The more I've been in Berlin, the more I have realized the differences in structure, particularly the individual vs the collective. The US prides itself on individualism, whereas Germany seems to pride itself on collectivism. This difference has really made me think what does individualism actually entail, and why do we value it so much? Conversely why do Germans value community so much? These are questions I had never thought about prior to this trip. I thought that Professor Isensee's point on origin was telling-- Germany became a nation because the government arranged it; the US became a nation because the people revolted. Of course individual rights would therefore be important. I'm not sure it's quite that simple though.
But then of course there's the debate on who should be included in the German collective--who is actually German. I thought the statistics presented during the Young Islam Conference presentation were promising, but the negative attitudes and blatant systemic racism that exists in Germany is still surprising to me, especially because there are so many immigrants in Germany. While free higher education is a nice benefit, the lack of mobility is particularly disturbing. In the US, if you come from a disadvantaged high school or background in general, you can still take the SAT anywhere and get into college if you want to. That's not without its own barriers, but it seems like the barriers in Germany are even more so. Overall it's been a very intriguing week because all of these comparisons have naturally developed.