an "event," actually a form of indifference, believes Matthias Poehlmann of the Evangelical Center for Issues of Worldview (EZW). Even the Jehovah's Witnesses, who believe in the permanent impending re-arrival of the messiah, recently stated that they do not have any expectations associated with the date 2000.
Every era has its own visions of world ruination; instead of the religiously tinged fears of the past, today political conspiracy theories are intermingled with fear of technological and cosmic apocalypse. Viennese professor Alexander Tollman predicted a world war for the solar eclipse [Europe had a total solar eclipse last August.] His book, "Year of the end of the world" became a best-seller; he withdrew to a castle because of his fear of destruction. In the meantime, authors such as Armin Risi philosophize in the "Change of Power on Earth," whereby a small group of string-pullers presumably want to establish a one-world state. In the USA, many people fear the "New World Order": according to this theory the United Nations (UN) will use the chaos which will be caused by the 2000 computer problem (Y2K) at the turn of the year to assume world domination. With the help of foreign armies, according to the concepts of the New World Order community, they will also conquer the USA.
Such fears fit into the general insecurity "which still has a stand in this world," was Poehlmann expressed it. Computers, genetic technology, rapid change and globablization have brought about a diffuse uneasiness. The wide-spread fear of the "Y2K" computer glitch and its consequences is apparently the current most popular scenario of terror.
But such fears are seldom likely to provoke collective suicide or a violent offensive action. As a rule, reactions are limited to the harmless hoarding of supplies. In Irschenberg, Upper Bavaria, for instance, the "Arche Nova" company deals in survival aids such as dried food packets, generators and washing machines with hand-cranks. Michael Plappert, business manager for "Arche Nova," predicted a Y2K crisis in which "no stone will be left standing on another." As proof that he was afraid of that and not just trying to make money, he has also stocked a provision of supplies for himself.
Education and Career
What's new in Munich
December 18, 1999
Esoteric courses in adult education
When their child is not learning their lessons, some parents immediately put a vial with "Bachblueten" extract near their bed. Others believe that healing stones and aroma therapies play a role in the course of their destiny.
All kinds of esoteric ideas are flooding the market of adult education today. Should one meet the increasing demand - with more Reiki, Shiatsu and herbal medicine courses in university extension classes? Clients and trainers are equally uncertain, Professor Armin Nassehi of the Institute for Sociology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich has found, who sponsors a training forum in the Anton Fingerle training center. In seven work shops, forum participants tried to define criteria to determine to what degree adult education should incorporate esoteric concepts without exceeding the bounds of critical rationality. They did not arrive at a common factor.
"Information on therapies, but no promises of healing," suggested one participant of the "Spiritual Psychology" work shop. Another brought up the question, "Where does spirituality begin, when is it regarded as normal relaxation?" - "VHS courses do not offer enlightenment; adult education cannot provide the spiritual leader which some want," decided Klaus-Josef Notz, director of the subject of religion at the Munich public high school. Existential experiences would be possible, though, responded a woman participant of the work shop on "Need for information and existential questions."
A group which was more oriented to practice discussed whether esoteric methods of healing could lead to an illness - scientific evidence of that is lacking. Under the direction of the instructor, the group participants put their hands on their stomachs in order to better feel inside their bodies. This work shop was unanimous: the group experience worked against an unhealthy loneliness.
At the end of the meetings people would have liked to take home a list of methods to be able to tell the difference between a professional and unprofessional course of life management - according to the principle of keeping the good and ignoring the bad. But the forum could not offer that kind of formula. The final presentation by Professor Lutz von Rosenstiel from the Institute for Commercial Psychology at Munich University offered continuing assistance in orientation - in regard to anything which came up: secrecy about the methods being used or a dependency relationship to the trainer, according to Rosenstiel, would lead one astray.
The university extension forum "Training among Science, sense and therapy"
Internet Links at Risk?
December 13, 1999
Munich (Computerwoche) - A self-willed legal decision from the USA is currently making headlines: Tena Campbell, district judge in the Mormon State of Utah, by temporary order, has prohibited two critics of the Mormon church (officially: "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints") from pointing to text which the religious community has protected by copyright from their web page. Husband and wife, Sandra and Jerald Tanner, have repeatedly published links to quotations from the "Church Handbook of Instructions," which is solely for internal use. The judge justified her decision by saying that the Tanners had "invited visitors to their site to violate the copyright of the church." The couple will appeal the decision.
Even if the Church of Scientology (which is perceived in the USA as a religious denomination, but here at home is renowned as a sect-like organization for its internet crusades against critics) is rubbing its hands [with pleasure] at the order, experts now fear an impending ban on practically all links ad absurdum to which the hypertext structure of the world wide web would point. "If this decision stands, this means the end of all links," warned copyright attorney Jeffrey Kuester of the New York Times. "If one can no longer post web addresses without risking a copyright violation, how could one continue to link?"
*Free State violated obligation to neutrality in regards to philosophic communities
- * [Bavaria is also called the "Free State"]
May 7, 1999
A peculiar "Christian operation" treated as an enemy of the state
Why the Bavarian state did not grant a subsidy to two farmers who belong to Gabriele Wittek's "Universal Life" congregation
by Hans Holzhaider
On a sunny Sunday morning in 1987, Munich attorney Christian Sailer, 52 years old at the time, drove along the Isar River in the direction of downtown Munich. Sailer had a reputation as an excellent administrative defender. In the dispute with the nuclear waste disposal plant in Wackersdorf he had represented the Greenpeace environmental organization; in the planning of the Munich II airport he had supported several of the businesses affected. On this particular morning, however, Christian Sailer was tending to his own affairs. His goal was a conference hall in a building set back from Lindwurm Street. That was where Gabriele Wittek was supposed to appear, a woman whose followers said that Jesus Christ personally spoke out of her mouth. With a "mixture of skepticism, curiosity and self-consciousness," wrote Sailer in his new book, "The Campaign of the Snake and the Effect of the Dove," he approached the meeting place [German book title: "Der Feldzug der Schlange und das Wirken der Taube"]. Then she arrived. "She wore a simple blue outfit; her hair was combed back and tied in a knot ... a completely normal looking woman, though she emanated something special." As Mrs. Wittek began to speak, "the words hit me like lightening bolts ... I felt inner joy and emotion rising within me." Six years later, Christian Sailer became a member of the New Jerusalem federation, the core unit of what is said to be 40,000 members of the Universal Life (UL) congregation, which has flocked around Gabriele, the "Prophet of God in the present time."
For six months Sailer worked as a baker's assistant - "I cleaned pans, kneaded dough and formed buns and pretzels." But this "honest labor" which gave him joy was not rewarding for long for the attorney. "My friends needed not so much a baker as they did a lawyer," wrote Sailer. That was because Universal Life was and is engaged in a multitude of legal disputes - from the view of attorney Sailer, these are a consequence of "the systematic persecution and alienation of a religious minority."
"Religious minority" is a term which correctly describes the group. Compared to all the membership figures of the large churches, they are a minority. The attribute of "religious" can hardly not be used to described the adherents of the Prophetess Gabriele. The differences in the creeds are marked, but there are similarities throughout: the Gabrielians believe in God and in Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and in an immortal soul. They believe in neither eternal damnation nor in the resurrection of the flesh, but in the possibility of reincarnation until the "crude material" world has once again transcended into pure spirit. In Gabriele Wittek, they believe, Christ is speaking authentically for the first time to the people since his ascension into heaven; in this they see a sign prophesied by the Apostle John that the end of the world is upon us.
One can believe this or not; one can think of it as the last revelation or as made-up humbug - a threat to the liberal democratic basic order or other Constitutional values are not directly visible. It is fitting for about 700 of Mrs. Wittek's adherents to have gotten together in a sort of life congregation in which they subject themselves to restrictive regulations - they do not eat meat or drink "strong drink"; they give up their private life to a certain extent ("He who lives in the law of God has no secrets"); they keep their distance from "arbitrary initiatives" in professional areas, they do not spend their money at their own discretion nor do they spend it for themselves alone.
That is the way things are in the "communal order" of the "New Jerusalem federation." He who does not keep the rules is asked by the "brothers and sisters" "to live somewhere else where he thinks he can fulfill his intellect and his desires." There are reports from people who have left which suggest that things are not as family-like in the internal life of the community as this terminology states. According to these reports, members in the "federation" are exploited with psychic pressure in that they are told that the outside world is demonic, and leaving is equated with a "pact with the devil." There are no findings, however, of reprisals against people who leave, such as have been described by apostate members of the Scientology sect, states the report of the Bavarian Culture Ministry.
Classic Three Field Farm System
It is certainly not every person's thing - but why can an agricultural business which is operated by adherents of "Universal Life" not receive a subsidy from the Culture Land program of the Bavarian Agricultural Ministry? Florian F. and Georg S. operate the Greussenheim farm with eight workers halfway between Wuerzburg and Marktheidenfeld. 360 hectares of land, mainly planted with rye, wheat and spelt, potatoes and onions. Ten hectares are planted with fruit trees. The business is a member of ANOG (Association for natural fruit and gardening) and produces in accordance with strict ecological guidelines.
Not only are chemical fertilizers and insecticides assiduously avoided, but Florian F. and Georg S. operate a classic three-field farm system. Each field is planted with rotating crops for two years and lies fallow the third year so that the soil can regenerate. That is an expensive way of farming, because naturally the fallow fields do not produce a crop. Because of this, a subsidy from the Bavarian Culture Land program would be of great significance for the two farmers. They have met the provisions in each case - fulfilling the criteria of ecological farming and frequent crop rotation. 150,000 marks a year is waiting for them. That would mean, said Georg F., "a new tractor for Christmas."
But nothing came of the new tractor. On March 19, 1998, the Office of Agriculture in Wuerzburg refused the subsidy application. That was followed by a "request" by the Bavarian Agricultural Ministry which, as the Ministry said, "was understood as a directive." As a reason, the office referred to a judgment by the Federal Constitutional Court whereby the so-called "differentiation ban" in Article 3, paragraph 3 of Basic Law does not bid the state to deliver to "its enemies." Article 3, paragraph 3 states that preferences or disadvantages may not be shown for anybody "on account of race, language, his native country or origin," or, the deciding factor here "his belief, his religious or political views."
Now Florian F. and Georg S. are stated adherents of "Universal Life," and Gruessenheim farm is a so-called Christian business closely commercially connected with a series of other middle-class operations, a mill and a bakery for instance, all of which have submitted to the religious operating rules of UL. What did the two farmers have to do to be equated to a "state enemy" by a ministry? Anyone who follows this question up will sooner or later have to meet up with Reverend Siegfried Behnk, the sect commissioner of the Evangelical Lutheran State Church in Bavaria.
Behnk expends considerable energy on explaining to the public the dangers which, from his point of view, emanate from "Universal Life." When the UL built a community center in Lower Franconia's Marktheidenfeld, Behnk accused Mayor Leonhard Scherg, who had granted the building permit in accordance with the law of the land, of being a secret promoter of the sect. When one of the UL agricultural businesses bought a commercial on Bavarian Broadcasting to advertise a product, Reverend Behnk wrote an impassioned letter to the management with the demand that the commercials be taken off the air. When the Bavarian Culture Ministry granted license to a private UL grade school in accordance with a court instruction, Reverend Behnk prepared an opinion on the "Constitutional enmity of the UL grammar and high schools" although the school superintendents did not have the slightest indication of any kind of anti-constitutional activity. "We visit these schools, more often unannounced than not," said the school district department head in Lower Franconia district. "They work according to the teaching plan and produce excellent results."
Finally, Reverend Behnk also supports the refusal of the Agricultural Ministry to grant state subsidies to the UL businesses. The Agricultural Office cites a judgment by the Bavarian Administrative Court (VGH), which says that the UL may be described as a "totalitarian organization." Actually the VGH had just permitted this phrase to be used by the sect reverend Behnk, but only as an "expression of opinion" which also has to be accepted in the "religious-philosophical battle of opinion" as a "strong and overdone term."
However, the state is prevented from saying what Reverend Behnk may go unpunished for saying. That has recently been decided by the Munich Administrative Court. In one of the booklets given out by the state center for political education work about "new religious movements" the court objected to ten places in the text about "Universal Life" which included the "tendency toward totalitarianism" making "groups such as the UL a burden for pluralistic democracy," the communal order of the UL being "a document of totalitarian claims," and the statement that the UL pursued "economic and political interests in an aggressive manner."
The Bavarian Culture Ministry must distribute the outcome of the judgment to all schools in the Free State which had previously received a free sample copy of the booklet. In publishing the booklet, determined the court, the Free State is said to have "violated state obligation to neutrality in regards to philosophical communities." "Especially in view of the pointed discussion between church representatives and the congregation," the Administrative judge continued, the state "may not abandon objectivity and openly or covertly enter into a dispute of opinion." The state attorney's office did not exercise his legal option and the judgment is legally binding.
Of course this legal opinion has not yet taken its effect on the Bavarian Agricultural Ministry. The judgment against giving the farmers on the Greussenheim farm a state subsidy was withdrawn; it must be re-heard by a court. Three weeks ago the Wuerzburg Administrative Court decided that the Lower Franconia administration must re-decide the subsidy to the Greussenheim farm, Inc "in consideration of the legal opinion of the court." This much is clear: as long as a religious or philosophical group obeys the laws and the Constitution, it is covered by the basic equality according to Article 3 and freedom of belief and freedom of creed according to Article 4 of the Basic Law.
Maybe now something will come of the new tractor for the Greussenheim farm.
The Censures of the Self-righteous
From: "Sueddeutsche Zeitung", page 4
February 28, 1999
The human rights report of the American state department has harmed the USA more than it has helped. The report tallies up grave violations of basic rights indeed - possibly in China or in Afghanistan. However, the assemblage has gone out of control with its encyclopedic pretensions. The US administration conveys the impression that it is the one which makes the rules by which the morals and rights of the world are measured.
The work of censure addresses all nations of the world and will be taken seriously by few of them. The patronizing and self-righteous tone will, in the best case, be ridiculed as an American peculiarity. In the worst case, the report will confirm the cliche of the bumbling superpower, thereby creating anti-Americanism. It is not difficult to bring people's blood to a boil when one recalls the German who was just executed in Arizona under the guise of fundamental principles of people's rights, and then cites passages of the report which condemns the justice system of the courts in Germany.
It is not surprising then, when countries such as China disregard the ready criticism with the simple argument that the USA - truly a land full of brutality and injustice - does not give a rating to itself. However, that form of discussion is cheap. For that reason the US administration should end the moral crusade and go back to politics. It is the job of the UN or Amnesty International to credibly judge the violations of individual countries. The American report has lost its political effect.
The Usual Suspicion
Why World Conspiracy Theories are in fashion
and will remain that way
November 25, 1998
Nothing is of greater than explaining human history by conspiracy theory. For everything unfathomable, for all defeats, there is suddenly a culprit. Whenever the reasons for catastrophes or threats are too complex, man looks for an enemy among his own kind. One cannot take his revenge out upon a mountain for an avalanche, or upon a factory which has cancelled his family's vacation.
In former times the devil was made responsible for everything evil. The devil was easy to identify - horns, goat's feet, stank like a pest. If something like that slept with your wife every night, there was nothing she could do about it, but one could drive the devil out of the poor woman with a pair of glowing tongs.
In the Age of Enlightenment, the enemy of the world took on a more civil form. Those who wore perukes and people in priest's garb were suspicious. So were men who wore long pants. The townspeople eventually became revulsed when somebody wearing a balloon hat approached them. The list of secret symbols by which one could recognize conspirators grew longer over the course of the centuries until the conspirator could take on all conceivable shapes and forms and everybody was suspicious. Mostly oneself.
There has never been a world conspiracy. However, history has been decided more by the belief in world conspiracy than it has anything else. Millions of people have fallen victim to conspiracy theories. From the burning of witches to the extermination of Jews.
Since the 18th century both the left and the right wings have mutually suspected each other of world conspiracy and have persecuted each other bloodily. In this way inquisitors and Jesuits, Freemasons and Illuminati, Protestants and Catholics, aristocrats and commoners, capitalists and proletarians, Moslems, Jews and Christians, German and French, Americans and Russians have been alternately stamped as incarnations of evil on earth.
However, the invisible enemy is worse than the visible. [Political] party members and best friends are those to be least trusted. "If ye have an enemy nearby," wrote poet Joseph von Eichendorff, "Do not let your mistrust cease, Be ye friendly of mouth and eye, He will see war in evil peace." From Robespierre to Stalin and Mao, the great purges did not apply to political opponents, but to party members of deviant opinion. The world conspirators stood in one's own ranks. That goes for Jesuits with Jacobin hats or the Jacobins in the habit of Abbé. That also goes for aristocrats who took on the commoner name of their butcher.
"It goes behind me and under me," said Woyzek with his hair on end and stamping on the ground: "You, down there in the secret passage! You down there, the Freemasons!" In the good Catholic and good absolutistic states of Europe, the secret society of the Enlightener [Aufklärer] was made out to be a frightening ghost. Unexplained deaths of kings, popes and presidents, revolts, plagues, inflation. Everything was ascribed to the omnipotence of the secret society. Even Mozart's death. In a book written in 1936, medical Doctor Mathilde Ludendorff wrote, "Mozart, along with Luther, Lessing, Schiller and . . . still other victims of murder were made saviors of the people by the plague of secret societies who afforded themselves a right to murder when their criminal law, which was supposed to give rise to Jewish domination, permitted it."
Naturally it was the Freemasons who were responsible for the French Revolution. The proof? Robespierre, reported Jules Michelet in his history of the Revolution, removed, with his own hand, the criminal evidence against the Duke of Bourbon, because this would have established a connection with the Illuminati. However, Robespierre, the world conspirator, is day in and day out on the trail of a world conspiracy which has been launched at him. Everybody is suspect. "All are suspect who have shown themselves to be followers of tyranny . . . through their conduct, their relations or through their expressed views either in word or in writing," read the "law concerning suspects" of September 17, 1793, which heralded the reign of terror. It ended with Robespierre's delusion that the conspirator was in himself. The results of this line of thought, to first exterminate an entire people and then oneself, was finally carried out by Hitler.
The Right and Left Wings unite themselves in a common paranoia with their conspiracy theories. While the Nazis put Jews and Freemasons together in one mold, Karl Marx spoke a mere hundred years earlier of "Jewish Jesusism" as being the essence of capitalism, thereby marking out a direction for his apostles in Moscow to follow. Naturally, the agents of the East were nothing but world conspirators for democracy in the West. For two hundred years, everything was possible in the heads of the conspiracy theoreticians. "The counter-revolution has its seat in the treasury department!" cried Robespierre in his last speech in the convent. And at the peak of McCarthyism a schoolbook commission in Indiana demanded the removal of all Robin Hood stories.
A short time ago the phantom of world conspiracy crept upon us in the form of the aids virus. Out of the laboratory of the CIA into the heads of several homosexual functionaries, it lay in wait in the clone factories. It appeared in the heads of science fiction authors, and it robbed several mayors of their sleep when Scientologists wanted to ensconce themselves in unsalable real estate. People have still not thought up a good all around devil's image for the winner of globalization. After all ideology has been extinguished and after the disappearance of political polarization, there will be nothing left to blame neighborhood disputes on except garden dwarves.
Revenge of the Co-workers
There will always be contemporaries who are not satisfied with watching James Bond films. They miss being able to count the rockets in the arsenals of the East and West with bated breath. They are intellectually overtaxed by the organized criminality on the internet on the one hand and undertaxed by banal everyday conspiracies a la "the boss in not in for now" on the other hand. For all these we have examples galore.
They can investigate popular politicians for adultery. They can write a novel without having any special talent. They can moderate with the same handicap of a talk show. In all three cases they can meeting objections with certainty. They can see themselves surrounded by conspiracies which hinder their investigations or cause journalists to write devastating criticism about them.
We see so many witnesses testify daily in the American conspiracy against Kenneth Starr that we no long have to have any doubt about the danger in which the upright Republicans find themselves. With us here in Europe, especially in Germany, things are much more complicated. Since a member of the "Literary Quartette" has written a critical novel about the most important political magazine of this republic, the critics have almost unanimously backed down. For the author, that was a critic's conspiracy against the critic. The leading editor of the disassembled magazine had shortly thereafter taken over the moderation of a famous talk show and had it made. Now the critics of the novel are suddenly also the critics of the moderator! True to the devices which deny all conventional logic, we presume there is a secret conspiratorial group with unknown objectives to be found behind such anthropomorphous apes. However, those being attacked view it only as the revenge of their co-workers.
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Burst, break and transform
Self-qualified motivation trainers work with equivocal methods - Victims become dependent
From: "Süddeutsche Zeitung" supplement of
October 24, 1998
After obtaining her degree in comparative literature, hard times befell Helene Roggendorf. "I knew from the beginning of my studies that I was going to be a lousy proletariat," said the 29 year old laconically. "I would have been better off studying something like information systems."
She had little hope of finding a permanent position in the foreseeable future. People who are chronically hard to place such as the comparative literature major wander aimlessly about the labor market. Some of them are not much better off than someone waiting for the results of their heart or kidney tests from the Assessment Center.
After countless unsuccessful applications, Helene Roggendorf came across a motivation seminar, "Everything is possible," and "Success is a natural law," promised the seminar provider. "Wake up and smell the roses. We'll make you fit and show you new possibilities." The comparative literature major did not have to be told twice; she walked up and introduced herself. Many other new careerists such as herself start out with the attempt to improve their chances through self- motivation. Power seminars and motivational speeches are sweeping over the republic like a wave and are turning more into gigantic mass turn- outs. The invitation to Motivation 1999 in Frankfurt reads: "Let yourself be motivated together with 10,000 others by Jürgen Höller."
Stoked up Masses
Instead of lecturing from a speaker's stand to which he is fixed, the motivator jumps across the stage and dances through the aisles to spread the message of "Positive Thinking." With virtually inexhaustible energy and a tempo fast enough to create beads of sweat they run through the marathon event. Rock music and light shows add to the excitement. The participants at these mass happenings cannot get over it. Their initial hesitancy quickly gives way to enthusiasm. Managers of all ages jog through the hall in shirt sleeves. The long-term unemployed mobilize long forgotten powers to loudly cry "Jakkaa." Secretaries develop a courage they never had when it came to refusing to work overtime.
The motivation seminar turns into a vivid experience: "If I only want to, I can get anything." Unfortunately the experience can be not only disappointing, but even dangerous. "People just fall deeper into their depression after they notice that the euphoria from the seminar has little effect on their personal day-to-day life," says Hans A. Hey, President of the German Sales Promoters and Trainers Federation.
The talk is about power flows and motivational cleansing. The success gurus and masters of motivation describe their concepts as the key to success. But in response to the question of what purpose positive thinking serves somebody who is unemployed, for instance, the motivational trainers curtly answer, "That does not affect somebody who really thinks positive." He who fails has not thought positively enough.
Jürgen Höller, an experienced shipping agent from Gochsheim, has ascended to the ranks of the most successful motivational trainers of Europe. And Emile Ratelband from Holland thinks of himself as the greatest communicator in Europe. The business acumen of these success gurus is beyond question. What is unsettling, however, is the fact that most motivational speakers have no type of psychological training. In interviews, they like to present themselves as innocuous. "Those are only metaphors," comments Emile Ratelband to his testing the mood of participants with [the concept of] scorpions and black widow spiders. These metaphors work quite well, as they are mortally dangerous in their natural habitat. Overcoming fear of them could be a deadly mistake.
"Thinking is overrated," agrees Günter Scheich, psychotherapist and author of the book, "Positive Thinking Makes You Sick." "People doubt themselves: why aren't things working out with me? Am I normal?" Instead of suppressing the entire scope of negative feelings, Scheich advises accepting that life is not without a dark side.
"For me it's an outright crime that these kind of seminars do not ensure that problems which appear are professionally worked out," continues Hans A. Hey. "Training can never be therapy. I ask all trainers to abandon training procedures which lead people to exceed their own limits." But that is exactly what many motivation gurus use to advertise. "Burst," "break," and "transform" are part of their standard vocabulary.
"What is lacking is a solid concept for personality development," states Hans A. Hey. "I believe that changes are brought about by the process of numerous repetitions and constant exercises." Credible motivational trainers and coaches withdraw and let the participant take the stage. They ask questions, give feedback and see to it, despite anything else, that things are followed up on. That is not the kind of thing you can expect from motivational trainers such as Ratelband.
The unemployed, in particular, are cautioned about Emile Ratelband. He holds his large events for free in order to improve his image. There he gives them the joyful tidings that 80% of the participants could have the livelihood and profession of their choice within three months if they would follow his teaching. "That is not giving paid work to the unemployed," countered CDU social politician Rainer Eppelmann as he sat across the table from the Dutch guru of success in Sabine Christiansen's talk show. "First there has to be a place to work, and that doesn't come about from yelling 'Yay' or running over a broken bottle."
The sect commissioner of the City-State of Hamburg, Ursula Caberta, points out other problem areas of the salvation-inspired "happenings": "If I go to a motivational seminar and then come across a totalitarian, really extremist, dangerous group, like Scientology or some others, that could serve as a catalytic drug. I would want the "kick" again. I couldn't get along right without it. Because I've had this experience once, I'd want to have it again."
The old craving for fast gratification remains unfulfilled for Helene Roggendorf. She is an individual who has been developing herself over the course of almost 30 years, and did not let herself be caught up in the "power" event. "That would have been like a '20 pounds in 10 days' diet that I went on one time," recalls the graduate of literature studies. "It was uncommonly motivating to see the pounds melt away. And absolutely sobering to watch how quickly the fat piled back up and the scale showed more than it did before the diet."
Günter Scheich: Positives Denken macht krank,
Eichborn Verlag 1997
Bärbel Schwertfeger: Der Griff nach Psyche,
Campus Verlag 1998
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Sueddeutsche Zeitung March 25, 1998
Secretary Dewes of the Erfurt Department of the Interior assumes a specific reason behind computer theft.
by Jens Schneider
The Minister President of Thuringen, Bernhard Vogel (CDU), appeared composed. The situation could not be all that dramatic, he said last weekend, otherwise the Secretary of the Interior would have informed him of it a long time ago. However, the case of the sensitive computer data, which had been stolen from the Department of the Interior in Erfurt, was to to end that easily. As is now known, in early November, thieves pilfered two computers from the Thuringen Department of the Interior, thereby coming into the possession of highly sensitive data. Thuringen's Secretary of the Interior, Richard Dewes, also the SPD State Chairman, has been under increasing pressure on this account.
On Tuesday he informed, for the first time, his administrative chief in the coalition, Bernhard Vogel. This Wednesday he wants to have a special session of the Interior Committee of the State Assembly. The theft of the data was, presumably, politically motivated, stated Dewes on Monday evening. The perpetrators apparently wanted to harm the State administration and himself, as Secretary of the Interior. The data was certainly not come upon by accident. "The person who stole the data knew what he was looking for," said Dewes.
Not only the theft itself, but also later conduct in the Interior Department, is throwing a shadow over Dewes' tenure in office. On November 3, the two computers were transported during a move in the State Capitol into the Department's new offices. Staff signed for them that evening; the next morning they were gone.
Particularly sensitive was the data stored on the computer of the Director of Department 2, Barnd Hillman, who reports to the Offices of Constitutional and State Security. Along with data not relevant to security was also stored instructions on security measures from five members of the State administration.
Besides that, the fixed disk contained information about a closed hearing held on an extremist group. Also data on the former director of the State Criminal Investigation Office, Uwe Kranz, and his representative, Wolfgang Gobel, were apparently also on the computer. Both were probationally suspended from service last year.
Furthermore, documents concerning the feasibility of surveillance of organizations such as Scientology were stored on the computer. Finally, as a result of the theft, secret instructions and meeting minutes of the Parliamentary Control Commission (PKK), fell into unauthorized hands. This commission controls the activities of the Office of Constitutional Protection.
Nevertheless the Department of the Interior sees no danger. "The data is not suited to impair the functionality of the Thuringen State administration or the security officials," ran a statement. Members of Parliament in Erfurt have their doubts; it has already been speculated against whom such material could used.
Up until the end of January, 1998, "almost three months", Dewes' staff did not report the incident to their chairman. In the meantime they looked for the missing computers, and expected they would turn up when the move was completed, they said. This delay, in the meantime, has also unsettled the Department's leading members. On December 12, a report was made to the State Attorney. However, the sensitivity of the information on the computer was not brought to their attention. For this reason, the investigators did not attach much significance to the case. The investigation is not yet closed, the internal search in still in process.
Violation of Security
The Thuringen State Commissioner for Data Security, Silvia Liebaug, was first notified of the computer theft on February 19. She, admittedly, received no answer when she inquired what kind of data was involved. She is now concerned with the question of what sensitive data on the staff member's PC was being sought. State Assembly President Frank-Michael Pietzsch (CDU) demanded an explanation from Dewes last Thursday. The meeting minutes from the Parliamentary Control Commission should not have been stored, this contradicts the State Assembly's instructions regarding security. Notes from the committee must immediately be destroyed.