Dictatorship or Democracy in Times of Crisis?

A discussion with the writer Thomas Brussig

At the beginning of the year, the writer Thomas Brussig (“Sonnenallee”) put out “Dare more dictatorship” as the slogan for combating corona. At the “Römerberg Talks” in Frankfurt he recently broadened his thoughts.

Timo Rieg shared this with him in the podcast “?Powerless!“discussed. The following version is the abridged version of this dispute, which both of them have edited slightly in further exchanges. The essential essay by Brussig (” Dare to Dare More Dictatorship “) is documented for reading at the end.

Timo Rieg: Mr Brussig, how have you got through the pandemic so far?

Thomas Brussig: Measured against the fears, good. Because I avoided the virus or the virus me. I have now been vaccinated for the second time, everything that I feared at the beginning did not occur. Of course it was very annoying and exhausted that it took so long.

Timo Rieg: But mentally you got through well? Some artists say yes, it hasn’t changed that much for them, they work alone in the studio anyway, other people don’t need them in direct contact …

“Extreme despair over corona journalism”

Thomas Brussig: When it comes to actual writing, the difference isn’t that big. But the contact restrictions, the restrictions on public life, affect everyone equally. And now in the spring of last year I started a new book, and all the related appointments have broken away.

But that was the case for many, that was the price of the pandemic. I am very happy that this is now drawing to a close. Today was the first day my son went to school again from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Otherwise he only had shortened lessons, two and a half hours.

Timo Rieg: My work had only changed in parts, but never in my life had I been in such a persistently bad mood as I have been since March 2020. And that’s not because of politics, it’s just the way it always is, it’s mine extreme despair over corona journalism.

And the criticism of the journalistic inadequacies and brute errors simply doesn’t interest the industry at all, which doesn’t exactly reduce the frustration. (See TP series “Media Criticism on Corona Journalism”)

Thomas Brussig: You can of course discuss this for a long time. At some point it was difficult for me to still hear politicians because I thought: They’ll say what they always say or have to say, but it doesn’t help either. I don’t want to hear a justice minister about Corona. That made me in a bad mood, that’s right.

“It was about an experience and it was new”

Timo Rieg: But that could also be said about the specialist ministers. Without always coming back to what someone is in terms of their education: Isn’t it crazy why Spahn was asked everything, as if he had some idea of ​​microbiology, epidemiology or the like? Or how half the nation hung on the Chancellor’s lips on March 18, 2020. What can Merkel say about Corona?

Of course, what’s going on politically now, but you don’t need the televised address for that, we hear that from the news all the time. What the pandemic looks like in the world right now and what medical knowledge is available, Ms. Merkel knows just as amateurishly as any other person or anyone who uses similar sources. What wisdom should come from her?




Zoom-Screenshot Thomas Brussig (links) und Timo Rieg


Thomas Brussig: I wouldn’t see it that roughly. It was an experience that we all had equally and that was completely new. That the head of government should get in touch and put something about the current situation into words – it’s serious, it will be with us for a while, and thanks in advance to those who maintain the health system and public services – that was right.

Timo Rieg: But behind this there is always the expectation that politics will get the problem solved. And as in every gang, the leader should decide in tricky situations.

Thomas Brussig: At that time I did not experience the Chancellor as a great problem solver, more when she said: We are now facing great challenges. Of course she doesn’t say the phrase “we can do it” a second time, but I still heard it in this address.

“You have called for a kind of” Corona dictatorship “for such exceptional situations

Timo Rieg: You are not satisfied with the political pandemic management that followed, which is why we are discussing with you today that you have called for a kind of “corona dictatorship” for such exceptional situations so that what needs to be done can be done quickly. Before we go into more detail: But apart from this special case of Corona, you are satisfied with our democracy, at least that’s how I understood you during the Römerberg talks?

Thomas Brussig: Of course, I think democracy is very important, and of course not everything is going well. What I will say in the following will certainly be blamed on my East German origins, interpreted as a product of my lack of democratic socialization and so on.

Timo Rieg: Definitely not from me.

Thomas Brussig: Good. My socialization as a democrat took place in 1989/90. I came from unfree and undemocratic backgrounds and longed for democracy very much. In the months when it was unclear how it would go on, I thought about what a contemporary, modern democracy should look like.

And then it was already clear to me that it was not a West German system: Tick a cross every four or five years and that’s it? And what do these elections say if Helmut Kohl wins elections with glasses on.

Timo Rieg: You have the anecdote in your “Letters of confession” told…

Thomas Brussig: Helmut Kohl wore glasses for years because he was nearsighted. At a certain age, however, he developed presbyopia, which is not uncommon, and glasses became superfluous. But after he performed a few times without glasses, his advisors told him that with glasses he looked more intellectual, more personable, and that could be measured in percentage of agreement.

So he continued to wear glasses, then stop with window glass. But if voting decisions are dependent on something like that, one can no longer be in favor of elections. So I was always on the lookout, and then four years ago I had the awakening experience.

An ardent democrat who despises elections

Timo Rieg: David Van Reybouck’s book “Against elections“. That amazed astonishingly many people, although the basic idea is ancient and has even been practiced in Germany for fifty years. But hardly any euphoric reviewer has researched that far.

Thomas Brussig: An ardent democrat who despises elections, I found that very interesting. And this is my relationship to our democracy: I think it’s good, but I feel that there could be better. And the better is the enemy of the good.

Timo Rieg: What should get better? Should something be fundamentally different or do you just want to tweak the process a little?

Thomas Brussig: We are experiencing falling voter turnout, we are also experiencing a demagogic vulnerability of the system. The worst thing about Trump is simply that he was elected. How can you be in favor of democracy when you experience vulnerability in such extreme form? Now things went well again with Trump, but his removal was not a great moment for democracy either, for a day and a half I saw him again for a second term in the White House.

Timo Rieg: But if Trump had been elected, we say with a clear majority, then democracy would have discredited itself, do you think?

Thomas Brussig: We see again and again that democracy leads to suboptimal results. Brexit is also such a story. It was strange that this decision was made, but how it was carried out I just shook my head.

Timo Rieg: For me, the discussion about Brexit and, above all, the journalistic reporting on it in Germany is a prime example of elitist contempt for democracy. It was never about what the people in the United Kingdom decided, it was all about the fact that we – or more precisely the tone-setting people here – did not like this decision, that from our point of view we think Brexit is stupid, it So in the end it would have been better if the clever ones from Germany had decided instead of the stupid or at least ungrateful British.

Thomas Brussig: I didn’t think the British were right, and half of the British didn’t think they were right either. But after the vote, there was no one in all of politics who said that this decision was wrong. Instead, London’s entire political class has said we’re doing Brexit now because it’s the people’s will. It was only the will of half the people.

Timo Rieg: Your criticism is based on knowing what is right and what is wrong. You can see who is the right president for the USA, which decision on the EU would be correct in the UK and also which management was indicated in the corona crisis.

Thomas Brussig: I am not the only one to see that Trump was an embarrassing president. But he is also a destroyer who rebuilds the state for the purpose of its authoritarian style.

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