Warum ich nun kein Sozi mehr bin

Vergangene Woche habe ich mein Parteibuch abgegeben.

Ich habe mir den Schritt nicht leicht gemacht, aber ich bin einfach an einem Punkt angekommen, wo ich nicht mehr mag.
Ich habe politische Überzeugungen, bin damit aufgewachsen, mir selber politische Meinungen zu bilden – in meinem Elternhaus war politische Diskussion, offen und manchmal kontrovers, üblich (und so manches Essen hat entsprechend lange gedauert).

Ich wollte diese Überzeugungen einbringen und glaub(t)e, dass die SPD mir da noch am nächsten ist. Aber ich musste erkennen, dass ich mich an zu vielen Stellen verbiegen müsste, um in der Partei irgendwo etwas bewegen zu können.
Ich mag auch nicht mehr verteidigen, was ich selber für Mist halte. Immer wieder bin ich in den (auch immer noch gepflegten) Diskussionen mit Familie und Freunden an den Punkt gekommen, dass ich mich (und andere mich) gefragt haben, warum, wenn ich mich doch nur dauernd distanzieren muss, ich denn überhaupt noch in der Partei bin.

Dazu kommt der Umgangston, den die Parteiführung, und ganz besonders Sigmar, mit der Basis pflegt: Der ist schlicht zum kotzen. abgewöhnen. Ein typisches Beispiel sind Sigmars Äußerungen zu den Netzaktivisten in der Partei, die dann auch so engagierte und fähige Leute wie Yasmina Banaszczuk vertrieben haben.

Wäre nicht das Mitgliedervotum gewesen, wäre ich schon früher gegangen.

Dabei ging es nicht darum, unbedingt noch mitmachen zu wollen, oder der Parteiführung eins auszuwischen. Ich hatte doch tatsächlich die Hoffnung, dass es in der Partei genug Reformwillen gäbe, nicht der Machtoption und damit den schlechten alten Gewohnheiten anzuhängen. Opposition wäre die Gelegenheit gewesen, sich neu zu finden und sich die grundsätzliche Frage zu stellen, wie die Sozialdemokratie des 21. Jahrhunderts aussehen soll. Es wäre die Gelegenheit gewesen, Fehler zu korrigieren und die eigenen Ideale neu zu finden und zu bestimmen. Eine Mehrheit hat das anders gesehen. Dabei wäre diese Erneuerung dringend nötig. Die Partei, wie ich sie derzeit erlebe, besteht aus ein paar (langsam aussterbenden) Altsozialisten, deren Weltbild schon für das späte 20. Jahrhundert nicht mehr passte; einer übermächtigen Gruppe von Realpolitikern (ist das wirklich die Mehrheit?), die den Bezug zu jenen Idealen, die die Alten hochhalten völlig verloren hat und sich nur noch von den ‚Zwängen der Realpolitik‘ und dem eigenen Machtdenken treiben lassen; und einer teils unglaublich engagierten, aber zunehmend frustrierten Basis. Der Ausgang des Mitgliedervotums hat mich nun leider völlig davon überzeugt, dass sich in der SPD so bald nichts ändern wird; dass in vielen Punkten leider immer noch Tucholsky’s treffende Analyse gilt: „Wat brauchst du Jrundsätze“, sacht er, „wenn du’n Apparat hast!“.

Das alles klingt jetzt vermutlich bitterer als es ist. Ich will darum auf einem versöhnlichen Ton enden: Ich habe in der Partei eine Menge großartiger Menschen kennengelernt. Menschen, die sich unglaublich engagieren, die Überzeugungen haben und versuchen, diesen Überzeugungen auch in der Partei eine Stimme zu geben. Ich habe für mich beschlossen, dass ich genau das derzeit nicht mehr kann. Aber ich will auch kein Karteimitglied sein, darum gehe ich jetzt. Frustriert, aber nicht im Zorn. Ich werde mich weiter politisch engagieren und ich würde mich freuen, wenn ich  dabei irgendwann einer SPD begegne, in der ich dann auch wieder eine politische Heimat sehen kann. Auf Wiedersehen SPD.

The lure of tutelage

It is one of the exquisite contradictions of our society, that we tend to allow conditions to persist in one quarter which we would not tolerate in another.

The latest example of this curious tendency is found in a post in the ‚Schools‘ section of the Guardian’s online service. Conal Urquhart informs us very matter-of-factly about a program, used at 1,400 British schools,  that monitors for ‚problematic online behaviour‘. At the heart of the software is a dictionary „[…] which deals with sexting, suicide, grooming, self-harm, adult content, eating disorders, bullying and trolling, racism and homophobia“. So basically we are dealing with a keyword searching surveillance system not unlike, albeit much simpler, the ones the NSA and GCHQ foisted on us all. And yet not a word of criticism, not an ounce of disapproval. Why not?

An obvious line of reasoning might be that schools have the responsibility to look after the children and have to take an active interest in their welfare. That is exactly the line, of course, the security services give us for the ubiquitous surveillance of every one of us. But let us allow for a moment that, since here we actually are dealing with minors, more is permissible here than in the world outside the school. That still raises the question, however, where to draw the line? Where does it cease to be reasonable protection and become meddling? What this question comes down to is simply this: Is the principle of proportionality violated? Obviously the system scans all online activity by all pupils. The software, we learn, then „generates reports for teachers“. Even if we are not told whether these reports are generated for all monitored individuals, we must assume that the software has the capacity to do just that (and so must the monitored). The privacy of all is invaded to protect a minority from a very unspecific threat. Arguably, this can be called disproportionate.

Yet where our children are concerned we are much more inclined to condone measures that we would otherwise consider disproportionate. Understandably so — to protect them is in our instincts. But we cannot lock them in a padded room to keep them away from the dangers of the world. And (with a few sad exceptions) we know this. Eventually, we want them to make their own way in this world – and for them to be able to do so we have to let go of them. We learn to let go of the toddlers hands to allow them to walk for themselves, we stop walking them to school and at some point let them move out and find their own place. But the urge to protect, not only our children, but ‚the weaker‘ members of our society, the vulnerable, is always there. That can be a good thing – compassion is one of the pillars of any society after all – but if it becomes an end in itself, tutelage lurks around the corner.

More dramatically even, there seems to be a desire in all most of us to be on the receiving end of such ‚care‘. The image of Eden is still that of a paradise of ignorant bliss. But what defines us more than anything as human is our consciousness, our reason, our constant struggle with and for knowledge. And the free use of our reason – for good or evil: Only east of Eden did humanity become truly human. (Who said an atheist can’t use biblical imagery?). The task is arduous and thus from time to time we all like to shrink from it. Maybe not only from laziness and cowardice, as Kant would have us believe, but from the sheer exhaustion of struggling and a longing for the time of our innocency. At that point we are met by our self-appointed guardians, the serpents in reverse, who will convince us that we may lay our burden down. And they are for ever advertising their guardianship. Have you ever stopped to wonder how much the ubiquitous surveillance permeates our day to day experience, even in popular entertainment: We have become used to the police in our favourite crime drama using CCTV to catch the baddies, we see them do database searches, and order mass DNA swabs. It is all there, trying to convince us that it is normal and good. That all we have to do is submit to the immixtio manuum and swear fealty and all will be well.
But all will not be well.

Just to be clear about this: I am not saying there is a conspiracy out there. Some things tend to take a certain direction on their own. All the more reason to to stop and ask ourselves: Is this really the way I want things to go? To ask with every new measure  that is introduced: Is it really proportionate? To take a deep breath and soldier on towards enlightenment.

Sapere aude!

„Affirmative, Dave. I read you.“

Don’t feed the trolls. So I am writing this against my better judgement, really. But I just realised that Councillor David Silvester may have a point!

When I think back to the day I first kissed another girl: Well, it did feel like stars colliding. What if they did? Did entire solar systems blink out of existence that moment? Are we responsible for that? Did we incur the wrath of …

No, wait a moment… You almost had me there, Dave. Nice try but – really: No.
And by the way: The same part of the Scripture that you and yours love to quote against homosexuality bans eating fat (Leviticus  3:17), pork (Leviticus 11:7) – goodbye bacon and eggs – , and explicitly commands against cutting your hair or trimming your beard (Leviticus 19:27) – and judging from your photograph on the BBC’s page you’re at least guilty of the latter two sins, Mr. Silvester.

Another classic is found in Deuteronomy 23:1: „He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.“ — Best pray then, you’ll never get testicular cancer…

So why are you so sure it’s gay marriage that brought down God’s wrath (allowing for a second a natural disaster can be interpreted as such – which it really can’t, that’s why we call it natural disaster) and not the poor sod who survived cancer and has the audacity to enter the Lord’s temple in defiance of said law? Or your obvious lack of beard? Or your haircut (or the PM’s –  in case it’s the head of government (pun intended) that matters)? See how quickly it gets tricky, when you use ancient religious texts to condemn others?

Ah, but what am I doing, arguing with trolls:

„Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye.“
(„I feel much better now. I really do.“)

[Quotes from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey and the King James Version]

I am not paranoid, I am angry!

I need to swot up on my origami, it seems.

I never considered myself to be paticularly fond of conspiracy theories – quite the contrary, I have always maintained that one should never explain with conspiracy what can as easily be explained with idiocy. Which makes it all the more frustrating to be accused of ‚wearing the tin foil hat‘ in discussions about the NSA/GCHQ (et al.) surveillance scandal. What I find almost as irritating as the fact of the ubiquitous breach of my privacy is the reaction of an alarmingly large number of my fellow citizens:

We have nothing to hide

As if that would make it right to spy on each and everyone of us.
Since it is pointless to try and start a security vs freedom debate with them, I instead like to ask those people: „But you do seal your letters, you do lock the bathroom door when you wee, you do close the curtains when you have sex – why? if you have nothing to hide?“ But somehow they manage to remain unperturbed.

Can I watch then?

„Not being pervy, just trying to ensure your safety and security – the bathroom is a dangerous place, you know.
„And by the way, I’d like to have cameras installed in your house to ensure the security of your kids in case you might be abusive, or even a paedophile.“

Of course that is usually where I get very indignant reactions from them (not only from those that would not get the sarcasm). But an awful lot of people would not make the jump to our government’s surveillance programmes: Obviously it is something else entirely if I invade their privacy. What is an appalling idea if I were the spy is perfectly acceptable if it is a government agency. The reason seems to be that people would not believe me that I had their well-being in mind nor (if they were trusting enough) that I could indeed ensure the safety and security I promised. They’d be absolutely right of course.

But here’s our governments doing the same thing and people accept both that it is all for our own good and that they can indeed protect us. Which is strange considering how mealy-mouthed they are about it all (nobody would want to buy a product the salesperson told them so little about). I have yet to learn even of one instance where the surveillance programmes  of our governments, rather than old-fashioned policing, did really foil an attack plan. If it the programmes were that successful you would expect the agencies to brag about it, wouldn’t you? Or at least name one good example to silence the critics.

To make matters worse, quite a bit of the measures seem curiously ill-suited for the task they claim to be designed for. Take the latest Snowden leak on the ‚DISHFIRE‚ programme for example. Does anyone anywhere truly believe terrorists would consider coordinatig an attack by texting? (OK, I know it is more about networks and contacts and suspicious behaviour). And 200 million a day? Even given the texting sprees of your average teenager that makes for a lot of targets. More than anything the idea here seems to be along the lines of ‚gobble up every last scrap of information we can get and see if cannot introduce some pre-crime policing‘.

What the ’nothing to hide‘ faction fails to understand is that, when it comes to ’security matters‘ / terrorism,  effectively our governments shifted the burden of proof to lie with us. Keeping tabs on all of us is equivalent to turning us all into suspects. And do not be misled into thinking it is just the ‚bad guys‘ that are monitored: The NSA’s ‚three hops‘ method is likely to include almost everyone. If you don’t want to do the maths yourself you can try this little tool on The Guardian website. Remember, the figure you will see is only for the people that one individual (you) connects to through the three degrees of separation. Now if we asume a conservative estimate of 50 flagged targets in the UK…

The agencies do not even have to tell you that or why they flagged you. You may land on a no-fly list (because someone you called once in the last year knows someone that called someone who is flagged a target) and never know what happened. So don’t give me that ’nothing to hide‘ crap. You may want to (re-)read this startlingly modern text by – yes, indeed – Immanuel Kant, maybe that will get you out of, if not your self-incurred tutelage maybe at least your current complacency.

Or you could just carry on as you were, and I go and swot up on my origami: Hats are a lot trickier to make with tin foil than with paper…