FREEDOM BETWEEN ACCELERATION AND STAGNATION
by Lena Katharina Reuter
False reports and ideologically distorted theories about the origins and repercussions of coronavirus have spread with the same incomprehensible pace and reach as the virus itself. These messages circulate in physical space as well as in the echo chambers of the internet through populist media and individuals. Under the heading Hygiene Demonstration, an ambiguous crowd gathers publicly each week to demonstrate against the government issued corona safety policy, which apparently in the protestors’ opinion leads to a slow abrogation of the constitution. While at the first glance different motivations for the protest can be identified, a closer look at the arguments reveals a heterogeneous political milieu within various participants. Thus, an esoteric view, which sees an impending vaccination dictatorship in connection with the virus, is joined by strong secondary anti-semitic perspectives or anti-democratic conspiracy theories. Together, they blur into a hybrid populist and right political ideology. As the protests continue the far-right commentary is noticeable.
Hygiene Demonstration took place every Saturday from March 28th until May 16th at Berlin's Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, a square named after a social democratic symbolic figure. What happens when right-wing and anti-democratic protestors use, occupy, and even translate democratic and socialist symbolic places for their politics and argumentation? The last trace of the event is a graffiti at the top of the square - the words freedom (Freiheit) and resistance (Widerstand) are written on the ground. Here the language which aims at social freedom and justice, as well as the democratic right to resistance, is co-opted and understood in a different manner. After the conglomeration of varying demands, the claim and the call for freedom remains. The virus poses a problem for the right-wing argumentation, because it does not represent any of their symbolic images of the enemy and the current situation puts the right-wing in front of the task to re-contextualize its own position. What is called resistance for freedom is a demand facilitated by existing rights to individual freedom (freedom of movement, freedom of expression, etc.) usually dismissed by the right wing position as neoliberal and individualistic. Here this right is activated to convey that the freedom of all citizens is in danger.
Nevertheless, a social and democratic society requires and is founded upon negotiating between individual freedoms and social necessities for the benefit of the community. As the sociologist Nils Zurawski observes, in the current pandemic, this process of negotiating is proving to be an unexpected core experience for citizens, and the state of crisis challenges us even more to reflect on what defines society. Even though this year was characterized by a rapidity that affects the social tissue, at the same time, the political, economic and cultural apparatus was forced to a brief standstill. Within this suspension, we are challenged to think of the ongoing crisis as a fertile ground for tackling remaining individual and collective fears towards social stability.