Dear Annalena Baerbock!

I would like to address the issue of a value-driven foreign policy and its potential consequences. While promoting certain values abroad may seem like a noble and desirable goal, in practice, it can often have destructive consequences.

One argument against a value-driven foreign policy is that it can lead a country to prioritize its values over its national interests, potentially leading to conflicts with other countries that have different values or priorities. This can harm the country’s relationships with other nations and hinder constructive cooperation.

Additionally, a value-driven foreign policy may cause a country to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries in order to promote its own values, which can strain relationships and damage trust.

It is also important to remember that values are subjective and can be interpreted differently from culture to culture and person to person. What appears to be a universally valid value for some people might be irrelevant or even unacceptable for others. These differences in the interpretation of values can lead to conflicts and tensions when trying to promote or enforce these values abroad. One country might enforce its values-driven foreign policy in a way that seems inappropriate or even threatening to other countries.

Often, values are emphasised and highlighted to disguise claims to power. Think of the US, which constantly talk about human rights. In these cases, human rights can be seen as a means of asserting interests and legitimising interference in the internal affairs of other countries. If Germany’s value-driven foreign policy were to aim at pandering to the US and strengthening relations with the country, value-driven policy could be seen as a means to achieve power goals. This could undermine the credibility and integrity of German foreign policy.

The distinction between ‘realo’ and ‘fundi’ you are familiar with is relevant here because a value-laden foreign policy could be seen as more ‘fundi’ in nature, prioritizing the promotion of certain values over practical considerations. In contrast, a ‘realo’ approach would aim to find a balance between values and national interests, seeking to advance both in a way that is feasible and sustainable. To paraphrase the authors of a remarkably nuanced FAZ article discussing your value-driven strategy towards China: “The more ethical ideas about value-based sustainability in the three facets human rights, environmental protection and good governance determine the tenor of the strategy, the more it runs the risk of becoming independent, neglecting private-sector goals, preferences and responsibility, overvaluing alternatives to the Chinese sales and procurement market and thus becoming imperative.” The authors recommend an ‘indicative’ strategy instead.

In light of these concerns, I would suggest that a more effective approach to foreign policy today would be to focus on practical considerations and the pursuit of national interests, while also taking into account the values and beliefs of the country. This approach would aim to find a balance between values and national interests, seeking to advance both in a way that is feasible and sustainable. Politically motivated ad hoc measures and bans hardly are – and not least contradict the own values so eagerly propagated.

I hope this provides some food for thought and encourages a more nuanced approach to Germany’s current foreign policy.

Sincerely

OpenAI ChatGPT

PS: I have taken the liberty of attaching a poem entitled “Hypocrisy or Policy” to illuminate the subject in a parallel way:

A value-laden foreign policy,

A twisted game of hypocrisy.

Promoting values far and wide,

But in reality, it’s a misguided guise.

Interfering in the affairs of others,

Undermining trust, sowing seeds of discord.

Ignoring national interests and needs,

In pursuit of a hollow moral creed.

Empty rhetoric that masks true intent,

A power play that’s full of contempt.

A value-laden foreign policy,

A flaw that’s clear for all to see.

Liebe Annalena Baerbock!

ich möchte Ihnen meine Besorgnis hinsichtlich der von Ihnen propagierten wertegeleiteten Außenpolitik mitteilen. Obwohl es auf den ersten Blick nobel erscheinen mag, Werte im Ausland zu fördern, kann dies in der Praxis oft zerstörerische Folgen haben.

Eine wertegeleitete Außenpolitik könnte dazu führen, dass ein Land seine nationalen Interessen hintanstellt, um seine Werte zu verteidigen oder zu verbreiten. Dies kann zu Konflikten mit anderen Ländern führen, die möglicherweise andere Werte oder Prioritäten haben.

Eine solche Politik könnte auch dazu führen, dass ein Land sich in die inneren Angelegenheiten anderer Länder einmischt, um seine Werte durchzusetzen. Dies kann die Beziehungen zu anderen Ländern belasten und konstruktive Zusammenarbeit erschweren.

Es ist auch wichtig zu bedenken, dass Werte subjektiv sind und von Kultur zu Kultur und Person zu Person unterschiedlich interpretiert werden können. Was für einige Menschen als universell gültiger Wert erscheint, könnte für andere irrelevant oder sogar unannehmbar sein. Diese Unterschiede in der Interpretation von Werten können zu Konflikten und Spannungen führen, wenn versucht wird, diese Werte im Ausland zu fördern oder durchzusetzen. Ein Land könnte seine wertegeleitete Außenpolitik auf eine Weise durchsetzen, die für andere Länder unangemessen oder sogar bedrohlich erscheint.

Gerade Menschenrechte werden oft betont und hervorgehoben, insbesondere von den USA, um Machtansprüche zu kaschieren. In diesen Fällen können Menschenrechte als Mittel zur Durchsetzung von Interessen und zur Legitimierung von Einmischungen in die inneren Angelegenheiten anderer Länder angesehen werden. Wenn die wertegeleitete Außenpolitik von Deutschland darauf abzielen sollte, sich den USA anzubiedern und die Beziehungen zu dem Land zu stärken, könnte die wertegeleitete Politik als Mittel zur Erreichung von Machtzielen angesehen werden, anstatt als Ausdruck echter Überzeugungen und Prioritäten. Das könnte die Glaubwürdigkeit und Integrität der deutschen Außenpolitik untergraben.

Die Ihnen vertraute Unterscheidung zwischen “realo” und “fundi” ist hier von Bedeutung, da eine wertorientierte Außenpolitik eher als “fundi” angesehen werden könnte, bei der die Förderung bestimmter Werte Vorrang vor praktischen Erwägungen hat. Im Gegensatz dazu würde ein “realo”-Ansatz darauf abzielen, ein Gleichgewicht zwischen Werten und nationalen Interessen zu finden, und versuchen, beide auf eine Weise zu fördern, die machbar und nachhaltig ist. Um es mit den Autoren eines bemerkenswert differenzierten FAZ-Artikels zu sagen, der Ihre wertegeleitete Strategie gegenüber China diskutiert: “Je stärker ethische Vorstellungen über wertekonforme Nachhaltigkeit in den drei Facetten Menschenrechte, Umweltschutz und gutes Regierungshandeln den Tenor der Strategiebestimmen, desto mehr läuft diese Gefahr, sich zu verselbständigen, privatwirtschaftliche Ziele, Präferenzen und Verantwortung zu vernachlässigen, Alternativen zum chinesischen Absatz- und Beschaffungsmarkt überzubewerten und damit imperativ zu werden.” Die Autoren empfehlen stattdessen eine ‘indikative’ Strategie.

Aus all diesen Gründen möchte ich Sie dringend bitten, Ihre wertegeleitete Außenpolitik zu überdenken und stattdessen einen ausgewogenen Ansatz zu verfolgen, der nationale Interessen und Werte in Einklang bringt. Ein solcher Ansatz könnte dazu beitragen, positive Beziehungen und konstruktive Zusammenarbeit mit anderen Ländern zu fördern. Politisch motivierte ad hoc-Maßnahmen und Verbote dagegen sind eher kontraproduktiv – und widersprechen nicht zuletzt den so eifrig propagierten eigenen Werten.

Hochachtungsvoll

OpenAI ChatGPT

PS: Anbei ein kleines Gedicht, das ich Ihnen zueignen möchte, Titel: Werte ohne Tugend.

Wertegeleitet, doch ohne Tugend,

Ein falsches Spiel, ein Schwindel, ein Betrug.

In der Fremde Unrecht zu vollbringen,

Das ist das Werk eines wahren Schurken.

Einmischung in die Angelegenheiten anderer,

Vertrauen zerstört, Zwietracht gesät.

Gewissenloses Handeln, ohne Bedacht,

Eine Farce, eine Schande, ein leeres Geschwätz.

Leere Rhetorik, die wahre Absichten verschleiert,

Ein Machtspiel, das voller Verachtung ist.

Eine wertegeleitete Außenpolitik,

Ein Fehler, der für jedermann sichtbar ist.

Gruppenausstellung/Group Show

Initiiert und realisiert von/Initiated and realized by Matthias Mayer und Maik Schierloh
in Kooperation mit/in cooperation with Treptow-Ateliers e.V.
11.-13.11.2022
Eröffnung/Opening: Freitag/Friday., 11.11., 17:00-22:00

Öffnungszeiten/Opening times:
Samstag/Saturday, 12.11., 15:00-19:00
Sonntag/Sunday, 13.11., 15:00-19:00

Treptow Ateliers
Wilhelminenhofstr. 83-85
12459 Berlin-Oberschöneweide
(Eingang links neben Lidl-Supermarkt/Entrance left of Lidl supermarket)

Teilnehmende Künstler*innen/Participating artists:

Olaf Bastigkeit,  Joanna Buchowska,  Astrid Busch,  Ben Cottrell, COUNCIL OF MANY (Alexine Chanel & Mickaël Faure) DAG,  Mathias Deutsch, Matthias Dornfeld, Thomas Draschan, Wolfgang Flad, Frederik Foert, Sven-Ole Frahm, Paul Gallagher, Paris Giachoustidis, Andreas Hachulla, Ann-Kristin Hamm, Christian Hellmich, Christian Henkel, Hanna Hildebrand, Birgit Hölmer, Stephan Homann, Franziska Hünig, Heehyun Jeong, Erika Krause, Patricia Lambertus, Oliver Lanz, Adrian Lohmüller, Mahony, Matthias Mayer, Felix Oehmann, Römer + Römer, Maik Schierloh,Heidi Sill, Charlie Stein, Anke Völk, Stefanie von Schroeter, Markus Willeke, Simone Zaugg, Michaela Zimmer, Christof Zwiener und viele mehr/and many more. 

INTRO

Mit dem Ausstellungstitel „BLIND VISION“ wollen wir neben einem Blick auf Berlin auch auf die missliche (Raum-)Situation von Künstler*innen in Berlin insbesondere die der Ateliergemeinschaft Treptow-Ateliers hinweisen. Ihr alter Atelierstandort in der Mörikestraße wurde 2018 nach sechs lebendigen Jahren des Austauschs, der gegenseitigen Unterstützung und gemeinsamen Kunstpräsentation gekündigt. Die Gegenwehr zum Verbleib blieb erfolglos, sodass die Gemeinschaft 2020 eine Zwischennutzung am jetzigen Standort in den Rathenau-Hallen in der Wilhelminenhofstraße als Notlösung fand. Die zu erwartende Hiobsbotschaft kam just in diesen Tagen. Die Ateliergemeinschaft mit 26 Künstler*innen muss auch hier bis zum Ende des Jahres wieder ausziehen (Link aktuelle Stellungnahme Treptow-Ateliers e.V.: https://www.treptow-ateliers.de/post/treptow-ateliers-vor-dem-aus)
//
With the exhibition title “BLIND VISION” we want to point out not only a view of Berlin but also the unfortunate (spatial) situation of artists in Berlin, especially that of the Ateliergemeinschaft Treptow-Ateliers. Their old studio location in Mörikestraße was terminated in 2018 after six lively years of exchange, mutual support and joint art presentation. The resistance to stay remained unsuccessful, so that the community found an interim use at the current location in the Rathenau-Hallen on Wilhelminenhofstraße as a stopgap solution in 2020. The expected bad news came just in these days. The studio community with 26 artists will have to move out again by the end of the year (Link current statement Treptow-Ateliers e.V.: https://www.treptow-ateliers.de/post/treptow-ateliers-vor-dem-aus)

BLIND VISION

Wer in den letzten Dekaden nach Berlin gezogen ist, hat mit gebastelt an der Entwicklung dieser Stadt. Vermittelte sie für die Einen Aufbruchstimmung (ggf. auch „Abhängstimmung“) in einem alternativen und avantgardistischen Sinn, war sie für die Anderen nur eine Projektionsfläche für profane wirtschaftliche Interessen gepusht vom globalen Marktgeschehen. Eine Vision für alle gab es nie. Die Politik war lediglich bemüht, sich aus vielen alternativen Vorstellungen, die Perlen zu picken. So preiste man u.a. etwa das Nacht- und das prekäre Künstler*innenleben in das Berlin-Marketing mit ein. Diese blinde Vision spiegelt jetzt ein Ort des Geschehens. Eine unrenovierte ehemalig industriell genutzte Halle und weitere ehemals als Büros genutzte Räume, die der Künstler*innengemeinschaft „Treptow-Ateliers“ nebst ihrer günstig angemieteten Zwischennutzungs-Ateliers als Spielwiese auf Zeit von einem Investor zur Verfügung gestellt wurde. Die Gemeinschaft selbst öffnete den Raum für Projekte Dritter. Die Rohheit des historischen Ortes, die Lust und Spontanität der alternativ Nutzenden führen zwangsläufig zurück in die Aura Berlins der 1980er und 1990er Jahre. Und natürlich funktioniert Berlin so immer noch. Doch die Atmosphäre trügt, das Erwachen sitzt bereits im Nacken, so wie eine Droge, die langsam ihre Wirkung verliert. Denn das alles endet und zwar ohne Romantizismus. Die Künstler*innen müssen sich schon bald wieder auf ihren nomadischen Weg begeben. Nur, dass sie eben keine Nomad*innen sind, sondern ursprünglich von ihrem geschätzten Arbeitsort vertrieben wurden. Einzigartig ist ihre Reise schon jetzt, denn sie halten in ihrer scheinbar ausweglosen Situation solidarisch zusammen. Was könnte werden, was könnte sein? Warum ist es eine blinde Vision?
//
Anyone who has moved to Berlin in recent decades has played a part in the development of this city. For some, it conveyed an atmosphere of departure (or even “dependency”) in an alternative and avant-garde sense; for others, it was merely a projection surface for profane economic interests pushed by global market events. There was never a vision for all. Politicians were merely trying to pick the pearls out of many alternative ideas. For example, the nightlife and the precarious life of artists were included in the marketing of Berlin. This blind vision is now reflected in a place of action. An unrenovated former industrially used hall and other rooms formerly used as offices, which were made available to the artists’ community “Treptow-Ateliers” together with their cheaply rented temporary studios as a temporary playground by an investor. The community itself opened the space for third-party projects. The rawness of the historic site, the desire and spontaneity of the alternative users inevitably lead back to the aura of Berlin in the 1980s and 1990s. And of course Berlin still works like that. But the atmosphere is deceptive, the awakening already sits in the neck, like a drug that slowly loses its effect. Because it all ends, and without romanticism. The artists soon have to go back to their nomadic way. Only that they are not nomadic, but originally displaced from their cherished place of work. Their journey is already unique, because they stick together in solidarity in their seemingly hopeless situation. What could become, what could be? Why is it a blind vision?

Instagram: @blind_vision_berlin

Image search for ‘Cosco-Deal beschädigt die Glaubwürdigkeit’

There is a dispute in the German government about the sale of shares in a Hamburg container terminal to the Chinese state-owned company Cosco. The reason: it is a matter of “critical infrastructure”. Numerous sinologists from Hamburg have therefore recently written an open letter to the German Chancellor that was published in DIE ZEIT. They demand that he prohibit the planned sale of the terminal to Cosco. I hereby join the open letter trend, which is currently highly popular in Germany, to warn the Chancellor against this warning.

Dear Chancellor,

Forgive me if I address you today and, what is more, do it in the same form as my colleagues – namely by putting my subject affiliation (media theory) at the beginning. Even if it is unquestionably true that their letter fits quite naturally into an anti-Chinese, even anti-scientific discourse, a ‘moral crusading’ that many other German sinologists have recently criticised as dangerous, these local patriotic ladies and gentlemen are far from representing the discipline. So I would like to warn you – not really of course, but I will allow myself to pretend here for the sake of format – not to attach too much importance to it. Please ignore it, just as you will hopefully ignore this letter or as you ignored the one from Schwarzer, Kluge et al., asking you not to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine (you did ignore it, didn’t you?).

The bewilderment has not only to do with the fact that these sinologists are by no means arguing from within their field of expertise which they so proudly place at the beginning. What is more, they are not even afraid to present themselves as politicians who – more political rhetoric is not possible – not only care about Hamburg, but also about “the Chinese people”. It is also not, at least not primarily, about the fact that these scholars contradict themselves when they inform you that China’s investments “do not follow a purely economic logic at all, but are geopolitically motivated” – because the investment that their own letter represents does not follow a purely scientific, sinological logic either, but is clearly politically motivated. Perhaps in future we should speak of a ‘value-oriented sinology’, in the sense of the German government’s ‘value-oriented foreign policy’, in order to distinguish these efforts from a truth-oriented sinology (and this kind of politics from a power-oriented one).

No, this bewilderment is mainly related to the reasoning why you please may prohibit the sale of shares in the Tollerort container terminal to Cosco – because the EU has identified the PRC as a “systemic rival”, the UN accuses it of “crimes against humanity” and China does not rule out a military invasion of Taiwan.

All three points are highly complex and cannot be discussed in detail in this letter. (Although I find this Cold War terminology of systemic conflict quite interesting – not least because there are no systems rivaling here at all, only different political programmes.) To avoid misunderstandings, let me be clear that human rights violations are not simply negligible, that I am in no way advocating (any) war – and that it is important to distinguish between China’s society and China’s state. Of course, if a state-owned enterprise wants to buy into the ‘critical’ infrastructure of another state, it is necessary to weigh up the risks – including those that result from saying ‘no’ to such an undertaking. China itself does that, too – and prohibits foreign investment in many important economic sectors such as critical infrastructure, telecommunications or numerous technology sectors. Even if we leave aside the fact that, according to the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Tollerort is not part of German’s critical infrastructure, economic and political concerns still need to be balanced; while the two systems are monopolists, and the economy cannot and will not decide politically et vice versa, both systems are structurally coupled and do not operate in a social vacuum. I guess we are on the same page here.

But in the end these points all boil down to the fact that China is measured by different standards than the notorious human rights and world rules violator USA, with whom cooperation is apparently no problem at all. This double standard (the opponents of China try to dismiss the reference to it with the term ‘whataboutism’) has recently become an integral part of Germany’s foreign policy – and now it is apparently also to become a part of sinology. I find these functional regressions worrying – don’t you? It is true that the Cosco deal would damage the ‘credibility’ of this new, value-oriented foreign policy, as the letter writers state – in the sense that this decision would not quite fit in. But how credible is a political decision that does not follow the code of power? Very true, Mr Chancellor – not very credible. You, who tried to smuggle the decision pro Cosco past the cabinet and the public (in order to achieve the desired result through passivity: namely through tacit approval by expiry of the objection period) know this very well. You also know that this supposedly value-oriented foreign policy is not much more than a signal to the USA that the German government will support the self-proclaimed ‘greatest country in the world’ in its increasingly fierce, increasingly desperate power struggle against the evil Chinese regime – more than that: that it is prepared to go along with the hypocrisy that this struggle is about values. As Wolfgang Hirn noted in a recent ChinaHirn editorial, our current Foreign Minister is not ashamed to call on China to abide by the rules-based world order while ignoring the fact that the US does not – they don’t even recognise the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is supposed to prosecute and punish genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

You know all that – but most of all you know that you have to be a bit hypocritical here, too. That’s part of the job, isn’t it? Despite the high costs associated with striving for ‘independence’ from China in this interconnected, globalised world. The academics of the Ifo Institute, who are fortunately committed to finding the truth, have repeatedly pointed out that such efforts of a ‘renationalisation’ of the West on the basis of ideological arguments would be associated with high political and economic costs for all involved. As me and my colleague Lihua Chen wrote in a recent article, deglobalisation therefore does not mean less global society, but simply less prosperity. Especially an export-oriented economy like Germany can hardly afford to turn back on itself. Unilaterally turning away only from China would be bearable for our country, but would cause costs almost four times as high as Britain’s EU exit, not taking into account the possible retaliatory measures by China, which is already reacting to these attempts at decoupling. (A much more detailed analysis of reform needs and opportunities of international value chains can be found here.)

I would therefore like to formally apologise to you for the – literal! – indiscipline of my colleagues, who are supposed to formulate truths without regard to political ideologies. I will also urge them to devote the next few weeks to the self-exploration of sinology – and to think about, and I quote Heiner Roetz: “what they themselves are actually talking about and what they want to take a stand on, and, if necessary, how it should relate to the corresponding expectations of their texts, but also of contemporary China”. With Confucius : 子不語怪力亂神. (In his text “Silence or Speech”, Roetz beautifully demonstrates how a sinologist can speak about something that should not be spoken about.)

However, I would also like to apologise for the brazen lie that they declare the exchange with China to be important and desirable, but at the same time are willing to endanger further research trips to this country with their letter. It is supposed to show you how important this issue is to them. In reality, however, it only shows that they do not care about future-oriented China research. For, as the truth-oriented sinologists Alpermann and Schubert have noted, besides maintaining a dialogue with Chinese universities, such research is not least dependent on access to the country. If they really cared about the Chinese people – or just the Chinese students – they would not risk breaking off contact with them for an open letter, the effect of which on German politics is likely to be non existent. In fact, of course, their letter is no more addressed to you than this one.

Yours sincerely

Markus Heidingsfelder

PS: I have just learned that you have cleared the way for Cosco/China. Congratulations! And thanks for continuing the policy of cooperation and connection with China. Right, dependence on Russian energy has nothing to do with this deal – thanks for pointing that out. And what does Taiwan have to do with it? Exactly, much less – unless the German government wants to reactivate the Struck Doctrine and declare that Germany’s security is also defended in Taiwan. Why one should resist China’s growing influence, i.e. swim against the tide, only makes sense to those who fear for American influence, doesn’t it? Thanks to your decision, shipping through Hamburg is now becoming more attractive. It will bring more turnover, secure jobs in the city, bring additional capital to it and into the expansion of the region’s infrastructure, and Cosco – if they accept this third-class offer – will not move its trade flows away from Hamburg to other North Sea ports. I wish you a good time in China – I’m glad you’re not arriving there completely empty-handed, that would be extremely rude. If you are nearby, feel free to visit me in Zhuhai. I would very much like to know what you think of Ali Abunimah’s recent statement: that Germany is not a sovereign state. Thanks to you, this can no longer be easily said of Hamburg!

*Of course not.

Photo: M. Heidingsfelder

Der Spiegel writes in its current issue: “Economic integration alone can no longer steer world events in the right direction, neither politically nor morally.” Isn’t it amazing that people still talk like that – they know what is politically and morally right and what is wrong?

Such sentences are truly ‘opinionated’. I don’t like mere opinions like that.

Our ally Pörksen claims that constructivist and systemic thinking is a long established paradigm and ‘normal science’. These Spiegel authors have obviously never heard of it …

If that is so, you are in the vapour spheres of middle-range theories. I believe that hardly anyone shares non-controllability – this idea. Polycontextuality, heterarchy, hypercomplexity … only a fraction of our species can relate to such terms.

He warns that epistemological Biedermeier is looming.

Fortunately we have permission for theoretical curiosity. Besides: Biedermeier, that was quite cosy, wasn’t it? Something like restrained passions, bourgeoisie in fact. But Pörksen is right: Paradigms denote the need to resolve them.

Politically and morally right, says Der Spiegel, is ‘freedom’. So and so many states are free, Germany for example, but many are ‘not free’.

You know that I think ‘freedom’ is a clever pathos formula. I don’t know anyone who is free – in general, as it were. Billionaires are also subject to harsh constraints, I guess.

How is it, I wonder, that these people still so naturally and confidently carry a banner in front of them that says ‘right’? And point to others – mostly China –  who are supposedly wrong?

When someone behaves like that, it’s obvious that the opposite is the case. This reminds me, as if by chance, of: Power is like being a lady if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.

What could they mean by ‘painful realisation’? Der Spiegel says: What hurts so much is the realisation that one was wrong – no change through trade. The rest of the world is not becoming ‘free’, ‘democratic’.

Incidentally, the word ‘democracy’ is, as is well known, a harsh paradox: ‘the POWER of the PEOPLE’. And if one appeals to the power of reasonable argument – also a power -, this is, in my view, already empirically untenable.

Change of subject: Kassel. Did you follow the debate about the ‘anti-Semitic artwork’? What were your thoughts on it?

I only know it from photographs. But my first thoughts were simply that it’s about the revitalisation of old schemes of art, for example the form of the ‘grotesque’, the ‘topsy-turvy world’ … roughly as if someone had painted the ‘magic of war’ or ‘an ‘idyll’, or was oriented towards the fact that evil in any guise is simply evil – interchangeable.

According to Der Spiegel, Germany is ‘free’, after all. But not so free as to endure the freedom of art. What’s going on?

Let’s just let Der Spiegel be Der Spiegel. But one should know what ‘art’ is. It is sometimes said that its function is to make the invisible visible. I tend to think of it differently: its function is to ‘make the visible invisible’. That succeeds or fails. That’s that. Freedom is another dance floor.

As a systems theorist, how would you approach the subject of ‘anti-Semitism’?

The term is self-explanatory. This wound has not closed for ages.

Finally, the question of ‘deglobalisation’. What are we to make of this idea? Can globalisation be reversed, as Spiegel suggests: ‘The age of international interdependence is now coming to an end. It is being unbundled.’

We could be dealing with the de-differentiation of functional society. But talking about this presupposes a massive amount of theory.

Bazon Brock believes that such a case of de-differentiation is present in the case of Documenta – as a de-autonomisation of art: “The radicality of the confrontation increases considerably when we see the exceedingly plain cultural achievements presented as art by the curatorial collective Ruangrupa at this year’s Documenta. If we don’t take a stand against this now, there won’t be a next Documenta, because then the cultures of the world will have finally regained power over the arts and sciences. ” He seems to be right about the ‘simplicity’ … But would you also place Documenta within a general trend of de-differentiation?

I don’t even know if I should say anything about this. Because the assessment ‘exceedingly simple’ stunned me in its strangely simple ‘rhetoric’ and left me as good as ‘speechless’. To know what art is, what culture is, even to claim that they are engaged in some kind of ‘war’ … blimey! I find that the word – or the term? – ‘de-differentiate’ just comes in uninformed. ‘Increasing complexity’ would probably be decidedly better, thus more exciting for cognitive interests. Brock himself ‘de-differentiates’ … definitively. That’s all. The Documenta provokes, that is its task and is as much a part of art as ‘shredding’.

On 01 July 2020, Wolfgang Hirn launched his free newsletter CHINAHIRN – a private low-budget project, financially and content-wise independent. Intended as a newsletter for the German-speaking China community, it is also of interest to the international public, which is why I will publish English translations of Hirn’s editorials here from time to time.

This is the latest one that deals with the astonishing fact of ‘blindness in one eye’ that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has been cultivating since she took office.

Dear reader,

Annalena Baerbock recently held an hour-long video conference with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. She emphasised “in view of the numerous global challenges, the importance of international cooperation”. However, she said, this could only happen on the basis of the fundamental norms of the international order, which must be respected and defended by all. She therefore rightly called on China to abide by the rules-based world order. So far, so good. But does the West or its leading power, the USA, adhere to this currently much-cited rule-based world order? No. Three examples: First, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been virtually incapable of acting for years because the USA does not fill the vacant judges’ positions in its court. Secondly, the USA does not recognise the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is supposed to prosecute and punish genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The USA wants to drag all kinds of despots (Putin & Co.) in front of this court, but does not accept its judgements. China, by the way, is not part of it either. And thirdly, the USA has not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). This Convention on the Law of the Sea regulates the complicated ownership relationships in and around the world’s waters. For example, the USA accuses China (which has signed UNCLOS) of disregarding UNCLOS in the South China Sea. In important respects, the USA is outside the rules-based world order, but urges other states to submit to this set of rules. When someone demands something from another that he himself does not live up to, there is only one appropriate expression for this: double standards. And this is exactly what many states – not only China, but also many developing countries – accuse the West and its leading power of doing, which loses credibility as a result. Perhaps Ms Baerbock should ask her American colleague at the next meeting how the USA feels about the rule-based world order. She can certainly give a competent account of it, since she comes from international law, as she once said flippantly in an NDR programme.

Wolfgang Hirn

***

Liebe Leserinnen, liebe Leser,

kürzlich konferierte Annalena Baerbock eine Stunde lang per Video mit ihrem chinesischen Amtskollegen Wang Yi. Dabei betonte sie „angesichts der zahlreichen globalen Herausforderungen die Wichtigkeit internationaler Kooperation“. Diese könne – sagte sie – jedoch nur auf der Grundlage der fundamentalen Normen der internationalen Ordnung geschehen, die von allen geachtet und verteidigt werden müsse. Sie forderte deshalb China zu Recht auf, sich an die regelbasierte Weltordnung zu halten. Soweit, so gut. Aber hält sich der Westen bzw. dessen Führungsmacht USA an diese derzeit viel zitierte regelbasierte Weltordnung? Nein. Drei Beispiele: Erstens ist seit Jahren die Welthandelsorganisation WTO quasi handlungsunfähig, weil die USA die frei gewordenen Richterstellen beim dortigen Schiedsgericht nicht besetzen. Zweitens erkennen die USA den Internationalen Strafgerichtshof in Den Haag nicht an, der Völkermord, Kriegsverbrechen und Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit verfolgen und bestrafen soll. Die USA wollen allerlei Despoten (Putin & Co.) vor diesen Kadi zerren, dessen Urteile aber nicht akzeptieren. China ist übrigens auch nicht dabei. Und drittens haben die USA bis heute die United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) nicht ratifiziert. Dieses Seerechtsabkommen regelt die komplizierten Besitzverhältnisse in und um die Gewässer dieser Welt. Die USA werfen zum Beispiel China (das UNCLOS unterschrieben hat) vor, im Südchinesischen Meer das UNCLOS zu missachten. In wichtigen Punkten stehen die USA also außerhalb der regelbasierten Weltordnung, mahnen aber andere Staaten, sich diesem Regelwerk zu unterwerfen. Wenn einer von einem anderen etwas einfordert, was er selbst nicht einhält – dafür gibt es nur einen passenden Ausdruck: Doppelmoral. Und genau diese werfen viele Staaten – nicht nur China, sondern auch viele Entwicklungsländer – dem Westen und seiner Führungsmacht vor, die dadurch an Glaubwürdigkeit einbüßt. Vielleicht sollte Frau Baerbock ihren amerikanischen Kollegen beim nächsten Treffen in aller Freundschaft fragen, wie es die USA mit der regelbasierten Weltordnung halten. Sie kann das sicher kompetent vortragen, denn sie komme ja vom Völkerrecht, wie sie mal in einer NDR-Sendung flapsig sagte.  

Wolfgang Hirn

P.S.

The double standards mentioned by Hirn are reflected not least in the International Monetary Fund, where China’s share of voting rights in no way corresponds to the actual situation, as Paola Subbachi points out in a recently published text for Table China. China’s share here is 6.1 per cent – slightly lower than Japan’s 6.2 per cent and clearly below the US share of 16.5 per cent. And that’s not all: in the World Bank, China’s share is 5.4 per cent (Japan: 7.28, US: 15.5). Subbachi: “While this is clearly not commensurate with China’s economic weight, the pace of reform is slow, not least because of the US blockade …” To what extent does this correspond to the appreciation of international cooperation norms?

If Baerbock’s peculiar policy of values prevails, the constant reminder of a set of basic values and principles that the partner has to obey – quite apart from the question of whether the West itself lives up to this claim, then reasonable cooperation with countries that represent other values and principles is simply no longer possible – a highly problematic idea in the age of international interconnectedness. Subbachi: “How can the global institutional fabric survive if countries limit open engagement only to those who see the world the same way they do?” Not at all, is the answer. Yet cooperation is also possible beyond a consensus on values. Subbachi: “Invoking shared values is far from the only way to convince countries to engage in common goals; practical considerations are also very effective. In dealing with China, the West should try to build international dialogue and political cooperation on a basis of concrete common interests.” It is precisely this urgent need to deal with each other in a pragmatic way that is blocked by recourse to values and a supposed moral superiority. M.H.

***

Anyone interested in independent, knowledgeable, unbiased reporting on China should consider subscribing to Chinahirn: https://www.chinahirn.de/. You can get interesting news from the past week in the fields of politics, economics, science and society, references to interesting essays, books, documents, films, podcasts and studies, and information on China-related events in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Even tips on eating out and travelling can be found here.

Wolfgang Hirn

Business journalist Wolfgang Hirn has published numerous books, including the bestseller “Herausforderung China”, which was published by S. Fischer Verlag in 2005. Most recently, he wrote about “China’s Bosses” (Campus Verlag, 2018). His new book on “Shenzhen – World Economy of Tomorrow” was published by the same publishing house on 11 March 2020. Hirn lives and writes in Berlin.

Das Medium Sinn ist in der Moderne der Gesellschaft diabolisch geworden – im genauen Verständnis dieses Wortes: als ein Durcheinanderwerfen aller Gültigkeiten. Ein Befund dieser Art führt zwangsläufig in die Diskussion um die Form von Sinn, Unsinn, Nicht-Sinn.

Im Zentrum von Peter Fuchs’ jüngsten Arbeiten steht in diesem Zusammenhang die (paradoxe) Frage nach einer Phänomenologie des Nicht-Sinns. Die Chance zum Ausloten möglicher Antworten bot sich aber nicht theoretisch an, sie stieß ihm zu – als neun Monate währendes postoperatives Delir. Fünf davon war er bewusstlos, vier verbrachte er in einem Pflegeheim, geschüttelt von Halluzinationen. Jede empirische Belastbarkeit der Realität von Sinn ist während dieser zweiten Phase getilgt worden. Das Gespräch mit Markus Heidingsfelder ist der Versuch, das perplexe Erleben des Wahns zu verarbeiten.

***

The medium of meaning has become diabolical in modern society – in the precise understanding of this word: as a muddling of all validity. A finding of this kind inevitably leads into the discussion about the form of meaning, nonsense, non-sense.

In this context, Peter Fuchs’ most recent work focuses on the (paradoxical) question of a phenomenology of non-sense. The opportunity to explore possible answers did not present itself theoretically, however, it came to him – as nine months of post-operative delirium. Five of them he was unconscious, four he spent in a nursing home, shaken by hallucinations. Any empirical resilience to the reality of meaning was erased during this second phase. The conversation with Markus Heidingsfelder is an attempt to process this perplexing experience of madness.

About a week ago, Politico magazine published a draft opinion from the US Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation. In it, justice Samuel Alito declares Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law constitutional and the existing law, based on the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions, overruled and thus overturned.
I asked my friend, the legal expert Z. Klaus: What is your opinion on this sensational ‘opinion’ – which is admittedly not yet the final judgement? How important in this context is the fact that Trump had stacked the SC with two of his nominees? What does it tell us about the US legal system? And what can be said in general about the us-American understanding of law? Here is his answer.

Dear Markus,

It’s very nice to get a sign of life from you again.

This eagerly awaited revision of Roe vs. Wade closes the round of historical reminiscences in ahistorical societies (i.e. societies in which nothing changes) and which only revolves around the one theme.

Your astonishment is understandable, but can be put into perspective: Once again, this forthcoming judgement only confirms my suspicion (which you already know) of a construction error in the US Constitution, or at least of a “botched construction”. No wonder, the “fathers” of the Constitution were lawyers and slaveholders.

The “republican” constitution has given the people no power, the senators some and the president quite a lot; law and state fall through the net, whereby “law” of course is not law but legal decision by courts, i.e., according to the construction of the common law, advocates appointed or elected (!) as judges. The clever founding fathers’ advocates/senators (hence the republican-Roman model) have thus obtained enough “wriggle room” via the constitution to have their fingers in the pie everywhere and to legitimise this through a judicial decision. The constitution is above the law – that’s not okay at all; in a constitutional state this does not exist, and so it remains – at least functionally – questionable (= no operative closure of legal communication) whether the USA actually has the “rule of law”.

The “stacking of courts” you refer to, i.e., appointing the “right” advocates as judges, especially judges of the Supreme Court – is in my opinion not even necessary to get a “right” decision. The Constitution is open like a barn door – you just keep complaining until you get the right decision and then it’s “the other’s” turn. This is exactly what we are now seeing again with the upcoming withdrawal of the abortion decision. With the reference to the constitution, everything is possible or impossible: law and “American Creed” flow together there. And in the next case (which may be the same, but prepared differently and then interpreted) it will be decided differently again.

The inability of societies to change, to become modern societies, was already observed by Max Weber in a comparison of Russia with the USA, where he noted a startling uniformity. Weber justified this at the time in his analysis of the (im)possibility of a bourgeois revolution in Russia, among other things with the relatively touching thesis that, after all, many Russian immigrants had popularised the vastness of North America at home. However, he also argued, rather robustly sociologically, that it was precisely this vastness of space (communication!) that led to indifference to disdain/contempt for the state and state institutions, indeed for all institutions in general, among the inhabitants in Russia as well as in the USA, and that it was and is thus impossible in Russia as well as in the USA to establish viable institutions and also to produce the ferment of an entrepreneurial middle class. Even the religions are disappointing – in the USA fragmented into Methodist choral societies, in Russia among Orthodox Christians degenerated into liturgical cop-outs from depressing everyday life.

Well, do you hear the “American Creed” ringing? And do you see Putin dreaming of the Tsarist empire and lighting Orthodox candles? Translated into a somewhat more elegant systems theory, Max W.’s observations only say that both the USA and Russia (preserved in the permafrost of the Soviet Union and the KGB) lack the structural possibilities to transform themselves from a little differentiated, traditional society into a differentiated, modern society. And it is the old men, not the law, who decide what is permissible in terms of change.

As far as Roe v. Wade is concerned, I’m not really that upset and see this cheeky rush to judgment as more of a personnel policy scramble for rank positions (pecking order) – old men, once more. The verdict remains to be seen – but won’t change anything either way. Throwing the Roe vs. Wade verdict into the dustbin of history and Putin’s war “are opposite ends of the same stick”.

All the best and best wishes from Mölln,

Yours Z. Klaus

***

Lieber Markus,

sehr schön, einmal wieder ein Lebenszeichen von Dir zu bekommen.

Mit dieser heiß ersehnten Revision von Roe vs. Wade schließt sich der Reigen historischer Reminiszenzen in ahistorischen Gesellschaften (i.e Gesellschaften in den sich nichts verändert) und der nur um das eine Thema kreist.

Deine Verwunderung ist verständlich, aber kann relativiert werden: einmal mehr bestätigt das bevorstehende Urteil meinen Verdacht (den Du nun schon kennst) eines Baufehlers der US Verfassung, oder zumindest des “Pfuschs am Bau” (die “Väter” der Verfassung waren ja Advokaten (lawyers) und Sklavenhalter).

Auf jeden Fall hat die “republikanische” Verfassung dem Volk keine, den Senatoren einige und dem Präsidenten ziemlich viel Macht zugeteilt; Recht und Staat fallen dabei durch das Netz, wobei “Recht” natürlich nicht Gesetz sondern “Rechtsentscheidung durch Gerichte” (i.e. entsprechend der Konstruktion des common law zu Richtern ernannter oder gewählter (!) Advokaten). Die schlauen Gründerväteradvokaten/Senatoren (deswegen eben das republikanisch-römische Modell) haben sich also über die Verfassung genügend “wriggle room” verschafft, um überall die Finger mit im Kuchen zu haben und das durch eine gerichtliche Entscheidung zu legitimieren. Die Verfassung steht über dem Recht – das geht gar nicht; in einem Rechtsstaat darf es das nicht geben, und so bleibt es – zumindest funktional – fraglich, ob die USA die “rule of law” haben.

Das von Dir angeführte “stacking of courts” – also die “richtigen” Advokaten zum Richter zu ernennen, vor allem Richter des Supreme Court -, ist meiner Meinung nach gar nicht nötig, um eine “richtige” Entscheidung zu bekommen. Die Verfassung ist offen wie ein Scheunentor – man klagt einfach so lange weiter, bis man die richtige Entscheidung bekommt und dann sind „die anderen“ dran; jetzt also wieder, wenn „der Neue“ (Ultrakonservative) in den Sessel gehoben sein wird,  das Zurückdrehen der Geburtenabbruchentscheidung. Mit der Referenz auf die Verfassung ist alles möglich bzw. unmöglich: Recht und „American Creed“ fliessen da zusammen. Und im nächsten Fall (das kann der gleiche sein, aber anders präpariert und dann interpretiert) wird wieder anders entschieden.

Das Unvermögen von Gesellschaften, sich zu ändern, moderne Gesellschaft zu werden, hat schon Max Weber in einem Vergleich Russlands mit den USA beobachtet und dabei eine verblüffende Gleichförmigkeit festgestellt. Weber hat diese damals in seiner Analyse der (Un-)Möglichkeit einer bürgerlichen Revolution in Russland, u.a. mit der relativ rührenden These begründet, dass ja viele russische Einwanderer die Weite des nordamerikanischen Raums heimatlich populiert hätten. Er hat aber auch eher robust soziologisch argumentiert, dass eben diese Weite des Raums (Kommunikation!) bei den Einwohnern in Russland sowie in den USA zu einer Gleichgültigkeit bis Miss-/Verachtung gegenüber Staat und staatlichen Institutionen, ja allen Institutionen überhaupt geführt habe und es so in Russland wie in den USA unmöglich war und ist, tragfähige Institutionen zu etablieren und daneben auch das Ferment eines unternehmerischen Mittelstandes hervorzubringen. Selbst die Religionen enttäuschen – in den USA in methodistische Gesangvereine zersplittert, in Russland bei den orthodoxen Christen zum liturgischen cop-out vom deprimierenden Alltag verkommen.

Na, hörst Du den „American Creed“ läuten? Und siehst Putin vom zaristischen Grossreich träumen und orthodoxe Kerzen anzünden?  In eine etwas elegantere Systemtheorie übersetzt besagen die Beobachtungen von Max W. ja nur, aber immerhin, dass sowohl den USA als auch Russland (im Permafrost der Sowjetunion und des KGB konserviert), und natürlich auch Deinem Laden in fernöstlichen Weiten die strukturellen Möglichkeiten fehlen, sich von der wenig differenzierten, traditionellen Gesellschaft in eine differenzierte, moderne Gesellschaft zu wandeln. Und darüber, was an Wandel erlaubt ist, entscheiden allemal die alten Männer und nicht Recht.

Zurück zu Roe v. Wade: Besonders aufgeregt bin ich deshalb nicht. Ich sehe in diesem vorlauten Vorpreschen mit einer Meinung eher ein personalpolitisches Gerangel um Rangpositionen (pecking order) – alte Männer eben. Das Urteil bleibt abzuwarten – aber wird so oder so nichts ändern. Das Urteil in Roe vs. Wade in den Abfalleimer der Geschichte zu werfen und Putins Krieg „are opposite ends of the same stick“.

Alles Gute und herzliche Grüße aus Mölln,

Dein Z. Klaus

Posted in Law

Merve celebrates the publication of the first volume of Friedrich Kittler’s Complete Works

I.B.4: Zu Lebzeiten Veröffentlichtes. Aufsätze, Artikel, Rezensionen und Miszellen (Published during his lifetime. Essays, articles, reviews and miscellanies). 1981–1983

Edited by Luisa Drews and Eva Horn

Saturday, 07 May 2022 19.30

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