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Political Disobedience

"Crisis children" can't find a job despite study, four foreign languages and four hundred applications. They are the house cleaners, hair stylists and nurses without their own health insurance who earn one-thousandth what atop manager rakes in. Youth unemployment has reached unbearable levels in Greece and Spain. The top one percent of Americans earns a quarter of the total income and owns half of all securities and national wealth.

Rage Grows with its Challenges

Reporting on the Occupy movement fails to appreciate what is essential. The protestors want to revitalize the core, not to redecorate

By Patrick Spaet

[This article published on 10/27/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet.]

(Patrick Spaet lives as a free journalist and book author in Berlin. He studied philosophy, sociology and the history of literature at the universities of Mannheim, Leipzig and Freiburg, graduated in 2010 in philosophy at the University of Freiburg. "Life and the Meaning of the Whole" (2013) and "What do you do\?" (2014) are his two books.)

Occupy Wall Street, mass protests in Israel, general strike in Greece and torched cars in Europe's cities occur alongside protest movements worldwide. As different as they are, they have a common denominator. Those "below" want to show those "at the top" who holds the hammer.


"Crisis children" can't find a job despite study, four foreign languages and four hundred applications. They are the house cleaners, hair stylists and nurses without their own health insurance who earn one-thousandth what a top manager rakes in. Youth unemployment has reached unbearable levels in Greece (43 percent) and Spain (45 percent). The top one percent of Americans earns a quarter of the total income and owns half of all securities and national wealth.

The present distribution of money in the western world is as just as the financial circumstances between Dagobert and Donald Duck - to say nothing about the developing countries. The protestors do not bear any social-professional envy of the have-nots. They (mostly) do not dream socialist omnipotence fantasies. They simply want their just share of the cake and not to be put off with crumbs. The "system" must be revitalized in its core. The political scientist rightly speaks of political disobedience.

We all have a presentiment a new "zero hour" is imminent. The financial system gives its death rattle - and soon will suffocate in its own injustice. Even the richest of the world recognize this. When Warren Buffet and like-minded billionaires urge a wealth tax, they do not do this ou8t of charity or compassion. They know today's system - the financial systems and their own wealth and firms - will inevitably stumble. Western governments - particularly the lethargic German government - turn down these friendly-liberal offers and complain every night on the news that they have no money.


Maybe it will take a few years until the people's representatives catch on that their chance was missed. Those who should be represented by the political class have changed gears must faster. On the street, people know we have the money. This money is with all the top-managers, stock market sharks and bonuses as we know from television. Our own accou8nts lose value faster than the HRE-bank. There is no rescue umbrella for the average consumer. He threatens to fall into a bottomless abyss. Rage grows with the challenges. Whether Occupy and Co. was only a training- or warm-up phase remains to be seen.

Among the hundreds of placards of the Occupy protests, one probably said more than this article. It comes from the civil rights activist and Princeton professor Cornel West and expresses that idea uniting the protests: "If the war against poverty had been a real war, we would be raking in money." How simple and how true!


The danger is withdrawal into the private, not falling voter turnout

By Patrick Spaet

[This article published on 6/25/2013 is translated from the German on the Internet.]

Imagine there are elections - and everyone could not care less. This isn't really true for everyone. A recent study of the business-friendly Bertelsmann foundation comes to a clear conclusion. "68\% from the upper class say they will vote in the German Bundestag election. But only 31\% in the lower class say they will vote."

According to the study, pure indifference is responsible for this, not frustration. Well, all the better for Mother Merkel who knows how to ensnare her well-fed cows of the upper class. Her constant 40\% in the polls speaks for itself.

People crossing themselves and holding their noses every four years is democratic according to the German Basic Law - and dictatorial in practice. "Whether one opinion commands the herd or five opinions are allowed doesn't matter," Friedrich Nietzsche wrote. The interests of people trickle down to the political class like hot butter on Teflon. We live in a land of idiots. Private persons in ancient Greece who didn't participate in political life were described with the term "idiots": workers, beggars, artisans and soldiers who had no say in the "cradle of democracy."

This doesn't look different today. The idiots are not dumb; they are taken to be fools. Many idiots give vent to their protest at Blockupy and Co, not in the voting booth. But the rest of the idiots sink into indifference and withdraw in the private. The danger lies here, not in the declining turnout.


All around us we see how people increasingly go into hiding. The enthusiasm for cooking and house furniture conceals a political dimension. Cookbooks now have a market share of 40\%; the lifestyle magazine "Land Lust" has a record edition of over a million, esoteric self-help books are the new bibles of seekers of meaning. On television, we zap between cooking- and furniture shows and gaze how people in the scripted reality search for new apartments while people in the unscripted reality beg on the street. But the idiots mutate to purely physical shells while their spirit slips into the virtual reality of their smart phones. On German platforms, one sees index fingers on display but no fists clenched in protest.

The frustration of indifferent idiots breaks ou8t in the fitness studios while women strive to look like Heidi Klum and men want the perfect image of Arno-Baeker statues. Escapism is everywhere. While the world is in flames, the indifferent decorate their familiar homes with new tea-warmer candles. Still whoever doesn't bring charges against the politics of our time has already lost the process.

Indifference toward political life can almost lead to a rigor mortis. The idiots sneak off in their new allotment gardens to grow cucumbers. When they hide, the streets are empty. Imagine a demonstration and no one goes there. The idiots sit in their little allotment gardens, caress their smart-phones and their biceps, have hardly anything to eat and cook their cucumbers.


Nowadays the boss doesn't need to discipline his wage slaves anymore because they control themselves

By Patrick Spaet

[This article on work in the new economy published on 8/28/2014 is translated from the German on the Internet,  http://www.theeuropean.de.]

Do you sometimes like to be lazy\?... In 1589 one of the first so-called "work houses" opened in Amsterdam to "cure the aversion to work." The healing methods were everything other than homeopathic. Idlers were locked up in a dungeon that was gradually filled with water. The prisoners standing in water had to continuously reactivate a pump to save them from drowning. With this perverse torture, laziness would be driven out of those unwilling to work and the survival necessity of industrious work demonstrated to them.

If something more relaxed and casual happens today, it is only because the military drill did not lead to the desired result. The methods change, not the goals. The methods were somewhat more sensitive with the German Institute for Technical Work Training founded in 1925. Kindergartens, advice centers and sport possibilities listened to its recommendations. The explicit goal was the "battle for the soul of workers." The enterprise should become a "home" according to the motto of DINTA - "Educating people for the economy." Then people preferred to be homeless.


Some may desire the return of the old grumpy boss who swung the scepter with silly authoritarian behavior in the old economy. Such cigar-leather chair-choleric types are passť in today's New Economy. The boss is often a pseudo-buddy. He offers a sports table for his employees, comes into the office with flip-flop charts and brings everyone together for an after-work beer. Once in a while that may be nice. The problem is in the casualness. Group pressure, joyfulness pressure and optimism pressure are added to the old familiar permanence pressure. For example, everyone makes a fool of themselves on the "Pajamas working day" when they turn up at work in pajamas. Whoever doesn't join in is at best a spoil-sport and at worst a hot candidate for the next termination round.

Where the boss becomes unnecessary as a buffer, the pressure to produce results weighs more heavily on the shoulders of the employees. Personal codes and performance barometers - often put up publically in the office - replace the earlier commander-in-chief. "Control societies" supersede the disciplinary societies," the philosopher Gilles Deleuze explains. Where the boss bossed around his subordinates in the past to drum discipline into their heads, the underlings control themselves today.

This is the Panoptikum in perfection. Only a single abstract guard is needed, namely the work pressure, to keep a tight rein on the wage slaves. "The one knowingly subject to the visibility adopts the coercive sanctions of power and brings it to bear against him- or herself. The hierarchy of power is internalized so the subordinate plays both roles simultaneously. He becomes the principal of his own subjugation," as the philosopher Michel Foucault rightly explained.


Today's wage slaves suffer in the Stockholm syndrome in which victims of kidnapping gradually develop a positive relation to their abductors. We cuddle with our bosses. We believe them when they talk drivel about "growth," "competition" and "location security" and in the same breath cut our salaries because "secure jobs" are only possible that way. All these things become consensus - even for the wage slaves themselves.

The iron pecking orders are merely given a hip tinge. Since time immemorial, we were harassed and pestered. Today we must look joyful about the wicked game. This remains a wicked game as long as managers like Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the board of Volkswagen, receive 8,055 Euros as an hourly wage while the multitude should be content with a ridiculous 8.50 Euros minimum wage.


Perhaps we already inwardly signed the termination as 24\% of employees in Germany have done while another 61\% work-to-rule according to a Gallup study. We outwardly remain prisoners unable to be ourselves or to be "authentic"... The message of the New Economy is clear: "Total fun rules here. You are the problem, not your job, not the capitalist world or the ceaseless pressure to perform! You produce too little, you must become faster and more fit, you must optimize yourself." Whoever dares to criticize this madness is a "low performer."

Whoever is in the happy situation of having more than two synapses sees through the Punch and Judy show. Nevertheless we don't break out of the situation as Theodor W. Adorno recognized in his Minima Moralia: "The distanced remains caught like the active. He only has insight in his entanglement and the happiness of his/her tiny freedom in recognizing this. His distance to the enterprise is a luxury that only the enterprise spins off."

Brave New World of Work.

Excerpt from the new book "What do you do\?" (Und was macht du so\?), Zurich, Rotpunkt Verlag/ 2014, 168 p, 9.90 E

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