Translated from GSP 2-19
Open Letter to the Fridays for the Future movement
Dear community of protesters!1.
You will have already noticed that the approval showered on you by the media and politicians isn’t worth anything. You will be noticed – and included. By people and authorities who “have something to say” in a completely different sense than a theoretical one; who exercise power with what they say, sometimes more, sometimes less – and with the use of their power provide for the exact conditions against which you protest. Included in a public debate whose irrelevance to the practical course of events you have learned well enough.
It is not merely the high art of hypocrisy which you may – yet again – get acquainted with. Remarkable and worth considering in the many hypocritical greetings to your protest are the titles, the points of view, the great values under which you are well received with your demonstrations. Such great empty formulas as “the future,” “our planet,” “no planet B,” “nature,” “mankind,” etc. are not only good for this, they are also there strictly to falsely advance a very deep and actual unity above all real interests and clashes of interests: an overarching, somehow binding common good will. This is attested to when such slogans as “...because you steal our future” are applauded. And with it a completely rotten exchange is underhandedly offered to you: it is generously recognized that you mean well – well in the sense of a higher, unquestionable value; for this, those you address yourselves to and who your protest opposes, quite modestly claim the same recognition, according to the motto: “As well meaning as you are, we are too/ have been all along / are anyhow...”! (And they could even add: where did you get your slogans from – if not from us: “future,” “humanity” and all the rest!)
You can learn something else from the positive echo to your protest: the ideals of an intact world, which you are agitating for, are worthless, because they rise nobly above the real power interests and all their associated nastiness and invoke a common ground in the good which does not exist – and which is so high and noble and sublime that it can be invoked by all sides, from opposing positions, and by the most hostile parties. And invoked it is, too; because that is the worth of the higher values.
The same goes for the other compliment you get: you are the concerned youth – politically engaged and much better than your reputation: this primitive form of cooptation doesn’t need to be explained to you! – and right to demand a better future, because you have a lot more of it in front of you than the old folks who don’t care about “climate change” because they already have one foot in the grave. You are said to be right, not because you have an important concern which your sympathizers and most people should fight out together with you out of legitimate self-interest, but because you are recognized as a special group with your own claim to appreciation and respect. As “students,” as “the youth,” possibly as “the nation’s next generation,” you are allowed, benevolently, to protest: as a special social status to whom – like everyone else – special interests are conceded. This, too, is a perfect abstraction from the issue for which you – we assume – want to agitate.2.
You can see which really ruling interests and real existing power relations are ignored in this way – whether in the name of great fictitious community concerns, whether for the sake of your respectable identity as “the youth” – from the negative echo that you and your protest also quickly encounter. Of course, this is full of reactionary stupidity; but if it were only that! If the lady in political office declares your protest irrelevant because you have never had to pay an electricity bill, or if the teachers of the nation admonish you to study diligently before you take “to the streets,” then you can notice how easily the honorary title “youth” – “we deserve to be heard as the country’s next generation!” – can be turned around: The honorable status, in which one wants to get attention, is at the same time only one among many, has its limits and also its comparatively weaker sides, and can therefore at best count as one voice among many and deserves at most a very conditional recognition. It is another very instructive lesson when you are then told that “also” jobs in the coal and automobile industries are risked as a result of more consistent climate protection, and that your own nation falls behind in the competition with other – of course, even more dirty – countries without a ruthless industrial policy. Not in the sense that one would have to stand at attention before such cues and put one’s own interests – and arguments, if one has any – into perspective. Instead, one should take note of the powerful interests and power relations that one is actually taking on when one takes objections against the progressive ruin of many natural living conditions even a little more seriously than the sermons in the op-ed pages. Then one doesn't get it by using an omission: with a lack of good will on the part of those politically and economically responsible. They themselves make it clear, namely with their “no!” to your protest, as with their “yes, but,” that the world for which they “bear responsibility,” over which they thus govern, is something quite different than a piece of abused or neglected nature. Namely, a global market in which money is at stake in a number of ways, established and maintained by states that use their force – in competition with each other, and therefore some with nuclear weapons that are not at all environmentally and climate-friendly – to ensure the appropriate order. With all the pertinent hints from the mouths of qualified people, it will be explained to you what significance human interests of any kind have in this system.3.
Whether you want to chip away at this system with your protest at all, you can be sure that the responsible public force is paying painstaking attention. For the time being, you don’t have to undergo a more serious rebuke than being told to go back to Friday classes. But the next level of escalation is already lurking there, has already been partly announced – and some of you seem to have defensively anticipated it: If it doesn’t stop at protests but, God forbid, gets worse, then it raises the question of violence. The beautiful freedom-loving law permits enough viewpoints in order to make protests, which even vaguely aim to assert a concern, quite practical, that is, its sovereign monopolozed force draws attentions to the fact that the assertion of a concern, no matter what it is, is to be left to the public force, with no ifs or buts. Thus the political rule which in this way regulates and maintains and stabilizes the whole shop and protects it against challenge as it is, and as what it is: a multi-stage competitive battle for power and money.
That’s another topic, of course. One that goes well beyond the cause of the climate. But as an upstanding climate protector, you can’t quite avoid it. Unless you let yourself be taken in by the professionals of this competition, who like to adorn their cause with a bit of youthful idealism.