Protection of lives must take priority

On dealing with the corona pandemic in Germany

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

The corona pandemic is also about the right to life. This takes unity and coherence, indeed. And he who affirms the right to life, will also take a stand against violence and war. And for raprochement in international relations.

In the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum)  in Berlin a poster is exhibited, which could be seen all over Germany after the start of world War I – the  text being the date of the German entry into the war “1. August 1914” – and the appeal of the German Emperor Wilhelm II to the German people: “I no longer know any parties , I  know merely Germans”.

This quotation is the most well-known sentence ever spoken by the German emperor. It was spread by the millions in newspapers, on posters and post cards. Today  as well as then the appeal and the poster were and still are considered the epitome of German war propaganda and the authoritarian state by “socio-critical” circles. 

Background to the poster was the so-called “Burgfrieden” (party truce), between the parties loyal to the emperor and the Social Democratic parliamentary faction in the ‘Reichstag’ which had been extremely critical of the emperor up to then, however later deviated from their party line by consenting to the war credits and thus making the war possible. The poster glorifies that “party truce”: Under the portrait of Wilhelm II – carried by angels – the German people assemble worshipping their monarch. Among them we see women, children, students, officers, and farmers as well as the clergy – and even some workmen. The armorials of the 25 federal states  symbolise the political unity of the empire.

“Critical” contemporaries

 Many a “critical” contemporary may have remembered that poster, when he heard or read the current political appeals in Germany and other states, which urge unity and coherence and prescribe containments of personal freedom – like in times of war.

One example of such  “critical” contemporaries is the letter of the editor of a German internet side to their authors. There we read: “In case – and this seems quite possible – the  emergency should prevail in the whole republic and may be even the ‚Bundeswehr‘ will be  deployed within the country, there arise a lot of questions – after a first brainstorming – which we would like to pass on to you as an impuls for eventual articles.” Important issues among others would be: “What are the decisions which might be taken bypassing the public, while we happen to be looking elsewhere conceived of once and again, but  not accepted (Afghanistan deployment extended, obligation for schools to practise e-learning. Abolition of cash money).” Or: “The protests of the ‚gilets jaunes‘ continued and could not be stopped – what is going to happen now In emergency all protests against  cuts in social services will be illegal. Is this legitimate? Or: “The lies of the pharmaceutical industry – final report by the investigation committee after the swine flu.” Or; “The definition of a pandemic (The WHO altered the definition after the swine flu).” Or: “Billions for aid programs – Distribution program from bottom to top?” Or: “DAX- manipulation and economic consequences – is it all about an economic war under false flag?” Or: “Credibility of the Charité‘s head virologist: He developed the test which now yields millions and millions; however it indicates only a “marker” and not the danger of the virus – this conflict of interests is never talked about worldwide – he is even considered  Germany’s most influential physician and counsellor to chancellor Merkel. Or: “In December 2019, that is shortly before the outbreak of the ‘pandemic’, there was a manoeuvre named ‘event 201’ in which the Chinese health authorities, the WHO, the Gates foundation and the CIA participated. This is by no means a rumour, you can look it up under: A world-wide corona outbreak was simulated, which was to begin in Brasil, however, otherwise it sounds exactly like the things we are just experiencing now.”

During the past years, the above-mentioned webside has published many valuable critical analyses and statements concerning many political issues. Note particularly the contributions of all participants countering the NATO states’ war propaganda and war politics. One can only be pleased by this commitment, and the questions raised in the present context are by no means illegitimate.

However, what is it that strengthens humankind?

Are people encouraged by such questions in view of the Corona pandemic?  Are we making tools available to our contemporaries this way so that they can respect and protect their lives, their health and that of others? Or to say it in other words – is a headline like the one in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 14 March “Jetzt kommt es auf uns alle an” (Now it’s up to all of us) – a manipulation of the citizens almost comparable with that of Wilhelm II, which must be criticised –, or does such a caption express what is important right now: an appeal to everybody to do what he is capable of to contain the pandemic and keep the damage as small as possible? And does it not stress the fact that is it not the order of the day to raise all kinds of problematic questions and this way heighten distrust, instead of doing everything possible to protect lives which is indeed the basis of all other basic and human rights.


This is not possible without values. Martin Booms head of the Akademie für Sozialethik und Öffentliche Kultur (Academy for Social Ethics and Public Culture) emphasised this insight in a contribution to the NZZ dating 14 March 2020 and it is worthwhile to reflect his considerations.

“The Corona epidemic might expand to be the most serious global crisis the world has seen for decades. But this is not primarily due to the medical biological dimension of the event – even if this is indeed very serious […]. An even greater  and sustained danger derives from the social, political economic and last not least moral secondary effects of what is happening, dangers which in a worse case scenario might decouple themselves from the actual epidemic. […] For the fact is that – particularly in the western-liberal societies – the Corona epidemic strikes a morally and politically seriously ill patient, who even beforehand suffered from all the symptoms which the current epidemic now produces: a high degree of disorientation and bewilderment, coupled with the loss of confidence into the established political and economic structures […], the erosion of the concept of objective truth, an erosion which succeeded in toppling the last piece of firm ground, i.e. the existence of general accepted truths.”

Or: “Will the economically sound states be willing to support economically vulnerable countries with bail-out packages? Will people be responsible enough to restrict their personal freedoms in order to contribute to reducing the contamination risk for groups at risk?”

Or: “In case we succeed in view of the health crisis to return to the spiritual fundaments of western-liberal appreciation which have become fragile for quite some time, there may be a chance in this biological problem, a chance for our society. In this case, indeed, the corona crisis might contain those political, social and economical forces, who recently instead of promoting the spirit of humanism and solidarity pushed that of division, exclusion and priority of special interests.” [all quotes translated by Current Concerns, eds.]

The right to life and what it entails

The questions and issues raised by social-critical thinkers, are not illegitimate. They are to be contemplated somewhen. However, we have to think anew every day, what is the world we are living in and what are the actual tasks to work on and what are the question and answers really encouraging mankind. Could it be possible that many a critical intellectual lays more weight on his critique, his theses, analyses and theories than on the actual well-being of his fellows? That must not be the result of ill-will. Karl Marx and the communist movement were an excellent example. Intellectuals standing in this tradition should scrutinise themselves in this respect. What serves the common weal shows in the results. The Corona pandemic is a real problem, those ill from the virus and those deceased exist. The question how to bring relief and redress takes priority.

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.

Whether these plagues of mankind appear as new forms of Jacobinian “virtue terror”, as “sanctions” against peoples and states, as variations of “humanitarian interventionism” or in form of war manoeuvres like “Defender Europe 2020”.1   •

1  Since mid-March 2020, there have been increasing reports that „Defender Europe 2020“ has been cancelled due to the corona pandemic, or that it will only take place to a limited extent. US troops on their way to Europe are said to have turned back towards the USA. Bundeswehr soldiers should not participate because of the pandemic.


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