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Home | 2017

Gratitude: the cement of civilisation

Posted by Thersites on UTC 2017-08-08 15:40.

On the whole it's best to avoid newspaper articles written by German professors: these people are almost never up to any good and their 1,000-word cogitations could just as well be replaced by one or other of two ideograms [TRUMP!!!!] or [BREXIT!!!!].

However, there are a few German academics who, sometimes at considerable risk to their careers, have followed the path of intellectual rigour and who deserve to be read with attention. One of these is Egon Flaig, Emeritus Professor for Ancient History at the University of Rostock.

Without going into details, there is barely a single modern wasps' nest – Islam, Holocaust, Political Correctness etc. – into which Flaig is not prepared to poke a rationalist stick.

Here is a translation of an excerpt from a piece of his that appeared yesterday in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Gratitude: the cement of human communities. [DE]


The reason to be grateful [to our ancestors for the blessings of our history] cannot be argued away, since we can see it with our own eyes in the thousands of their achievements that are around us: European culture – and only that – produced institutionalised republics and democracies; only that, as a result of great battles, abolished slavery and formulated human rights; only that first developed scientific enquiry: and for the equality of rights for men and women we have only that to thank. More exactly: for all of that we have to thank the generations who have gone before us. As a result of this, gratitude to the past is cardinal for that civil self-understanding which nourishes our democracies.


All these achievements were hard won and we can lose them again quickly. If we regard them as simple givens, then we will become amnesic troglodytes who stagger parasitically through history. Just that situation is currently threatening the western world.


If the western memorial culture generally only remembers crimes, then the attitude to the collective past will be negative, as a result of which the gratitude due to previous generations will disappear and turn into rejection.

When that happens, the present loses its orientation and is replaced by a hypermoralism without limits. A look at universities and schools confirms this diagnosis. Exactly this 'critical' current in the academic humanities and the school curriculum that derives from them is obsessively intent on the examination of alleged historical injustices and the need to remind us of them.

The curricula in the humanities and social sciences now concern themselves with removing history from their subjects and with moralising. Under the cover of 'criticism' a completely anti-Kantian, belief-based attitude has been methodically introduced, a moral arrogance, which, using deliberate falsification of historical facts – literally 'fake history' – enormous moral debts between synchronously existing cultures are asserted, whilst at the same time all debt to past generations is rejected.

Our public culture suffers from a proscription of cultural gratitude in almost all cultural respects. The entitled are ungrateful as a matter of principle and the entire world of the media, in lockstep with almost all of the NGOs, is pre-programmed to drive claims to absurd extents or to find ever more new ones. The attitude that 'I owe nothing and therefore have no reason to give anything back' is suicidal for any culture, and certainly for a political community.


Egon Flaig's latest book is: Die Niederlage der politischen Vernunft. Wie wir die Errungenschaften der Aufklärung verspielen. Verlag Dietrich zu Klampen, Springe 2017, ISBN 978-3866745353.