Sunday, February 11, 2024

Creative Democracy

Creative Democracy: The Task Before Us" is a 1939 essay by American philosopher John Dewey.

Freiburg's Carl-Schurz-Haus offers with Demokratie erlesen (clumsily translated as "deepen on democracy by reading about it") a new branch in their present cycle, "Mutprobe Demokratie (Democracy as a Test of Courage)." Derk Janßen, Publizist, moderates a series of four evenings that started on February 1.

Democracy is "booming" in Germany, not only with the many peaceful street demonstrations against the Right. The form of democratic government is supported in two recent surveys, too.

In the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, 89% of respondents described democracy as the best form of government. Even more encouraging is a European study showing that in Germany, 60% of 18 to 30-year-olds have a fundamental trust in democracy and the European Union. By the way, this is the best figure in the ten European countries where this generation was interviewed.

Has the young generation understood that today's nearly unlimited freedom is endangered?

In 1939, with fascist governments in power in Germany, Italy, and Spain, John Dewey wrote in his essay, "Democracy is the great word of our time, but the realization of its meaning is yet to come."

He stressed the need for education to cultivate democratic habits of mind and action. "Democracy must be reborn in every generation, and education is its midwife."

Furthermore, Dewey explored the concept of democracy beyond mere political participation to encompass active engagement and creativity in all aspects of society. "The democratic ideal involves not merely the political form of government but also the fostering of a social consciousness which will make democracy real."

He argued that democracy should be a way of life, emphasizing the importance of continual experimentation, collaboration, and problem-solving to address societal challenges and promote individual and collective flourishing.

Overall, Dewey advocated for a dynamic and participatory democracy that empowers citizens to shape their own destinies and build a more just and equitable society. "The task of democracy is forever that of creating a freer and more humane experience in which all share and to which all contribute."

1939 was also the year when on February 20, the German-American Bund organized a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York,

This "mass demonstration for true Americanization" of more than twenty-two thousand members marked the Bund's popularity. They carried banners with national messages such as "Wake up America! Smash Jewish Communism" and racist inscriptions, "Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans." Attendants performed Nazi salutes toward the three-story tall banners of George Washington flanked by Nazi swastikas. Jews were regarded as a threat to American identity. So New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was called "the Jew Lumpen LaGuardia."

AYF 2024/25 Academic Director Prof. Michaela Hönicke-Moore mentioned this particular Nazi mobilisation in the talk she gave at the FMG Stammtisch on February 7: "Wie die Amerikaner das Dritte Reich sahen (How Americans viewed the Third Reich).

Were Americans fascinated by Nazi regimes? Michaela said that due to the reporting of many foreign correspondents, the Americans were well informed in the press and on the radio about what was happening in the Third Reich. William Shirer wrote, "The Germans stand by Hitler." At the same time, Will Durant suggested in 1938 that "coward cruelty is not a characteristic of the German soul but a neurotic reaction to their defeat and the new fear of Bolshevism."

Thomas Wolfe described in his novel You Can't Go Home Again "Nazism as a terrible part of the common heritage of mankind," while for Sinclair Lewis, "Fascism is a perversion of mass politics that could also happen here."

At a rally of the American First movement in De Moines on September 11, 1941, American hero Charles Lindbergh identified three warmongering groups: Great Britain, the Roosevelt administration, and the Jews. In the same year, on December 11, Germany declared war on the United States. 
Having learned all this, Red Baron is left preoccupied with two questions:

How much of the present German mass demonstrations for democracy is folklore, and how much of it will endure.

With Trump's second appearance likely, How robust is the world's oldest democracy against populist power fantasies taking its outdated traditions in times of social media and deep fake news?

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