Verboten – Germany deals with Social Problems

In a recent school shooting
in Germany, a troubled and bullied kid went on a killing spree,
wounding 37 and killing at least himself. He was apparently
disillusioned by an economic situation that would have sent him
straight from the school into unemployment. This is very sad and a
horrible waste of talent that no modern society can really afford in an
age of global competition.

Now, after the desaster, politicans
across the board are trying to “understand” what happened, i.e. come up
with lame excuses for their incompetence and offer rash, unreflected
but popular strategies to address the issues. Germans – with their
tradition of state control and a somewhat troubled history of civic
freedoms – have an universal approach to this: Verboten! As such, it is
not surprising that first-person shooters (such as e.g. Half-Life or
Quake) are targeted for censorship.

I do not want to argue
about the pedagogical value of such games. However, in a society where
freedom is considered one of the fundamental values [1], censorship is
not an option. I do think that access to violent computer games should
be limited to adults and that children should be educated about proper
use of modern media in school. But teletubbyfying entertainment is
simply ludicrous.

The gravest failure lies with the
parents, and to a lesser degree with teachers and local society as a
whole – they are co-responsible for the failure to educate this young
man and offer him a future. At the end of the day however, he pulled
the trigger – so the primary responsibility lies with him – and
certainly not with the game industry or with the Internet in general.

proper questions to ask would be: Why did the parents allow him play
FPS for such a long time? Why did they not recognize that he had social
and academic problems at school and react accordingly? Why did the
teachers not discourage bullying at an early stage? And finally: how
long will Germany continue on its current trajectory, where qualified
labor is desperately needed, but the structures in education and the
labor market are so inflexible that talented young people do not get
the chance to excel and pursue happiness?

[1] Germany national anthem begins with “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit …”, i.e. “Unity and Justice and Freedom …”.

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