Statement EES President Dr Ingo Friedrich, March 11, 2021
Enormous learning processes in many different areas are expected, if not demanded, of today’s society and thus of today’s members of the public and also of the policy makers. While with school kids one rightly tries to present new learning content in a logical and comprehensible succession, our contemporaries are presented with all new topics at the same time and expected to comprehend them all right away, to accept them and in turn apply them almost immediately. With a large part of the population these demands combined with other urgent pressures to change arrive as a kind of explosion of complexity that many feel they are no longer able to withstand. Examples:
Just as the member of society has learned to complement national interests with matters of the European level, he or she is supposed to quickly include the problems of the global scale into his/her thinking (keyword: justice and fairness to all countries). Just as he/she has gender conformably understood the written and spoken form of “Bürger*innen” (German male and female form of member of society in one word), he or she is supposed to expertly juggle terms like “non-binary”, “queer” and “trans”. He or she has just internalised that the terms “Mohrenkopf” (name of a Germany chocolate dessert meaning “Moor Head”), “Coloured” and “Zigeunerschnitzel” (“Gypsy Schnitzel”) are no longer correct and acceptable, he or she has to learn that due to “cancel culture” it is inacceptable for a white person to sport an afro hairstyle while bleaching your hair blonde as a person of colour is perfectly okay.
Based on the impressive presentation by the American poet, Amanda Gorman, at the swearing-in of President Biden, the question is asked if white translators should even be allowed to translate literary works by people of colour. German children books have to be rewritten as well as company logos, municipal coats and pharmacy names changed.
All of this might be worthy of discussion and justified, but – as with all big changes – the public has to be “taken along” with good explanations and certain learning periods, and unnecessary exaggerations should by all means be avoided.
This is the only way to prevent entire groups of the population (especially in the internet) to “check out” and no longer “partake”, especially since an immense willingness to learn and change is expected of the public in other areas as well (pandemic, climate, farming). It has to be prevented by all means that “American” conditions à la Trump are created in Germany and Europe due to lack of explanation and implementation that is too radical. Unscrupulous agitators who reject any kind of novelties altogether and instead rely on the “tried and true”, and on top of that cunningly fuel fears of loss, are unfortunately found quickly. “More haste, less speed” is an old and tried German principle, which should also be applied in this sensible area.