“Europe – what future do we want?”

XXIXth Conference “Mut zur Ethik” from 2–4 September 2022

by Eva-Maria Föllmer-Müller, Switzerland*

From 2–4 September 2022, around 150 participants and more than 20 speakers from Europe, Africa, Asia and the USA met for this year’s “Mut zur Ethik” conference in Thurgau, Switzerland. The invitation was extended by the working group “Mut zur Ethik”. Since 1993, guests from various European countries and numerous speakers have come together once a year for three days of equal dialogue to discuss urgent issues of our time. As last year, the discussions were again held in hybrid format, so that speakers and participants from different countries could be tuned in alongside those present.

At the beginning of the conference, a memorial was held for Bishop Dr Elmar Fischer from Feldkirch in Vorarlberg, Austria, who deceased in January of this year at the age of 85 after a short serious illness. Elmar Fischer was an honorary member of the working group “Mut zur Ethik” and had never missed a conference. For him, they were a matter close to his heart. He understood how to fruitfully combine his core themes of marriage and family, youth, love, human education, being human with a view to world events and Christian faith contents.

Reflecting on one’s own substance

The topic of this year’s conference was: “Europe – what future do we want?”
  By Europe – this did not mean the EU – and the question was not about a wish list. The choice of topic was based on the consideration that the peoples and states of Europe must find their own way in world politics, not least because decades of being too closely tied to the policies of the USA are now endangering Europe’s existence. The states and peoples of Europe must reflect on their own substance.
  In June of this year, Current Concerns wrote: “The path towards an independent Europe, a Europe that recalls its historical roots, its human-oriented cultural and political substance and thus contributes to peace in Europe, will not be easy. Christianity, humanism and enlightenment certainly belong to this substance. But culture always also means cultural development. Europe has always made progress when it has opened its doors to other cultures and their achievements for the benefit of the people, i. e., when it has been open to the world. The exchange, the dialogue of cultures is indispensable”. Accordingly, speakers from non-European cultural circles were invited again this year.

Inhuman hate mongering against Russia

Since 24 February 2022, as the words introducing the conference put it, an information and propaganda war has been raging that is unprecedented in its ferocity – a fact that is also noted with consternation by long-standing, renowned investigative journalists such as the Australian John Pilger. The media wave that sweeps over us in the West every day, and even before, is reminiscent of totalitarian systems and is completely inhuman. This radical outburst of hate mongering against Russia, its president, the persecution of Russian citizens in other European countries, was prepared over years.
  After the USA and its allies have practically undermined international law as laid down in the United Nations Charter through numerous breaches of international law and through their behaviour in the United Nations Security Council, they are trying to impose their rules on the world. They call it “rules based order” or “rules based international order” and want to disguise the fact that the rules are set by the power that still believes in its “Manifest Destiny”. What hubris! And we obey just like that?

Looking beyond the European horizon

Looking beyond the European horizon, the following picture emerges: many countries have experienced war and crisis situations on their own bodies – caught in the grip of the colonial and neo-imperial powers – and they continue to experience it today. They are not so easily impressed by the “Western posturing”, are even disgusted by it. They counter the Western “charm offensives”, serving the sole purpose of making these countries a war party as well, with self-confident, polite refusals. They have learned from the past and drawn their consequences: They are going their own way and accomplishing tremendous things in terms of building their countries and establishing new, equal ways of international cooperation. We could learn a lot from them.

What is wrong with the Western world?

The question is what is actually going on with us in Europe, one could also say with the Western world. Do we know what situation we are in? It is well known from Germany that more and more people are leaving the country because they can’t stand it anymore. Many small and medium-sized companies are leaving because they no longer see a future in the country. How do our governing elites come to take such a suicidal path? To throw our rich heritage of 2500 years to the wind like this?
  Switzerland has yielded to the pressure and broken with its perpetual armed neutrality, and it did so very quickly. Only a few intellectuals, with their acquired intellectual gifts, take a critical and logical position in the public debate.
  “The era of the unipolar world is becoming a thing of the past,” said Vladimir Putin in his speech at the “10th Moscow International Security Conference” of 15–17 August, which was attended by 700 delegates from 70 countries. At the same time, according to Putin, the “Western globalist elites [...] are doing all they can to keep hold onto the hegemony and power that are slipping from their hands; they are attempting to retain countries and peoples in the grip of what is essentially a neocolonial order. Their hegemony means stagnation for the rest of the world and for the entire civilisation; it means obscurantism, cancellation of culture, and neoliberal totalitarianism.”
  At present, our Western countries are rapidly breaking with numerous institutions (neutrality) that have stood the test of time for decades and, in some cases, centuries. Relationships developed over many years (international understanding) were and are simply broken off. Dialogue, reason and common sense have fallen by the wayside. In international relations, the West has lost the last vestige of decency. The geopolitical power struggle in the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world is fierce and affects all areas of life. We are living in war – not only since 24 February.

As well a history of overcoming injustice and violence

The introduction concluded by recalling what the “Mut zur Ethik” conference in 2015, seven years ago, had set out in our manifesto “We want a Europe of peace and justice” out of concern for a life of political freedom, cultural diversity and democracy based on the rule of law:
  “Europe’s history is a history of injustice and violence, but it is as well a history of overcoming the latter evils from its own moral insight and political strength. The Western and Christian humanist tradition has developed viable foundations for equality before the law, humaneness and respect for human dignity. Whenever in history these basics could wield their influence, the coexistence of people and peoples human has become more peaceful, just and secure.”

Legal evolution

And further:
  “Europe is characterised by a rich diversity of cultures and nations in a small area, from Crete to the North Cape, from Lisbon to Yekaterinburg. Over more than 2500 years, people all over Europe have contributed a great deal to this in all areas. For living together in peace and freedom, the legal evolution towards more and more justice has been of fundamental importance for Europe and the world.”

Bona fide (good faith)

The congress participants also noted:
  “Good faith must be the basis of all human coexistence and political activity again. Without this principle, there is no confidence in agreements within and between the states, and the floodgates are open to arbitrariness. Control mechanisms (such as «governance») and manipulation techniques of all kinds, which aim at influencing people by the abuse of psychological methods without full and open information, deprive the citizens of the possibility of independently forming their opinion. Thus they violate the dignity of the person and destroy the basis of political dialogue and the legal system.”

Reason and human compassion

By contrast, it holds true:
  “Human beings are capable of using their reason and compassion to recognise the necessary basic orientations of moral and political action and to think, feel and act in a compassionate manner. This is as it were written in the human heart as a disposition. Guided by reason and conscience, these orientations are intended to lay the foundation for the totality of moral, legal and political determinations that guide the life of man and society. They guarantee the dignity of the human person in the face of transient ideologies.”
  In this issue we publish a first selection of conference contributions. Further contributions will be published in subsequent issues of Current Concerns.

* Introductory remarks at the annual conference of the working group “Mut zur Ethik” (“Europe – what future do we want?”) from 2–4 September 2022 – slightly amended.

«Mut zur Ethik»

ef. Since 1993, the “Mut zur Ethik” working group has organised annual conferences with scientists and experts from various disciplines and countries. With the conferences and through the continuous exchange during the year, a network has been created in the meantime that brings people from all over the world together in a fruitful, constructive dialogue, from which concrete projects and activities also emerge time and again.

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