Is Antifa counterproductive
The inflationary talk of racism is counterproductive
The Özil case caused the debate about an allegedly systematic racism against immigrants to boil up. The polemical exaggeration was excessive: the old racism, to which whole peoples fell victim, has little in common with today's diverse forms of discrimination against those who are different.
In Laupheim, one and a half hours by train from Friedrichshafen, there is the Museum of the History of Christians and Jews. A visit is worthwhile for two reasons: The exhibition illustrates with texts and pictures in an excellent way the almost 300 years of coexistence, togetherness and opposition of the Christian majority and the Jewish minority. At the same time, the exhibition makes one aware that it is wrong to draw parallels from this for the purpose of resisting today's immigration. State-imposed (old) racism, such as special taxes for Jews in Germany, the Jim Crow laws on racial segregation in the USA, the Nuremberg «Blood Protection Act» of 1935, cannot be compared with the anger of an African immigrant who faces discrimination when looking for a job, so new racism, experienced.
Racism is not a right wing disease. It is too widespread for that. In East Asia there is a gradual look down from pale Chinese milk drinkers near Mongolia to the slightly darker southern Chinese and from there to the Cambodians all the way down to the Indonesians. The Japanese are prejudiced against the Chinese, the Chinese against Indians. Iranians look down on the Arabs, Arabs on the tall blacks on the Horn, those on the short Bantu further south of the Sahara.
This kind of racism can be seen as the evil sister of common sense. In order to be united and strong, tribal associations, peoples, nations ascribed grandiose qualities to each other and thus excluded all those who were not like them. This deep-seated primal behavior, once useful, today destructive, can be called up at any time.
The ideology of imperialism
Labeling inferior or uncivilized peoples sought to subjugate has been a common justification for doing so. In the 19th century, the great powers of Europe subjugated the last blank spots on the globe. Racial theorists from Arthur de Gobineau to Houston Stewart Chamberlain to Madison Grant made rankings, with the whites at the top and the pigmented at the bottom. Her bestsellers - all translated into German - were read in educated households on both sides of the Atlantic. They morally supported the right of the whites to rule and legally better off the colonists than the colonized.
Discrimination is petty, vicious, and illegal - but it shouldn't be labeled racism.
Their influence on racial segregation in the USA, eugenics and later, via Alfred Rosenberg, on National Socialism was considerable. When the most famous Jew from Laupheim, Carl Laemmle, emigrated to Hollywood at the end of the 19th century, there was no access to clubs and universities there for Jews and blacks. In contrast to today, racism was anchored in law before 1945, i.e. it was institutionalized. It took the defeat of National Socialism to change that.
The end of the Second World War put an abrupt end to the old racism - at least on paper. The racist writings disappeared from the bookshelves. Driven by a guilty conscience and communist competition, the victorious western powers restored the Enlightenment. In the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, all biological and cultural variants of human existence were put on an equal footing.
The ethnologists Ruth Benedict and later Margaret Mead went one step further. To judge other cultures, religions, ways of life with Western values is arrogance. What is alien to us can only be measured by its own values. Cultural relativism - basically a radical anti-racism - was born.
Reinforced by the left movement in 1968 and the romantic hippies, cultural relativism shaped the behavior of the left-of-center majority more than we are aware. Some of the professors, judges, lawyers, editors-in-chief and theater directors who arrived at their destination after the “march through the institutions” built a modern-sounding identity on it, which is essentially based on finding strange, different, exotic and marginalized things often unquestioned. This sets you apart from (and beyond) those who are not educated, who like their own homeland and who even love their own culture.
The small differences after 1989
The elimination of the opposition “communism versus capitalism” as a justification for revolutions and coups made wars what they had been in tribal cultures again. Since 1989 there has hardly been a theater of war in which religion, ethnicity and identity were not managed by one or both sides.
Already at my first UN place of work, Baghdad in 1991, it was about ethnic-denominational issues. The formerly secular Saddam Hussein, who hastily had “God is great” printed on the national flag, had broken international law with the invasion of Kuwait, but was allowed to remain in office - as a Sunni counterweight to the Shiite majority in Iraq. At the second place of employment, Rwanda 1994, the identities Hutu and Tutsi, who hardly differ in appearance, language and religion, were ethnically charged in the struggle for the possession of the state until mass murder occurred. Shortly after I started working in the UN Secretariat in 2001, what happened in retrospect was the first attack by radical Islamists in the West: the destruction of New York's World Trade Center.
So much mischief during a civil servant career is reminiscent of a sentence that the traditionalist Germanist Emil Staiger once used against the "excesses" of post-war literature: "In which circles did you associate?" Since the fall of the Wall, we have obviously been in a world where politics is once again made with religious, cultural and biological differences.
Discrimination and everyday racism
Discrimination in the workplace or when looking for a place to live is petty, vicious and illegal. There are undoubtedly forms of everyday racism as well. This should not be called racism in the narrower sense. When you hear “racism”, you end up thinking of Auschwitz; and nobody wants to be that racist.
It is not easy to see where the new “racism” is hiding. Prejudices against certain foreigners - banned from the public as far as possible through racism penal norms and political correctness - are increasingly being lived out in right-wing extremist splinter groups and social networks. They come to the surface above all when skin color, ethnicity, nationality are paired with ignorance, social welfare fraud or criminality. For example in Lausanne, where almost all drug traffickers are Nigerians.
The new “racism” remains in the programs of extreme parties: the right is blocking uncontrolled immigration with sometimes inflammatory slogans. Selecting immigrants based on their professional qualifications is not, however, racist per se. To reduce the number of migrants to a socially acceptable level, not either. Europeans love their regional cultures, music, dance, wine, beer and also pork. Nobody wants to let the joy of it spoil them. The post-war generation in Western Europe is proud of its achievements: conflict resolution without violence, democracy, the welfare state, gender equality, environmental awareness. The fear of importing backwardness is not unfounded.
Limits of "being good"
After 25 years in developing countries back in Europe, I had the impression that the center-left - in Germany and Switzerland the political majority - had become intellectually comfortable. In response to the new “racism” triggered by chaotic migration, people have started to throw around the good and bad words of the 1970s: yes to international solidarity, yes to ethnic diversity, yes to cultural plurality, yes to tolerance! No to isolating Europe, No to racism, No to xenophobia, No to warmed-up fascists!
Dear Left / Greens / Liberals / Christian Democrats - there are smarter ways to take the wind out of the sails of populist parties. Even good words have limits. To use this less inflationary would already have a depolarizing effect. International solidarity does not mean that the many problems in Africa or the Islamic world can be solved by simply opening the gates for the starving people there.
Anyone who thinks plurality is great must also know that diversity without a minimum of common values leads to chaos. Anyone who advocates tolerance should also realize that the constitution has its limits to accepting foreign ways of life. You can go too far with wanting to be good without limits. It is not entirely by chance that Hillary Clinton lost her election as American president, which she believed to be certain.
Toni Stadler studied colonial history and biology. He worked for ICRC, UN, OECD and EDA / SDC in numerous countries in Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. The text is the short version of a celebratory speech in Schloss Grosslaupheim on July 18th.
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