Stick to it!
As our society steers ever deeper into the climate catastrophe, a few young people are really getting on our nerves. They force us to stop and ask: When are we going to do enough?
A guest article in Der Spiegel by the Peng! collective
It’s these moments that you look back on later and when everyone says: It was clear that this was going to happen. The scientific findings, the multiple crises, the protests: Of course, there had to be a major rethink. In retrospect, every major social upheaval is “quite logical”, be it the German turnaround or the Arab Spring. But even there, for a long time, there were only a few who believed in it and actively worked on it.
It is the same now. It is clear to many that we are steering aground. But they are busy in everyday life, there is hardly any time, they look away. Because calm, courage and strength are missing, they rest, click Amazon, click vacation flight. You know that won’t be enough. If you don’t feel caught, throw the first lithium battery.
But the wind is turning slowly. There are more and more who understand the early adopters of the last generation. At parties, in comments, the applause gets louder. In the live stream of their flight blockade, we heard the security guard say “I have two children myself, but what should I do?” The knowledge is there, the strategies are not.
But then there are those who want to have everyone locked up. They howl, they swear, they moan. There are entrepreneurial solutions, says the economy. We can maintain the status quo, says the politicians. It’s ridiculous, says pride.
It is what it is they might say when their own child sticks to the BMW massage seat.
They refuse to be hugged.
What the last generation uprising is doing right now is awesome. The more they disturb, the more we feel caught. The first reaction was defense so that we could keep pushing away. And with every action, the indignation grew. Now they are there. Mashed potatoes. car in traffic jam. Light on. Music off. We have to talk: the actions force us to react.
Their interventions cannot be contained and ignored with a pat on the back. They cannot be hugged and pushed aside. They rub the seriousness of the situation into our heads until we understand it. The last generation doesn’t want to be loved, they want to shake and shake us until there’s no other choice but to face reality.
They melt their bodies into the cobblestones instead of throwing them at us. They refer to the constitution and the state of research instead of breaking with the system. So they use the full force of the rule of law and science, contrary to the ideology of politics. And in the end they force us to empathize: we have to bend down to look for solvents. Stop no matter what we are doing.
They won’t stop no matter how bad the slanders, no matter how severe the penalties. They force us to ask: what exactly are you doing to stop these ever-increasing emissions?
Until the clerk in the ministry of finance wonders one day whether they have the internal secret papers, the unfair agreements with the fossil economy sent to 30 editorial offices.
You give meaning to your life.
A bit of glue, a bit of paint in a fire extinguisher, maybe at some point a bit of bungee jumping in the Bundestag plenary hall, that gives our world meaning again. It gives meaning, is fun and is a guaranteed adventure. The Uprising has one of the coolest answers to offer when it’s 20 years from now: Where were YOU when we saved civilization from collapsing?
I was at Mercedes and have overnight blown the fuses. I pressed the fire alarm in the Springer publishing house. I was chancellor even climate chancellor and called the emergency.
That’s what makes their actions so beautiful. They show what it means to be incorruptible, without a double bottom. They are completely at the mercy of law enforcement and public hatred. This is in stark contrast to the procrastination in professional politics, which is shaped by lobbying and maintaining power. Performatively, it is the embodiment of the governed subjects: as if the citizens were desperately looking for Kafka, with his own message, for the emperor who had dissolved himself in the architecture of power.
They force us to face reality.
They are not elitist, everyone can take part. Anytime, anywhere. It’s so funny how they drive authoritarian characters crazy – Friedrich Merz, Alexander Dobrindt, Omid Nouripour or Nancy Faeser. Like everyone in the philharmonic hall, when they want to hear their beloved Beethoven, but someone is glued to the music stand again, they all yell “ooh nooooo”. You can’t hug the last generation like a colorful student demonstration. You can’t thank them for their commitment and then just move on.
You can stick to the desk in the Bundestag.
The Last Generation is forcing us to bring out our repressed fantasy of a disturbing future. She bites our hand, which is clutching the steering wheel of a »Keep it up«. They are demanding structural change, but also small things that a majority has already called for, such as a 9-euro ticket and a speed limit. Democratic triple steps. And again everyone who says it would be enough feels caught.
The Last Generation’s question is both metaphorical and concrete: if you don’t stick, what do you do? What are you doing to make us do enough?
Photo by Lina Eichler, (CC BY 2.0 License)