The #MeToo movement goes hand-in-hand with Donald Trump's neoliberal, authoritarian masculinity. The German brand of social democracy is struggling to position itself in the face of those extremes, writes Jagoda Marinic.
We live in an age in which an ever-decreasing group of people is getting richer and richer while an ever-increasing group are denied access to this wealth, despite work and prosperity.
Social democracy is needed more than ever, but it's destroying itself with vanity and sensitivity. In the past, it was seen as a sign of masterful confidence for politicians to remain unperturbed by criticism and focused on their policies. Nowadays, more and more policymakers feel an urge to rage against critical journalists.
This is an unbearable state of affairs, because we need politicians who are not preoccupied with themselves, but with the living conditions of the people. The erosion of social cohesion must be stopped. Currently, there's a lot of talk about #MeToo and the changes that could be triggered by this vociferous women's movement. Not enough, however, is being said about the damage caused by US President Donald Trump's display of neoliberal, self-centered and authoritarian masculinity that affects young men and senior managers alike. The dialectics of the battle of the sexes in our day and age can be put like this: Female self-determination goes hand-in-hand with the return of the authoritarian ruler.
A festival of neoliberal ruthlessness
When, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, predominantly male European CEOs sat down at the table with Trump, the event turned into a feast of cynicism. After all, workers were watching it unfold on their TV screens. There were times when peasants and workers toppled whole governments because they ate dinner financed by public money. They were thinking along the lines of: "Our elites are devouring the fruits harvested by our swollen hands." This way of thinking is now considered archaic, perhaps because the price of work is not so much sore hands any more, but burn-out and depression. After all, we live in a post-ideological age and want to look beyond Marx to solve society's problems. But how, then, are we to tackle the resurrection of authoritarian masculinity?
US President Donald Trump attended a dinner with business men and CEOs during the WEF meeting in Davos
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser managed to shamelessly deride 6,000 people who he would like to make redundant. He said: "There's no demand for large gas turbines any more. As a result, we'll cut 6,000 jobs in Germany." Later, Siemens employees could switch on the TV and watch their unassuming chief executive thump his chest in front of Trump and announce his plan to build Siemens gas turbines in the US. Big Daddy nodded approvingly. Rarely have influential people made such fools of themselves by displaying such neoliberal ruthlessness the way this contemptible men's club did, dining with Trump in Davos. Winners maximize profits. It falls to society as a whole to take care of the losses. A society that leaves more and more individuals isolated, because they are no longer able to support their families as a result of decisions like the one taken by Joe Kaeser.
There used to be a reason why Leftists were opposed to globalization — until Trump arrived on the scene, also speaking out against it. As a result, the critics of globalization became afraid of being conflated with right-wing nationalists. It has dampened the debate. Many are also fearful of being accused of elite-bashing, so they've stopped ranting about wrongdoing within the ruling elites. What and who is "Davos", anyway? There was a time when democrats, male and female, demanded that political structures be put in place which allowed control and made policy results transparent. But informal meetings and summits like G20 and Davos, which are dominated by business leaders and only adorned by political leaders, undermine that transparency. Davos participants have to pay a five-digit amount of money for their admission tickets. Trump was there, Emmanuel Macron was there, Angela Merkel was there. Most notably, China was there. On the other hand, when civil society initiatives are calling, politicians often struggle to find free time on their schedules. Talking like a populist? Maybe, I don't care.
Oblivious Social Democrats
Wealthy Germany, which is supposed to be Europe's driving force, is not capable of restructuring its care sector and making sure its older citizens can live a decent life. There's a lack of 130,000 care workers, who are recruited in Jordan and in southeastern Europe. They enter a country in which xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise. Simultaneously, there's a shortage of care workers in European countries further south. Germany also has a deficit of 35,000 elementary schoolteachers. The "wealthy Germany," in which companies like Siemens originated, lacks education resources. Just one example of many.
This seems to be a time in which corporate managers can publicly make brazen statements according to which workers are human material commodities treated like capital. "Human resources" — when the term was introduced, many careerists were once again delighted to be able to add another neoliberal Anglicism to their vocabulary, which could be used by the winners of the current world order to flaunt their internationality. German labor unions are now calling for a 28-hour working week and a compensatory wage increase of 6 percent. That's an outrageous demand, according to the super-rich Joe Kaesers of the world. That certainly won't be possible, they'll retort in cold blood, before turning to their Panama Papers. After all, "human resources" can be found anywhere on the planet. Some don't even come with labor unions. It's just a tragedy that we don't have peasants anymore to set up a peasant riot. That is, perhaps, the fundamental problem of social democracy: It doesn't know how to define its own identity, and, at the moment, it doesn't know who the peasants of today are and how to reach out to them.
Jagoda Marinic is a German-Croat writer and journalist. Her most recent book, "Made in Germany — Was ist deutsch in Deutschland?" ("Made in Germany – What's German in Germany?"), analyzes Germany's identity as a country of immigration.