Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes

Light and Transient Causes is the title of a book I read the other day. It`s written by by Mel Hawkins, both an exciting and entertaining novel and at the same time reading material that`s worth to think about. Mel writes about something, what could really happen in near future. In the year 202X horrific acts of terrorism, unprecedented natural disasters and an economic collapse happen. The election of an authoritarian outsider as President shocks people at home and abroad. The new President moves quickly to criticize and invoke sanctions on the nation’s adversaries; verbally attacks the judicial and legislative branches of the government, undermining the „separation of powers;“ suspends civil liberties at home; takes control of the press, establish military governments in Indiana and other states, and target religious and racial minorities. A divided nation, the president elected by people who wanted a radical change begins to persecute Jews and black Americans on a mass scale. Free press is suppressed. But resistance forms. The story takes place in Indianapolis in the year 202X. Pure science fiction? Unfortunately I wouldn`t be too sure.

The book made me think. There are basically 3 forms of government. Liberal democracies as in the US or Germany, pure dictatorships as in China or Saudi Arabia and forms of government, that call themselves democratic but lack civil liberty and separation of powers, as Turkey or Russia. I wouldn`t call them democracies, even if it`s probably true that the governments are supported by a majority of the people. The transitions from one kind of government to and other are not always clear and concise for the contemporaries. Hitler came to power in a constitutional way, then he used an (possibly pretended)  arson attack against German Reichstag to override Civil Rights, Turkey was a real democracy till Erdogan saw a military coup attempt as a „present of God“ to establish an authoritarian rule. Many people thought both times a national emergency would justify drastic measures.

„and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” In fact, history shows that people are more likely to put up with unbearable evil–they even get used to it, than they are to correct the problem.

The people in Germany 1933 and the people in Turkey 2016 didn`t recognize the right time to resist and correct the problem. I`m not sure, what will happen within the next few years in the USA. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt explained in their book „How Democracies Die“ why they are worried about American democracy. If their fear will come true, I hope the people of the oldest democracy in modern times will know the right time to resist.

 

 

 

Zuwanderung und Integration

Deutschland ist seit mehr als 50 Jahren ein Einwanderungsland, auch wenn konservative Politiker ihrer Wählerklientel diese Wahrheit oft nicht zumuten möchten. Und ohne Zweifel brauchen wir auch Zuwanderung, sonst haben wir irgendwann einen „Raum ohne Volk“ , wie es Deniz Yücel einmal zugespitzt ausdrückte und weshalb ihn Rechtsextreme so sehr hassen.

Natürlich darf es dabei keinen Kontrollverlust geben, wie wir es leider 2015 erlebt haben, als alle Politiker, die sich dramatisch zuspitzende Entwicklung verschlafen hatten. Es ist auch sicher eine Fehleinschätzung zu glauben, eine kontrollierte Migration würde uns in erster Linie Zuwanderung aus Ländern wie Norwegen bringen (bei solchen Ländern sieht die Migrationsbilanz eher umgekehrt aus), sondern sie wird vor allem aus Ländern kommen, die Trump und Gesinnungsgenossen als „shithole countries“  bezeichnen.

Auch wäre es eine Illusion zu glauben, Integration bei einer größeren Zuwanderung sei ein Selbstläufer, sie bringe keine großen Probleme mit  und man müsse nicht viel dafür tun. Es mag Leute geben, die leben fern von sozialen Brennpunkten, – Spitzenpolitiker gehören dazu – die haben keine reale Vorstellung von solchen Problemen. Integration muss von vielen Maßnahmen begleitet werden, dazu gehören Sozial- und Jugendarbeit, ausreichend sozialer Wohnungsbau ( für alt-eingesessene Bürger wie Zuwanderer) und eine sinnvolle Schulpolitik. Und dafür muss man natürlich eine entsprechende Menge Geld ausgeben. Wenn die Politik das wirklich begriffen hätte, dann wäre statt eines Heimatministeriums wahrscheinlich ein Integrations-Ministerium eingerichtet worden.

Vor allem aber, Integration beginnt in den Köpfen. Ich will nicht bestreiten, dass bei vielen Menschen ein entsprechender Denkprozess bereits statt gefunden hat. Aber es gibt auch anderes. Fragen Sie doch mal einen Menschen, der sich bei entsprechender Qualifikation für einen attraktiven Job bewirbt, aber dessen Name vielleicht darauf hinweist, dass er aus einem Land wie Pakistan stammt. Oder wie reagieren deutsche Eltern, wenn Ihre Kinder Ihnen einen türkischen Lebenspartner vorstellen? Umgekehrt besteht übrigens ein ähnliches Problem.

Ich glaube, es liegt noch viel Arbeit und ein weiter Weg vor uns. Aber dieser Weg muss gegangen werden. Integration gehört zu den entscheidenden Fragen unserer Zeit. Stellen Sie sich bitte vor, wir kommen in einigen Jahren bei ungelösten Integrationsproblemen in eine – meiner Meinung nach nicht unwahrscheinliche – Finanz und Wirtschaftskrise. Das wäre eine gefährliche Situation und die Stunde der Extremisten aller Richtungen. Die Aufgabe der Integration muss mit hoher Priorität angefasst werden. Noch kein Problem hat sich dadurch gelöst, dass es ignoriert oder schön geredet wird.

Clash Of Cultures Or Clash Of Ignorance

I read the other day an article in The Nation written in October 2001 by Edward W. Said. It seems to me as relevant to day as never. Edward W. Said ( 1953-2003) was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies, Palestinian American born in Mandatory Palestine. He  was a citizen of the United States by way of his father, a U.S. Army veteran.
Educated in the Western canon, at British and American schools, Said applied his education and bi-cultural perspective to illuminating the gaps of cultural and political understanding between the West and the world of Middle east.

Many people want to persuade us today, there were unbridgeable opposites between Western world and the world of Islam. The one the world of modernity, the other the world of backwardness, even the Empire of the Good against Empire of Evil. An ideology of fear and hate is sown this way.  It`s comparable the ideology of cold war, the basic paradigm the West versus the rest remains unchanged.

Primitive passions are ignited in ways that give the lie to a fortified boundary not only between „West“ and „Islam“ but also between past and present, us and them, to say nothing of the very concepts of identity and nationality about which there is unending disagreement and debate. A unilateral decision is made to draw lines in the sand, to undertake crusades, to oppose their evil with our good, to extirpate terrorism.

Instead of this we must learn to distinguish between Islam and  the mutilations of Islam by absolutists and fanatical tyrants whose obsession with regulating personal behavior promotes an Islamic order reduced to a penal code, stripped of its humanism, aesthetics, intellectual quests, and spiritual devotion.

It`s not a line between the West and the Islamic word, there`re authoritarian and backward-facing tendencies in the West too. We all are- as Said writes – „stranded in the middle of the ford, between the deep waters of tradition and modernity and we are all swimming in those waters, Westerners and Muslims and others alike. And since the waters are part of the ocean of history, trying to plow or divide them with barriers is futile. These are tense times, but it is better to think in terms of powerful and powerless communities, the secular politics of reason and ignorance, and universal principles of justice and injustice, than to wander off in search of vast abstractions that may give momentary satisfaction but little self-knowledge or informed analysis. „The Clash of Civilizations“ thesis is a gimmick like „The War of the Worlds,“ better for reinforcing defensive self-pride than for critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time.“

We live in one world and „we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools“ ( Matin Luther King).

Leitkultur ! ?

Ich höre in diesen Tagen wieder öfter das Wort Leitkultur, in Diskussionen auf der Straße wie in politischen Aschermittwochsreden.  Wenn ich frage, was denn jetzt unsere Leitkultur ausmachen soll, erhalte ich die verschiedensten Antworten.

„St. Martin und Weihnachtsbaum sind Symbole unserer christlichen Kultur,“ höre ich. Na ja, den St.Martinszug des Kindergartens in der Nachbarschaft finde ich gut und ein Christbaum steht bei uns auch zu Weihnachten im Wohnzimmer. Aber das soll wesentlicher Kern einer Leitkultur sein?

Andere tönen großspurig von der „Tradition und Kultur des christlichen Abendlandes“. Ich habe mich fast mein Leben lang mit Kultur beschäftigt, aber die Frage, wie denn jetzt die Tradition und Kultur des christlichen Abendlands zu definieren sind, vermag  ich nicht eindeutig zu beantworten. Ich weiß nur, sauber abgegrenzte Kulturen hat es in der Geschichte nie gegeben und Kulturen sind auch dem Wandel unterlegen. Zur Kultur des mittelalterlichen Abendlandes gehörte unter anderem auch, dass Ketzer auf dem Scheiterhaufen verbrannt wurden. Und diese kulturelle Tradition haben wir ja wohl hoffentlich überwunden.

Wenn ich nach den Wurzeln meiner Leitkultur, oder sagen wir besser meiner Leitwerte, gefragt werde, dann kann ich eher die großen Denker der Aufklärung nennen. Mir fallen Namen ein wie Jean Jacques Rousseau , Voltaire, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing oder David Hume. Und damit sind wir auch bei der Tatsache, dass die Toleranz, die im weitgehend christlichen Europa heute glücklicherweise – muss ich sagen noch? – herrscht, nicht der christlichen Religion immanent ist, sondern ihr abgetrotzt wurde.

Die Werte der Aufklärung, die Werte der französischen Revolution, das sind meine Leitwerte. Und ich bin bereit diese zu verteidigen, gegen Fanatiker und Hohlköpfe jeder Art, zu welcher Religion  sie sich auch immer bekennen mögen.

 

Questions OF A Naive Writer

Why does a pop star or football star earn more than a hundred times a teacher or a nurse does?

Why are so many people without health insurance in a rich country like the US?

Why is there so much misery in rich Nigeria?

Why are we spending more money on weapons in this world than on education?

Why do we fear terrorism more than climate change?

Maybe because we do not realize that we are all in the same boat, one in the luxury class, the others on the lower deck. But when the ship sinks, everyone drowns.

Fragen eines naiven Schriftstellers

Warum verdient ein Pop Star oder ein Fußballstar mehr als das Hundertfache eines Lehrers oder einer Krankenschwester?

Warum sind in einem reichen Land wie USA so viele Menschen ohne Krankenversicherung?

Warum gibt es im reichen Nigeria soviel Elend?

Warum geben wir in dieser Welt mehr Geld für Waffen als für Bildung aus?

Warum fürchten wir Terrorismus mehr als den Klimawandel?

Vielleicht weil uns nicht klar ist: Wir sitzen alle in einem Boot, die einen in der Luxusklasse, die anderen auf dem Unterdeck. Aber wenn das Schiff sinkt, ertrinken alle.

 

 

Frankenstein in Baghdad

This is the title of a book, I recently read and I´d like to draw your attention to. It`s written by Ahmed Saadawi.

Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet, screenwriter, and documentary filmmaker. He is the first Iraqi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. He was born in 1973, Mr. Saadawi grew up poor in the Shiite-dominated slum of Sadr City, the son of a driving instructor. He turned to writing after graduating from a local teachers’ college. Married now, with four children, he says he will use the prize money to retire the debts he racked up as he pursued fiction writing and his other passions: drawing cartoons and producing documentary films.

Synopsis of „Frankenstein in Baghdad“ : From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, Hadi – a scavenger and an oddball fixture at the local café – collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them a proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed.
Hadi soon realizes he’s created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive. As the violence escalates and Hadi’s acquaintances – a journalist, a government worker, a lonely older woman – become involved, the Whats its name and the havoc it wreaks assume a magnitude far greater than anyone could have imagined. An extraordinary achievement, at once horrific and blackly humorous, Frankenstein in Baghdad captures the surreal reality of contemporary Baghdad. The body, referred to as “shesma,” an Arabic word meaning “what’s his name,” eventually kills innocents too, reflecting the madness and moral ambiguities of the war and its aftermath.

Borrowing from another literary hero, Gabriel García Márquez, Mr. Saadawi deployed magical realism to great effect in “Frankenstein in Baghdad,” mixing fantasy and the city’s macabre reality.

 

Alternating between incisive, heartbreaking and occasionally shocking the story presents a narrative that brings the horrors (on two levels) of the feeling of a war zone, and the struggles to find hope and meaning in a situation so dire.

 

The years of conflict since the American invasion is territory already traversed by American service members turned novelists. Kevin Powers, an Army veteran, wrote the well-received novel “The Yellow Birds,” and a recent short story collection, “Redeployment,” was written by Phil Klay, a veteran of the Marines.
For the Americans, though, turning their experiences into fiction is a retrospective act, because their war ended. For Iraqis like Mr. Saadawi, the war is still their present, haunting their reality even as they try to make the best of it . They live in the city of Baghdad with its great history that`s been a tapestry of different sects, faiths and ethnicities. Once Jews lived there, and then Christians, before the city became unwelcoming for them.

„Frankenstein in Baghdad“ had many positive reviews:

Intense and surreal . . . Assured and hallucinatory . . . funny and horrifying in a near-perfect admixture . . . Saadawi blends the unearthly, the horrific and the mundane to terrific effect. . . . There’s a freshness to both his voice and vision. . . . What happened in Iraq was a spiritual disaster, and this brave and ingenious novel takes that idea and uncorks all its possible meanings.” —The New York Times

“Powerful . . . Surreal . . . Darkly humorous . . . Cleverly conscripts a macabre character from a venerable literary work in the service of a modern-day cautionary fable . . . An excellent English translation.” —Chicago Tribune

“Come for the fascinating plot; stay for the dark humor and devastating view of humanity.” —The Washington Post

“A haunting allegory of man’s savagery against man and one of the most essential books to come out of the Iraq War, or any war.” —Elliot Ackerman, National Book Award finalist for Dark at the Crossing

“Frankenstein in Baghdad is a quietly ferocious thing, a dark, imaginative dissection of the cyclical absurdity of violence. From the terrible aftermath of one of the most destructive, unnecessary wars in modern history, Ahmed Saadawi has crafted a novel that will be remembered.” —Omar El Akkad, author of American War

“This gripping, darkly humorous fable of post-invasion Baghdad is a profound exploration of the terrible logic of violence and vengeance.” —Phil Klay, bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Redeployment

In my view too, this book is really worth reading.