Germany has changed a lot. Two events in Berlin and the public reactions to them are emblematic of this: the authorised LGBT demonstration on Christopher Street Day on 24 July and the banned demonstration of the “Querdenker” – a movement in Germany opposing vaccination and other government policies.
A few extracts from media reports make this clear. First about the demonstration on 24 July:
As the “Rainbow Capital of Europe” for LGBT…
“Senator for Culture Klaus Lederer (Die Linke) was among the participants [of the Christopher Street Day demonstration]. Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller (SPD) had previously called for solidarity with persecuted gays, lesbians, and transgenders. Although today’s Berlin is ‘cosmopolitan and liberal’, homophobic thinking and acting is also a problem in the ‘rainbow capital of Europe’, Müller explained. We have to stand up to this together.” (Deutsche Welle of 24 July 2021)
“65,000 people at parade – biggest demo in COVID-19 crisis. The Christopher Street Day parade was bigger than expected. It was also political: Senator Lederer wants to make Berlin a ‘queer freedom zone’.” (“Der Tagesspiegel” of 25 July 2021)
… and against “Querdenker” with “their cult-like behaviour”
The demonstration on 1 August, on the other hand, had previously been banned by the police because of expected disregard for COVID-19 hygiene rules. Two Berlin administrative courts had upheld the ban. Subsequently, the organisers, “Querdenken 711” from Stuttgart, officially withdrew as organisers, at the same time calling on the participants not to let their “freedom” be taken away. So, a few thousand people attempted an unorganised march through Berlin. When the police tried to prevent this, violent clashes broke out with injuries on both sides and more than 500 arrests. The media stated:
“The federal government responded with concern on the partly violent protests from the Querdenker scene on Sunday in Berlin. There were also ‘attacks on persons from within the protest scene’, said vice-government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer, adding: ‘The Federal Government perceives this with great concern.’ There was as little room for violence and provocation as there was ‘for right-wing extremist ideas, for conspiracy myths, regardless of which side they come from’.” (Zeit online of 2 August 2021)
“’It is not acceptable that these people, with their cult-like behaviour, use Berlin as a doormat to trumpet their ugly images to the public,’ said Tom Schreiber, constitutional policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group in the Berlin House of Representatives.” (Berliner Morgenpost, 3 August 2021)
Now, one could say that things are clear: Of course, the peaceful LGBT demonstrators should be able to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of demonstration. But if a demonstration has been banned, then the police must enforce the ban with the means at their disposal.
But is the matter really that clear? Two further media raise doubt:
“Leipziger Strasse is totally congested. No chance of keeping a distance of 1.5 metres. I feel quite uncomfortable here right now, also because not all the people are wearing masks. When I ask a group of young people why not, they answer with a big grin: ‘Because we shit on the police’. But apparently also on the health of the community.” (Twitter message of Tagesspiegel editor Nadine Lange of 24 July 2021 on the Christopher Street Day demonstration)
“When [...] critics of the COVID-19 measures didn’t wear masks at demos recently, the outcry was always great: how these people were lacking solidarity and how selfish they were. Now, when many of the tens of thousands at the Christopher Street Day (CSD) in Berlin […] ignored the obligation to wear masks, the same cry-babies suddenly remained silent.” (“Die Welt” of 26 July 2021)
Influential minority …
Who were the participants of the LGBT demonstration? A very small, but in the meantime very influential minority in Germany, whose demands are largely met by politics.
… and great mistrust
Who were the participants of the “Querdenker” demonstration? It is not easy to answer this question. Probably a minority. But the available pictures do not show people from whom violence had emanated so far. The people look more like our neighbours, women, and men of all ages, also parents with their children, not neglected, also not as one imagines extremists, rather “normal” … and where they have been able to speak in the media, they seem rather agitated and upset, not like habitual rioters or extremist thugs. What these demonstrators have in common is their rejection of the state’s restrictions on fundamental rights because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They do not want to be vaccinated. They deny that they are endangering not only themselves but also others. They have the almost incontrovertible conviction that the state measures are not objectively justified, but only one step further towards the disenfranchisement of citizens in Germany. They presumably now distrust everything the German state is doing.
How can it be explained that quite “normal” citizens of the country now think – and act – in this way?
All just conspiracy theory? ...
The simple answer is: Stuffed with – right-wing extremist – conspiracy theories, these people have radicalised themselves and are now becoming more and more extremists. That is the official reading. That the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution has made the “Querdenker” movement an object of observation is only logical from such a point of view.
But is the answer really that simple?
What experiences have people in Germany had with German politics in the past decades? There is the saying, “A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.” If you look up Wiktionary, Wikipedia’s dictionary, it says about the meaning of this saying: “A lie can permanently destroy credibility”. And as an example, it cites: “A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth. This also and especially applies to politicians.”
… or also the price of pure power politics?
Is the high price of a Machiavellian striving for power now also evident in German politics? The deliberate turning away from an orientation towards political ethics conceived in terms of the common good and towards the principle that the end justifies all means could not remain hidden. How often has it become known in the meantime that many politicians, also in Germany, are not taking the truth very seriously. That they are preaching high ideals like freedom, justice and democracy, but in fact are trying to push through the goals of – very influential – minorities.
A book worth reading
Where this has become public and continues to do so, those politically responsible almost always react with defensive reflexes. The best known of these is the countercry: conspiracy theory. That this is in fact not the case is shown by the courageous personalities who have rendered outstanding services to the truth. Here is just one example, because I am currently reading this book. Hubert Seipel wrote it. He was an editor and foreign correspondent for Stern and Spiegel, then switched to public television in the nineties. He was twice awarded the German Television Prize for his more than 40 films, as well as the Helmut Schmidt Journalist Award and the Adolf Grimme Award. His book published in spring 2021 is entitled “Putin’s Power. Why Europe Needs Russia” (in German). The title is misleading, because the book is primarily about the campaign against the policies of the Russian President which has been going on for 20 years. A campaign that, as Hubert Seipel explains with many examples and evidence, has little to do with the truth, but a lot to do with the geopolitical power interests of the USA and its allies.
It is still the case that not only the government press releases but also such books are available – and read.
“A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth. This is also and especially true for politicians.” So, it is not that surprising that people are suspicious when German politicians beat the advertising drum for anything. And at first glance, one would almost like to say: when it comes to really important things, politicians should perhaps better keep quiet – because their statements are contraindicated.
What the common good would require …
But that cannot be a solution. Realising the common good without or even against the state is not possible. A policy oriented towards the common good is also not possible if citizens rely solely on comprehensive control of state action. Because a democracy cannot function without a foundation of trust by citizens in the state organs and their office holders. The principle of “good faith” is indispensable. If the well-founded basic trust gives way and more and more mistrust spreading, a country gradually becomes ungovernable, and the extreme consequences can be anarchy and/or dictatorship. In other words: The common good suffers.
Sayings, as we know, have only a limited validity. Lies can fade away when insight and transformation become evident. Most people are not so resentful when they realise that politics does really change. Are Germany’s politicians ready for that? A new Bundestag with new MPs and a new government could be a help in taking the step. If there is understanding and the will to do so.
… and the German politics we have
But those in charge in Germany are still far from that. Especially in foreign and defence policy, Germany has been standing on its head for years. While the Germans are busy with “Querdenker”, LGBT etc., the course of an aggressive foreign policy (bypassing the citizen) is continued unperturbed. On 2 August 2021, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer sent the German Navy frigate “Bayern” to the Indo-Pacific region. The minister said: “The message is clear: we are flying the flag for our values and interests, together with our partners and allies!” The German warship is to defend the “freedom of the seas” in the South China Sea. Just as “freedom on the Hindu Kush” was once to be defended? But the new deployment is no longer directed against a Taliban government in Kabul, but quite obviously against the government of a great power with Beijing as its capital. Almost word for word with the US president, the minister said: “The way I see it, we cooperate with China where we can, and we counter where we have to.” Hence, no happy ending yet. •
km. An article in the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, published on 5 August 2021, entitled “The necessary taming of the politician” begins with taking a look at the US Netflix series “House of Cards”. It tells the story of the American politician Frank Underwood. According to the newspaper, he “knows no scruples. For achieving the American presidency, he does not shrink back from hypocrisy, intrigue, lies and even crime. The political attitudes of Underwood stay never quite clear throughout the series. But it doesn’t really matter. The ultimate politician’s goal is power itself.” Further down in the text, the newspaper writes: “The political intrigues in Washington and other Western capitals are exaggerated in the series, but the mechanisms shown, are quite real.” Finally, there is the sentence: “The series can therefore open one’s eyes for those who still believe that politics is about something like the common good.”
(Translation of quotes Current Concerns)
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