Germany in autumn … 2017

by Karl Müller

What can be said about Germany in late autumn 2017?
“When atrocity has reached a certain level, the question who committed it is irrelevant: It simply should stop.”
In February 1978, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlöndorff, Alexander Kluge and eight other directors of the so-called New German Cinema produced an episode film about the RAF and Germany in autumn 1977, called it “Germany in autumn”. The movie started and ended with this sentence.
Since the mid-60s there had been loud protests against the German state, against economy, society and politics. The “Red Army Faction” (RAF) emerged from this protest movement. In 1977 and in the previous years, the RAF had kidnapped or killed prominent personalities of public life. In September 1977, also the president of the Employer Association had been abducted in order to obtain the release of imprisoned leaders of the RAF. Even a “Luft­hansa” passenger plane was hijacked. The extortion attempts failed. RAF prison inmates died. The kidnapped president of the Employer Association was murdered.
The film was disputed. Even more disputed was Volker Schlöndorff’s statement: “After all this work with the movie, after all the experiences gained there, the question is no longer why there are so-called terrorists but why don’t we have many more of them? Why don’t all start flailing?”

What does opposition mean?

Forty years have passed since then. Much has changed. Though … On 24 November 2017, several hundred people from all over Germany convened at a “conference” in Leipzig. The topic: “Opposition means resistance”. “All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order [of Article 20 of the Basic Law, that is principle of democracy, rule of law, social state principle, federalism and division of power], if no other remedy is available.” This is Article 20, paragraph 4.
There have been no calls for violence in Leipzig. There are hardly any similarities between the participants and the terrorists of the 60s and 70s. But we are getting some insight into the mood of many Germans. On 24 September, some five million Germans have voted for the AfD [Alternative for Germany]. The politicians of the AfD and their sphere talking in Leipzig on this Saturday are receiving standing ovations. The applause is directed towards politics and politicians positioning themselves against the mainstream, also radically: against the mainstream in politics (the “cartel of old parties”), in the media (the “gap [or lie] press”) and otherwise. One of the participants is working as occupational consultant in Bavaria. He has gained experiences with young migrants. Bad, very bad experiences. In his narration he is factual, nuanced and precise. Before and after the speeches he also rises when there are “standing ovations”.

What is going on in the financial markets?

On Monday, 27 November 2017 we can read in the business section of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”: “There is a deceptive calm. Numerous red warning lights are announcing the coming storm.” The article reports on several relevant statements regarding the situation at the “international financial markets”. With its “highly excessive monetary policy”, the European Central Bank “had sedated the markets and put investors to sleep.” But “signs for a dangerous market development” were unmistakable. There were many “absurdities” at the financial markets. Then we can read: “It is certain that in future people will wonder ‘what did they think at the time?’”. And further: There is a number of “bad investments” which cannot yet be overseen. “Other than previous technical revolutions the digital revolution has not yet caused a wide increase in prosperity.” “The standards of living are stagnating or sinking – except in the uppermost income levels.”
Most likely not many participants of the Leipzig conference are reading the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung’s” business section. But they do perceive what is demonstrated here (only) by example: The whole direction is at fault. The world is dancing on a volcano. We have enough victims already.

Loss of reality in politics, finance and media

The loss of reality in politics, finance and media is substantial. This is obvious when talking to a veteran mainstream journalist. After all one only writes what the majority wants to read. Actually everything was fine. All was under control.
After the elections, Mrs Merkel does not see a reason to question her previous politics.
The participants of the Leipzig “conference” would join in calling “We are the people!” Of course, empirically they would be wrong. They are just a minority. The majority is drawing a line. It is always possible to rail against the AfD and its periphery. This is an occasion to prove being the “better” German. And this “criticism” does not need to be wrong all the time.
(Frage) In Berlin the “talks” regarding the formation of the government are going on. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights the Germans are supposed to wait for results. The news start with it early in the morning. Just like a king was to be elected. Of course Germans want to be governed – they say. The question is just by whom. No mention of the idea to consider governments as servants to the people, to the citizens. No mention of direct democracy. In the confusion of our time the country needed a “strong” government which in a difficult situation can rely on a majority in the parliament ... and so on and so forth.

How much land does a man need?

Forty years ago the large majority of the citizens stood against the few “terrorists”. Rightly so! These people had become obsessed, completely obsessed. The whole life on the wrong track. Some of them began as idealists, radicalised themselves, turned to crime, became violent and started to kill. In the end there was death, many years in prison and an agitated German society.
But did this point have to be reached? How would we comment what Volker Schlöndorff said in 1977? Why is it so difficult to arrange communal life such that all people experience justice and wish to live together in peace? Such that nobody with reason will want to flail?
Where are we now, forty years later? Looking at Germany in fall 2017 can give the impression of watching locomotives approaching each other head-on. And the speed is increasing. The consequences could be worse than in 1977. Many speak about “polarisation”. A few years ago there was a book titled “Beware of the civil war!”
Where are the voices of humanity? In everyday life, there are many, and again and again. Less voices, more acts, acts of humanity. But what about our practical politics, our public discourse? What about our “mainstream”? Should buzzwords and rudeness prevail?
Why is it so difficult to convey that “more of the same” cannot work, that strive for power and greed will eventually eat up itself? Why couldn’t the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s wisdom be taken serious also in Germany. Over 130 years ago he wrote the parable “How much land does a man need?” The farmer Pachom’s greed became boundless. In the end it killed him.
Germany would have better things to offer ...    •