I first read this book early in the 1970ies. To be sure, I was a little worried, yet my trust in our constitution was quite huge

During the Kohl government, I read it again.

At the time, I got a little more worried, because affairs had not taken the best possible turn in Germany.

A few years ago, I read it for the third time. The name of the Federal Chancellor was Merkel and my worries grew again.

For a few excerpts from the book click here. The book is about a topic that is again intensely discussed on the internet in blogs and essays today. Why don’t you just “Google around”?
At the moment, I am wondering if I should re-read it again. I think I had better refrain from doing so. The situation is a complex one, the basic rights are more and more at risk.
It is almost like I am afraid to face the precise conclusions drawn by Karl Jaspers in his work.

So what is so frightening about the book?

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Roland Dürre
Saturday November 2nd, 2019

(Deutsch) POLITIK.

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Roland Dürre
Sunday January 29th, 2017

Painful Experience as a Democrat.

One of the reasons is probably the “oligarchy of the parties” (according to Karl Jaspers) that has taken (almost) all Europe into custody. More and more, we now “enjoy” the results of this development that has been getting stronger and stronger over the last few decades.

Besides, it really annoys me that the powers that are generally called lobbyists now have an overwhelming influence in society and politics. Lobbyism has become part of the system and rules and harms the common interest – often quite apparently at will. I witness all the time that the thus generated real (and often non-transparent) power structures ruthlessly sweep away the efforts and success of groups and individuals. The damage done to both humans and our future is willingly ignored, because more often than not, the only thing that counts for the powerful is money and power.

In addition, there is a historic (birth) defect. In most of the democracies I know, they (almost) always – directly or indirectly – vote for a boss. The elections determine who will be in power. It might be a caste or an individual. But I do not wish to hand power to a system or even to individual persons. Because it is not what modern times call for.

A short time ago, Niels Pflaeging twittered a question:
“All #leadership must be shared!“
Or
“
Is #leadership a collective and social phenomenon that is always present in social groups?“

In these sentences, I would probably have replaced the word #power by the word #leadership. But regardless: I rather like the first sentence and believe that the second sentence is outdated. Maybe it was true in former times, but such an image is not fitting for a world where sympathy, considerateness, democracy, freedom, equality, friendliness (towards fellow humans) reign instead of enmity, respect, participation, appreciation …

Enterprises and all other social systems do not need strong leaders. And this opinion of mine is older than the election of Trump for president. I do not like powerful persons, no matter if you call them president or chancellor. In my opinion, centres of power and power fights are less than optimal. They are something I personally find offensive, I am fed up with them. But on the other hand, behavioural patterns such as the “Mother Theresa” concept (total sacrifice for others) look suspicious to me. The same is true for persons who sacrifice themselves as martyrs for social, political or other goals.

Not only in political systems, I would wish to see coordinators who organize and build networks at the top. Social consensus about central topics must be worked out together and we (as the rulers – Souverän) must be given the opportunity to finally vote on alternatives and decisions that have been well prepared.

This might be our future. Today, however, I remain in the still unpleasant present in this respect and will describe the “pain I feel as a democrat” that actually even increased over the last few weeks. I was going to write a few satires in the “first person”, introducing some politicians. The first was going to be the SPD top politician Sigmar Gabriel. It was to read more or less like this:

“My name is Sigmar Gabriel. I am 57 years old and, until recently, I was Federal Minister for Economic Affairs. To this day, I do not know how I ever managed to get that job. After all, the only thing I did through all my life was teaching adults in union-loving enterprises and, above all, be a political functionary. And this CV made me Minister of Economic Affairs of the powerful FRG! And Vice-Chancellor! Well, it is surprising, but then, apparently, the success speaks in my favour, doesn’t it? Now they say I cannot lead the SPD into the electoral campaign as their top candidate. In fact, my party, those ungrateful villains, downgraded me because, allegedly, the people in Germany do not perceive me too positively. Regardless of the fact that I was a huge success and the German economy is booming as never before. And, basically, we have no unemployment, either. But then, I know about intrigues and power play. And everybody knows you cannot win them all. However, that is fine by me – Germany has become too small for me, anyway. Besides, you have better chances of a career in Europe, just look at comrade Schulz, the rogue. Consequently, I am now going to save the world and do a stunt as Minister of State of the FRG. After all, that is a nice job for a thorough-bred politician like me. Besides, I have wished for some time now to work a little less – after all, I am again going to be a father (which is no small achievement at my age). Being Minister of State is something I can do with one hand bound behind my back and I always wanted to do a little world-travelling, anyway. I am sure it will be a good experience for my baby if it cries and I can be away from home… “

This is where I will terminate my satiric remarks, because I feel it is not nice and rather cruel to write these kinds of things in the name of another person, even if, in cabaret, it is a commonly used form of satire. Writing like this will not alleviate my pain, because there are many reasons for those. Today, I will only tell you about my SPD pains. They are only a small part of my democratic ache. Basically, I understand less and less what happens at the SPD.

Let us start with the Federal President. When I was in grammar school, they taught us that the fathers of our constitution wanted the Federal President to come from among the people and that he/she should ideally not be a politician. It seems that – as so often at school – I misunderstood something. Article 55 of our constitution says:


(1) The Federal President may not be a member of the government or of a legislative body of the Federation or of a Land.
(2) The Federal President may not hold any other salaried office, or engage in any trade or profession, or belong to the management or supervisory board of any enterprise conducted for profit.


Well, those sentences are written in the present, aren’t they? That means my teacher was wrong and Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier can actually transfer directly from being a minister to Schloss Bellevue and Villa Hammerschmidt.

I have never met Walter Steinmeier. Regardless, primarily due to how he conducts himself and acts, I hold him in high respect. But he, too, spent his working life in the ivory tower of politics and that was also where his career was. He was very successful and as a reward, he got the ministerial posting to a high political office. It is quite possible that many persons considered him the last famous SPD person to have been highly regarded by all.

Now, they just go ahead and make him Federal President through (secret) party agreements. They continue to pull the strings. The post of Minister of State that thus becomes vacant is simply given to the not so well-loved Minister of Economic Affairs. His prodecessor – Brigitte Zypries – is an interim candidate  and even calls herself interim minister (Übergangskandidatin). All these things happen in times that cannot really be called politically easy. Is this in the best interest of the German population?

Because the people do not love him, the new Minister of State Sigmar Gabriel was no longer accepted as head of the party and also not made candidate for chancellor. In other words: he had to go. In front of the microphones, he says that, becoming a father, he wants to work a little less in the future. And on the very day after his inauguration, he flies to Paris where he meets obsolescent persons. No matter if you are well-loved or not, standing in the political limelight is even nicer if it is abroad.

But that is not all. The new SPD hope is a man who came to my attention mainly because he is politically unremarkable, but also because he is a very active “master at pulling strings”. He has been living the good life in the European Parliament ever since 1994. Before that time and partly also during that time, he was the major of Würselen (Nordrhein-Westfalen). In 2012, thanks to proportionality and secret agreements, he managed to become the Präsident des Europäischen Parlaments.

Since he seemed so unremarkable to me, I looked him up in Wikipedia. Now I would kindly ask all those who think about voting for SPD to look up the curriculum vitae (Lebenslauf) of Martin Schulz in Wikipedia. You can learn how, simply by being party member and representing their policy, you can make a career with just a few small tricks. It is a good example for the fact that in the SPD internal policy is more important for a career than being active in favour of social democracy.

For me Herr Schulz is a “Gabriel square“. Again, it gets painful: for me, Europe is so much more than just the EURO and the EU. To me, the new SPD top man looks like a symbol and metaphor for the poor state of the EU. An EU that is dominated by nations and economic interests and boycotted by small countries. There is no consensus about values, it is politically disrupted, mega bureaucratic and over-regulated. Basically, all nations want out, but they lack the courage. The EU that many see as something we cannot do without is a threat to a humane and democratic Europe of regions. But perhaps the EU and the SPD have something in common: they both seem to have forgotten the people of Europe.

Now they want Martin Schulz to save the SPD. A party we would badly need as general hope for a new democracy. I personally doubt that he, with his methods, can save the SPD. However, I am fairly convinced that he will not give new life to the idea of social democracy.

Neither is it any help for me that the USA now have Trump, which gives them totally different problems. Which means that my pain will not get any less acute.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

I am glad to announce that now the video recording of the great presentation by Bruno Gantenbein at the St. Gallen IF Forum of July, 23rd, 2015, is available on youtube and can be watched by all of you:

The presentation ”Learning in Innovation“ held by Bruno Gantenbein at the IF Forum left me deeply impressed. Many of the audience felt the same. But some who also were very impressed by Bruno’s theses came back with the important reply that what he spoke about was not something “normal people” can live in a “normal life” in the “real world”. Because your normal Jim and Jack cannot really manage it. And it simply cannot be done. Once in a while, it sounded really like people were despairing.

To me, it seems the reason is that
“most people cannot really imagine living in another world than the one we are living in“
and that
“we are no longer capable of distinguishing between what is important and what is not important. Consequently, what is unimportant is dominant in our lives.“

To me, this seems to be the major problem both for us and our society. A degree of external control through marketing and lobbyism as we never had it manipulates us in a totally new way. It is totally different from, but certainly no less dangerous than, for instance, religious indoctrination of persons in the Middle Ages or, if we are unlucky, the manipulation as practiced by the Nazis.

The formatting of our lives through a super-powerful but not tangible system took away our autonomy. Now we get nervous and start talking change. Yet we lack all desire to start another life outside our comfort zone. In fact, more often than not, we are not even capable of imagining such a life. For instance, the strength to develop utopias for the future seems to have left us. Looking for values and visions no longer plays a role in our society. In fact, if we do look for visions, it is actually something others are belittling us for. The attempt to re-create a new “social consensus” is smothered in the very first stages. Consequently, we assume that the status quo is true and there is no alternative.

We no longer have the courage for change. We accept our dependence and are happy to be “enslaved”. Be it by technology or as our social concepts of life (our lies of life) determine it. We believe you cannot live without a car, a TV set and electricity all over the place. We believe in the omnipotence of medicine. That the federal administration must and has to guarantee our security and safety. And that the planet will certainly find a way to survive it all.

Except that so many of the things we take for granted can be easily disproved. There is no absolute security. We experience it all the time. The sudden death of an important partner or a surprise illness totally throw us off balance. We can easily fall victim to some mishap.

But then, there are also harmless examples. The stamp collection we inherited
from our grandfather that was so precious, but for which now not even the wastepaper trader is prepared to pay, shows us how difficult it is with security. Many things that used to cost a lot are totally valueless today. I made the same experience when pay day came for my direct insurance. What a discrepancy between the money I received from what I had expected when, decades ago, I first signed the insurance contract. Instead of the imagined free-hold apartment, the only thing I got for it was a medium-size car…

Regardless of all this, the (alleged) security of our modern financial world suggest for some that we actually are in total control of the risk of our material life through retirement money and savings. Except where will the Euro be ten years from now? Will we be able to solve future problems with it? What will money be worth? Have we not learned a long time ago that “you cannot eat” money? Especially if it is just virtual money and perhaps out of the blue will have to be shortened by the occasional digit.

To make up for it, we capitulate for fear of terrorism. And we are prepared to sacrifice our present freedom for these kinds of mind games. Sacrificing freedom for what we believe is an investment in increased future safety! And we are even prepared to start a modern (crusade) war for it.

This is how we follow the stupid and brazen battle cries of politicians and economic leaders who, more often than not, are no longer sane. We swallow pointless laws they serve us with, regardless of the fact that we know those will do more harm than good. And we surrender before the stupidity of our “representatives”. In fact, I actually yearn for a German or European Spring. But I do not mean one triggered by hunger or poverty like the one in Northern Africa – which inevitably dooms it.

Why do we believe them when our politicians tell us that “without the Euro, there would be no Europe” and that the so-called “Grexit” would ruin us all? Why do the politicians tell us such fairy tales? We know as well as the politicians that the Euro is good for those who stand in the light. And it is detrimental for those standing in the shadow. Just as we all know that the exploitation structures, both globally and within Europe and Germany, must fail or cause conflicts, either in the near or not-so-near future.

But we get the impression that we cannot do anything about it and perhaps that is really what happens. Also, we no longer have the courage to oppose the structures of the administrative and economical systems that rule over us. And we no longer stand up against this, even though we know that human beings – which is we! –, and not system interests that have de-personalized and de-humanized themselves, should be the centre of the society, politics and economics. First and foremost, the economy and the state must serve the interests of the people. Just like it is written in the Bavarian Constitution.

The system of the oligarchy of the parties (Oligarchie der Parteien ) – see Jaspers -rules over us and the morals of mercantile metric in economy sharpens the boundary conditions of our behaviour. Thus, the systemic mills will continue to grind, making the restrictive nets of bondage tighter and tighter. It happens in small portions, which means that we often do not even notice it and almost consider it normal.

Consequently, here is what we need to do:

Let us also get back to remembering that we, as “natural beings” are also part of the “natural world”. To be sure, the “cultural world” we created makes some things easier for us, but it also took a lot from us. It made us lazy. And we forgot that the price we are paying is rather high.

As I see it, we should return – and radically so – to thinking about whether, perhaps, we could also live in other worlds and probably even be happier living in other worlds. As you all know, my favourite example is the “away from the car” and turning towards active freedom through “active mobility”. Yet it is just as important to take a close look at the working and living conditions we subjugate ourselves under, be it in social systems such as families or otherwise. We need to question all that seems self-evident and draw conclusions from the answers. Formerly, one would have said: Destroy what destroys you.

Part of this is also to live a “life in harmony with nature” as Seneca formulated it. And he meant more than just the biological nutrition process and the preservation of the environment. He also meant we need to listen to our inner voice.

After all, Seneca was a great teacher who wanted to help his pupils on their way to become successful and happy persons. So let me finish this article with another sentence by Seneca that might perhaps make it a little easier for us to start travelling towards other worlds:

“It is not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It is because we dare not venture that they are difficult”.

Yet – there is hope. What is currently happening on the internet is actually something I rather delight in.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Tuesday March 27th, 2012

Financing Political Parties Still The Right Thing To Do?

Last weekend was another election weekend. For me, this is reason enough to think about parties and politics. And about how political opinions are shaped today. After all, it is one of the tasks assigned to parties. They are paid for it by the state.

But:

Today, taking part in a democratic forum for shaping your political opinion is nowhere near as costly as it probably was 50 years ago. We live in times where this is possible without having to sacrifice long nights full of cigarettes and red wine.
The “only” thing an active citizen has to invest these days in order to shape his political opinion is his time. What is needed is the good intention and the potential of as many people as possible to acquire knowledge and evaluate the challenges of the modern society in an autonomous and self-responsible way. You have to think, understand and accept other people’s opinions and views, or else counter them.

In order to do so, you have to develop values and your competence for dialectically debating arguments. Fighting slogans and simplified dogmas are no help. Electoral promises are no longer welcome. The citizens have to remember their autonomy and refuse to accept simplified “certainties” and frivolous babble. They must start anew as responsible citizens who question things.

And, above all, they must be prepared to re-evaluate their own interests and vested rights.

Democracy is a question of culture and education. It depends on the willingness to accept the general welfare as a common value. That is something you basically need no money for!

We live in a time when the shaping of political opinions can be achieved extremely easily. Nowadays, you can inform yourself and others at a low cost, communicate and discuss matters with others without problems, make up your own mind and convince yourself and others. Even if the other parties concerned live far away. Because we now have the internet!

Consequently, the state should no longer throw the money of its citizens away by subsidizing fossilized party structures!

Basically, the money is just spent for marketing, thus strengthening the oligarchic position of the existing parties (Oligarchie der vorhandenen Parteien). And that is something the German philosopher Karl Jaspers warned us against as early as 40 years ago. Unfortunately, his warning went unheeded.

Modern parties will not need federal money for their central tasks. Giving them bounty on head for each voter only supports the crustification of grown power structures. Those who are powerful get most of the money and thus can invest even more into marketing.

I often hear the argument that party financing helps against a situation as we find it in the USA. There, a candidate only has a chance to get elected if he is either super-rich himself or/and has friends with a lot of capital who (for whatever reasons) are prepared to give him money for his electoral campaign. However, those sums are in a completely different league. Some additional (federal) money would not really make a huge difference.

So here is what I propose:

Ban marketing for politics (as has been done for tobacco and alcohol), reduce propaganda through public ostracism, base the electoral campaigns on facts, rather than influencing the opinion building process through the supply of party structures with “federal money”.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Currently, there is great unease about our democracy. Something is not as it should be. What is it? Let me cite four different opinions on the subject. In order to have a really balanced set of opinions, I chose two commentators and two politicians (both of whom, naturally, have to be ex- or almost ex-politicians in order to be able to speak freely).

Hans-Ulrich Jörges (Stern, July, 23rd, 2009):

He underlines his opinion with a citation by the president of our Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier: “If the political and financial decisions are not made in parliament and in the course of a parliamentary process, then the people living in a nation are no longer represented and the voters are degraded.” Jörges concludes: Germany has a democracy deficit. It is only a democracy peopled by spectators. The people are incapacitated and it is time for a profound democratic reform.

Roland Dürre (IF Blog, June 23rd, 2009):

We have already been told by Karl Jaspers that there is a danger of Germany becoming an oligarchy of parties. There is a whip system that forces the delegates to vote according to their party’s wishes, instead of listening to the voice of the people who would be absolutely capable of accepting harsh measures where necessary, instead of just populist promises.

Burkhard Hirsch, formerly Vice President of Parliament (Zeit, July, 23rd, 2009):

Parliament should at long last have the courage to delegate to “Europe” only those rights that actually go to the parliament, rather than some Barrosos, Solanas or other commissioners we neither know nor elected.

Peter Struck, soon-to-be ex-chief of the SPD Representatives in Parliament (Zeit, July, 23rd, 2009):

A radical tax reform is hardly possible. The lobbies fighting against it are too strong and too powerful. Besides, there is always a party supporting the lobbyists. In order to initiate a fairer tax system you would have to massively reduce subsidies, which cannot be done, because too many profit from them.

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D-MarkA few days ago, I found an article (which is certainly worth reading) on “optimism and what the youngsters knows” in the SZ. Here is the “teaser” of the article:

Social market economy? I do not know what that means. Inflation? I have never heard of it! A survey reveals that our youngsters know frighteningly little about economy – regardless of the crisis. (Translation of original SZ sentence)

🙂 As a service for our young readers, I would like to make a contribution towards alleviating the German educational misery by describing what inflation means in four examples.

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bundestagDuring the last years of his life (in the late 1960ies), the German psychologist and philosopher Karl Jaspers – who then became a Swiss citizen – concerned himself with the future of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In his last two books, he writes that the German democracy might well turn into a party oligarchy. This scenario gave him pause. I read a very interesting article of February 1983 by Rolf Hochhuth on this in the Zeit.

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