Bernd Ulrich analyzes the traumas of our time, without falling into hung-myriad downfall prophecies. Anyone who, however, does not realize that we in the West are facing a gigantic paradigm shift that will require all of us both new thinking and effort, runs the risk of falling into the swamp. The shift challenges us politically, socially, culturally and individually. If we pick up the glove, we – children of the Western value system – can help create a new era the way we want it. This is huge – and it is necessary.
New rules. Bernd Ulrich, born 1960 in Essen, the Ruhr area – Germany's "rust belt" – is currently the chief editor and head of the political department in the prestigious weekly newspaper Die Zeit. From this platform and as an award-winning writer, he has had rare opportunities to follow political events and leaders closely. There is every reason to listen when Ulrich speaks. His slightly ironic self-image – "a privileged, white and heterosexual older man" – says something about his point of view: The political self-esteem of the past no longer applies. The many political earthquakes of recent years must open the eyes of people in enlightened and well-lit circles to the tsunami-like rebellions that are taking place. Face to face with Brexit, Trump America, IS terror, global refugee flows and a rebirth of nationalism around the world, it is time for a new political positioning, one that extends beyond presumably self-interest and short-termism.
Let the United States Go! The undertone in the book is a "bye-bye" to the United States – the country where the gasoline engine and firearm are the foremost fetishistic symbols of freedom. Until recently, the United States was a support wall in the House of the West, but this wall rots straight forums: our eyes. In the United States, the rich are likely to have more power than in any other democratic state, while the tolerance limit for inequality and humiliation is approaching a zero. This also applies within the Western countries in general, and between the West and the rest of the world. The Americans have, at the worst possible time, chosen a totally incapable leader, who through his meaningless mantra Make America Great Again places the land with your back against the wall. Without strong historical momentum, the talented wit Donald Trump could never have defeated the Democrats and become president of the world's most powerful country; the counterpart had more money, greater expertise, broader experience and a Democratic president on his side. They had Hollywood, Silicon Valley, serious media and elite universities to shine on. Then they lose – against Trump.
World Power Europe. Democrats lost because of a whole battery of unsustainable attitudes, most notable for their shameless closeness to money – a total fusion of political and economic power. Here, Democrats and Republicans are surfing the same wave. The Trump administration's basic concept is to improve the situation of the poor – but not by burdening the rich in the United States, rather at the expense of the poor in China, Mexico and Europe. The United States that came to the rescue of Europe during and after World War II have become unrecognizable. The system crisis the US has been in is self-inflicted, but we on the other side of the Atlantic must just as fully deal with the damage.
We Europeans must not only loosen our transatlantic ties, we must actively seize the reins and steer in a completely different direction. And no, this does not mean that each country on its national tuft should lighten its defense or toe its hands and point to NATO. We – yes, even we Norwegians – must rather uphold our belief in ourselves and our continent; on European values, culture and influence. In times of acute challenges, we must stop using Europe as a scapegoat, as a projection surface for our own dissatisfaction. Russia is on the offensive, the refugees are pushing, the economy is stagnating, the community is shrinking. Even in Brussels, where so much knowledge about Europe is concentrated, it surmises. Too much integration here, too little there. Problems are magnified and called constitutional, identity and existence crises. A nation state with similar self-harm impulses should look for a long time.
Russia is on the offensive, the refugees are pushing, the economy is stagnating, the community is shrinking. Israel, Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria are our neighbors – not the United States. And Africa is on the doorstep.
The facts remain. Europe proved to be a strong continent in the face of the euro, Ukraine refugee and terror crises. Weaknesses in the system became visible, but the revelations also opened to new honesty, new ventures and the realization that nothing can be swept under the rug anymore. Israel, Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria are our neighbors – not the United States. And Africa is on the doorstep.
The West = you and I. For Bernd Ulrich, it's about the real stories; about realities, not about ideologies and dream dreams. People from far corners of the world are seeking part of our prosperity. Colonial times are a story only for us, but not for them. The Christian charity was losing weight with increasing distance. Thus, it degenerated into regulations and liturgy.
But love is not the opposite of power – it is the condition. The Christian West failed in much of the world, not least in the Middle East. We waged wars with hidden motives, supported dictators, nerded up during Al Qaeda. Western luxury consumption of illegal drugs contributes to crime and failed states elsewhere. Oil and petrodollars manipulate politics, while every single solar cell roof on the other hand today is one game changer.
Humanitarian realism. A genuine interest in people, for those "down there", is what is needed. At this stage of globalization, Europe can no longer cope with lukewarm Sunday morals and symposium humanism. We are faced with the choice of either openly confessing ourselves to the cynicism that always lurks in our lifestyle, or believing in the biblical bread that saturated the many; that love does not blind, but seeing; that solidarity makes strong. In the years 1988 – 2008, 44 percent of all global gain flowed into the hands of the richest 5 percent, according to Global Inequality (Branko Milanovic). This is not a sustainable policy in the Evening Country. Therein lies a power that has the potential to blow up the existence of democracies – even to increase the danger of war. And so we are back to the EU's basic idea: fred.
With all his seeming theme jumps – Ulrich devotes an entire chapter to Merkel's Germany as the leading European nation – his main message is this: Geopolitics has become domestic politics. And instead of scaring us, it should inspire us.