LIVING IN STRANGE TIMES

Sometimes I wonder which times we live in? According to the Slovenian enfant terrible of modern-day philosophy, Slavoj Žižek, we are living in the end times. A rather reserved claim compared to American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, who declared already in 1992 “The End of History.”

To me time is strange. I mean, time not just as a philosophical or physical concept, but the actual time we are living in—our time, the here and now. So to be more correct: our time is strange. Well, I admit that “strange” is a strange word. Of course, I use the word “strange” in order to label something I have no words for or circumstances I can’t really explain. Adding the word “strange” to a phrase functions like an audible pause like a sigh, combined with a facial expression of consternation, infused with a pinch of indignation. Watching the news or following the media these days often leaves me like this.

You have probably heard of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who founded the initiative “Fridays For Future.” Greta Thunberg got pretty famous by now. Time magazine listed her among the 25 most influential teenagers of 2018. She and her followers, foremost pupils, are on protests every Friday, walking down city-centers and therefore are skipping school. Last Friday she was marching in Germany’s capital Berlin. The intention of those weekly demonstrations is widely known. The young generation wants the adults, especially the politicians to act worldwide.

Protesting in Germany, Ms. Thunberg could strike two flies with one stone. She not just defended her cause far from home, but also received a German award called “Goldene Kamera” or golden camera—the German version of the Golden Globe Award. Just to make this clear from the beginning: I am not one of those haters, who are spilling their disdain over the 16 year old activist. Since nearly every action, product or entertainment today is rewarded in one way or the other, so why not an activist with an ethically very valuable motive? Hence, from my point of view, neither Greta Thunberg nor what she’s doing or standing for is strange. But something rather strange happened after she received the award. A German actress, not much older than Greta Thunberg, who also won one award that night was given a SUV from Volkswagen.

“What?”, you might ask in doubt. “Is that true?” Yes, it is! In today’s Germany, in one and the same event, it is possible to award a climate activist for her effort to raise awareness of the necessity to intervene in any further polution of the environment by carbon dioxide emissions and to give away a huge car, which is obviously anything but environmentally friendly.

According to my understanding, the apperent hypocrisy is anything but a coincidence. So why do we do it. Of course, not everyone of the over 80 million German inhabitants voluntarily gave or would have given the award to Ms. Thunberg nor the SUV to the actress. Still the media event represents in a surprisingly crisp and crystal-clear way how we think and act.

Under the dictate of today’s moral tyranny we not just like to pamper our moral self by giving awards to teenage girls with serious agendas, but we are forced to do it—regardless of whether we want this by conviction or not. Being morally right on the surface is what is expected of us, but nothing we have achieved by intensive reflection on what is morally right or at least justifiable and what isn’t. Therefore, the moral surface doesn’t say anything about our actual or moral attitude, but it makes us unassailable, since ostensibly we are standing on the right side of the public moral code, which is in fact the previously mentioned moral tyranny of our age.

Part of today’s moral tyranny is the perception that the older generation did basically everything wrong. The youngsters claim that the old gamble away their future. The older you are the more wrong you must be. I might be exaggerating, but isn’t it strange that the protesters of “Fridays For Future” are not in general asking themselves how their actions cause carbon dioxide emissions, which obviously happens everyday by using smartphones, tablet PCs, Computers, gaming consoles, etc.? The truth is, we, the young and the old and those in between, are all part of the same game.

Isn’t it strange that “Fridays For Future” doesn’t mean ‘let us be different tomorrow or in the distant future than the old of today?’ This resembles a lot the generation of 1968, which according to the historian David Engels hated a thousand years culture and to a certain degree themselves, I would add. Back then, the young protesters stood up against the Fat Cats of their time. But did they knew back then, that they eventually will become the Fat Cats of tomorrow? In fact some of them did. Some of the activists of 1968 became those Fat Cats “Fridays For Future” is more or less directly protesting against today. Our times are strange.

The strangest thing about the strange is, that once you’ve noticed that there is something strange around you—though not necessarily close to you—, you’ll be stumbling over the strange everywhere. Yesterday I have read about an assistant medical director in a German hospital, coming from the Middle East, insisting on only operating with males. The outrage is huge—not really surprising, if you take into consideration the en vogue moral attitude of the public. “How can he be such a chauvinist?”, one might ask. True, it totally taste like gender inequality. But before burning him publicly at the stake, we should take a step back—at least for one moment. The strange part of modern moral tyranny, as I’ve called it before, is the of everyone expected unconditional respect towards every culture, which includes religions, and race, if you still think in this category—you better don’t, since all man are equal. Surely, all man are equal and there is no higher or lesser, no good or bad culture—cultures are equal as well (Oswald Spengler). But, and that’s the point, they are equal but not the same. The moral tyranny of today demands at least two unreconcilable requests, namely gender equality and unconditional tolerance towards every culture but one’s own. The former (gender equality) is unfortunately in most of the case being reduced to a quantitative level and not a qualitative one—this is often overlooked by activists and politicians, including feminists; while in the eyes of the advocates of moral tyranny the latter is only wonderful on the surface and as long as it works according to their, the modern-day moral tyrants demands. This is in fact nothing else but orientalism, disguised in new fashion.

Or to put it differently: “Everything about you—you in your otherness, you the foreigner, you with your different ‘background,’ you with your different culture—is wonderful, marvelous, but of course only as long as you are like us! Your difference has to match our identity.”

Our times are indeed strange.