How can we succeed in bringing people closer to culture and identity?
"Are you really Turkish? You don't look Turkish at all!" Melisa has heard this line a fair few times. This is because her name is not Ayse, and she does not fit the stereotype of a Turkish girl. Melisa, 25, is the editor of "renk.", a German-Turkish online magazine reporting on art, culture and creative minds.
Generation25 only knows of a unified Germany. In their thinking there is no "east" or "west", and especially no "us" and "you". Boundaries only exist in the minds of people who do not understand that people like Melisa can be, and are allowed to be, both. Turkish and German. The creators of "renk." want to use the magazine to destroy clichéd stereotypes and make their sense of identity accessible and understandable – because nobody is merely "a foreigner".
For young adolescents, the question "who am I?" is tremendously important. It is a question which conveys doubt and makes seeking answers inevitable. This is because the answer to this question also intimates "who do you want to be?" Leonie, 14, writes: "Just be yourself, there are enough other people."
That sounds simple. But how would that work on a large scale, not just on a micro scale? How can we succeed in bringing culture and identity closer to a society? Phoebe, 16, thinks: "Culture and identity should be a major subject in German schools. The subject of identity is especially important during development."
The interesting thing about the discussion which followed on from the "renk." project is that culture is understood and associated in wholly different ways; namely very narrow on the one hand, and very broadly on the other. Tobias, 17, noticed the error immediately: “We have not been talking of ONE cultural identity for a long time now. Culture means diversity!” While others, such as Philipp and Marcus, both 16, associate the terms identity and culture immediately with Germany, and suggest the following in order to bring them closer together: "By bringing them closer together to the benefits and social connectivity contained within culture" or "by maintaining old traditions ..."
Judith, 18, also understands what "renk." is trying to do: "As early as at school, more should be spoken about world history and foreign cultures." And Chantal, 19: "Socially, it would be better to emphasise how different and interesting we all are. We are more than the same!"
It is delightful to read how many of these young people often look "outside". They have understood how free life can be, and that they do not need any borders or barriers – be they cultural or geographic – to feel safe and well:
"It needs more optimism and joyousness; culture is not a static term – it is a continuous, fantastic flux." (Jonas, 21)
"Pack your rucksack and discover the world. Experiencing different cultures is the best remedy for prejudice." (Elisabeth, 24)
Open-mindedness is thus the first path to cultural rapprochement; regardless of whether you are traveling, or whether you are at home in your own country.
3.2 million people with a migrant background are expected to live in Bavaria alone in the year 2024 (source: Süddeutsche) and that is just one of the 16 German states. In a time when cultural rapprochement is and will be so important, the hope remains that Generation25 brings to life many other such initiatives with ideas such as those of "renk.".