Sunday, April 26, 2020

Freedom Is the Comprehension of Necessity

Freiheit ist Einsicht in die Notwendigkeit” is a sentence from the preface of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel‘s ”Basics of the philosophy of law”. Here is the German text of ”Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts” tltr;.

The title of this blog is a common thread in the recent developments of the Corona pandemic in Germany.

Science and Reason

Despise just reason and science,
Man's* supreme gifts -
Then you have submitted to the devil
And you must perish.
*N.B. Other genders are included
Verachte nur Verstand und Wissenschaft,
des Menschen allerhöchste Gaben –
so hast dem Teufel dich ergeben
und mußt zugrunde gehn.

While in the initial phase of the fight against Corona Mephisto’s warning in Goethe’s Faust was the guiding principle, we are now entering a critical period of impatience and protest. The reason is that in Germany, due to the known and applied protective measures, the number of active Corona cases was on the decline and is now constant at about 2,000 per day.

Excessive Fascisization of Civil Life

The photo reminds me of Schiller’s Song of the Bell:
Dann werden Weiber zu Hyänen (Then women turn into hyenas).
This led to a „Hygienedemo“ in Berlin where the left and right-wingers along with religious zealots gathered in front of the Volksbühne to protest against the hygienic restrictions that are still in place.

Naturally, these people came in close contact with each other and the police. For them, the Coronavirus causes a "comparatively mild wave of infection," which in no way justifies a "de facto dictatorial emergency regime" and the "excessive fascisization of civil life." According to the protesters, the restrictions are being fired by a "conspiracy of global corporations" behind the measures.


Although the demonstration illustrated above is somehow unique, the cautious opening of public life last Monday has led to Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien (discussion orgies about opening measures). This new word coined by our chancellor has a great chance of becoming Germany’s word of the year. Angela Merkel, being a physicist, actually noticed that the interpretation of the opening rules agreed upon by the Federal Government and the German States twelve days ago went overboard.

The chancellor warned that Germany was on "the thinnest ice" and implementations of the rules “worry me ... they appear to be very bold, maybe too bold."

In fact, the country is loosening more and more. Even shopping malls are opening because every shop by itself is smaller than 800 square meters. The administrative court of Hamburg completely overturned the rule that only small shops are allowed to reopen. However, the basic idea behind the practice is to limit the density of people in shopping districts.

Who Needs a New T-shirt?

But there is deception on the other side, too. Instead of the expected rush of buyers in German cities last Monday, their number remained small. Some people are afraid to leave their houses because of the Coronavirus. In contrast, others don’t patronize shops because they are working reduced hours and keep and need their Kurzarbeitergeld (reduced-work compensation, i.e., 60% of their recent salary) for food and lodging. For many persons das Hemd ist näher als der Rock (Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin or better Charity begins at home).

Who needs a new T-shirt or is looking for a new car? On the other hand, there is a boom in do-it-yourself and - in some sort of bunker mentality - deep freezers.

It Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

This is a statement by Hong Kong epidemiologist Gabriel Leung referring to the fight against the virus while Governor Armin Laschet of North Rhine-Westphalia demands further relaxation in the hygienic restrictions.

Nobody really listens to Germany's leading virologists anymore. Berlin’s Christian Drosten said, "I very much regret to see these days that we are just about to completely lose our lead."

Virologist Melanie Brinkmann from the Helmholtz Centre in Braunschweig warns, "We will get a second wave of infection even more severe than this one because it will take place all over Germany and be less localized, as was the case with the first wave."

Listening to people who know something about the subject is out of fashion. How all this will turn out remains to be seen.

The Numbers

Click on the graphic to enlarge
Here are Germany’s total Corona cases (orange), the actual cases (red), as well as the number of recovered patients (green) as a function of time. The death toll is presented in black.

Although the number of people actually infected is decreasing, the criterion of whether a pandemic is under control is the reproduction rate R, i.e., how many persons one person afflicted with Covid-19 is likely to infect. If this figure is kept below one, the number of infected people will decrease with time.

Click on the graphic to enlarge.
Here are the most relevant parameters for Germany in the form of a table. From left to right: known infection cases, their daily increase in percent, doubling time of cases in days (flattening of the curve), reproduction rate, the total number of deaths, and deaths as a percentage of known cases.

Another significant value is the incidence rate IR. The average IR for Germany is 137 per 100,000 people. The highest values are found for the districts of Tirschenreuth in Bavaria and Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia with incidence rates of 1,513 and 680, respectively. In the first district, a carnival session, and in the other district, the mid-lent strong-beer fest was at the origin of a significant infection cluster. This shows that alcohol-driven Volksfests are the ideal breeding grounds for SARS-CoV-2, a fact that finally led to the cancellation of “the” Oktoberfest this year.


Presently, the city of Freiburg has an incidence rate of 401 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Here the Wine Festival (July 1-6), the Tent Music Festival (July 15 - August 2), and the Schlossbergfest (July 30 - August 2) will not take place on the planned dates.

The city of Freiburg is also putting its 900th-anniversary jubilee on ice. It is suspended until September 2020. Lord Mayor Martin Horn has proposed to the city council an extension of the anniversary until spring 2021. He said. "The Corona crisis is also a bitter setback for our anniversary. Now we want to replace the celebration with cohesion, solidarity, and creativity."

Mund-Nasen-Bedeckung (MNB)

This morning: An Antonov-124 unloads 9.6 tons of masks "Made in China" at Leipzig airport
The term „mouth nose cover“ was proposed by the Robert-Koch Institute to make a clear distinction between professional masks and Volksmasken.

Red Baron had promised not to take any more selfies. But a correction is necessary, so here is my acquisition of a sturdier mouth nose cover made of paper.

From Monday on, the wearing of MNBs is compulsory in shops and public transport all over Germany.

In an empty streetcar
Although experts keep telling us that MNBs only assure limited protection, it is an astonishing fact that since the city of Jena issued its order for wearing MNBs in public places already three weeks ago, no new Corona infection has been registered.

Presently this is my only mask made from fabric, although I ordered more of those fashionable accessories likely to arrive next week.

Denn für dieses Leben ist der Mensch nicht schlau genug

Some people still don’t comprehend the necessity of strict measures while Corona is roaming. As a reminder, they should read the statement of a lung specialist working on Corona patients in a German clinic, ”I can imagine how hard it is to make political decisions in a situation like this. It is too easy to look back and say this, that, and the other could have been done better. But honestly? I didn't have a better idea, either. Right now, we have the situation well in hand, and that is what counts.”

N.B.: In 1928, Bertold Brecht wrote the "Song about the Inadequacy of Human Planning" with the line, "For this life man* isn't clever enough."
*Other genders are included


  1. Manfred, In Angele Merkel you have a brilliant leader compared with our "Stable Genius." Of course, the division getting deeper and wider between those opt for blind faith (the Bible Belt) and his supporter and science and reason (everybody else). We have sequestered with friends of 50 years. Each day, we pick them up, take our constitutional, have them over for dinner and to watch a steamed series, then they go back their dormitory (house) to sleep. We also have the masks. But those in the Bible Belt claim, "The blood of Jesus courses through their veins and that they are protected." As you must have heard, the President wants to hit our interior with "very powerful light," ultra violet, and suggests we inject ourselves with bleachers. We say, "Give us Biden or give us bleach." By the way, we are watching a very good German series, "Babylon Berlin," which has lessons for us. Thanks for the excellent blogs.

    1. Thanks Bulent, I follow the development in the States very closely and I am aware of POTUS's unbelievable statements. It is so sad to see the US in such a mess. We have a "race" between our governors as well although to a lesser extent. Even small differences in the interpretation of the "rules" are brandmarked by our media. I am a convinced federalist and I don't like central governments. Stay healthy, Manfred

  2. Thank you for your regular reports from Freiburg and the larger country. Although your country's--the government's and the citizenry's--responses may be imperfect, from my vantage point in the US I am greatly envious of the wisdom, science-based decision-making, and community spirit demonstrated by Germany. We are instead subjected to individual selfishness, clinging to individual liberties as a higher value than the good of the larger community, political divisiveness and polarization. I agree with Thomas Friedman's comment the New York Times today, "With each passing day it becomes more obvious how unlucky we are that one of the worst crises in American history coincides with Donald Trump’s presidency." I feel deeply worried about the future of our country. I appreciate your missives which present a contrasting way for a nation and its government to act.

  3. Dear Manfred,
    another excellent blog on the current discussions at Freiburg and for Germany in general, perfectly documented and convincingly commented. It is a pleasure to join your views, Dietrich