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Indybay Feature
Sad exiled kings and health dictatorship
by Bjorn Vedder and Ralf Klausnitzer
Thursday May 21st, 2020 3:37 AM
Life in a "fatherless world," as the English philosopher Shaftesbury wrote around 1700, is cruel and dysfunctional because a person without a father lacks "the relationship to the whole."
A first creeping, then rapid change of values has occurred within our societies from "freedom" as the highest value to "security," the desire for controllability of the future.
Sad exiled kings
Father's Day What kind of fathers do we need, especially now in the Corona crisis?
by Björn Vedder

[This article published in May 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Is he sitting in the corner with his hat on? Enduring uncertainty can be fun.

Father's Day 2020: The celebrations will probably be more modest. Not only because the humid drinking tours of tipsy men with their handcart are restricted within the limits of the exit restrictions, but also because the fathers of these days are not well-suffering. Perhaps the most important reason for this is the impression that our society is still dominated by patriarchal structures, which are once again visible now that children are locked up at home by politicians and mothers have to do most of the family work on their own.

Our society is of course more enlightened than it was 300 years ago, and a classical patriarchy, in which fathers present order and law, no longer exists. We have overcome its two pillars, the monarchical structure of society and the idea of a hierarchical order of the world in which everything has its place. The kings were disempowered and the fathers were sent into exile for professional life.

All that remains is the economic dominance of the fathers, which is bad enough, of course. But also for the fathers, who are thus separated from their families - not only in the literal sense. To the extent that their contribution to the family's life is focused on securing the economic basis of their livelihood, their role purrs together to that of the provider. This removes them from the family. They become representatives of the economic, their wife and child orbiting the earth like the moon. In this way, they are always a little apart - like Joseph, the most famous of all the Deputy Fathers, in many depictions of the Holy Family.

The Ethos of the Artist

However, the fact that the Bundesliga is played again earlier than in the kindergartens and that the DIY stores are more likely to reopen than the schools is not the legacy of patriarchy, but of a policy that deliberately disregards work in the families so that they do not have to pay for it and the state and the economy can continue to profit from it parasitically. Even the leaders of the old industrialized countries knew that wages can only remain low if behind every man on the assembly line is an unpaid woman who runs the household and looks after the children, as a feminist historian showed early on.

The persistence of this policy still hits women particularly hard today; nevertheless, there can be no talk of a rule of the fathers. All too often they themselves are trapped in the circumstances.

Much rather than praise from the father, then, one could today hear a lament from the father, especially since these days the moaning, like a basso continuo, carries almost all the statements. However, this Father's Day greeting does not want to go along with this. Rather, it should be about what the fathers wish for today and what would be desirable from them. It might help to take a look at what was lost with the patriarchy. Perhaps the most important thing is the socializing function that is classically associated with the role of the father. Life in a "fatherless world", as the English philosopher Shaftesbury wrote around 1700, is cruel and dysfunctional, because a person without a father lacks "the relationship to the whole".

To take this relationship to the whole, to see oneself not only in relation to oneself but also in relation to others, and to question the realization of one's own wishes and goals in terms of how it relates to the wishes and goals of others, is to become an adult. For the patriarchs of old, this meant submitting to the law they represented. "Your order is the plough," the Middle High German poet Wernher der Gärtner has the father say in a story to the son, who rebels, not to plough and plow, but to rob and plunder. He thus assigns him his place in life. However, submission to the law is the weakest form of education. It provides a corset for people who cannot stand upright on their own. And anyway: What place in life can fathers show their children today, when such an order no longer exists and they themselves are not standing on solid ground, but on "thin ice over which the thaw blows", as Friedrich Nietzsche noted?

There can be no place in life, but only a relationship to him and to oneself. An artistic self-relation without all gravity. No obedience to the law, but the ethos of an artist. Especially against the background of the recent pandemic, such fathers would be a blessing. They would face the lamenters with lightness of touch and would respond to the nervous questions as to when things would finally return to the way they once were, with a cheerful "Never again! They would take away the mourners' fear of the indefinite and make visible the freedom that lies within. Certainly not without denying the dangers. For a life that does not abolish disorder but improvises in it cannot be sealed against failure.

"Some things have failed, some things have turned out well," state those fathers in Johann Peter Hebel's treasure chest of the Rhenish house friend, who know that the best way to do the same as the fathers and forefathers was to start again and again from scratch. This risky self- and world relationship is also connected with the insight into the provisional and transitory nature of all things. What comes into being, passes away - and everything that is, sinks down to what was. "All days are towards death, the last one - it arrives." Death is the completion of life. Michel de Montaigne linked this insight to his famous claim that to philosophize is to learn to die. Here, too, fathers could support their children and families of the day. Not in the literal sense, of course, because too many deaths are supposed to be prevented - but in the figurative sense that life is not only seen from birth, but also from the end.

We then not only take into consideration the infinite abundance of possibilities that lies in the beginning, but with an eye to the end we must also ask ourselves what else we can meaningfully do. While the first perspective often frustrates us because we can never fully exhaust the infinite abundance of possibilities, the second can give us new strength to act.

However, this change of perspective is only possible if we stop simply floating along in the stream of life. We have to get out of it and take up a place on the shore. This contemplative distance from life is perhaps the most important thing that fathers could wish for today and what they could give their children and families.

More love work

The conditions for this are currently very good, because the pandemic has pressed the stop button. The world is holding its breath. Fathers should take advantage of this unique opportunity, not only to establish an artistic self-relationship and a contemplative distance to life, but also to give mothers greater scope. For the flipside of the contemplative life is the vita activa, as Hannah Ahrendt has shown: the active life concerned with general affairs and public interests, in short, economic and political life. For this, however, they must first become free, and they can only do so if the fathers withdraw from it in their favour - relinquishing old responsibilities and accepting new ones. Less money and more love work: changing diapers, cooking food and sitting with the children by the river.

Björn Vedder is a publicist and philosopher. He recently published Fathers of the Future. A philosophical essay published by Büchner Verlag


What's going wrong?
Literature Ten years ago Juli Zeh designed the dystopia of a health dictatorship. Her new book is now being published
by Ralf Klausnitzer

[This article published in May 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

What's going wrong?
The imperative of maintaining good health: The less people live, the greater their safety

On 25 May 2020 the new book by Juli Zeh will be published: Questions on "Corpus Delicti". It will be advertised by the publisher with the question: "When will the concept of the 'health dictatorship' change from polemic to description of the state of affairs? In the book Juli Zeh answers questions from readers about the novel Corpus Delicti. We can be curious about the answers. The author and lawyer Juli Zeh is one of the most prominent critics of the encroachments on civil liberties that have been carried out in the course of infection control attempts to contain a pandemic.

It intervened several times in public against the continuation of these measures, including on 24 April, when, together with Boris Palmer and Julian Nida-Rümelin, Alexander Kekulé and Christoph M. Schmidt, it called for an end to the lockdown as quickly as possible. However, her reflections also become interesting because, with the literary experimental arrangement Corpus Delicti, Juli Zeh already presented a dystopia more than a decade ago that seems like an anticipation of our coronary present.

"I did not foresee the outbreak of a pandemic," Juli Zeh told Friday. "But what I have been observing for decades and have processed in Corpus Delicti is a first creeping, then rapid change of values within our societies, from 'freedom' as the highest value to 'security', whereby 'security' is a synonym for the desire for controllability of the future.

In Corpus Delicti a process leads into the year 2043 and the world of an imperative: "Health is the goal of the natural will to live and therefore a natural goal of society, law and politics. A person who does not strive for health does not become ill, but is already ill." This is what the fictional bestseller book "Gesundheit als Prinzip staatlicher Legitimation" (Health as a Principle of State Legitimation) by journalist and media intellectual Heinrich Kramer says, which provides ideological support for an authoritarian system of biological-medical observance. The antagonist of this health dictatorship and the main character of the work is the biologist Mia Holl (young and attractive, mentally independent and eloquent), who has to experience how a technologically highly equipped system of socio-hygienic surveillance and punishment reacts to individual deviations and outbreaks. After her brother Moritz was wrongly convicted of rape and murder and committed suicide, Mia searches for evidence of his innocence. In the process, she falls off the tracks of state-mandated and constantly tested functionality and comes under the scrutiny of state investigations: If the neglect of obligatory sleep and nutrition reports and the daily sports program is acknowledged with a "clarification talk", further misconduct with "toxic substances" of a cigarette finally leads to charges.

Your lawyer can still clear up the brother's case and prove his innocence in the main trial. And also the media seem to be open to a discussion about possible reforms. But when Mia dictates a pamphlet to the smart health representative Kramer, in which she withdraws her trust from the medical-political complex, the measure is full: With the decision for the ideas of her free-spirited, individualistic brother, she finally stands up against a system that demands submission to the rules of general security - and in case of deviation she fights back with all her might.

Literally. The drastically painted reactions of the state should be read for yourself: Arrest as an enemy of the state, fabricated evidence, extorted testimony and torture are hard to endure. The final trial, in which Mia is sentenced to a kind of death penalty, and the preparations for the execution of the sentence also put more sensitive recipients to the test:
The final court case, in which Mia will be sentenced to a kind of death penalty, as well as the preparations for the execution of the verdict, will also put more sensitive recipients to the test: Why does this have to happen? What is going wrong?

Stencils as figures

It is surprising how much of what is currently happening or is being considered, from collection and control measures to hygiene regulations and denunciation, is involved. However, the dystopia of the year 2043, painted with a few nuances and nuances, lives from exaggerations and reductions in complexity that extend to the transformation of figures into templates. This is the name of the omnipresent newspaper "DER GESUNDE MENSCHENVERSTAND" (Healthy Human Understanding).

At the same time, traces of text lead into deeper layers of the past. The smart Methodist Heinrich Kramer bears the name of the author of the early modern witch hammer. And Mia, like the witches, is an endangered outsider. "From time to time, power needs an example to show its strength. Especially when faith wavers within. Outsiders are good because they don't know what they want. They are windfalls."

It is also interesting that the measures to establish a comprehensive health care dictatorship are not attributed to pandemic and epidemic protection reasons or to conspiratorial machinations of sinister backers, but to social crisis phenomena: "Declining birth rates, increase in stress-related diseases, rampages, terrorism. In addition, an over-emphasis on private egoisms, the loss of loyalty and finally the collapse of the social security systems. Chaos. Disease. Insecurity."

From the ability to solve these problems grows the power of the "METHOD", against which there is no rebellion. For anyone who goes against the rules of a germ-free and disease-free future society does not abstractly turn against an idea, but - according to the modern inquisitor Heinrich Kramer - "quite specifically against the well-being and security of each and every one of us". Couldn't politicians today speak the same way?

Duty to wear masks and disinfection are now just as much a part of our everyday lives as the incantations of constant attentiveness: "If we stop working together on safety and cleanliness, there will be an epidemic within a few weeks," explains methodological representative Heinrich Kramer in the novel. Doesn't the German Chancellor use a similar wording when she warns of a "second wave" and emphasizes that we should "not allow ourselves to be lulled into safety for a second"?

Active rebellion

The novel meets our present, although it is literature through and through, and that is what makes it so fascinating. Not without reason does the heroine ponder in front of her bookshelf: "Rousseau. With dedication from Moritz. Dostoevsky. Orwell. Musil. Kramer. Agamben - also with dedication. I never read that, by the way."

In the novel, biologist Mia Holl makes the transition from shocked grief to active rebellion. She dictates her rejection to the media representative Heinrich Kramer: "I am withdrawing trust from a right that owes its success to complete control by the citizen. I am withdrawing confidence from a policy that bases its popularity solely on the promise of a risk-free life. I deprive a state that knows better than me what is good for me."

The author Juli Zeh is also committed. Publicly and in a strong headwind. The courage that this public commitment requires becomes clearer when one considers what has happened since the end of March 2020 in Europe and, with a time lag, almost all over the world: Almost all subsystems of a functionally differentiated society, such as the economy, education, art and religion, have been subjected to the imperative of maintaining good health. For the goal of saving lives we accepted and still accept high costs. And not only financial costs.

Unbiased discussions about this have a hard time; polarizing reactions and polemical rejections in the face of a still narrow knowledge base do not make discursive missions easy. This is another reason why we are eagerly awaiting the new book by Juli Zeh.

Questions about 'Corpus Delicti' Juli Zeh , btb Verlag 2020, 240 p., 8,00 €
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