Everything fine?

Henning Kullak-Ublick

In January of this year, the German Green party celebrated its 33rd birthday. A vibrant bouquet of environmental and peace activists, feminists, lefties, anthroposophists, supporters of Silvio Gesell, latter-day hippies, and assorted spontaneous and creative protesters founded this “anti-party party” in 1980 in order finally to give the diversity of life – both in a social and literal sense – a parliamentary voice. In terms of the party landscape, it was a revolution; but it was a sacrifice for the spirit which blew through this movement because the corset into which it was forced was, as it turned out, rather too tight. It has to blow where it wills. A generation later, the ideas of that time have become the mainstream. If the first Greens were still accused of wanting a return to the stone age, government leaders today are all in favour of the move to renewable energy sources, every supermarket sells organic and fair trade products, gay and lesbian people are allowed to adopt children and green party leaders are really quite cool. Everything OK, then? 

Perhaps I should stop there. But in 1978 Vaclav Havel, in his attempt to live in truth, wrote: “It lies in the nature of the post-totalitarian system that it includes every person in its power structure. Not, of course, to realise their human identity within it but so that they should give it up in favour of the ‘identity of the system’, that they should become one of many bearers of its general ‘autonomous motion’, a servant of its inherent purpose, so that they become partly responsible for this ‘autonomous motion’, are dragged into and intertwined with it, like Faust with Mephistopheles. Not only that, however, but that through such intertwinement they are involved in helping to form the general norm and exercising pressure on their fellow citizens. Furthermore – that they bed down in this intertwinement so that they identify with it as it if were something quite normal and necessary, so that in the end they themselves see any failure to do so as abnormal, an imposition, as an attack on themselves, as ... ‘separating themselves off from society’. By including everyone in its power structures in this way, the post-totalitarian system turns them into instruments of a reciprocal totality ...”

Today I see these words in the context of an ever more absolute political correctness which immediately ostracises anyone who does not submit to its demarcation rituals. Let the spirit – once our consciousness is sufficiently keen – blow where it will. I found an addition to St Paul’s famous words about “faith, hope and charity” in the poem of a 17-year-old girl which I want to pass on to everyone for the summer break: “... and courage!”

Henning Kullak-Ublick, class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf schools and the Friends of Waldorf Education as well as Aktion mündige Schule (www.freie-schule.de)