Are easily offended liberals

Cancel culture, generation offended : The freedom of art is threatened

The freedom of art is threatened or damaged in many regions of the world. This still applies to dictatorships or states with increasingly authoritarian tendencies, right up to the EU member Hungary under Viktor Orbán. However, cases of conflict have long been increasing in the liberal, ideologically open democracies, especially in Europe and America.

And it turns out that the freedom rights formulated in many constitutions - as in Article 5 of the Basic Law - as a defense against interference by the state have no direct protective effect here. Because the new conflicts do not arise from a confrontation with state organs, but arise from civil society. The common keyword "Cancel Culture", which has the connotation of just canceled appointments, flights, and trains, hardly makes this turning point clear on its own.

Since the French Revolution at the latest, freedom and equality have been the epitome of every democratic self-image. However, whoever is normatively equated in the spirit of the law often remains factually unequal. Property citizens were and are more equal and freer than those without property.

That is why other revolutions followed, and that is why there was and is, to put it simply, Marxism, social democracy, different (deliberately unequal) tax rates or sometimes quotas that are supposed to represent women in professional life, for example.

Protest against traditional inequality

In North America or in post-colonial societies, the descendants of the former slaves and exploited demand late satisfaction in many fields. In the USA, distribution keys have long been in force for admission to universities that favor social, ethnic minorities over the white majority in the sense of compensatory justice.

The legitimate protest against traditional inequality and discrimination is also followed by newer identity movements. What sees itself as an action alliance for gender and transgender justice, for anti-racism or anti-colonialism, should not be confused with those identities in Europe or in the USA who, as nationalists and self-declared “patriots”, refer to a white, Christian majority and mobilize against Islamic or other migrants.

However, Michel Houellebecq's much more clairvoyant novel “Submission” shows how identity politics, when it becomes power politics itself, can become a dangerous amalgam of supposed opposites. When the bourgeois center thins itself out between right and left.

Again from France comes the book by feminist and filmmaker Caroline Fourest, “Generation insulted”, the German translation of which was published by the Berlin edition of Tiamat. With the original subtitle “From the language police to the thought police. On the growing influence of left identitarian ”(From the French by Alexander Carstiuc, Mark Feldon and Christoph Hesse 143 pages, 18 euros).

Cancel culture in the literature business

The author was also a contributor to “Charlie Hebdo”, she publishes and teaches on issues of multiculturalism and universal human rights. Using countless concrete, often self-experienced cases in Europe and North America, she describes how scientists and authors of all sexes as well as artists and their works are harassed and canceled: because it is hurtful for real or supposed “groups of victims” when others approach each other express their themes and "transform" them neo-colonial as it were.

Attempts at inclusion are rejected in the gesture of offensive exclusion. Muslim female students, for example, denied Caroline Fourest, white, lesbian, Jewish, the right to speak to them about political Islamism.

Elsewhere, the cancel culture issue seems to be a farce. The Hamburg-based Carlsen Verlag, which among other things also publishes the British writer Joanne K. Rowling, who was heavily attacked for expressing her opinion on exaggeration of gender language, has now withdrawn the children's book “A Corona Rainbow for Anna and Moritz”. In a new edition, a sentence that the fictional elementary school student Moritz says is to be deleted: "The virus comes from China and has spread from there all over the world."

A child substitute about China is deleted

After a Chinese news portal, insulted by the police, reprimanded little Moritz's statement as “malicious” and a few readers expressed concern about this child substitute, which almost all virologists had affirmed, the publisher reacted. As if resentment against China and against Chinese children had been stirred up, Carlsen apologized if people "should feel hurt in their feelings by the phrase".

In retrospect, it seems almost involuntarily funny that the Carlsen Verlag received the renowned “Virus Thrower Award” for its marketing at the Frankfurt Book Fair five years ago. Only then was the award renamed the "Orbanism Award".

Censorship of the comic book “Dr. Seuss "

China is a power. Of course, this also plays a role if the company Dr. Seuss Enterprises is taking several of its decades of popular picture books off the market. It's about “Dr. Seuss ”series, with which the American cartoonist and children's book author Theodor“ Seuss ”Geisel, who died in 1991, charmed young and old readers for decades.

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As Andreas Platthaus reported in the “FAZ”, posthumous censorship also hit the first “Dr. Seuss "band" And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street ". It contains the child's vision of how a horse and cart driving by becomes a circus street parade with all sorts of funny characters, including: "A Chinaman who eats with sticks ... / A big magician doing tricks ..."

It is one of almost a hundred verses, and in the colorful picture gallery in the artfully naive and at the same time expressive drawing style of the twenties and thirties, a friendly, laughing Chinese man in a hint of traditional costume with a pointed hat and a bowl of rice and chopsticks walks across the figure-richly illustrated page.

The book, as I said, is from 1937, the author was a decidedly cosmopolitan humanist, but the little Chinese, who of course does not look like a modern Shenzhen manager, is supposed to embody Western stereotypes and prejudices in a hurtful way?

The authenticity of the theater people

More serious is the fact that a few days ago the Dutch poet and Booker Prize winner Marieke Lucas Rijneveld returned the order to translate Amanda Gorman's world-famous poem “The Hill We Climb” into Dutch since the inauguration ceremony for Joe Biden. A publishing house in Barcelona has now also withdrawn its (white) translator.

In the first case, the young black poet had expressly welcomed her only marginally older white colleague Rijneveld as translator. Nevertheless, an identitary activist with appropriate mobilization on the Internet made it a scandal that a white person, who also defines himself as sexually bisexual, translates this text by a black woman.

Free game

The debate has been going on for years about whether a white-skinned person should be allowed to play a dark-skinned person in the theater. Keyword “Blackfacing”. The basic question is actually obsolete because theater, like all art in general, means symbolic transformation, condensation, enhancement. Fiction and non-naturalistic imitation. People have always played gods or animals, children play adults and vice versa, women represent men and these also women. Nobody expects real killers, tyrants, madmen, supernatural and extraterrestrials on stage or in the film.

It's about fiction, about the free play of art. Nonetheless, many theaters that had just post-dramatically rejected any identifying acting representation, allowed the “blackfacing” debate and identity positions to be imposed on them and are now declaring them to be their own contribution to more diversity.

The Berlin novelist and translator Pieke Biermann, a white woman, was honored at the Leipzig Book Fair 2020 for her poetic and countless overtones and overtones in an empathic way of rendering the novel “Oreo” by the Afro-American writer Fran Ross. She now tells the Tagesspiegel: “Translation is a mimetic art form. Adaptation. For that I have to be, someone else ‘, just not somehow, identical. I also prefer to translate 'the impossible', and that is always a risk. Luckily!"

"Translating is always a risk"

Arthur Rimbaud confessed "I am someone else", Gustave Flaubert said "Madame Bovary, c’est moi". Black gay writer James Baldwin was universal, white, straight, trans at writing. How the white gay Jean Genet was also a black universal writer. And Virginia Woolf's art could reflect all genders.

Artistic fiction, in its metamorphoses, provocations and ambiguities, is also the contradiction of what the one-eyed cannot dream of. What the language and thought police, whether state or intra-societal, will not allow even in dreams.

Identitarian demands in the field of art are therefore mostly alien or hostile to art. For them it is about symbolic politics: about the political power of definition. However, this in free spaces for which they can only envy people of any identity who are affected by far more than just symbolic violence in dictatorships and war zones.

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