(The list of earlier books commented by Peter Jakubowski can be found here.)
Below you can see three excerpts from the latest book by Harald Welzer, "Nachruf auf mich selbst" (S. Fischer Verlag, 2021). My commentary (coloured green) mainly concerns the fragments of the quotes marked in blue.
"Mr. Ochs gets scared
... But once again: Where is the adversarial element? It is based on the simple fact that we, as natural beings, are mortal and will die in the unfortunate event of a catastrophe, even if we have done everything right up to that point - gone to school properly, received an education, donated to Greenpeace and have always been careful to look good. None of this is of any use if something happens. The catastrophe is the serious case of enlightenment, because only when it occurs does it become clear what use all the knowledge, all the problem-solving ability is to us. If you are lucky, a lot, if you are unlucky, nothing. ... Catastrophes cannot be abolished.
... This means that social events and above all their results cannot be understood causally, unlike physical events, for example, but only within the framework of relationships between people. And they take place in time, dynamise or slow down, escalate or break down. And it is precisely at this point that I return to the beginning of the book: that the actions of such networks of relationships can take wrong directions and - perhaps even with the best of intentions - become self-destructive. ...
For a truly enlightened approach to the world, 250 years after Kant, it would make sense to recognise that alongside progress, which is conceived as eternal, there is also its opposite - regression - or annulment, namely catastrophe, the rupture of civilisation. To reckon with this is a compelling prerequisite for being able to recognise and deal with the central problem of the 21st century and its numerous side problems: global warming, mass flight and migration, the extinction of species, pandemics and everything else that is carelessly called a "crisis". ... All this can only be described as 'complex' and 'inscrutable' if one has no concept of finitude. Conversely, from the point of view of finitude, everything that is rolling towards mankind as a self-made doom in the 21st century becomes quite simple to understand. So: What if we fail?"
Comment by P.J.: This is exactly the kind of break in civilisation we are experiencing live around the year 1989. It is not a human date, but a "cosmic" date that has been fixed in the long chain of the Universal Time Scale of the Cosmic Hierarchy of the Solar System since the formation of the Solar System. The events we have observed and witnessed in which we humans have been internally involved, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, are events that originated as a result of fluctuations in the supply of cosmic energy to Earth rather than being controlled by any secret power groups. The murderous Medieval Civilisation finally came to an end, as did the five so-called "Great Civilisations of Modern Humanity" before it; see the article "Our First Global Civilisation".
"You cannot negotiate with Nature
... In the course of the corona pandemic, there was the important realisation that you cannot negotiate with a virus, you cannot deal with it. This is generally not possible with the natural prerequisites of the human life form - the maintenance of a life-enabling average temperature and an intact biosphere are non-negotiable. ... That is why all the efforts to negotiate international climate treaties, which are then implemented nationally by trying to balance economic, political and social interests with ecological ones, are irrational and in a way childish. ... You can see immediately that such a climate policy is nothing other than an antropomorphism that thinks it is politics. Childish crap. After half a century of the ecology movement, it is time to grow up, to say goodbye to the idea of making deals and to take note of the feedback from the earth and climate system that we are incessantly being told. The fiction of perpetual progress through perpetual continuation must be enlightened by a culture that learns to stop. Growing up is a process of learning that you can't have everything you once thought you could have. …
The time for externalising the costs of our lives to other spaces and other times is over, the problems have become too present for that. There is no spectator position from which to view end-time scenarios and doom with a comforting eerie feeling, it is time for reality. Now."
Comment by P.J.: compare the articles "UP5. Why environmental protection is necessary, but climate protection is impossible" and (in German for the moment) "How Mars influences our weather".
... The ability to act naturally includes the possibility of doing something wrong - but one can be socially freed from the consequences of this wrong by others forgiving the mistake. As banal as this sounds, it is central for Arendt, because in her view the core of freedom lies in forgiveness ... In Arendt's theory, forgiveness is in turn tied to the capacity to promise, in which she sees the most important organising principle of human affairs: The openness of the future, the uncertainty of expectations can only be endured and managed by people making promises to each other - individually in the form of declarations or even contracts, socially and culturally through the most diverse forms from the fulfilment of duties to the assumption of responsibility. The 'capacity to make and keep promises', writes Arendt, has 'the inherent power to secure the future'.
Indeed, human societies, and especially modern democracies, are based on trust, and this trust is always related to the fact that something will still be as reliable and stable in the future as it is now, in the present. Promise therefore also means responsibility, and where a promise - because there are coincidences, unforeseeable developments, errors, etc. - could not be kept, the ability to forgive ensures that trust as a whole can remain intact. ... In this sense, people are never to be understood as individual beings, but are always related to each other in their speech and actions and are not determined with regard to the consequences of their actions, but are flexible. ...
Comment by P.J.: compare the article "UP8. The diagnosis of illness in our world community".
It is this period between birth and death in which human beings - unlike other animals - are not trapped in a determined course of destined things and processes, but can act and thus 'start something new'. ... Each and every one of us had joined the others, which is why each and every one of us can give the course of things a different direction with our ability to act. ...
To be able to begin is the condition for being able to stop, and just as birth and death span the space of action for the human lifespan, so both to be able to begin and to stop are the conditions of human freedom.
In this sense, we need a cultural model in which the beauty of cessation is given the status necessary for the continuation of the civilisational project. Once again, improving, even optimising processes that are going in the wrong direction makes everything worse. Stopping is necessary, it must be learned again as a human cultural technique. So that one can also begin again."