Wolfgang Wendland: Can a State be Borne by Love? 2018-05-14T13:15:20+00:00

Wolfgang Wendland

Can a State
be Borne by Love?

Love, a strong feeling of connection, can refer to all kinds of things: not only to one’s partner in life, but also to one’s homeland, fatherland, and neighbors, and, to conclude this surely incomplete list, to oneself.

“People who don’t love Germany should leave Germany!”—this is the call of the Nazis of today, who occasionally also refer to themselves as “das Volk” (the people) or “patriots.” What seems to be at issue here is a crass case of love of the fatherland, a term that generally comes up when going to war is concerned. In Germany, the term fatherland is connoted in such a clear way with the crimes of the Nazi era that it’s obvious: the German has no fatherland. The best translation of the term was supplied by Curd Jürgens in 1955 as “The Devil’s General” in Helmut Käutner’s (producer: Walter Koppel) film of the same name. To paraphrase:

“What did they say? Fatherland? What do they mean by that? Please spell it: F as in fascism, A as in annihilation, T as in terror, H as in Holocaust, E as in elimination, R as in racial persecution, L as in liars, Auschwitz, Neuengamme, Dachau.”

The term “love of one’s native country” is drivel—or at least tautological, because one’s native country is something that one feels connected to anyway: for example, because one grew up there. It would therefore be a connection with something that one feels bound to in any case.

The question that still remains is whether brotherly love motivates political action. The New Testament command “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” refers to a concrete person, who has a concrete neighbor, and therefore it is more of a rule connected with interpersonal action rather than how a government should behave vis-à-vis a mass of citizens.

What better applies here—to remain biblical—is James 4:17: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him is sin.”
But what is the good? Here, the Kant‘s categorical imperative provides further help:

“Act only according to the maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”