Roland Dürre
Sunday May 26th, 2019

(Deutsch) Weltschmerz am Sonntag!

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Roland Dürre
Wednesday May 15th, 2019

The Real Problems of this World?!

Between ruins. In South Georgia.

I often read that we need to become agile and digital, because everything is so “vuca“. But is that not a luxury problem?

Don’t we have real worries? As a consequence of developments that might even threaten our lives?

Currently, the climate catastrophe is the centre of our “media-driven” worries. It is about the fact that the warming of our planet is caused and exacerbated by the excessive and still growing emission of carbon dioxide caused by humans and their machines.

In a dialogue with a knowledgeable person, it dawned on me that there are many more critical points than just the change of the world climate caused by the burning of fossil raw materials.

As I see it, the origin for the foreseeable problems are on an intellectual and on a material level. Let me give you a list of factors that tell you which mental concept lies behind it and what consequences they have on our planet. And I will also write down how my own personal behaviour relates to it.

I found two (main) reasons as “systemic” causes of the problem.

  • Consumerism and capitalism
    Human greed, our preference of convenience and our hunt for special adventures seem to be the main reason for the sad development of our planet.
    If I look at my own life, I see a problem. I practiced consumerism for many decades and still continue to do so. I bought far too many things for far too many years. I benefited from the capitalist system, my life was good. I cannot complain, except about how the world now is rather damaged.
  • Fixation on growth
    Even when I was at school, I did not understand why everyone preached growth. I was always the sceptical outsider. As I see it, the concept of continued growth is absolutely short-sighted and stupid, especially on a global scale. The idea that growth might solve problems is the reason why humanity destroys itself.

So here are the actual consequences and the physical state of affairs:

  • Armament industry and war
    The combination of these two seems to be the greatest of all evils when it comes to damaging our world. What I mean is that we make a maximum effort to destroy ourselves, and the tendency is still growing. Here in Germany, the  armed forces (Bundeswehr) even destroy our environment in times of peace. 
Why do humans not understand that armament and wars are not only cruel and irrational, but also just stupid 
I am convinced that a civilization only deserves the name if the individual and collective abstinence from violence has become a behaviourist value as a matter of course and I also believe that this utopia can be realized. And that the majority of humans also want this and that it is possible. In order to avoid wars, the armament industry must be abolished. Because an analysis of all wars shows that they were always artificially constructed and that the armament industry always played an important role in the process.
    It really annoys me that Bavaria is the state of Germany that has by far the highest weapons exports. 
This is an aspect where I personally failed. As early as when we founded the InterFace Connection and later, along with our employees, we decided that we do not want to do business with the armament industry. Later, when, forced by the market situation, we had to change from being a product manufacturer to becoming a service provider, the transition became much easier by doing business with weapon producing enterprises. The good intensions failed and we supported the building of tanks. 
So I believe that the planet cannot be saved unless we abolish the weapons industry and stop waging wars. In other words: the introduction of global peace must be top priority.
  • Waste pollution of the planet
    I am not sure what is more detrimental for the planet. Is it the radio-active waste we produce, the plastic material we distribute all over the world or the general distribution of the periodic table of elements  into the environment?
My personal contribution to this problem has been made. I started many years ago with mostly buying and eating only food – for instance yoghurt and other dairy products – that does not come in plastic containers or a Tetrapak . Drinks (beer, water, coffee cream) or food that comes in pet bottles or tins are shunned by me as much as the devil shuns holy water. Some of the people around me actually find this quite extravagant in me. 
In my personal experience, it is quite possible to do without most of the plastic wrappings and tins. I still see enough wastefulness as it is. I have always enjoyed eating pickled cucumbers, and whenever I empty a glass with its lid, I find this destruction totally irrational. Even if the glass will be recycled. When I was a child, the preserving jar was a precious resource. And my mother preserved cucumbers every year.
  • So here is the carbon dioxide topic
    By now, everybody agrees that there is a correlation between the warming of the atmosphere and the level of carbon dioxide. There are still some who doubt that we humans have caused the free carbon dioxide. 
My personal contribution is still sub-optimal. The most positive aspect is that I avoid cars at least insofar as I have not driven in a car for many years where I was the only occupant of the car or taxi. This showed me that you can at least avoid cars if you are a single voyager. It means that, as an individual, I only go by bike or use public transportation. And I do not at all feel that this is a disadvantage. On the contrary: I feel well. You can also go shopping quite well with the bike. And my general condition has improved considerably with the removal of a car as my mobility tool, both psychologically and physically. 
I still have other worries. For instance when it comes to flying. In the last few years, I had quite a few long-distance flights. The destinations were always unique and gave me a lot. This is an area where I feel it extremely hard to abstain – as opposed to the car.
  • An end to the richness of species
    For me, the end of the richness of species means something like the beginning of the end of life. Why should humans alone survive if the biology in its diversity can no longer function? That sounds rather illogical.
    My personal contribution is limited by what someone who lives in his small house and has his small garden can do. No poison for the perfect lawn and the right plants for life.
  • Food
    Today, many people cannot imagine any meal without meat. Germany has become one of the biggest meat exporting countries of the world. As I see it, that makes no sense. We produce animal plants in an unappetizing and cruel way as industrial mass ware. With calories from the entire world 
When I was young, in the 1950s, we ate the Sunday Roast on Sundays. On weekdays, we usually had meat-free meals. Then prosperity came along in small steps. On Tuesdays, the Wiener sausages became part of the menu and on Fridays we had herring. Those were still special occasions. Then the mania started. …
  • Soil consumption
    If you look at traffic, housing, firms and energy, you can find that we destroy soil all the time. Some of us have two flats, most of them with an extra office. The flats become bigger all the time. A single person needs at least a two-room flat, a couple needs a four-room flat. Elderly people remain in the big house. The per capita need of living room becomes more each year. 
I am glad that we managed to sell our big huge house and move to a smaller one after most of our children had moved out.
  • Regulation of rivers
    I just read about how the regulation of rivers has a devastating influence on our world. That alone was already a story that gave me pause. 
I used to drive along the river Main many times. Including the part where you have ships. And I have been asking myself why, as I am sitting on the patio of the “Gaststätte Anker” in Sommerhausen, why I see so few ships. Whenever I see one, it is most often a cruise ship. Mind you, we are talking about the Rhein-Main-Donau-Channel that was built as the main ship freight route for all the traffic. Even the Danube was enlarged for the purpose. Similar ideas come when I think of the  Niederfinow ship hoist for the traffic on the rivers Neiße and Oder.
In this respect, my own potential for a personal contribution is probably limited to trying and voicing my opposition against the continued extension of the river Danube.
  • Water
    Water is the basis of all life. Regardless, we destroy and damage our drinking water in huge dimensions. 
I try to save water. Even my grandfather taught me to be careful in this respect. So I try to counteract waste. Whenever I go swimming, I do not take an extra shower at home. I also believe that it is quite enough to clean your body once a day. We have three huge water containers that are filled from collectors on our roof and we use the water from there for watering our garden. Unfortunately, I have not yet managed to change the toilet water system from drinking water to rainwater.

There are many actual threats.

In my personal book, the carbon dioxide is only number three on my list of priorities. But basically, it does not really matter, because unless we change our mind sets in the sense of leaving consumerism, capitalism and the belief in growth behind, there will never be a change. The mental change alone is probable a Herculean task that is next to impossible.

All actual threats (armament, waste pollution, carbon dioxide, richness of species, food, soil consumption,…) are inter-related. I probably even forgot some areas. We have to work on all of them, instead of focussing only on one topic – such as carbon dioxide. Part of the transformation will be that we change our living styles. It is all about a holistic change of attitude in our lives. The question might be: is it still worth fighting – or is it better to just continue dancing on the volcano?

My brain tells me that it is already too late to save the planet.

In the  Anthropocene, we started developments that have now gained their own momentum and that will have consequences which will cause the real catastrophe. They will probably speed up the process of destruction.

My heart tell me that resignation is the wrong way.

That is why there cannot be a “LET US CONTINUE AS BEFORE” and we should at least try the great transformation. If we want this transformation to be a success, then we will have to change EVERYTHING. It can only work globally and will have to start locally.

And I believe we should try it together. And I wonder why politics, business and many socially relevant institutions do not get active at all.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Sunday April 28th, 2019

The Holes in Your Trousers

It feels best to be in the nude.

Summer is nice.

Mostly, you do not have to wear too many clothes in summer. In spring, autumn and winter, however, it is important to wear clothes if you live in our regions. Because otherwise you can easily fall ill.
And since we live in luxury, most of the people in this country have far too much hanging in their wardrobes.

I find it hard to throw anything away.

There are several reasons for this… firstly, I am sorry to throw something out that is still intact. You never know if there might not be a chance to wear exactly this one piece, even though I have not worn it in many years. Also, I am economical and do not wish to just destroy things that are ok. Also, some clothes are linked to memories. That is also true for towels, bed-linen and other textiles.

It is evil to run around wearing sloppy clothes.

When I was a child, my mother was quite strict about teaching me that you do not run around wearing sloppy clothes. I often had to throw away a pair of trousers just because one knee had a hole in it. And mended trousers were also sloppy. Besides, they were a symbol of poverty. In those days, you wanted anything, but you did not want to be poor.

The upbringing worked.

Later, I was very careful to never wear clothes with holes. I bought many suits and ties. I always wanted to look chic. Shorts were the exception to the rule and only worn when I was at leisure. Well, in business, they were unimaginable.

That changed. Today, I only wait for warm weather and then I wear shorts. If my short jeans look worn and have a few holes, then this makes me proud. After all, it shows that I no longer throw away clothes. I also like wearing washed-out pullovers and t-shirts.

Someone is still complaining if I run around like this. It reminds me of my childhood, except it is now no longer my mother who gives me the warning. Because she is already dead.

In my case, ranting does not help these days.

I am still happy with it. And even during holidays I take a detour whenever I see at-shirt sales outlet.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Friday April 19th, 2019

The True Face of Or Politicians.

Another reason why I am so fed up with politics.

The colours of capitalist feudalism …

Everybody knows that going by plane is particularly detrimental to the environment and that it is a huge driver for the climate catastrophe.
(Consequently,) the German Armed Forces have a  service for government  (Flugbereitschaft). The army planes used to transport soldiers and material.
Today the planes bring politicians (and I presume also army command and generals) to places where they think they absolutely need to go.

About most of the technological Armed Forces sectors, you hear that they, too, are in miserable condition. We read of failures and almost-accidents all the time. A short time ago, a Global 5.000 (by Bombardier) had become unstable shortly before  departure and had to turn around for an emergency landing. At least, both wings touched the ground.

Interestingly, it was exactly this plane that was supposed to take our Federal President  (Bundespräsident) from Berlin to Stuttgart, where he was to open the BuGa at Heilbronn on April, 17th.

Now you can ask: how important is the BuGa and does our Federal President really need to talk at its opening. After all, there are quite a few more important tasks where he might use his energy to promote things. Besides, if the BuGa calls him, you can ask if he really needs to have a special jet to get there.

I found five hours and 47 minutes as the shortest train connection between Berlin and Heilbronn. That is not at all bad. It might be interesting to find out how long the state plane takes. Including changes, etc.

However, if you take the train, you will need to expect that the train will most likely not be on time. But then, maybe the DB can manage to be on schedule if an important state representative, such as the Federal President, is on board? It probably does not happen very often.

… which, by now, controls all of Europe.

If you take the direct route, then the distance between Berlin and Heilbronn is 478 kilometres. In China (or even in France), a train will do this distance in 2-3 hours.

We have not yet reached that stage. If you take an ICE from Munich to Hamburg (781 kilometres), you will need five hours and 35 minutes. The TGV from Paris to Marseille (765 kilometres) only takes three hours and eleven minutes ( source: Spiegel).

That is a difference of more than two hours for a little more than 750 km. Looking at this fact, it might be appropriate to send a question to the German Ministry of Transportation and ask them how something like this could happen. Allegedly, the situation is no better on motorways – although they have a general speed limit in France.

Regardless, one might get the idea to travel long distance in Germany by train, rather than by plane. And if the train connection is so bad that it is really not acceptable, then you might get the idea to take a regular plane that flies “anyway”, instead of a special one.

Mind you, Frank-Walter Steinmeier is basically considered a halfway decent politician. Even if, for me, the secret agreements they seem to have come to during his election was irritating. And besides, his party is the SPD. But perhaps he became Federal President because he needed to be pushed aside by the SPD.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a politician who has been voted into an important position were to also think about the future of this planet? And maybe he could give a symbolic statement by not going places where it is unnecessary or by not taking a separate plane where regular planes fly? That would be a good way to prove his integrity.

I would also like to see a change of paradigm at the German Air Force Flugbereitschaft. When confronted with criticism, the responsible people say that all problems are solved because they already ordered three new planes from Airbus.

The plane that almost crashed was less than ten years old. I read that, for a plane, this is extremely young. Because your average plane lives a lot longer than that. This means that the German Air Force Flugbereitschaft invests now because they assume they will have to fly politicians and generals for quite a few more decades. I wonder what the children who protest for the planet on Fridays would have to say about this.

For me (and probably also for future young voters), it gets harder and harder to vote.

I only want to give my vote to people who do not use government planes as a matter of course and look childishly happy if they board a state limousine (even in front of cameras) as soon as they have become important. Because at long last they have reached their goal and are rewarded for their decades of hard work as party soldiers.

I would prefer to give my vote to people who, regardless of their feudalist position, still use public transport and/or their bikes when travelling.

Mind you, in my perception, most politicians consider it beyond their human dignity to use public transportation. Just as it is against all common sense to have a speed limit on motorways. People with this definition of human dignity and common sense will definitely not be elected by me.

In a nutshell:

I would wish for the first representative of the state that he shows how he takes the problems of the people seriously by acting responsible and by setting a positive example. Instead of going on business trips in a separate plane. If he absolutely has to fly because the place where he absolutely needs to go is on a different continent, then he is welcome to travel business class on a regular flight. But why does he need his own plane? That sounds like Führersonderzugs?

And in my personal life, I really want to continue to improve my own flying habits. It has been a long time since I last travelled in Germany by plane. In the past, I had too many long-distance flights. I will reduce them considerably in 2019. And I will try to establish a tendency that points towards zero. And whenever I go by bike, I will limit my routes to Bavaria, Germany and the neighbouring countries. Basically, this means I will go places that I can reach by train. Which means: no such things as Cuba.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

I enjoy time on the lake and on the ocean, because the air there is good for my throat. Ever since, when I was a child, they removed my tonsils, l have been suffering from chronic throat aches more or less all the time. However, after a few days on the water, they are gone.

The Joy of Seeing the Ocean (Foto © Luc Bosma, Bonaire)

Whenever Barbara and I go places by ship, we try to get a cabin with a patio. Then we dream through the ocean nights with our patio door open, we breathe in the fresh sea air and enjoy the sound of the water. That was also what we did during our latest Caribbean trip.

At night, our ship travels from one island to the next. Since, more often than not, the islands are not far apart, the ship mostly travels at low speed. Regardless, it will dock in the morning before sunrise at the harbour of our destination, because the nights are long in December in the Caribbean.

Then comes the shock every morning. The air starts to smell foul and artificial light will penetrate the cabin. It is the less than pleasant trio of civilization characteristics as it welcomes us.

At home in Neubiberg, the smell is a constant throughout the day and the night. You will not find any place where it gets really dark. Wherever you are, a street lamp or some advertising glamour will illuminate your house. And you can hardly see any stars in the sky any more.

Even though I live in a rather privileged area, this is also true for my home. Keeping the windows open at night is not possible, if only because of the constant round-the-clock noise of the not-too-far city.

I refuse to take sleeping pills, especially if they become part of your normal life. Consequently, we use closed noise-proof windows and darkened bedrooms. By now, I am used to it, but that does not mean I find it nice.

If I leave my house on foot or by bike and turn towards Ottobrunn, I will quickly find myself on such roads as the Putzbrunner Strasse or the Rosenheimer Landstrasse. It is hard to breathe and it is a true adventure to cross the road. And you also find waste on the shoulders of the Bavarian streets – as probably everywhere else on the world.

After returning home, questions about the purpose of life come up again:
Do we really need motorized individual traffic? Does all this consumption really make us happy? Would a life that is less determined by efficiency and profit be more to our liking? How can we free ourselves from the permanent manipulation? Would it not be better to live a simple life and not let life become a hectic hunt for material properties?

Let me forestall possible criticism:
If you fly to the Caribbean and travel around nine islands by ship and enjoy the nice climate and the ocean, then you certainly have no right to criticize the MIV driver who takes his pre-heated SUV in the morning to go and fetch his breakfast. I am well aware of this.

So here is what I think:
Mobility is probably a central need of human nature. Consequently, I find it hard to individually abstain. But if we act collectively – for instance by high taxes on kerosene and a fair distribution of the external costs for those who cause them – we could at least reduce the volume of individual mobility and its terrible consequences on this planet.

If you argue that such measures would, again mainly be detrimental for the poor, then I think this is not totally true. Even the ancient Greeks knew that demanding an Arithmetic Justice is utopian and probably stupid.

I think such a thing has never existed and will never exist. Because life is as it is. And I would actually be quite happy with a geometric justice  (geometrische Gerechtigkeit following the Nikomachische Ethik by Aristoteles).

Attention, cannon (Foto © Luc Bosma, Bonaire)

RMD
(Translated by EG)

? The world is beautiful – that is also true for the Caribbean.

In the Caribbean, our eyes were again fed to the brim with natural and artificial beauty. It made me remember a story of a few years back.

It was in Guinea. With a few friends, I had done an excursion to a place with a particularly nice view. As soon as we arrived, everybody in the group wanted to be the one to best express what a singularly beautiful scenery we saw.

Suddenly, I exploded:

”You know, the Bavarian Lakes are also quite nice“.

I meant the Königsee, the Ammersee and the Starnberger See.

Sunset on Bonaire (Foto © Luc Bosma)

Even today, my friends still teasingly remind me of this sentence.

However, I stick by it. I know no trip of mine where the beauty of this world did not fascinate me. That is true both for my bike-tours in Bavaria and Germany and for my trips through Africa and America.

There were always spectacular views. The same was true in Arctica. Every individual iceberg was a great view. And the Wedell-Lake shimmered spectacularly in the sun.

Even the industrial ruins of the Southern Georgia Whaling Industry presented themselves to me with great beauty.

Between ruins (private picture)

In fact, even the view from our “high-rise ship” in the Dominican Republic onto the sinisterly but intensely steaming chimneys in the La Romana harbour were beautiful in a bizarre way. And the view from the skyscraper down to the slums of Mumbai, too, has its attraction.

There is one impression my soul ate up during my trips that particularly impressed me. It was when we crossed the Alpes by bike on a morning after staying overnight in the Heidelberger Hütte. But even here, I would not say that it was the best landscape ever in my life.

In this context, there is probably only BEAUTIFUL, not more beautiful or even most beautiful.

Sunrise on Bonaire (Foto © Luc Bosma)

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Let me say this up front:
Our trip through the Caribbean made it clear to me that the economic-social principle of life with consumption and profit we are currently practicing can only work in special cases (as it seems to do in Germany but, if you look closely enough, not even there).

So here are my experiences in the Caribbean and what I learned there about the country and the people.

Paradise or Misery? (Foto © Luc Bosma, Bonaire)

We visited nine islands

Two of them are French: Martinique (fully integrated) and Gouadeloupe (almost fully integrated part of the French country, but not part of the EU tax system). They are both part of the EU. The three ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) are part of the Dutch Kingdom and the others (Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and St. Lucia are all independent states and members of the Commonwealth of Nations).

The islands have different currencies:

  • EURO (French Islands)
  • Dutch-Antilles-Gulden (Dutch Islands)
  • Eastern CaribbeanDollar (Commonwealth Islands)

Especially on the Dutch and British islands, they accept the US-Dollar.

They have different per-head incomes. On Barbados, for instance, it was 16,363 US-Dollars in 2016. Nominally, this is as much as, for example, they have in Slovakia, but I got the impression that life in Barbados is considerably more expensive than in Slovakia. On the absolutely well-developed island of Bonaire, it was about 1,200 US-Dollars, in Dominica it was certainly less. The unemployment rate is in the two-digit sector for all of them, and not always in the low two-digit sector.

Wherever we went, we found schools and universities, which means there is a relatively high level of literacy. Many of the people speak several languages. Besides the local Creole dialects, many people speak at least one foreign language, often several, mostly English, French or Dutch. However, we also often met German-speaking people.

Politically, the islands are “parliamentary democracies”, and that is what they have been for a long time. You will occasionally also find a “White House”. Yet there are also interesting – and not always hilarious – stories about corrupt politicians and dictators.

Of course, the climate has always been sunny on the islands – the normal temperatures were around 26 degrees Celsius (after all, it was “winter” when we were there). Depending on the humidity, you will think it is even a little warmer than that. That means the Caribbean is a region where physical labour – let alone piece work – is something you will not like at any time of the year.

Some of the islands have a lot of rain – and consequently they have many rivers and waterfalls in the rain forest. But you will also find very sparsely vegetal islands with few rainy days. They have to import their potable water or produce it artificially. Mostly, the islands grew from volcanic activities, but you will also find tongues of folded lime stone formations.

Most of the islands have similar colonization histories. The pre-European inhabitants were often Arawak and Caribbean. More often than not, they were eradicated by the European occupiers. The people living there now are descendants of Europeans, often of Africans and later of Indians. All over the Caribbean, most of the citizens are of African descent – which is probably a consequence of slavery.

What we saw in the Caribbean looked extremely diverse and multi-cultural. Some islands boast that people of forty nationalities live peacefully together in their country.
There is not much social security, which is also true for federal pensions. The people (maybe regardless or because of this?) seem very joyous and happy. Dominica, for instance, has the reputation of being the island of the hundred-year-olds.

There seems to be little crime. The warnings you usually get before entering a country were extremely moderate. Only in the EU countries, we were warned before leaving the ship that, once in a while, a thief from Paris is found on the island.
The islands are extremely diverse – you will find the natural paradise (Dominica with its beautiful hiking trails) as well as the industrial island (Aruba – one half of this islands is purely tourist industry, the other half is the airport and the oil and salt industries).

Similarities

However, it seems that all the islands have one thing in common. Economically, they do not really work well. The French Departments are probably just as much dependent of subsidies as the other islands.

To me, it seemed that the internet access was better than in Germany, but the streets are often in a desolate state of repair.

Varying with the islands, the income comes from growing food such as bananas, sugarcane and spices. There is a little crude oil, but the main source of income is probably tourism.
None of these islands seems to be really capable of survival.

The young generation emigrates because the islands have nothing to tempt them with. If all goes well, they will probably return as successful elderly persons and at least bring back some capital. There is a high emigration rate and a low immigration rate. Many immigrants who came because they wanted to start a new life – often as entrepreneurs – will leave after only a few years.

There is no such thing as a really lucrative business. Competitive survival is achieved through cost optimization and low incomes. And mostly the business is very detrimental for nature, which is the only thing these islands are rich of. This means we have high external costs.

To me, this looks a little like Europe. In the ever so rich EU, most of the countries are also bankrupt. More and more people are impoverished. This is also true for the victorious countries such as Germany, Austria and a few Northern European countries.

It is also true for the big USA. They, too, built their wealth on debt and suffer under the natural collapse of the inflated infra structure, which they cannot counter, if only for financial reasons.

Somehow or other, my visit to the Caribbean Islands served as a model to show that an economy that is based on our capitalist and consumption- and profit-oriented paradigms cannot work any longer. It is probably the biggest challenge for mankind to manage the necessary re-structuring – provided we want to prolong our survival a little bit.

Ship with bird. (Foto © Luc Bosma, Bonaire)

RMD
(Translated by EG)

As you arrive in  Curaçao you will read 
Welcome to Kura Hulanda Museum. 
This museum is concerned with the history of slavery  in the West Indies . No traveller should miss it.

Huts for the slaves in salt production on Bonaire (Foto © Luc Bosma)

Huts for the slaves in salt production on Bonaire (Foto © Luc Bosma)

Following the advice of our ship lector, we went to the Kura Hulanda Museum in the morning, directly after our arrival in Curaçao. And it was well worth it. In Willemstad‘s city district of Otrabanda, you will find the biggest anthropological museum of the Caribbean, the ”Kura Hulanda Museum Kura Hulanda Museum“.

On more than 16,000 square metres and in 15 different buildings, you can inform yourself about the history of those people who, between the 17th and 19th centuries, were captured in their African home countries and, after transport across the Atlantic Ocean, ended up as slaves in Curaçao. The “West Indian Company” played a huge role in the process and Curaçao soon became the biggest slave market on the American continent.

The Facts:
The entry fee for the museum is 10 US Dollars, people who are older than 70 only pay 7 US Dollars. We invested the three dollars we had thus saved in a guide (who costs three USD per person if you were a group). It is a good investment.

The Museum:
We were immersed in the dark past of the island but also of humanity and were deeply moved when we left the museum.

I had never before seen in such drastic detail how slavery used to work. In the museum, you can see how the slaves were captured in Africa and then shipped to the New World. Due to its geographical characteristics, the Caribbean was probably a very important slave market.

On the Caribbean Islands, for instance on Curaçao, other things were traded besides slaves. The invaders from Europe had more or less exterminated the original inhabitants. Consequently, a workforce for producing such sought-after products as sugarcane, bananas, spices, salt (especially on Bonaire) was badly needed. And the slave markets were the most obvious place for recruiting such a workforce.

The museum shows how brutally the slaves were treated and traded. How they were cuffed and hunted, what methods (and tools) were used for disciplining them. And also how the owner branded them.

You can also see how slavery was abolished. In the French sector, this even happened twice, because Napoleon had re-established it. Incidentally, the last colonial masters to abolish slavery were the Dutch.

We also found ownership certificates from German-East-Africa. Those are typical German documents where, as late as 1913, it was officially stated that the owners (former slaves) were allowed to decide upon their own destiny from the issuing date onwards.

Naturally, they still needed a workforce in the Caribbean, even after slavery was abolished. The necessary workers were then billed in India. And the owners of the sugarcane and rum plants soon found out that the new workers were even less expensive than the slaves had been. Because now these workers had to provide for themselves. Now an evil and provocative person could say that the abolishing of slavery, too, did not happen entirely for “virtuous” reasons, but that economic considerations played the major part.

I was so impressed by what I saw in the museum that I totally forgot to take pictures, even though this was explicitly allowed. After the tour, I spent a long time thinking about what I had seen and I did a lot of research.

And I noticed that perhaps slavery and fiefdom are connected. And that slavery is not at all very different from the fiefdom that was practiced in Europe for more than half a millennium as a very self-evident principle. Here, too, you will find a lot of information in the Wikipedia article  .

You will discover many surprising details, for instance about the mutual hunting rights among neighbours when it came to catching run-away serfs (slaves?) beyond the border.
You will probably understand that there was basically only one difference between fiefdom and slavery. The article is absolutely worth reading and very shocking.

After having read these things, the reference to our “occidental roots and Christian traditions“ made by politicians sounds like the most stupid sarcasm. Because, at the time, the “C“ also stood for nothing other than slavery and fiefdom. Those were very bleak times. Perhaps our politicians would be well advised to inform themselves a little bit about history, even if, at school, fiefdom was not on the curriculum of history lessons – which was also true for my history lessons.

There is only one difference between the fiefdom in German-speaking and other European countries and the trans-Atlantic slavery:

The slaves were dark skinned and came mostly from Africa. In former times, they were called negroes. According to the church and even according to contemporary philosophers (Kant) they were not humans but animals. At the time of Darwin, it was unimaginable that a refined “English Lady“ might, according to the evolutionary theory, be the descendant of an ape. Animals were so far removed from the ideal of the “human” that you could do with them whatever you wished to. This is also why they were not very enthusiastic about Darwin with his new ideas. And the black persons where just considered animals.

To be sure, the “bond-slaves“ or “bondmen“, who belonged to the owner of the property, were a lower class with no rights. But at least they were considered human. They were domesticated by the upper classes (feudalism, also by the church) also be means of religion. They were “only” the property of other people, either directly or indirectly through the property they lived on.

In the Wikipedia article about bondsmen  , you will find some laws and atrocities that, from today’s perspective, look rather odd. One of them is the mutual agreement between municipalities that they can hunt bondsmen who are on the run. You get a clear understand of the meaning of the phrase “town air will make you free“. After all, progress – also technological progress – happened in the town and cities.

Basically, over many centuries, the right to own persons was just as self-evident as we today consider the right to own things like property and the copyright or data protection.
And regardless of the fact that we today are giving the right of ownership more and more strength (especially in favour of artificial persons  like concerns), we actually abolished the right to own other persons. Isn’t that remarkable?

One might get the idea that, perhaps, other rights to ownership, too, should be abolished. For instance that goods of the common land, too, should no longer be considered individual property. And that absurdly high amounts of property, too, need to be abolished. And perhaps that the distinction between artificial and natural persons should be made subject to the rule of differentiation in ownership.

Here is a cynical note: 
On the ships that had sailed from Europe to Africa in order to buy slaves and bring this high insurance freight to the Caribbean, missionaries, too, were among the passengers. They were supposed to bring religion to all those African heathen. On the other hand, said slaves were officially not humans, but game to be hunted.

That is also something you learn in the Kura Hulanda Museum. Consequently, visiting the museum Kura Hulanda left me rather thoughtful.

Salt production today on Bonaire (Foto © Luc Bosma)

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Wednesday October 3rd, 2018

DIESEL

Selfie: “I cannot understand it.“

For many days, the main topic in the media and news has been nothing but “The Diesel”. I find this rather frustrating, because there are so many much more important social issues that need to be tackled. It is all Greek to me  (Ich verstehe nur noch Bahnhof).

Basically, it is very simple:

If I buy a low quality product, then I have a claim. If the transaction was a fraud, then I can try to bring the claim forward against the fraudulent salesperson.
That is something the rule of justice in a country should guarantee. If this no longer works because the concerns have become too powerful, then that is just too bad.
This is probably true for all goods, no matter if we are talking food or other products and also for services – and it should also apply to cars.

There are many things I no longer understand!

Why has nobody come up with the idea, especially when we are talking the current Diesel discussion, to simply abolish the subsidies on the Diesel tax? I mean, if the Diesel is such a bad product? After all, it is 22 Euro-Cent per litre in subsidies (in Germany, you have to pay 22 Euro-Cent less for Diesel than for petrol) that lets our “greed is great“ society crave for Diesel vehicles. Regardless of the fact that, in general, the “Diesel car” is more expensive than the competition, but in a state of greed, you do not tend to be very good with calculations.
Isn’t it normal, rather than a national emergency, if the greedy people will, once in a while, be the losers? Mind you, this is not meant to be gloating.

Neither do I understand that there seems to be nobody left who introduces a speed limit. Both on motorways and highways, this would considerably economize on fuel (and on human lives). And it has been obvious for a long time that, in cities, the rule of “driving 30” should be a matter of course. And that the “50” and “60” should be the exception to the rule.

I also do not understand why the Diesel is now such a huge topic. After all, we have a situation where, de facto, all combustion motors in individualized traffic (and, so I hope, not only where cars and motorbikes are concerned, but also where lawnmowers and leaf-blowers are concerned) will (hopefully soon) face their exodus.

Don’t we agree that, today, the discussion is not about whether my SUV has a Diesel or a petrol motor. Instead, it is all about whether you still drive a car at all. Because a) perhaps the climate catastrophe is real after all and b) I do not wish to have all those exhaust fumes in my lungs. It is not even necessary for me to ride my bike on the Rosenheimer Strasse in Munich during rush hour if I want to suffer. Even riding to the bakery on a Sunday morning on the Putzbrunner Strasse in Ottobrunn will do the job!

Neither do I understand that kerosene for airplanes and heavy oil for ships is taxed in the same way as petrol, although we know full well that we need to fly less. And why do they want to build still more runways? And why do we still burn brown coal (Hambacher Forst), thereby making life unnecessarily hard for alternative energies.

And I also do not understand why we celebrate the German Unity Day today. Wouldn’t it be better to use the day for working towards a decent Europe of Regions where people can live in confidence and courage?

These days, there is a lot I do not understand. Not only with respect to mobility, we are surrounded by mania. Is it already too late for our planet (Permafrost). I almost tend towards resignation?

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Sunday September 16th, 2018

Hambacher Forest. Ethics. Primary. Secondary. Virtue

Dracula as a Metaphor.

Years ago, I liked writing about ethics. For me, it was a very simple topic. It was primarily about virtues and the question which virtues are primary and secondary virtues. Then this sort of ethics started to get boring.

Now, what happens around brown coal in the Hambacher Forest makes me more concerned. In fact, I am not just concerned, I am appalled.

And I believe it is about time that we again talk about primary and secondary virtues.

When I was a child, I was taught many virtues. Well, it was more than just teaching, I was literally trained in them. It started with the demand that I should always be nice. I was to be washed clean at all times and my (short) hair had to be combed nicely. When adults were in a conversation, children had to shut up. I was admonished to be obedient, nice and never recalcitrant. However, the worst sins were if you lied or – God forbid – steal. Respecting the property of others and telling the truth at all times were the highest virtues of all.

As I grew up, I started to have my own ideas. And I understood very early on that there were quite a few glitches to my education. And that, for example, the categorical demands that you must not lie and must not steal will not hold after a thorough ethical test.

Later, I studied the philosophers and I remember reading the letters exchanged between the older Kant and a younger French philosopher. Well, the Frenchman with his arguments caused quite some sweat on the forehead of the then so famous and well-liked Kant. Kant’s reaction was very irrational and, in my opinion, very emotional.

This is how I learned that categorically sticking by the Eighth Commandment will certainly cause a lot of damage and thus can only be a secondary virtue. In fact, in normal life there are many situations where ethical behaviour actually forces us to lie in order to prevent damage to ourselves or others.

I also saw very quickly that the Seventh Commandment is not much better. I do not even have to mention Robin Hood and the questionability of a society that is dominated by property. It will suffice the imagine a child that might die from hunger but could be saved by theft.
This is why the Hambacher Forst Activists are definitely not criminals, even if they are not necessarily heroes.

Because they act upon virtues that I consider primary virtues. They are autonomous and they study the situation. They live up to virtues that I consider primary virtues, such as civil courage and constructive disobedience. They even do it in a very responsible and peaceful way.

The only thing I could ethically hold against these people in their tree houses is that they cultivate a martyrdom and that their actions in favour of a “good cause“ will eventually have negative consequences for their own lives. Because it is an important – and for me also a primary – virtue that your self-esteem is high and that you do not ruin yourself. Especially not for others!
Because, basically, we all know that matters cannot continue as they are, just like we also know that, when all is said and done, we will all suffer under the destruction of the world.

As opposed to an omniscient minister, I do not know what is the “mother of all problems“. All I can say is that I believe our system practices a very questionable approach on how to treat humans and nature.

We have several problems. The source of these problems are probably weaknesses in our approach to poverty, education, climate protection and mobility. The reason why our social system has these problems is probably that values, priorities and power structures have changed in our country and its politics.

For instance, we know that a polarization into poor and rich parts of the population can have quite unpleasant consequences. We also know that our social welfare state tumbles towards a future full of crises. We also know that our mobility with big cars and the combustion motor has no future. We also know that stricter speed limits on motorways, other streets and also in the cities are more than necessary. We also know that subsidies granted to the motorized traffic in general and to the Diesel engines in particular are total nonsense.

To be honest, we also know that electricity-powered vehicles will not improve the situation at all. On the contrary, they will have an even worse environmental footprint, especially if the electricity they need is produced from brown coal.

Incidentally, this is not only true for brown coal, but also for higher-quality coal that is processed by overexploitation in Australia, then driven to the coast, then loaded onto huge container ships and thus brought to Hamburg. In Hamburg, the coal will be distributed to various means of transportation – and later it will be used up somewhere in Germany. Well, this is certainly not a solution.

Most of the electricity we consume world-wide is made from coal. This is still true today! Regardless of the fact that there is now a social consensus that says we must not produce electricity from coal for many well-known reasons. However, we cannot manage the exit because of “economic interests“. Yet we need this exit very soon if we want to replace all those combustion motors by electrical solutions.

The opposing party for the activists at the Hambacher Forest is an industrial sector. Or rather: it is a concern the domineering and driving factor of which was the shareholder value over many decades. And it used all the legally possible – and sometimes even borderline legal – means to achieve a sensational shareholder value. Few sectors were able to make their shareholders as rich as the EVUs over a long period of time. It all happened at the cost of our environment and – as with (not only) nuclear energy – at the cost of our country. And it was all achieved through legal procedures, thanks to great lobbyism and soft blackmail.

Now more and more people want to change this, and for good reasons, too. Because they understand that it has to end. And soon. I mean people who show civil courage and who put the virtue of constructive disobedience over obedience. Even though they know that, in the end, they will stand no chance against the omnipotence of the country and business. Which is why their actions are detrimental to their own lives.

In my book, these people are not criminals but people who live important primary virtues. The only thing I regret is that they do not have the slightest chance of success – and that they should actually be aware of this. But then, this has always been the problem with idealism and idealists. Which opens yet another, totally different discussion.

RMD
(Translated by EG)