Jochen HörischMedia Scientist
Nothing is as certain as the fact that everything is uncertain. With visions you can never know whether it is an exceptional psychiatric circumstance or whether it’s a legitimate vision. It seems that a vast number of people have a kind of need to have something like a guiding vision. You have to realize that to have visions means that you have a blueprint for the future, one that can be made plausible. It has to be convincing to others. First we need to be certain, what kind of visions we need. I think that there is something like a collective learning process: on the one hand you realise that the epitome of sadness is a large group of people who just don’t know anymore what it is that they want exactly, who don’t know themselves anymore and whether they are needed or not; this is often also the epitome of medium disasters. Whenever we had a great political vision for the betterment of humankind, you could see that it also contained a considerable potential for destruction. I know that just after the implosion of the Soviet Union, Russia essentially announced a competition: What will be the new idea, the new vision we want to live for, now, after the collapse of centralized state communism? When an idea has imploded, when a vision has proven to be dysfunctional, counterproductive or even destructive, this is when you try to identify the old networks of traditions that can potentially save you. You realize that, almost inevitably, avant-garde motions are always followed by retrograde movements.
For example, I find the return to Protestantism after the implosion of the German Democratic Republic fascinating; I mean people like Eppelmann, Stolpe, Merkel, Gauck. It’s all the more remarkable indeed that so many people closely connected with the Protestant Church hold such crucial positions. I think that this case is also an old model of a semantic, political, visionary kind. Protestantism is probably realistic enough to avoid overplaying its hand. Sometimes you can’t even tell Protestantism apart from a certain kind of social work anymore. But that’s also part of what makes it successful.
Well, what I’ve just been trying to make clear is that those visions of medium quality, as it were, those that are realizable, are more convincing in the long run than the big aesthetic redemptory visions. But by no means can we live without visions altogether, without trust or faith. You can’t live with systematic distrust, you wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning and brush your teeth and think that the tap water might be poisoned or the like. This would immediately tip you over into a generalized psychosis. On a very functional level we cannot live without trust or certainty. Of course, we also need to check how to possibly combine certainty with some form of suspicion. This immediately turns into a dialectics of distrusting exaggerated suspicion. We have good reason to distrust suspicion. However, we can’t live with distrust alone. I would aspire to have a more sober and functional notion of both visions and certainty.
American dollar bills read »In God we trust«. Even money itself needs to be certified. If everybody began distrusting money, it would no longer work. If banks themselves stopped trading money among each other because they had good insider information, and distrusted one another, well then, that’s the 2008 financial crisis right here!
If you distrust state finances as a last resort for stabilisation (justifiably so, as we’ve seen in the case of Portugal, Greece and others), you have a big problem, namely: who will save the saviour then? Here is a vision of salvation, redemption, and we come to distrust the most recent saviour. Then things get very interesting.
As to the Euro crisis, I see a problem with national debts. They come about through the mad increase in personal wealth accompanied by declining possibilities for revenue in the public sector. The private hand is an issue, and the private hand holds considerable assets. And the public hand, the public sector, is also a problem: it has to provide infrastructure such as schools, roads, the cultural sector and the like, as well as guarantee public safety. But the public sector is increasingly poorly funded.
And this is when you notice that yet another hand, the infamous invisible hand of the market, apparently no longer works the way it should. The metaphor is telling: theological belief and religious faith pervade the market and the monetary sphere. The invisible hand is actually an old predicate that refers to God, whose hands we are in. And God’s intelligence being so far superior to our own, we mustn’t be arrogant and believe that we have understood his love. According to this notion, the intelligence of the market is so superior that we can never ever reach the intelligence of the invisible hand. This, for all its intents and purposes, stands for the financial theoretical belief system.
And now we realize – I’ll stick with the trope of the hand, manus in Latin, which gives us manipulation and the like – that there simply is no such thing as an invisible hand that would ensure bal-ance between supply, demand, and so on. Instead there are inconceivable semi-criminals who take matters into their own hands and wring money from the general public, who appropriate money from the community: redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. I expect the good old 1968 notion of manipulation to have a comeback. The course is related to decreasing certainties and decreasing visions.
But with all the scandals these days, the Irish banking scandal, for example, it’s overly clear (even on the level of the language used) that these types of people are not in the least visionaries, but, if I may say so, a pack of vulgar, uneducated, greedy persons lacking in any kind of style – they’re banksters. I don’t mean this as an insult, but an analytically correct description. And I think that’s the horror that haunts many people, that they realize that they really should have a vision of how to deal with globalization, how to help emerging markets, how to solve demographic issues and so on. And you realise that the fantasies they cherish are the most vulgar visions of self-enrichment – which amounts to no vision at all!