Surveying the Germans' angst: terrorism in foreground
11 September 2007, Berlin (dpa) - The risk of being bombed by terrorists is surging up within Germans' generalized angst, that chilling feeling that something awful is about to happen, according to a survey by an insurance company.
11 September 2007
Berlin (dpa) - The risk of being bombed by terrorists is surging up within Germans' generalized angst, that chilling feeling that something awful is about to happen, according to a survey by an insurance company.
R und V Versicherung, which offers policies to insure against many of those risks, regularly takes the pulse of German fears, and says the greatest worries for the average German are inflation, ending up paralysed or incontinent, and being hurt in a natural disaster.
The findings, which come from a survey of 2,400 people in June and July, show that the fear of terrorism rose by 9 percentage points in the previous 12 months, the fastest-growing subject of angst in the German world view.
The reading was taken well before this week's arrest in Germany of three men suspected of buying bomb-making chemicals and plotting mass murder on behalf of the radical Islamic Jihad Union (IJU).
In mid-summer, half the Germans were in fear of terrorism, bringing political violence up to sixth place in the ranking of 16 top fears. A separate survey on Wednesday this week after the arrests found 76 per cent of Germans worried about terrorism.
Angst, which is the ordinary German word for anxiety or fear, is a key concept in the history of philosophy and literature in the Germanic countries. In other languages, "angst" has adopted a special meaning of malaise and fear of doing anything.
Manfred Schmidt, a University of Heidelberg political scientist who interpreted the survey for R und V, disagrees with those who say the Germans are generally more fearful than other European peoples.
He believes their major difference from some other nations to the west is that they put higher demands on their government.
If Germans feel that the state is letting them down, angst results. Some foreign observers have even dubbed the German distaste for self reliance "the German angst."
Overall, Germans were actually feeling somewhat less angst this summer, because the nation was looking after its own in one of the most important ways, with an economic revival.
R und V's special angst barometer showed fears down to just 44 per cent, on a par with the pre-2001 level. In 2004 and 2005, the index shot up to 51, the highest level in 16 years of the surveys.
Every year, 2,400 respondents are asked to rate their fears from 1 (few worries) to 7 (very worried). Another topic that shot up this year was the fear of killer storms and climate change.
In poorer eastern Germany, worry about losing one's job and falling into poverty remains strong, but economic fears have receded this year for Germans as a whole. The fears are not aways realistic, but often reflect the topics in the news.
While German fear of terrorism has grown, fear of ordinary crime is not very widespread: only 28 per cent of Germans worry they will be attacked or burgled. And only 19 per cent worry that their marriage or partnership could fail, the least worry of all.
As Schmidt observes, that is something they ought to be more concerned about. Statistics show that nearly 38 per cent of Germans marrying at the present time are likely to end up divorced later.
Subject: German news