Is it ever okay to be selfish?


Character shows itself in the crisis. The sentence supposedly comes from Helmut Schmidt. I remember an autumn storm in Berlin a few years ago. In the middle of the evening rush hour, life suddenly came to a standstill. The S-Bahn didn't run. That's why people squeezed themselves into the subways, which therefore could only travel at a snail's pace. Buses stopped in the open, and the announcement came: “End of the line, everyone out!” And the passengers were thrown off like ballast. Everyone was trying to get home somehow. People quarreled over taxis. Mothers with baby carriages were jostled and grumbled at, kindly to get out of the way. They looked around for help, but no one came. Defenseless beings in chaos. I was right in the middle of it all and tried to somehow get from Mitte to Treptow to pick up my children from daycare. Darwin, the law of the fittest, I thought. In times of need, people become lone fighters. Everyone only thinks of themselves. An autumn storm is enough and we lose all compassion, all empathy.

Now the lockdown is not an autumn storm and homeschooling is not a bus that everyone suddenly has to get out of. The effect is similar, however, it does not come rolled like an avalanche, but rather creeping. Like slowly falling snow that gradually covers everything. We are now in the fifth week of homeschooling. The day still has 24 hours, but the things we deal with are few: nothing happens.

In conversations with family and friends it becomes clear again and again that everyone is primarily concerned with themselves. That in itself isn't a bad thing either. But it leads to isolation, to pupation. We isolate ourselves from others, overlook things that lie ahead of us. And others watch how they make this time as pleasant as possible for themselves and take little consideration of others.

One example of this is emergency care in daycare centers. Their idea is to relieve parents in systemically relevant professions. But not only nurses, geriatric nurses and supermarket cashiers take advantage of the offer. At the end of January, more than a third of children between the ages of zero and six were cared for in daycare centers in this country - despite Corona and all appeals from politics. The federal state of Hamburg was right at the forefront: every second child there took their child to daycare;

Whereby Bavaria is not Bavaria either: A friend told us about a company daycare center in the Free State. Their management recently sent a call for help to the parents because sixty percent of them send their children to emergency care. With this amount, the sense of the lockdown was undermined, it was said. The leader appealed urgently to the solidarity of the parents. Because almost all of them returned home to the home office after they had delivered their offspring. Even if this behavior is of course not illegal and in some cases there are understandable reasons, there is a good deal of comfort and selfishness behind it. As if to say to the educators: “Please take care of my child. This is your job, I'll do mine. "

There are other examples of egoism and loss of empathy: A youth carer in a small town in northern Germany told my sister about a refugee family from Nigeria. The five-year-old son makes use of the emergency care in the daycare center, because she is there for precisely such cases. His single mother is illiterate, does not speak a word of German and has no job. Your older son is less fortunate than his brother. The head of the elementary school refuses to take the boy into emergency care. Reason: The mother is at home. I wonder how this child is ever going to make the connection under these conditions? Alone at home with books in a foreign language and a mother who cannot read. The headmistress did not ask herself this question.

Neither is the question of whether it is okay to take a walk through your home town on a Monday morning while your students are homeschooling alone or with stressed parents. Because that's exactly what she did. When asked about it by an astonished mother, she replied: “You have to go out too.” Even if the leader has every right in the world to go for a walk wherever she wants, I personally find it difficult not to overlook this behavior to annoy.

There is also plenty of conflicting material in my immediate environment. In conversation with our class teacher, I learned how the school is planning the return of the children. There should be alternating lessons, but different than in the first lockdown. Instead of being taught weekly, as was previously the case, the children should now be taught alternating daily. The parents' council agreed to this in an interview with the school management, the teacher told me.

Our parents' council consists of eleven members. The panel is usually extremely communicative. Whether a flea market is coming up, books are being exchanged or a teacher is saying goodbye - all kinds of things are diligently shared and discussed in the chat group. Somehow the thing about alternating lessons was forgotten. When the parents in our class heard of these plans, there was a great shouting. "If we change every day, I won't let my child go to school," one mother annoyed. “I work in shifts, so my child has to get by on his own. How is that supposed to work? ”A father protested. In order to calm the minds, I had a vote as the parent's spokesman on which form of alternating instruction our class preferred. The result was balanced. I communicated this to the school management and the parents' council. It remains to be seen whether this will have any influence on the final decision.

Then something unexpected happened: A mother, who is always helpful but also very quiet, spoke up: “I think it would be nice if, instead of ranting, we could support each other with homeschooling. One child per other household would be okay. ”There was quick approval and the proposal was implemented. The parents showed solidarity. Suddenly the possibility of daily changing classes was no longer a taboo. “Then the children see each other much more often. That's great, ”wrote the shift worker. In the meantime, small learning duos have formed. Our son is with a school friend today, she was with us last week. Another boy now always comes to us on Thursdays to take some of the pressure off his single mother. So it works.

I can't say whether the situation in the Bavarian company daycare center has eased. But as I found out, the Nigerian boy has now been placed in the emergency care of his school. Every day he sits with other children, learns and speaks German. The mother also attends a language course on the initiative of the headmistress.

It's totally banal and maybe naive: But whether in the autumn storm or during a corona lockdown - I think Darwin is wrong. Because we can decide for ourselves how to deal with a crisis. Whether we hide the people around us or whether we look where we can possibly support each other. Ultimately, that is also a question of character.

Tags: Bavaria, character, Darwin, egiosity, empathy, lack of empathy, homeschooling, crisis, lockdown, Nigeria
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Does the lockdown make us egoists without empathy?

From Matthias Heinrich

Because of the isolation in lockdown, we are mostly preoccupied with ourselves. This can have consequences for society

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