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Hamburg & Paris, September 25, 2021
lettre #010 edition: What do choose w/ Felix & Jan
Let's get this over with!
This newsletter is about the upcoming elections in Germany. We hope that this might still be appealing to some of our international readers. To get yourself started, we can recommend this timesarticle. Nevertheless, we think that most of what we discuss in this letter edition is valid not only for Germany but on a larger scale as well.
The following has been translated with deepl. Please do not be angry with us if the machine sometimes does not live up to your literary expectations.
Bonjour à toutes et à tous!
We haven't heard from you for a long time, that's right! But we too are coming back from a long summer break and sitting down together once again to write and send a few lines here. Welcome to the tenth issue of our little newsletter!
At the moment, we are both pursuing projects that are important to us personally, and which are simply taking up a lot of space at the moment. And that's a good thing. Jan is trying his hand at self-employment and Felix is trying to find a job. The two of us are in an important phase of finding our way, and to be honest, that also applies to the topic of the next newsletter issue. But we are both also following the upcoming federal election and we wanted to use this newsletter to write about the quality of this election (we are not concerned with the fact that there is so much good on offer). So in a way, this issue is a special issue, the next "proper" newsletter will come when it gets really autumn.
As always, we try to give a little insight into the music we like to listen to or the thoughts that are on our minds. It's a project by friends for friends, so the whole thing takes place without advertising or payment, but just like that. If you like it, we are happy. We also appreciate a message and of course new subscribers by spreading the word. Oh, and we have a archive with all previous newsletters. But now back to the text and this tweet:
germany so: "the world is on the brink of an irreversible climate catastrophe. what impact will this have on the commuter allowance?"
We agree: this election is incredibly important. Unfortunately, Germany lacks a political public sphere from the media and civil society that adequately reflects this. And: We will be glad when this election campaign is over on Sunday. That is exactly what this newsletter is about: the climate before the election.
Firstly, we want to toast the fact that the agony of the federal election is over for the time being. And secondly, to dare to reflect on how it could all go so incredibly wrong - both without wanting to anticipate the results or consequences of the election.
Whoever finds an article, link or whole passages apt while reading, is welcome to forward this newsletter to friends! After all, there is a lot at stake on Sunday.
It's quite strange, this timing now. And we want to be quite honest: For us as young people, this feels really awkward. We are facing an election that will not only determine the next four years, but will go much further than that. Rather, it is an election of the century that we are facing. Obviously, however, it fails to make a majority aware of the importance of the federal election.
What we perceive: Memes about the statesmanlike Olaf Scholz(omat), who finally showed some personality in the last Triell. Actually, only laughter and disconcerted head-shaking about Armin Laschet, who looks like someone who has strayed from the past into the future and doesn't quite know what's happening to him. And quibbling with Annalena Baerbock, who factually sure and argumentatively strong in the election campaign for departure, but unfortunately has previously produced a questionable book and a flawed CV. And so we can go on about how we think all three candidates for chancellor are ultimately unsuitable. "Wow, did you see what Laschet did now???" A nice feeling of grandeur that is. It's a gain in distinction: after all, we're not as stupid as the others. We vote for the least evil. Or rather, in Germany, what brings about the least change. Collateral benefit: we can continue to fly cheaply to Malle. Apparently that's convenient and hey, maybe we'll get some more pension out of it.
Between mainland and island life, Croatia, 2021
Sophia Kennedy - Seventeen & Up
Sophia Kennedy, part of the DJ Koze cosmos, makes pop music the way we like it: a little playful, cross-genre and with a lot of groove. Her latest album Monsters is a delightful trip. It's certainly not an easy album, but it's worth spending a little time with it, because there's a lot to discover. Hidden among gloomy sounds and wry harmonies is a great beauty. Seventeen and Up are two good examples of this exciting pop, which manages to be exciting without having to make use of laboriously deliberate extravagances. Just as label boss DJ Koze knows how to place techno between club and mainstream, Sophia Kennedy manages to make pop interesting and listenable for many again.
What do you associate with Berlin? "Unpaid work." - Sophia Kennedy
Unfortunately, the calculus of minimal change as possible just doesn't add up once the climate crisis is understood. Thus writes Teresa Bücker correctly, "If the average German voter does not like change, then it has not been well thought out by him over the past decades to vote again and again for parties that have done too little to prevent the climate crisis. [...] In the places destroyed by the floods in NRW and Rhineland-Palatinate, the enormous change in the lives of individual people is vividly illustrated by the fact that they have lost their own homes from one day to the next, and with them the familiar surroundings around them."
In the current election campaign, Olaf Scholz, the current favourite for the chancellorship, promised voters a "moderate path" in climate protection and the CO2 price. It's just a pity that after 16 years of CDU government (12! years of which together with the SPD), this simply no longer exists due to the serious failures in climate policy (also in digital policy, by the way!). Only "radical" changes, such as an immediate coal phase-out and the massive expansion of renewable energies, offer Germany the chance to have "moderate" changes at all in the future. Bernd Ulrich has described this "new political logic" excellently in an article in DIE ZEIT : "Der moderate Weg ist der extreme".
We are heading straight for 2.7 °C warming, even if all countries stuck to their current commitments. In this context, Armin Laschet and even Annalena Baerbock (albeit to different degrees) are also deceiving the electorate with "a policy of supposed impositionlessness". According to Ulrich, even the Greens have not succeeded in really bringing out the enormous political energies of this climate crisis challenge. That is true. However, the Greens did not operate in a vacuum either, but in a system of competing parties, majorities, media, different age groups and other actors e.g. from Russia that influenced the federal election campaign and the political discourse in the country. Let's take a look.
The media and the depoliticisation of politics.
The awakening comes even before the decision, so obviously the German media and its cosmos as a whole unfortunately did not play a very good role during the election campaign. Peter Unfried makes this particularly clear in his essay in the tageszeitung, from which we would like to pick out a few points. First of all, he describes the depoliticising cult of personality, which is in conflict with our electoral system of direct mandates and second votes for a party. By focusing on individual persons and their apparent roles and character traits, we are left with "the impostor, the clown and then Scholz as the last man standing". Such an important election is really not a question of taste in a well-fitting suit, or who comes across as likeable. It is a political question: are we prepared to protect future generations, our children, their freedom and ourselves? Besides, the focus on a fake laugh shifts attention away from the really hefty scandals of corruption, mask deals, CumEx and Wirecard. By the way, the video by Rezo on this is really well done journalismand worth watching. Incidentally, the podcast Prosperity for All, which explains economics very nicely, has also thoroughly devoted itself to the election programmes of the parties represented in the Bundestag and thus offers an overview of all possible policy fields.
Music N°2 Flavian Berger - Contre Temps
& Daniel Avery - Into the Voice of Stilness
Electronically produced, poetic and experimental - that's what connects the music of Flavien Berger and Daniel Avery for me, which is why I would like to recommend the two of them together here. For me, Flavien Berger is a prodigy of new French chanson and simply makes insanely cool music. Contre Temps means something like against time and at the same time against the beat, which reminds me a bit of this musical experiment with Angèle and Chilly Gonzales. Definitely listen to both! Daniel Avery is British, but still relies on a French monologue to underpin his space-dream track Into the Voice of Stillness. I got the track from my friend Francois, merci! In a different way to Berger, Avery experiments with psychedelic electronic music, and very cleverly too. Who really needs Bezos' or Musk's private space nonsense then?
Despite a few aforementioned exceptions, especially in the new media, throughout the long summer the media as a whole failed to analyzePeter Unfried sharply:
"[...] to get the federal republican permanent government parties Union and SPD out of their last century mode, out of a fossil-fuelled boomer world in which people under 30 don't matter and you want to go on endlessly talking about minimum wage yes or no, tax increases no or yes."
The "most important" topic of the election campaign - the climate - is mentioned conspicuously often, but, funnily enough, it is also moderated right away. When it comes to the climate, it is not about our proximity to catastrophe or the best solutions to avert it, but about what climate protection costs. Just think of the tweet quoted at the beginning. What will it cost? Who is going to pay for it? What are you personally doing without? What will be banned? Everywhere, talk shows and editorials compared climate policies to what you already have, not what you get by not doing them. What does a higher CO2 price cost the rural nurse who can't afford a new car, and not: what does 0.5° C warming cost all of us, all of us - and the nurse.
Thus, as recently as the last Triell, the presenter of CDU-TV - er excuse me - Sat.1 spread something like "Somehow green living sounds a bit exhausting". Of course, one could have retorted that it is "exhausting" in the Ahr valley right now, but that would have been interpreted as Baerbock being "too shrill" and intentional. Paradoxically, one is more successful in the Triell if, like Olaf Scholz, one "demonstrates a comfort with one's own way of life [that] is quite likely to lead it to its end." Sure, after hearing for what feels like an eternity how expensive climate protection is, people are understandably afraid of higher fuel prices. This is where the media and journalists lack the right language, and even more so a capacity for intervention that is oriented towards facts, science and criticism as practice, but also simply in many cases the necessary understanding of the 21st century and its challenges. Penetrated in their meaning, many influential women journalists simply do not have too many future issues.
Cogito, Zagreb, 2021
The longer I look at the climate crisis, the more I perceive it just as much as a crisis of journalism as one of political and corporate governance.
But one cannot blame the media landscape entirely on its own either. To a certain extent, it is also merely a reflection of us. It is we who demand this very entertainment from the media, and people are more entertaining than topics. Individuals are also more tangible than parties. And we live in a time when things have to be tangible above all. Probably because many things today have become so fluid, so intangible and, for some, simply incomprehensible. The great band shame once put it like this:
Cause that's what we want
That's what we need
Something we can touch
Something we can feel
Something that's relatable not debatable
People make better stories to tell, we (apparently) build emotional bonds with them. Why should I read a party manifesto, let alone deal with it, when I can just find Olaf nice? It is, however, a question of political culture. And we think we should learn again to have factual and more impersonal debates - as media and as a society.
No climate protection is unaffordable. And: climate protection is socially acceptable.
The narrative of economic realities that have to be taken into account, which is unfortunately articulated mainly by social democrats, fails to recognise how politics is actually there precisely to shape the economic-material realities of a country and ideally to transform them for the better. Thus, with a really well thought-out political concept, the "energy citizen's money" as a repayment from the revenues of the CO2 tax, the Greens combine climate-politically demonstrably effective and necessary(!) steering instruments with social justice. Felix still wrote his Bachelor's thesis on a fair CO2 tax and Jan heard exactly that at Prof. Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in the lecture on environmental economics.
So firstly, no climate protection is incredibly more expensive, even unaffordable. Radical climate protection implemented now, e.g. through a 500 billion euro investment fund by the Greens (who want to add a "future investment clause" to the debt brake for this purpose), will ultimately be the cheapest for us in economic terms (not least because of negative interest rates and Germany's high credit rating). Incidentally, this is also said by the so-called "Wirtschaftsweisen" (economic experts) who advise the German government as a council of experts - not exactly an eco-left think tank. And secondly, no climate protection is not only unaffordable, but a much greater stress test for our society. Incidentally, one guess as to why the far-right AfD opposes climate protection is that it can profit from the dislocations that come from the climate crisis.
Even apart from the climate issue, the big questions for the future unfortunately hardly played a role in this election campaign. Let's just mention Europe, China, digitalisation, education policy and foreign policy - all of which are surprising, to say the least, in light of the experience of one and a half years of the COVID crisis and the failure in Afghanistan. While the world is breaking in two around us, there is an "unreal" discussion about the pros and cons of tax increases and solar panels, according to Harald Welzer on Deutschlandfunk. Or else people and coalition possibilities are ridden up and down. We think this is symptomatic of this election campaign and it really drives us up the wall. Given all these issues, how can it be that we spend a significant amount of time in this election campaign wrangling over theoretical and highly speculative coalition possibilities? Why is so much space given to this? Are there people for whom this sort of thing is electorally crucial?
Home in Amsterdam, 2021
It's an interesting spectacle: polls are now outdated faster than we can update the election graph pages. More data, in this case, unfortunately means no added value for the electorate and no progress in political discourse. The constant availability of everything has robbed us of our patience here too. We can no longer wait, we actually need to know now who will win on Sunday. The media understand this desire and cater to it cleverly, but often forget the big political, substantive questions that actually move us.
The only thing more stupid than not voting is "strategic voting".
It's a mystery to us, strategic voting. Choose pears so you get an apple. Vote for us to prevent pineapples with apples. How absurd it is. Vote for an apple if the apple convinces you and makes a good political offer. In fact, however, this only applies to the second vote, that's clear.
"If you want to send the CDU into opposition, you have to vote for the SPD". Yeah right, because it worked so well in 2013 and 2017.
If you are interested in micro parties that have no chance of passing the 5 percent hurdle, you should support them before the election so that ends, but don't give away your vote. By the way, party funding is not a good argument either, since the Volt party, for example, only gets 1-2 euros for every vote cast that ultimately lapses. This can be better dealt with by means of a donation, which is then even tax-deductible and probably brings more. In Berlin, 13% of other parties could easily influence the election to the House of Representatives and thus, for example, prevent the total failure of Franziska Giffey as OB. A woman, by the way, whose successtells a lot about today's SPD and Olaf Scholz.
Music N°3 Ivan - photonovela
Pop music in you? Here you have a splendid (italo-)disco specimen, a genre that is experiencing a small hipness renaissance anyway.
The discourse around politics often completely hides the future. Because he sums it up so well, we let Peter Unfried have his say again:
"Instead, again and again the question whether, for instance, someone - stern look at the Green Party chairwoman Baerbock - wants to "ban" anything. With this spin, the attempt to solve the problem becomes the problem, the problem no longer exists."
"I don't ban anything, Scholz then always says in a statesmanlike manner. He wants to score points with that, and maybe he does, but it is also unconditional surrender before the fight for our future has even begun. Or is it not? In any case, that's what you have to talk about and argue about, that's where you have to ask questions, that's where you have to have expertise and an eye for the future whole - and that's what we journalists too often lack."
Beach chairs, summer 2021
The Next-so and young people.
If politics is understood as the parties making an offer to various special interests with their programmes, then again the CDU and SPD are very consistent in their programmes. Hardly an offer to young people and children who still have the future ahead of them and possibly live until the year 2100.
Since the vast majority of the electorate is over 60 years old (38.2% in 2021) and thus certainly decides elections, they score points here with a triad of pensions, jobs and taxes - and make patronage politics.
As a young person, this drives you crazy. We, the under-30s, now make up 14.4% of the electorate (1972: 20%). So the demographic change is not only upsetting our social systems, but also our politics as a whole. At the same time, we will have to bear the short-sighted decisions of the boomer generation well into our old age. Young people are being betrayed by politics and are not yet angry enough about the extent of the destruction of their future. The fact that they are hardly represented democratically and kept politically small in the process is not only ethically problematic, but also a democratic problem. In his Master's thesis, Felix reflected on this very issue and looked for a principle in democratic theory that could remedy this democratic deficit.
In practice, the only thing that helps for the time being is dialogue with parents and grandparents. Consider voting for your children! Grandchildren's letters is a great initiative that takes up this idea. It is also necessary in perspective: more power to the children and young people who have to live with the political decisions of today for much longer than the older generations. But that is a whole separate issue. Next, let's look again at the parties in the election campaign.
There are days when I explicitly search for new music. I think mostly out of boredom. In most cases, little of it sticks, music is too context-dependent for me for that. Browsing Pitchfork album reviews is usually not exciting enough or I'm not music nerd enough to enjoy the mere fact of a "good"(whatever that means) album. But every now and then I do find unexpected gems that reward my rather mechanical search.
The new album by rock band Turnstile, Glow On, is one of them. It is loud and exciting. Never too loud and never too exciting either. If you like it louder, you should listen to the older Turnstile albums. If you like it more exciting, the new album by black midi (very exciting!) is a good choice.
True to the band's name, the songs on Blackout take beautiful turns every now and then, rhythms are remixed in the middle of a track. At the same time, you always have the feeling that these many little snippets have been put together with love and care. Turnstile manages to fit 15 songs into less than 35 minutes, and when you listen to the album from beginning to end, you get the feeling that there are twice as many.
The song Blackout is a fine example of the dynamics of this album: for two minutes everything goes an expected way before the song turns left again in the last minute. "It's just a part of my show".
Besides the media, the parties have also had a summer to inform people what is at stake here. Political communication in the election campaign. The opposition parties, the FDP, the Left or the Greens, should have informed people about what is actually happening in terms of the global climate, i.e. how close we are to a catastrophe. Of course, the grand coalition could have simply come clean, since they are officially committed to the 1.5° target (as are all democratic parties).
The CDU has governed for 16 years, the SPD for 12. And today we are faced with a shambles. Besides climate policy, this also applies to digitisationand other areas such as public investment, as the Economist points out. And these two parties are leading in the polls.
Thought experiment: you could have at least tried to campaign for a fresh start and then wrestle with the other parties to come up with the best ideas and convince them. Sorry guys, we somehow didn't get it right. We have unfortunately lost our way. We didn't want to see the crisis, we played it down as much as possible. We demonised possible measures, blamed all the little problems that could occur on the Greens. On the side, we applauded Fridays For Future and the depleted health workforce, but nothing more. Then we could have leaned forward and talked about the content. Who has the most sophisticated concepts for this society with its challenges.
But no one has actually dared to do that: to speak honestly. Instead, people get tangled up in responsibility-seeking and excuses. Of course, this means that the conversation about yesterday has to be sought incessantly. Consequence: The reality of the climate crisis was largely obscured and consequently led to an unrealistic election campaign. Is this election about majorities for the parties or about giving people clarity?
If "Climate Chancellor" Olaf Scholz seriously wants to keep coal-fired power plants running until 2038, that means: it is impossible for us to reach 1.5°. By then, the German CO2 budget (6.7 billion tonnes of CO₂) will have been used up. It is impossible for Germany to meet its climate targets. And besides, it robs 6 villages where people live with everything they have (Attention: They are expropriated (!))
Hot summer day in Caravaggio, 2021
Paradis - Recto Verso (Mall Grab Remix)
This recommendation comes from my friend Lennart, thank you! Paradis are the Parisian guys Simon Mény and Pierre Rousseau. The two released the album Recto Verso in 2016. The album was recorded and mastered with the help of Daft Punk. I wrote about the track Toi et Moi back then for our Soundtrack of the Week (SdW #68) "Super cheesy disco chanson, but somehow it makes you feel like summer"! But now here's a more club-ready update with more boom from the title track Recto Verso. And somehow there's something about this balance between club and chanson. Enjoy!
The SPD, just like the CDU, has now actively avoided climate policy for 8 years. The air is bad, the forests are dying, the EU is suing Germany for not meeting its climate targets. We can't get away from coal, renewables have almost completely collapsed, jobs in the wind and solar industries have disappeared, emissions are rising. In order to divert attention from this, the SPD always argues that it would have liked to, but the CDU/CSU put the brakes on and refused. Bullshit. The SPD could have stood up and said: Dear CDU/CSU, the climate catastrophe is so important: We have to do something about it, otherwise we will leave the government. They didn't do that.
The Groko's climate law was so bad that the Constitutional Court has intervened with a historic ruling on the future freedom of younger generations. Incidentally, it was Olaf Scholz who was instrumental in preventing a higher CO₂ price at the time, against the SPD environment minister. Here we show an overview of what, according to DIW the different programmes of the parties can achieve with regard to the climate goal of the Paris Agreement.
None of the parties standing for election can safely manage 1.5°! The Left rejects a CO₂ price altogether. The FDP is counting on us inventing new miracle technology by 2050. And the Greens have an ambitious programme, but could not find a convincing language for what is at stake. They fell short of their potential. Nevertheless, it has to be said quite clearly: there are big differences between the parties - with regard to climate policy, but also with regard to the tax concept. You have to be that honest, anything else would be naïve. This is true, especially also for what concerns the serious financing of the necessary radical measures.
As scientist Stefan Rahmstorf writes in Der Spiegel: "This federal election is about whether we can continue to live in security in the coming decades" and "The political alternatives are clearly on the table here."
It's actually quite simple. If we don't act, the whole place will blow up in our faces. The way the debate is being conducted right now, the way the climate crisis is being bureaucratised down, it's quite logical that people are more worried about the commuter allowance than they were before the sea levels rose. And it's also logical that not enough is happening. But that in no way reflects the crisis we are in. Instead, there's a pension guarantee until 2070, wow. We would really like to worry about our pensions. But the basic requirement is climate protection.
Perhaps it has become clear in this newsletter, no one is solely responsible for the agony of this choice. The media has played an important role, the parties have all made mistakes, albeit to varying degrees, but ultimately it is all of us as a society. We have the choice. We can take easy refuge in excuses, or we can vote - not on people, but on policies - on our future. So, off to the polls!
Billie Eilish - Happier Than Ever (Album)
Probably everyone knows Billie Eilish. To be honest, I didn't really have her on my musical radar screen. One or two songs, I thought were great, yes. But nothing more. The first album was recorded in her teenage bedroom, mixed by her brother Finneas O'Connell, and quickly became the most successful pop album of recent years. In the new album Happier Than Ever things are quite different, as Daniel Gerhardt also reviews. So if you want to read about the album, you can do so here. Or just have a listen. In any case, I find it varied, excellent in sound, and somehow brave. It doesn't seem like a record optimised for click numbers as much as possible, but like another step by Billie Eilish, who is only 19 years old. Wow.
This was our tenth Newsletter. We hope you enjoyed it. In any case, next time there will definitely be less about the federal election ;-) We appreciate criticism, possible recommendation and also new subscriptions. We started with this first issue here in May 2020. We are now over 130 recipients. Anyone who would like to write to us is welcome to: email@example.com. We welcome responses! And on the internet, you can always visit our website and hang out. Oh, and we have a archive with all our previous newsletters too.
We two wish everyone: good choice and a nice weekend!