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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

German rulers out of touch?

As I was wading through last Thursday’s copy of Die Zeit, I was hit with a full-page ad from a group which is trying to bring a radical perspective to autumn’s national election here in Germany (which is currently looking a foregone conclusion, so great is Merkel's lead over the SDP in the polls) .
"Das Generationen-Manifesto" gives first ten short but blunt warnings -
WE CAUTION - In the interest of future generations and the social and ecological balance
 Climate change is the biggest threat we have ever experienced. The federal government and all parties are not treating the issue with the highest priority. The  life and well-being of future generations is being put at risk.
 2 The energy revolution, the most important project of our generation is being dealt with in a half-hearted and inconsistent way by policy makers . We will make them liable if they negligently endanger the chances of this future project because of party political power games.
 The rulers govern past us citizens . They hide in their ivory towers, without explaining what consequences will result from far-reaching political decisions (eg energy policy and euro crisis) for our lives and the lives of our children.
 4 The present policy places massive debts on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. The government deficit is further increased rather than reduced, and thus the scope of the next generations curtailed dramatically.
 Profits are privatized, losses socialized. Our rulers have been seduced by the financial industry and disregards the interests of the citizens.
 Politicians are splitting society with their inaction. Recent years have seen the divergence between rich and poor increase to an unacceptable degree.
 7 We are increasing our prosperity at the expense of people in the emerging and developing countries, who often work under inhumane conditions for us. It is a shame that we struggle with obesity and excess, while the rest of the world millions of people don’t even have the basic necessities of life.
 8 Our education system is failing miserably in the face of challenges posed by the future. Policy-makers from politics, economy and society know that our education system is unfair and opaque and not prepare our children for future learning content requirements. But there is a lack of courage for radical change.
 9 The sustainable modernization of the economy is demanded in speeches, but not taken seriously. Unless subsidies overtook place in trendsetting industries and technologies are directed, we forego the opportunities that present themselves to Germany as an international pioneer of a green or blue economic change.
 10. The generational contract has been terminated unilaterally. The present generation of parents and grandparents are protecting their own vested rights at the expense of their children and grandchildren.
The signatories include one particularly famous name – that of Professor Ernest von Weizsacker, one of the country’s most prominent intellectuals; writer on ecological and sustainable issues (and brother of Richard, from 1984-94. the country’s most respected President). Otherwise, the list of 28 signatories seems to consist mainly of actors, writers and Foundation people - with one bank President. The manifesto goes on to set out 10 demands which, for me, are curiously light on detail - 
WE DEMAND - courage, honesty and generational just action
 1 The fight against climate change must be taken as a national objective in the Constitution. A law passed at the beginning of the new term climate protection law needs to provide the basis for it. If Europe and Germany lead the way on climate change and the introduction of mitigation techniques, others - already competitive reasons - follow.
 2 The energy transition must be actively pursued, both as a "green" energy production, as well as energy saving turnaround. Through innovations in energy efficiency and a focus on energy savings in companies and households can manage the transformation of energy at reasonable costs for all involved. With the great energy transition opportunities are economically connected, not only for our country but also for Europe and for the world. Today's generation has a duty to provide a safe power base for future generations.
 3 We demand our right to a participation and voice. Citizens want to actively participate in decision-making in politics, economy and society. If politicians do not want to jeopardize democracy, they must justify and convey what they are doing and why. We call on our leaders to leave their ivory towers to seek sincere discourse with citizens and make decisions on this basis. The voters need to know what they can choose and rely on politicians.
 4 We urge the government to reform government finances so that the debt reduced and new priorities for a future just and sustainable output design can be set. The interest burden on the state budget must be reduced and sustainable future investments encouraged. Only a financially stable state can ensure security, education, culture, research and development, social security and other public goods to all citizens.
 5 We call for a reform and strict regulation of private finance. Banks are servants of the economy and the citizens, not their rulers. "Systemically important" banks take an entire society hostage. Therefore, the limitation of bank power is indispensable. The polluter pays principle must also enter in the financial sector to bear: the consequential costs of financial crises must bear those who earn high profits with incalculable risks. As a bank customer, we call for full transparency in the use of entrusted funds and crisis-proof variety of banks.
 6 We demand social justice in Germany . Poverty and lack of opportunities must be overcome. A crash programme is needed o stop the growing rift between rich and poor. Participation in private prosperity and public goods must be secured and strengthened social cohesion. An effective minimum wage would be an essential bulwark against the social crash. High earners and the wealthy must contribute more to the financing of public tasks. 
7 We demand a serious effort to fight hunger, poverty and underdevelopment in the world. need for this is an emergency package of measures to implement the Millennium Development Goals. Multinational companies must be required by law to protect the social and human rights of workers in their factories and suppliers, and to contribute to a survivable level to raise their living standards.
 8 We call for a sustainable development of our economy, fair competition rules and the reduction of environmentally harmful subsidies. With the sustainable transformation of our economic system, great opportunities for Germany are possible because environmentally friendly technologies and products will be a competitive advantage and export in the future.
 9 We call for a comprehensive nationwide reform of the education and training system, because education is the most effective, most social and economical way of securing the future of our society and the fuel . It is a prerequisite for participation in society and creates the potential for innovation in our country. All young people need regardless of their parents' income equal access and opportunities for advancement in the education system. Curricula, teaching methods and grading systems of the past must be checked and designed so that the desire to learn, commitment and talents of young people are supported in their diversity and their self-confidence is strengthened. School must be a place of enthusiasm, the strengthening of self-awareness, the development of individual potentials and prepare them for the challenges of the future.
 10. We demand a new fair contract between generations. If our children are to have at least the chance of a life as it was our generation, we must stop the destruction of natural resources and the exclusion of talents and cultural diversity of people . We need new visions and debates about the future of the good life. We want to give our children a society that allows them and enables them to realize their dreams. Because our children especially in times of demographic change are entitled to a promising life.
We call a strategy of change for Germany, Europe and the world . Sustainability requires more than a few cosmetic changes. And she needs to close ranks with the emerging and developing countries that have a special meaning for all sustainability issues due to their dynamic development. We must with a long breath and consistently work towards an ecologically and socially just society. We call on all politicians to make decisions in their choice not dependent on short-term forecasts, power shifts or lobby interests. 
Although there seem to have been a generally favourable reaction, I sense a lack of excitement - something very cerebral..... contrasting with the intensity which has been characteristic of German discussion of social issues in recent times.
And it would be interesting to compare and contrast it with the UK Power Inquiry of 2004 which was a powerful diagnosis of the ills of British democracy........but which sank like a stone after the 2010 elections.....My own take on its analysis is here...Interesting that Europe simply doesn't figure in the German manifesto!

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