Sociologist Harald Welzer speaks at “Düsseldorfer Reden” in the Schauspielhaus

“Düsseldorfer Speeches” at Schauspielhaus
Harald Welzer and how he explains the world

The social psychologist was a guest at Düsseldorf’s speeches at the Schauspielhaus. Harald Welzer spans broadly from the war in Ukraine to the environmental challenges of the twenty-first century. Did not skimp on polite insults.

If you want to climb to Olympus for public debate, you have to climb several steps: first the ARD talk show by Anne Weil, then the ZDF discussion tour “Lans” and now Sunday afternoons “Düsseldorfer Reden” at the Schauspielhaus. Taking a closer look at the controversies of the past few weeks, Lothar Schroeder, Head of Culture at the Rheinische Post, has welcomed social psychologist Harald Welzer as the third speaker in the series, which the Schauspielhaus in collaboration with the Rheinische Post has now entered into its fifth year.

The “Düsseldorf Speeches” are supposed to be on the big issues. Harald Welzer had big words and curses: war, destruction of nature, impoverishment, dictatorships.

From the war in Eastern Europe, the sociologist extended the arc to the title he wrote shortly before the end of the war: “The Unfortunate End of Our Civilization Project.” “The urgent need in the 21st century is to focus on environmental issues,” Welzer said. It is about the rights of freedom for future generations. And there precisely did not see any progress, so retreat in the meantime.

Welzer has witnessed the great hysteria and excitement of public debate in our time. One generally thinks that one is facing a crisis. “We’re part of what’s going on and we think we’re watching.”

His presentation could not do without Ukraine completely, although he really wanted to avoid the topic. In an open letter to Chancellor Schultz, initiated by Emma editor Alice Schwarzer, Welzer and other celebrities warned against supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine and increased the risk of World War III.

“This message, which is insurmountable in terms of harm, wanted to warn of the dangers that emanate from the logic of violence. It demanded dialogue and speaking. In fact, the content was not great,” Welzer stated.

But no matter how inaccurate this message may be, it has discredited the signatories — “not only in organizations where nonsense is common: social media,” says Welzer, but also in the press. He himself called it “Moscow Open University”.

Welzer sees precisely these emotionally charged hysterical reactions as a sign of times when events are seen quickly and absolutely as crises one wants to end as quickly as possible.

And since it is customary to talk about narratives nowadays: the editor of “Taz.Futurzwei” quoted the Deputy Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies Florence Job: “Every war is a story.”

The war in Ukraine is a simplified story that leaves no room for distinction and contradiction. Many people had written themselves into this story, and they wanted to be on the right side.

In the course of this simplified story, an enthusiastic request arose that “we have to press the chancellor.” “How do you get there? It’s great to have people thinking and balancing things,” Welzer replied. There is a great need for clarity. This is an event whose outcome we do not know. It’s a very worrying situation for everyone.”

He was also thrilled when he described Chancellor Olaf Schultz’s speech after Russia’s attack on Ukraine as largely historic. “What… you will be able to judge whether it is a historic speech after three to four decades and not three to four hours,” Welzer said.

The sociologist pointed out that we live in a social system that means the greatest freedom and security of life for people. But someone accuses democracy of acting too slowly. Democracies respond to changes in life. And the often vaunted dictatorships can’t do that. They exist only through violence. “They’re killing people, sooner or later,” Welser said.

But Walzer also took his social order to court: Growing capitalism was a successful enterprise in which most people did well. But the price was the destruction of nature. Nobody wants to give up any of their privileges. “This is why the driver of a heavy SUV is shivering in front of Swedish student Greta Thunberg,” says Welzer. If the priority in the future is defense, security and armament, then naturally there will be little distribution of climate protection, social issues and culture.

Disappointment, alertness, excitement, and thus a good introduction to the upcoming June 19 speaker: climate activist Louisa Neubauer.

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