The link to this article, an opinion piece written by Madeleine Albright, has been sitting in my draft folder for this blog since April 2018. I am using it now, twenty months later. It has lost nothing of it’s relevance. The stakkato of hate, bigotry, white supremacy, disregard for the rule of law, bullying and forceful coercion, and shameless lies being thrown at 68 million followers on Twitter, and the rest of the World, has reached unimaginable levels.
Given the fatigue of many who have not found any other answer to what we are experiencing since 2017 (and before) than to say “What can we do?“, or “I am sick and tired of this, I do not want to hear from it any more!“, it has become ever more important to stay the course of standing up for truth and justice, humility, humanity, and caring for other beings.
One of the reasons why I was not writing on this opinion piece was that I felt that I ought to be careful with voicing a political opinion. Being a public servant in my home country, Germany, comes with obligations. Serving as an official grants me the protection against being fired for any other reason than severe misconduct, and it obliges me to conduct myself becoming in all my affairs. So, at that time, I decided not to write about the current incumbent of the office of the President of the United States.
Another reason was that my partner at that time, a well educated and liberal U.S. citizen, had told me that she did not want to even read about this person anymore, nor wasting her time discussing what was unfolding. This unsettled me. Because I felt that she wasn’t alone with this attitude, that many have given up raising their voice. I felt strongly that this is wrong, because it just leaves more space for those who vomit messages of hate and division. Yet, I accepted it.
I was living in the United States at that time. In August 2018, I returned to Germany, where I have been living since. And I am spending the last day of the year 2019 outside Berlin, escaping the fireworks and the noisy drunkenness, enjoying my RV, as they say in English, my little apartment on four wheels.
I am trying to make sense of all this development that I have been witnessing, and I have no formula explaining all this. It is way too complex for one convincing simple explanation. Because, of course, this is not about the U.S., or Germany, for that matter. Or Hungary. Or Italy. Or so many other places where nationalism is on the rise, and fascism is thriving ever so openly and without neither shame nor tolerance. There is absolutely no clear cut answer, it will take legions of historians decades from now to reduce the complexity of our current situation in hindsight and to come up with some big patterns about what happened, and why. If we survive until then.
Yet, it appears to me that exactly this overwhelming complexity, combined with instilling fear, is being used by the Great Simplifiers and Manipulators of this World to come up with easy and highly emotionalised messages of division, xenophobia, and rage.
It also is not about one of the most predictable persons I have ever witnessed. Nothing in the character of Donald Trump can surprise if one combines basic knowledge about narcissism, sociopathy in its most extreme form, and the fundamental personal insecurity which is so visible in what he says, how he says it, how his body language is telling the story he wants to hide. There is no reasoning, nor compromise. There is only rage and escalation. There are no friends, but only pawns, useful idiots, people in position of power to get along with, and foes. There is no point where this person will say: “I give in.” A person with this severe mental disorder is literally not capable to compromise. Rather than giving up, such a person will attempt to destroy everything. Such a person is unable to relate to other beings. That person’s only way of interaction is manipulation and coercion. I am feeling sorry for such people.
But what scares me is the silence of the lambs, combined with the willingness of many who claim to be part of the bedrock of democracy to subject themselves to the most severe form of self-mutilation: The removal of the spine. Shared principles stand in the way of selfishness, and this it seems: The unleashing of pure selfishness.
So, what do I have to say at the end of 2019? What can be said when many, if not all beacons of what we came to believe being the great achievements post World War II seem to fall apart, seem to be torn down, ripped into pieces? What can be the guiding principles which will allow us to navigate through the next decade, with 2019 filled to the brim with the ringing of alarm bells about a planet being on fire, and humankind seeming to be willing to accept inhumanity, and ever more so-called leaders unwilling to share this world amongst all, and displaying unwillingness to act responsible towards future generations?
I gave this answer to a group of students at a German university, a few weeks ago: If we do not know much about how the world is looking like tomorrow, and if we wonder about what is important, and what is less important, if we wonder about how we should engage, we must think deeply about the most fundamental values which we would like to preserve for the sake of our children, in any unknown scenario. And then, we must act according to these values. We do not need to be sages, university professors, people in powerful positions. We can carry out any function, take any role. We just have to live according to the principles we have wrestled from deep thinking. Just apply one basic rule: Do think for togetherness.
My eleven year old daughter wrote a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia. I am not posting it here. Just saying: She made me incredibly proud. In simple words, she made her values clear. And she turned them into action.
May 2020 be a year where we find ourselves discussing values, peacefully, and with willingness and ability to listen to the other, with love and compassion and the desire to understand the other being. And may we be guided by what we learn. Together.
Happy New Year.