To Germans, caution and frugality are signifiers of great moral character. Sure, they favor high-quality consumer goods—but they deliberate on what to buy for years, and expect their possessions to last for decades, from Birkenstocks to $7,000 Miele ovens to Mercedes sedans. Yes, Germany has its super-rich citizens. But most of them, such as the late Albrecht brothers of the Aldi grocery empire, are notoriously reclusive—perhaps because extreme wealth is considered tacky.
Moreover, for Germans, a good work-life balance does not involve unlimited massages and free meals on the corporate campus to encourage 90-hour weeks. Germans not only work 35 hours a week on average—they’re the kind of people who might decide to commute by swimming, simply because it brings them joy. And a German wouldn’t be caught tot pounding down a bar or a glass of Soylent to replace a meal—a ritual that even on workdays takes two hours to consume al fresco over a book or an impassioned conversation, and is available at a neighborhood cafe for a reasonable price.
Innovation, entrepreneuship and ambition should never overshadow the common good. We are bound together as a single humanity and are responsible for one another.
As much as I love to innovate and to be part of an enterprising society and culture, not at the expense of a reflective and gratituous one.