A ZEIT Poll of Scientists, Artists and
[The Apocalypse lives. Sinister prospects on the end of the world dominate our minds and imaginations. Amid Chernobyl and Bhopal, Aids and DSI, it seems there is no room for hope any more. Hope, as we know from Ernst Bloch’s “The Principle of Hope,” is a political category. Hope was the confidence that we could gain enlightenment about its dialectic and end our homemade infantilism at last. Hope was the certainty that we could bring about the freedom of all through the power of critical and political action. Today the horizons have dimmed. The following responses are translated from the German in DIE ZEIT, Nr.1, January 2, 1987, http://www.zeit.de.]
(rem.: the print edition published it already in December 1986)
Hope for what future? I have never shared the great dream and also the disappointment that this dream has not been fulfilled. I sympathize with those who have endured this disappointment and hope that their strength for the new projects of this age will not be taken from them.
Only a blind person can misunderstand that this is a time of the greatest dangers; only one psychically broken can deny that it is a time full of promising tasks. However the center of the gravity of hope has shifted. No longer does the center lie in domestic policy and diverse party ideals in the national framework. It lies more and more in international politics, in the human or international setting. The problem of the balance of power between social classes within one state is increasingly overshadowed in urgency by the balance of power between states and groups that become states. The question whether communism or capitalism will disappear in an individual country suddenly loses meaning before the question whether and how international conflicts can be settled without murder and manslaughter, that is without the hegemony of a particular group of states.
The greatest goal to which we should be working in the first place, the goal of hope, is a world society without war within which the national inequalities of living standards gradually diminish, not through the impoverishment of the wealthier but through the growing prosperity of the poorer countries. Peacelessness and group violence, including wars and revolutions, produce and prolong poverty.
Goals that delude with false hopes can bring about short-term improvement in human distresses through the kettledrum of a revolution. Nevertheless the awakened false hopes leave behind hosts of disappointed people, cynics to whom every goal seems narrow. Many people today find only short-term goals worthwhile, only hopes that can be realized in their lifetime. What a pity! The great social problems can only be solved in the course of generations.
Humanity can be seen in a long-learning process. Most people of the earth learn much through bitter experience and little through insight. Perhaps the bitter experiences of a great war are needed before international murder is outlawed as a punishable offense. How wonderful if people and their prominent politicians would do what is necessary without this bitter experience, namely work tenaciously and persistently across the generations for a pacified world society with diminishing inequalities, flexibly ready for compromise and advancing undeviating toward the goal!
The question how we can bring about the voluntary subordination of all states, the smallest and the largest, under the control of supra-state tribunals has a high place among humanity’s problems. Insight in the limits of the sovereignty of the individual state, absent today, is imperative. In the present state of technological development, the idea of the unlimited sovereignty of an individual state is de facto nothing but a dangerous illusion. Before our eyes, a perceptible shift of the center of gravity has occurred from domestic to international, multinational political movements, parties and goals (Movements commonly called multinational are in truth with few exceptions not multinational but controlled by members of a single nation.). This shift is not confined to politics but includes concrete educational goals. The traditional orientation of education to the national horizon required changing sociality more and more. A multinational perspective on education and transmission of knowledge with a human horizon are now imperative.
The disaster of our times is that the educational policy of many governments does in the opposite direction. Educational policy often inclines to the narrowing of the horizon of knowledge of coming generations, to the computer, practical economic discoveries and knowledge that is restrictedly national. This is all useful. At the same time it is a testimony to the extent to which governments, plagued with burdensome short-term present tasks, lose sight of the long-term future of their own people. This future demands that future generations have a wide horizon and a thoughtful understanding for the problems of the developing world society.
The global peaceful competition of the nations will intensify if a great war does not occur. Only those nations have a chance of maintaining their position in the contest of nations where future generations have the advantages of a far-sighted and realistic education. Governments that assign a low place among the priorities of their countries to their youth and their teachers show that hope and prospect for the future are lost to them. For those who only understand economic language, capital investments in people are as important as investments in docile machines for French, German or Dutch Europeans. Seen concretely, they are vastly more important.
translated by Marc Batko