Not much this month. Two quotes that made me think.

  • Sam Freeze, one of my followers (see https://en.gravatar.com/dilatedideas), writes about my last contribution in which I measured postmodernism against the promises of modernity: „Interesting take on postmodernism. I’m not sure postmodernism ever promised a fulfilled modernity though. As I’ve come to understand it, postmodernity didn’t promise (nor did modernity for that matter), it simply became. Things changed enough to be given a new name.“

That’s true. Postmodernism could simply be anything other than modernity. And it could have simply given up the promises of modernity. The idea, however, of simply giving up these promises or having already given them up – at least the most serious of them: uni­ver­sa­lism, for example, or human rights – this idea frightens me. So in my opinion, post­mo­der­nism should also be measured against the promises of modernity.

Every historical epoch must, to a certain extent at least, be measured against its pre­de­ces­sors (we simply have no other yardstick; Le Goff’s „history without epochs“ doesn‘t con­vince me at all). So postmodernism is either a new epoch, or it is not. If it cannot be mea­sured against modernity, it is not a new epoch either. If it can be measured against mo­der­ni­ty, it must put up with being perceived as a catastrophe.

This leads me to my second quote.

  • Paul Mason writes in Clear Bright Future (cf. https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/werdet-unregierbar): „The universal rights guaranteed by the UN treaty are being punished with lies in torture camps, refugee camps and commercial prisons. If you find this enduring, always remember that the postmodern left has paved the way for it in a 30-year campaign against universalism.“

I find that convincing. I have nothing against the left. I am one of the left too. But I have something against the postmodern left with all its relativism, which it would like us to see as pluralism, and against its tendency to deny, for the sake of maximum political freedom, the ethical freedom of the subject to such an extent that actions can be excused and justified that clearly fall behind the humanism of modernity.

This humanism can be seen as an ideology. There are enough indications that those who believe this humanism to be true are at the same time trampling it underfoot. But an ethi­cal truth – beyond the suspicion of ideology – does not become untruth because no one se­ri­ous­ly follows it. And I find it downright pathetic that the few people who seriously follow it are denigrated as „naive“ or „politically correct“.

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Sometimes people who perceive me as arrogant say to me: „What do you know? You are a privileged intellectual. You sit in your warm room and can make big speeches – about democracy, capitalism and neoliberalism. But you don’t know anything about the real existential pressure that most people face today – a pressure they rarely can withstand. Your hollow concepts don’t get there.“

It may be that my terms are hollow – perhaps in the ears of people who have nothing to do with philosophy, just as hollow as the terms of an Alain Badiou, a Slavoj Žižek or even – especially deterring – a Stefan Lorenz Sorgner. But if one thing is not correct, it is this: that I have no idea of the existential pressure to which many people are exposed today, that I know nothing about hard physical work and the fear of falling into financial ruin.

I’ve spent half my life doing hard, physical work. Already during my school years I had to get by with a job in a cleaning company, because I did not receive the slightest financial support from my parents. In turn, I could only finance my studies by regularly accepting jobs on construction sites, in factories on the assembly line or in print shops. And after my studies I finally worked for many years, from 1992 to 2003, at night in a post delivery cen­tre in Berlin-Mitte (Möckernstraße).

There, with wind and weather, it wasn’t exactly squeamish to go to. In an open hall – this was particularly hard in winter – we had to load trucks with tons of outgoing letters and parcels, which we had previously collected in individual containers, and at the end of our shift we had to unload the incoming letters and parcels from the trucks again in order to make them available to the sorting staff for further processing and transport. In short, I worked for eleven years as a kind of „warehouse clerk“: it was called a „postal worker“.

Still today I have friendly contact to one or the other with whom I worked at that time. Be­cause when you „work hard“ together for years, it welds you together. And you don’t forget such time, or at least I never forget it again. For it shaped me like no other – precisely be­cause it was the hardest time of my life and because it is still constitutive for it today that it cannot be transfigured in any nostalgic-romantic way.

So don’t tell me I don’t know anything about hard work. And please don’t come to me with the usual intellectual scolding. Anyone who has read my philosophical texts, read my blog or got to know me personally knows that my writing, however twisted and complex it may be occasionally, and my current teaching profession, however „normal“ and „civil“ it may seem, are and remain committed to those people who represent the physical and / or so­cial backbone of our society.

Nothing disappoints me as much as the insinuation that I don’t know what I’m talking about when I talk about capitalist exploitation, the difference between rich and poor, be­low and above, neoliberal disfigurement and / or degrading conditions of living in an al­leged „postmodernism“ that is perceived by many, but not by the many, as the most pro­gres­sive, because pluralistic age of all ages.

There is virtually nothing post-modern about the postmodernism we have today, at least not if we understand postmodernism to mean a state in which, firstly, a large part of the promises of modernity are fulfilled and, secondly, this fulfilment is not only reserved for a few, but – precisely – for the many. Philosophy – and this should not be forgotten – is a thor­ough­ly universal, not an elitist undertaking. It is about questions of humanity, not whether people in some remote part of the world have managed to build their own small paradise on the shoulders of others. Progress is universal, or it is not.

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I recently read an interview in a weekly newspaper (der Freitag, Nr. 6, 7.2.19) with the French filmmaker and author Virginie Despentes (cf. https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/sei-brav-sklave). Here is a short excerpt:

Q: „How can democratic and humanist values and the social market economy be saved?“

A: „As far as values are concerned, that is already fucked up. The refugee crisis in Europe prohibits us from talking about humanism. And the disregard for the voices of the Greek people prevents us from talking about democracy. We must not delude ourselves: These values have already been sacrificed. The austerity policy in all the countries of Europe is a war of annihilation which is intended to destroy all the social achievements achieved by the struggles of the population in the twentieth century. The aim is to reduce the European populations to the poverty and misery levels of the 18th century.“

Q: „Are you serious?“

A: „Yes, the class of the richest has never been more determined to wage such a violent war against the working classes. It seems as if the richest wanted to avenge themselves bla­tant­ly, as if they had the impression that they had been humiliated for the last 50 years. And now we are to pay dearly for the last decades when decent living conditions prevailed. One thing is clear: the richest can no longer tolerate their power being limited in any way – eco­lo­gi­cally, politically or ethically.“

She’s right about everything she says. And it is by no means exaggerated. We are all de­lu­ding our­selves because we want to believe in the blessings of democracy and capitalism. But the problem is: democracy and capitalism are not compatible.

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So far: When I started thirty / forty years ago, I started from false premises.

In any case, it has become necessary to rethink the (political) world.

So everything has changed in the last thirty / forty years? Yes, everything. But also no­thing. Yes, everything because the broad intellectual, but also unintellectual consensus, the alliance of different strata of the population, the majority that had formed to be able to assert left-wing politics, because this consensus, this alliance and this majority has become impossible for the foreseeable future. But also nothing, because we have not made a single step forward on the road to fundamental democratic change and a possible coming world democracy. In fact, today we are further away from that than before.

Nothing has changed in the really relevant areas. We are still having the same discussions – with dwindling participation – as in the seventies and eighties. The „fucking liberals“ – as I have already pointed out – were already criticized at that time (cf. Jean Améry, Wi­der­sprü­che, Frankfurt/M. 1980, p. 205); and the „acceleration“ of the processes of social change, of which meanwhile a Hartmut Rosa can write whole books in his leisurely so­ci­o­lo­gi­cal German, sufficient thought was given at that time (cf. ibid., p. 12ff), so that no fur­ther comments are necessary.

As you can see, it can be helpful to take a look at older books – those with left-wing, long-forgotten concepts – in order to assure oneself of history and to become aware that there is nothing new under the sun, that is, how little the critical knowledge of the 60s, 70s and 80s has fallen on fertile ground. Exactly the opposite is the case: critical knowledge has been exhausted in affirmative action, the former resisters have become turncoats, the cri­tics of yesterday’s conditions their greatest beneficiaries of today.

In other words: Value orientation and value realization are still in stark – capitalist – con­tra­dic­tion to each other. Much has been said, nothing has been done: The social divides, both national and international, are widening; weapons are still being sold worldwide, in war regions whose number is increasing (Germany is one of the largest arms exporters); the oceans are suffocating in plastic and garbage, and climate change can no longer be stopped. Billions and billions have been spent diagnosing the catastrophe we are heading for (still the most advanced task of science), nothing to avert it. We keep heading for it.

Of course, digitalisation and the World Wide Web have brought about major changes. We have, as they say, arrived in the „digital age“. But where has it led us? After leaving the In­ter­net to some data-hungry monopolists and turning it into a big capital machine (which breathes, warms, eats, shits and fucks), you buy and sell the usual trifles (gibberish, clicks, advertising messages, opinions and the like) at equally trifling prices in ever new va­ri­a­ti­ons, while world events are turning into a horror film – awarded by all experts – which we can watch every evening on YouTube with pleasure.

You have to have a good portion of masochism to do this to yourself.

And, by the way, all this makes writing unpleasant. It seems more and more pointless.

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Has anything changed at all? Some people write whole books to analyse this (even the books have to go with the times), but I’ll be brief: If half the population no longer believes – keyword indifference – that they have anything to expect from democracy and its po­li­ti­ci­ans, because the state – keyword neoliberalism – has completely failed in the last two de­cades, and when the youth of this half population in the institutional human parks of our society become competitive egoists and narcissists, one should not be surprised that a decidedly left political position appears less and less assertive or its implementation less and less realistic.

In contrast to „rightists“ who, despite democracy or for fear of democracy, think from top to bottom, „leftists“ are absolutely dependent on a functioning democracy, from bottom to top; they cannot do anything without it, however precariously it is constructed, for in­stan­ce at present, because a democratic movement that deserves its name needs a mass and product basis on which it can, without any violence, initiate and continuously shape fun­da­men­tal change. Without any violence, because at least physical violence is incompatible with the democratic principle based on language. And continuously, because democracy is also a question of knowledge and education – and both do not fall from heaven.

Twenty / thirty years ago, at the height of the postmodern discussion, one could still assume such a constellation. One could assume that the democratic institutions, above all schools and universities, were apt to prepare people for the fundamental democratic change and a possible coming world democracy – globalisation in the best sense -, to take them along in the non-violent and continuous process and to give them the opportunity to get involved in it and actively shape it. Of course there was also a struggle then, a struggle of the „left“ with the „right“, for the sovereignty of discourse in society. But it seemed as if it could be won by a differentiation, even by abolishing this difference – in favour of a pro­gres­sive, radical liberalism.

Therefore, if right-wing antidemocratic forces currently believe they have to distance themselves from the „left mainstream“, from the so-called „fucking liberals“ – of whom, by the way, people already spoke in the 1970s (cf. Jean Améry, Widersprüche, Frankfurt/M. 1980, p. 205) – there is here a weak echo of the certainty condensing in the 80s and 90s that „leftists“ on their „long march through institutions“ could possibly suc­ceed for the first time in history in getting the democratic majority of the population behind them. But it only seemed that way. In fact, „leftists“ have lost the battle of discourse with „rightists“, because in the process of the differentiation mentioned above, first at the end of the 1990s, „leftists“, in search of the „middle“, attached them­sel­ves to „rightists“ and then „rightists“ willingly joined this compromise course of „leftists“ – be­cause it was a course to the right.

So if there are people today who are confident of victory and who believe that they can still walk in the boots of the current postmodern discussion, these people are those who ar­gue „structure-conservatively“, who have not understood, that the historic opportunity that lay in the student movement of the 60s, the environmental movement of the 70s, the peace movement of the 80s and what followed them (right up to the smaller movements of the recent past, for example, the Occupy movement), that this opportunity – or op­por­tu­ni­ties: for fundamental democracy, consequent environmental protection, world peace and containment, if not abolition of capitalism – has been missed and that today we are dealing with forces, „culture fighters“, who once and for all want to prevent such opportunities from ever returning.

In other words, we are dealing with a threat in the face of which the discussions that we had at that time: whether the rule of reason would not lead to coercion, whether hu­ma­nism would not be an anti-humanism in truth, and whether history, especially that of rea­son and the humane, is slowly coming to an end (cf. my blog-posts of July 2012), would not seem downright ridiculous. What we need today and must make strong again for the rea­sons mentioned above are the values of individual autonomy and sovereignty, so­li­da­ri­ty, tolerance and dignity handed down to us from the Enlightenment, even if we know that the dialectic of Enlightenment was never really dissolved. Because the new movements and reactionary forces lead us – completely without any dialectic – directly back to bar­ba­rism.

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Some believe – they are not my friends – that I have changed the „political position“: from „left“ to „right“. I can’t understand that at all. Since I’m against the monopolists, against the bosses, against those who rule and manage the world (see above or in the blog below) – how can one assume such a thing? That is damaging to reputation! I can hardly be among my friends anymore, let alone among people! …

Have those who claim to have done so thought this through? Do they know what they are talking about? What do they say? The rights today, the real rights: in Germany AFD, Pe­gi­da, Legida and other Gidas – are either thick as a brick (e.g. von Storch and Poggenburg) or dangerous (e.g. Höcke and Bachmann). And the unreal rights: CDU, FDP, SPD and recently also the Green Party, are so normal and boring – „structural conservative“ – that I would be embarrassed to name them.

But to be serious (philosophy is the most serious thing): Because I would have spoken dis­pa­ra­ging­ly about Žižek and Badiou, because I would have categorically rejected post-, trans- or metahumanism and lately – for instance in my collaboration with Detlef Günther (cf. here) – talked about dignity, individuality, sovereignty etc., I could actually only be „a right“? For all these „values“ – dignity, individuality, sovereignty, etc. – would have „the left,“ that is „we,“ long since „deconstructed“?

I don’t know how my esteemed readers feel, but here I think a lot of things have gotten mixed up: Is deconstruction per se a „left“ affair? And is it those who are imagined by deconstruction, that is to say: these imaginary philosophers, who have ever come to the mind of deconstructing their own deconstruction? Apart from the fact that a „left theory“, to which dignity and individuality would no longer be worth a single construction, hardly deserves its name.

Since some have claimed (I am not one of them) that it is no longer possible to distinguish between „left“ and „right“, I would rather assume that the ability of some intellectuals to distinguish has suffered. Because the world has become more complex, they do not shar­pen their conceptual instruments, but go with them to the same world, as if nothing had changed at all. In fact, it is not so difficult to say what is „left“. Hermann L. Gremliza has brought it to the point:

„When a homeless person, a handicapped person, a homosexual, a refugee is killed, even the most narrow-minded civil society hobbyist does not believe for a second that the per­pe­tra­tors are leftists. For more violence, weapons, soldiers, police, surveillance, fewer rights for women, gays, lesbians, foreigners, more fatherland, working hours, cars, exhaust fumes, less pensions: that’s right. The opposite of everything: it’s to the left.“ (Halb richtig ist ganz falsch, in: Konkret. Politik und Kultur, 7/2017, S. 9, Sp. 1; cf. my blog post from 8.5.17)

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I thought that these days between the years would never end – as if the new year would be endlessly delayed … Not a bad utopia – or rather maetopia? – to be caught between the years or rather: to be caught right there. But whether utopia or maetopia – both go by, disappear into the secrecy of the past.

So, as time goes by, I return to the secrecy from which I came by interrupting the work on this blog. Because, as Ovid already knew: „Bene qui latuit, bene vixit“/ „He who hid well lived well.“ (cf. my blog post from 18.6.12)

There are indeed people who walk the path of secrecy. People who either haven’t yet be­come eerie about their own meaninglessness, or who don’t feel urged by it, when it has become eerie to them, to deceive themselves about it, e.g. in a blog like this.

To remember: In a blog like this, I once quoted Friedrich Kittler, who was asked in an in­ter­view: „Are you interested in Facebook?“ and yet actually replied: „No, I really don’t have anything to do with that. I have the creepy feeling that people have become so un­im­por­tant to those who rule and manage the world that self-representation is their last resort. (cf. here).

Not bad: Self-representation as the last salvation from non-representation, from secrecy, from the non-occurrence of the individual in the dominant discourse, from sinking into concealment. The unbearable: that we are born noiseless in the noise of the masses and die in the same way, we hoot down with just this noise …

Question to Zuckerberg: Where and how is death intended in Facebook’s „Chronicle“ – from birth to death? Who writes the last entry about the last life event – or rather about the death event of which there is no first and no last? And what kind of event would that be? To whom will it belong?

Well, who owns our data, even if it’s only our death data? – It‘s to be feared: the mo­no­po­lists, those who rule and manage the world! In any case, they are fond of it.

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