“Meet this people of shepherds!” This is what the old Attinghausen in Schiller’s “Wilhelm Tell” tells his nephew Rudenz, who wants to escape the responsibility of his origin, because he is looking for recognition and a splendid position at the court. The fear of scorn and contempt from the courtiers he might incur when standing up for the people made him unresponsive to the worries and needs of his countrymen, to whom he was, in fact, bound. Instead, he seems to want to bow to the dictates of power to gain a position among those who think themselves to be better. A psychological movement, which is only too human to be also observed in our century.
The courtiers are presently enjoying the White and other houses, gigantic bureaucratic palaces and international organizations. They take resolutions which are supposed to be “without alternative”, calling themselves once again “elites” who must know, and when the peoples are opposed to the – as they gracefully admit – “hard” but allegedly inevitable measures, they set apart from “old school”, “reactionary”, “dreamers” or even once from the “mob” and the “populist”, as they always have done. The choice of the characterizations of divergent opinions, the high media shitstorm in the mainstream media should signal to everyone that it would be better to separate oneself from such thoughts and personalities. And some do so only because the pressure does not only occur through psychological warfare.
But the world does not only consist of courtiers – and as the example of Rudenz shows, a person can also reconsider his position. What appeals to us in Schiller’s drama in a timeless manner is not “nostalgia” or “myth”, as court writers of today are glad to assert. His drama was not simply historical writing but it spoke to his contemporaries in the same way as it does to us today. What the “poet of freedom” makes of this material is the fundamental theme of the history of mankind: the struggle for freedom and self-determination as a lived human dignity against the power of government, the presumption of power and disregard of the fundamental equivalence of all and at the same time all nuances of human response to this question. Realistically, one must say today that the possibilities of power are still strong. The people of Yemen (see p. 15) and in many other countries experience them most brutally every day. They are also shown in the sanctions against Russia and the unbelievable assumption of power of the US, who aim to impose verdicts based on American interests to the rest of the world. And in the information age the power struggle is of course also conducted over all channels of media influence. Many see this, and even if their direct influence is small compared to today’s dictatorship of power, their voice is a voice of human reason and the insight accessible to all human beings in principle that a peaceful, humane cohabitation presupposes the legal state, the respect of the law. Recalling this, for example, as Alfred de Zayas or Hans Köchler repeatedly do, strengthens the spiritual-moral force needed to push back raw force in any form – even in the smart, soft or manipulative form – and help to enforce law.
So far, direct democracy has protected us in Switzerland from excessive excesses of elite power. It is not without reason that, among other things, Herbert von Arnim calls for more citizenship and more influence of the citizens also for Germany (see page 10). There are attempts to prevent such thoughts by characterising their representatives or the people in a negative way, and even here this has not been given, it must be fought for, and it has to be recognised by every generation in its meaning and its essence to be lived. We have philosophers of many centuries at our side who have paved the way for the insight into the fact that we are all “born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and are all “endowed with reason and conscience”, to meet “in the spirit of brotherhood”. Many people in our country are aware of these connections – they are grateful to live in a country where the rules of coexistence – despite all the shortcomings – take account of these basic human traits.
Erika Vögeli