Are there lessons to be learned from the 2020 Corona Year?

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

On 9 December 2020, the Ministry of the Interior of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg announced that the state’s constitution protection authority had put Querdenken 711 under surveillance with immediate effect.1 Querdenken 711 has its origin in the city of Stuttgart, the federal state’s capital, defining itself as an “allicance” of opponents of the government’s Corona measures in Germany. Querdenken 711 was founded in the spring of 2020, meanwhile the group has many name cousins in other German cities with different numbers (in each case the telephone area code). They have mainly become known for the demonstrations and rallies they have organised against the government’s corona measures in many German cities.
  When it comes to corona, “Querdenker” take positions worthy of criticism. However, does this necessarily mean that they are already anti-constitutional? Considering the press release of the Ministry of the Interior alone, convincing evidence is lacking that Querdenken 711 pursues anti-constitutional goals. The text is more akin to a political campaign statement – with a lot of mental acrobatics2 – against an unwanted opposition. And in a way, it is also another piece in the mosaic regarding the desolate situation of German political culture.
  Many political leaders and public officials in Germany, as well as the authorities under their control, no longer respond to criticism in a sovereign and objective manner. The meaning of the citizens’ freedom of expression and its constitutional limits are to some extent arbitrarily redefined. The word “conspiracy theory” (now also: “conspiracy ideology”) should be chosen as the bad word of the year. At the same time, there is a not inconsiderable part of the citizenry with a deep mistrust of the state that is no longer justified on facts, and both sides seem to be irreconcilably opposed to each other.

A good illustration

2020 corona year is a good illustration of the state of political culture in Germany. But it is also a sign of the lack of real solutions so far. Last but not least, however, it also gives impulses for what would be necessary to find solutions.
  Complaining that we could no longer live as we did before the corona pandemic is ambivalent; for indeed, the state of the pre-corona world wasn’t good at all. It was and still is very legitimate to take the pandemic as an opportunity to think thoroughly about how we will arrange our lives and our world in the future. This neither needs to be nor even should be the “new normality”. For a few weeks in March and April of this year, there was a lot of reporting about mutual aid, compassion for the most vulnerable in our communities, trusting cooperation between citizens and political leaders, the common task of fighting the pandemic, and so on and so forth. It would have been possible to extend such acts, which correspond to the social nature of human beings, to many other areas of life. At that time, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed an important idea: If we succeed in fighting the pandemic together, then we will also have the strength, courage and ideas enough to solve all the other problems later on. Obviously, this path has not been followed in many countries of the world. Why?

There is a lack of social bonding

The question of why so many actors act against the social nature of human beings is not easy to answer. It is a bundle of causes. Is there a central cause to all these causes? My answer to this question is: There is a lack of sense of community; put another way: The social connectedness of many people is still not sufficiently developed.3 The dimensions of our mental state, of the lack of genuine social bonding of our generations are usually underestimated. So far, the disciplines of social science and published opinion have hardly addressed this point of view – and, if at all, then often only with reproaches, out of weakened philanthropy, and with a moralising attitude.
  The sharp controversies today work with terms like greed of the billionaires, totalitarian political goals, corona dictatorship, extreme right, conspiracy theories etc. The commentaries in our media, the political debates in the parties and parliaments, the militant speeches at the rallies against the state corona measures are offering a lot of illustrative material in this regard. Not all the statements are wrong. But a solution oriented toward the common good is not in sight. On the contrary, social polarisation is intensifying – and increasing in ferocity if there is also a lack in honesty.

How “sustainable”  should investments be?

What, for example, is to be made of the fact that a major Swiss daily newspaper published an 18-page supplement on the subject of “Invest sustainably” on 3 December 2020? Does this show a “new” corporate philosophy on the way to more common good? “Sustainable,” after all, would mean giving equal weight to social, ecological and economic goals. Are we really moving toward a more just and peaceful world? So that, to name just one of many examples, people in Syria and other countries no longer must suffer from sanctions? Or that the global arms race is ended, acts of war cease immediately, peoples and nations are recognised as equals, and the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law are eventually taken seriously? So that the gap between rich and poor would stop to widen? Or should still be true what we always see up to now: Those who “participate” and already have a lot of money and power are “rewarded” – and those who do not participate are excluded and battled. When George W. Bush was US president, a certain Thomas P. M. Barnett worked for him. At that time, immediately after the Iraq war in 2003, he had thought about the countries in which the US army “must” wage wars in the future. He precisely listed those countries that would not participate in the globalisation favoured by the USA.4

What should we think of the  “Great Reset” and its critics?

The controversy over a project that Klaus Schwab, the director of the World Economic Forum (WEF), is promoting and pushing with all his means: “The Great Reset”. The Internet is full of documents and statements about it. Schwab himself, together with an economist, has even written a book on the subject: “COVID-19: The Great Reset” – and next year’s WEF meetings are to have this as their main theme. Schwab takes the corona pandemic as an opportunity to question the previous way of living together, of politics and especially of doing business. The economic and financial world is to be radically changed, from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism. Also, with the goal to prevent violent conflicts within states or even revolutions. So that the whole world becomes more social, ecological and equal – more inclusive; so that all interests involved are considered. The managers of the big corporations are to become the good world leaders. An essential tool for achieving the goals set is to be digitisation and “artificial intelligence” in industry (“Industry 4.0”), but also in other areas of life. Policymakers should create the necessary framework conditions, if possible, globally and uniformly.
  Klaus Schwab and his comrades-in-arms are experts in marketing. What one looks for, however, largely in vain, are factual, concrete and thorough discussions of this project. Let alone convincing alternative offers. There are many dissenting voices – with quite different starting points. They range from the accusation that Chinese communism is behind everything to the assertion that this coming capitalism will be more capitalistic than anything before. Some think they can recognise a combination of socialism and capitalism in their analysis. Nearly all these opposing voices are very sharp and polemical.5

How honest is politics?

Critics of state corona measures rightly question our politicians’ honesty when they claim they are doing everything they can to combat the corona pandemic to protect the health and lives of their citizens, while at the same time doing the opposite in many other areas. But why don’t these critics demand from our states such a determined effort not only with Corona, but in all other areas as well – and help to do so themselves? Otherwise, slogans like “love,” “peace” or “freedom” will remain empty phrases. Nothing more than fine words without substance. Yes, it is obvious that there are forces in politics and business for which the Corona pandemic is the trigger for plans that have been nurtured for a long time. But it does not make sense to conclude from this that we should not fight the pandemic with all necessary means.
  “He who has internalised the right to life not as his personal privilege, but as the fundamental right of all human beings, will also take a firm stand against all injustice, against violence and war, against the exploitation of humans by humans.” Such stated an article in Current Concerns on 30 March 2020. That is still true today. But no one can force it. It is also a question of social connectedness. Making progress in this area is a task for mankind for many generations to come. – Everyone can help today.    •



1 https://www.verfassungsschutz-bw.de/site/lfv/get/documents/IV.Dachmandant/Datenquelle/PDF/2020_Aktuell/Pressemitteilung_IM_zur_Beobachtung_Querdenken711.pdf
So it says at the end of the press release: “The majority of the participants of the ‘Querdenken’ demonstrations are not extremists. [...] However, the extremist actors, especially also within the ‘Querdenken’ organisers, seem to have managed to spread their anti-constitutional messages among large parts of the non-extremist participants.”
3Annemarie Kaiser has reminded of these connections in her 1981 book "Das Gemeinschaftsgefühl – Entstehung und Bedeutung für die menschliche Entwicklung" (The feeling of community – origin and significance for human development), particularly in the chapter “Der ethische Aspekt: Gemeinschaftsgefühl als anzustrebendes Menschheitsziel” (The ethical aspect: a feeling of community as a human goal to strive for) p. 31ff
4 cf. Thomas P.M. Barnett “The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century”, Berkley, New York, 2004
5 One of the few exceptions is the text by Diana Johnstone which appeared on 24 November 2020: “The Great Pretext” https://consortiumnews.com/2020/11/24/diana-johnstone-the-great-pretext-for-dystopia/)

 

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