Robert Menasse


Among those responsible for the first military deployment of German soldiers outside of Germany since 1945 is a pacifist who has graduated as foreign minister. He justified the attack of a defensive alliance with the following sentence: “Aggression should not prove worthwhile!” Among those responsible for a further delay of the announced ban on nuclear energy is a green minister of environmental affairs. Also responsible for the enthronization of a right-wing extremist as head of the government of one of Austria’s provinces are both parties who still enjoy a comfortable majority. Their only election promise was to prevent this politician from gaining power.

Among those responsible for bombs being dropped on Belgrade, Novi Sad, etc., to protect a separatist movement, the Albanians, is the military alliance of countries that have been opposing separatists deemed to be terrorists at home for decades: Spain (the Basques), England (the north Irish), Turkey (the Kurds) – and of the country (Germany) which assumes that it is only natural that a separation ultimately lead to reunification – exclusively in terms of the rules and conditions of the stronger side. Bombers to protect that Albanians are launched from the airports of the country (Italy) from whose ports the ships carrying Albanian refugees are sent back out into the open sea.

Deep empathy for all this is shown by the chancellor of a country (Austria) in which ethnic minorities do not see their right to signposts and education in their own language, guaranteed to them in the state treaty, being granted. Those folks who on other occasions would not find the idea of “a little Hitler” all bad seem satisfied in view of the military punishment of a “new Hitler”. Former cold warriors who “the Russians” saw as the embodiment of the devil today calmly assume that “the Russians” will let themselves be bought. Incorruptible intellectuals sit in cafehouses and hope that “the Russians” will really let themselves be bought. When the eastern Socialists invaded Czechoslovakia thirty-one years ago the western world was rightly enraged – and today western socialists declare that a military attack on a different country promotes morals.

In the schools of the NATO-member states there is political education to the point where even future butchers and carpenters can answer the question “what is the UNO?” in their sleep. In history lessons, the atrocities committed in the first half of this century are hammered into schoolchildren until even the brightest kid sleepily says “Never again!” and the sleepiest kid brightly says “Never again!”. Once they have become journalists such never-again pupils see current-day parallels to the conditions and requirements of World War II until they have produced the third one in writing. They inoculate themselves with morals while licking the wounds they have created themselves. Waving “Never again!” flags, they have reserved for the UNO the fate of the League of Nations. When the legitimacy of international law can no longer be had, global law must be dispensed with in favor of the morals of one part of the world.

Those who yesterday were still preaching to the nation that the development of international law since 1945 was a consequence of violations of human rights before 1945 argue that human rights comes before international law. The notion of human rights independent of international law means that human rights also come before human life. And this is precisely what conveys a feeling of a superior moral. A puzzling image – in which only one perspective seems possible and admissible. In a life TV report from the so-called “crisis area” the correspondent on location is asked by the news reporter what information he has from the local media. His answer: “The same as you back home! We’re watching CNN the whole time!”

And if by contrast someone speaks up in a polemical and critical fashion, it is of all things an Austrian poet who happens to be emulating a German national shrine impersonated by Goethe and to be living in a metropolis like Paris as in Stifter’s Hochwald and is of all things unable to find a language in this field of tension, a language which can be understood by any thinking being. And I’m supposed to have an “opinion” on all this? An opinion of all things?