BERLIN -- Only a month since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the country to a historic influx of refugees, Germans have begun to worry about the limits of their country's capacities. And talk of integration brings up an even larger question: how does a country afraid of national identity present itself to newcomers?
It is an irony of history that the same Germany that had set out to exterminate one group of "Semites," the Jews, in the last century is now laying out the welcome mat for another Semitic group, the Arabs -- considering that the majority of the migrants are from the Middle East -- in this century. So what caused the springs of human kindness to gush forth in German hearts?
What is feared today is not the loss of any particular country to foreign conquest, but the loss of an imagined entity that binds us together. The Occident is a central piece of our mental maps and our cultural inventory. In a very visceral sense, Europeans are seized by fears of decline and by memories of cultural blossoming. Those fears culminate in the belief that our cathedrals will eventually turn into mosques, that their bells will fall silent and will be replaced by the cries of the muezzin.
As the Netmundial conference on the future of Internet governance starts, rather than asking "What can we expect from it?", we might ask instead whether this future might be more promisingly reformed by political, technical and architectural innovations than by a preach to a so-called multistakeholder choir convened in Sao Paulo.