This book is a record of the talk by Erhard Eppler(a SPD politician), Hanne Taechl(president of the Contact Theater) and Ende(and Gebork Hoffmann also takes part in it afterwards) on February 5(Fri) and 6(sat). This talk isn't a discussion on a certain theme but just a free-talk by these three participants as Taechl had suggested to do so on the biginning so probably it's foolish to summerize efficiently the topics, but I tried to sort them out so that you can see it more easily. Of course my classification is far from absolute and some topics are related to more than one theme so please be careful when you read this contents.
On the begininng of this book a word of Dostoyevsky is quoted. I'd like to cite all of it because it has much to do with the talk even I'm not sure who quoted it.
"In order to reform the world and to build another new one, first of all we have to change our mind and head for another direction. The fraternity won't cover this world as far as we don't feel ourselves brothers. It'll be impossible to distribute people's fortune and right without those who receive less than they should and whose emotion is hurt even with scientific and other "convenient" means. Some of them will think their is too little and will begin killing each other. People ask when the best distribution will be realized. I think it'll come true, but first of all we have to finish the era when everyone feels themselves isolated."
This is Dostoyevsky's typical saying who was skeptical to the scientism and who thought it important to keep in touch with God the Almighty. In the middle of the 19th centyury he had already got an insight that the then-establishing capitalist society, that tries to accomplish everything by the technology and financial support and was already arriving at Russia which lies on the Eastern end of Europe, tends to alienate people each other. Capitalist economy's mass-production system gave rise to thousands of wage workers and stimulates "everybody's battle to everybody else" to acquire the market. People come to think nothing but of how they can survive in this race, they can no more afford to maintain the community they had built with their neighbors and consequently everybody feels loneliness among groups. I'll put it on furthermore afterwards.
The talk starts with Michael's story at Dudtweilerinstitut(the biggest shopping mall konzern in the Switzerland). He was asked by the konzern to read a sentence of "Momo"(the barbar's part) at the congress before many managers, labor union representants and members of "the Club of Rome", he accepted it and head for Switzerland. Then he recited that part of his book, the audience became unable to react, and soon they began discussing this phrase's literary value. After listening a bit to this one Ende says as follows(I made it short because the original one is too long).
"I'm very interested in the fact that during this century no positive utopia has been suggested. After two utopias, Jules Verne's scientistic one and Karl Marx's socialist one, have been proved to have some contradictions all that were depicted, such as Wels' "Time Machine" and Orwell's "1984", are nothing but a nightmare. People of this century are worried about their own future. Nowadays we don't even have the courage to think what we really desire. So I'd like to suggest you the following: now we fly on the carpet to the future(100 years from now) and everyone will tell the others how he wants the world to be. Isn't it impossible at all to think of our real desire as far as we discuss on the "facts' obligation" just as today's congress? If we tie ourselved up to hope something, the methods and means to come it true will also be found. All we have to know is just know what we desire. So let's play a game together. On this game you can say anything, like "Industrialized society is better," "Non-industrialized society is better," "I want to live with this technology," "I'd like to live without it" and anything else if you follow only one rule: you can't say "it's impossible." In short, everyone will tell what future is desired."
After a couple of minutes' silence a man replied: "What does this talk mean? It's totally nonsense! We should stay on the facts' area and that is that we can't survive on the race and will economically ruin without at least 3% per year's economic growth." And Ende had to give up his trial because some people blamed and attacked him.
The economists who said "we can't survive on the race and will economically ruin" is usually too engaged into the economy he recognizes the economic catastrophe is the total one and believes it necessary to do his utmost to stop it. Ende's viewpoint that regards the economy just as a a method to realize our lives and that is based on his following words "I suppose the Utopia of the values has ben the essence of all the cultures. In other words, first of all something is projected on our future and next we'll follow what's projected," however, lies on a point utterly far from that of the economists. I'll trace what Ende dreamt of the future by restudying our current economic system.
Now that all the communist economies were collapsed(except some countries) the only current economic system on the Earth is the capitalism in which capitalists offer their fortune to a lucrative activity to take the profit into their own wallet and in this sense the East Indian Company is the first capitalist enterprise in the world. Enterprises are owned by one or more capitalists, those who work in this enterprise are expected to do so in order to give back the capitalist the maximum profit. The products and services enterprises offer is nothing but a way they gain money and there's no need to take into consideration neither how the products and services will affect the society nor those who consume. The labor union and consumers' movement made it possible that non-capitalists also participate a bit in the enterprise's activities, even without changing the 400years-old idea that enterprises are owned by capitalists.
It is true that capitalist economy has
been played an important role in enriching teh material aspect
of the human life. It has been contributing extraordinarily to
the material life's development on the fields where there's so
much demand and profits would be gained by supplying. Ford's automobile
industry, banana plantations in Central America which are owned
by United Fruits, and Microsoft's WINDOWS are some good examples.
But, the reason they had to enter these fields and profits must be gained is because capitalists are eager to receive profits through those enterprises, and is not normally to realize their cultural life. For instance, the reason there exists the military industry which has no use for realizing the human beings' cultural life is because governments, guerrillas and mafias need it and will never disappear as far as the profit is garanteed. Capitalists who are supporting these activities will never do something so "boorish" as to regulate these activities which give them some profit. Even this military industry case is an extreme one, it's this principle which realizes the current capitalist economy in which economists are busy with their duty to give capitalists some profit. For those who can't excape from the current position Ende's utopia game seemed both "unrealistic" and "escapist," but I'm sure you understood Ende had something else on mind when he proposed them this game.
Elper says, in defense of managers: "They have an utopia, even it's the most conventional and poorest one of all the other utopias that have been existed in the world: to go on this technocracy." This word is the very reason why they got so angry with Ende.They have a solid conviction that the technology-based capitalist society is the only perfect one, Ende's words that denied it was, just as "dangerous" for them as Galileo was for the Catholic church, and they couldn't put up with something "that is trying to subvert the current social system." Ende himself on the other hand, had no such intention and all he wanted to know is which utopia managers have, but in truth they had none. Here we see the fact that even with such serious problems as pollution and the wealth disparity all economists try to get out of it only by changing the current economic structure as little as possible without rebuilding the whole one.
Ende regards that enterpreneurs are the poor guys who are on the merry-go-round called "capitalist economy" and unable to stop it, and even show sympathy for them. The merry-go-around is quicker and quicker, without nobody who could control it. The managers on the ponies see the collapse of the economic system but stay there unable to get them off because it turns too quick. According to Ende this is our current situation.
After this story, Taechl proposes the mini-size labor community(that owned and run by workes) and Ende says the following: "Isn't it wrong our attitude to see the economic life only from the economy's viewpoint?," arguing that we must take the economic issue as cultural one. "We aren't only consumers, only producers, or capistalists.." I'll go furthermore on this point at "the French Revolution's keyword."
The next theme Ende spoke of is the "objective reality" and "subjective inside. "Originally human beings recognized the reality with their own presence as the World," he said, "but the bipolarization of the 'subjectivity' and 'objectivity', begun by Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Newton and so just as a convenient way, is now considered normal in the scientific world.," but the idea to think "as if the human consciousness didn't exist" itself is "contradictory," because the act to think like this is realized by a person's consciousness and would be impossible without it. Ende criticizes today's tendency to recognize the idea of "subjectivity" as symonyme of "illusion", saying that every reconginition is based on a certain consciousness that is, in other words, "subjectivity."
Ende picks up furthermore on the "quality" issue: "The 16th century saw the appearence of the idea to measure everything by quantity. Only what can be counted or measured is authorized and this trend lead to the total denial of the reality on the quality, since the quality can't be evaluated by the quantitative thinking. You can't measure the beauty but it exists, tightly related to those who recognize it." I suppose today's problems are derived from the nonrecognition of the existence of such "beauty," even this idea seems too odd to most of my contemporaneans.
Now I'd like to do a brief etymological analisys: the Latin word "quantitas, tatis" is derived from another Latin word "quantus(how much)", while the word "qualitas" is from "qualis(which)." We can see, from this linguistical fact, that Romans were aware that the quantity is something measurable while the quality is something chosen by a subjectivity. So what's important here is that everybody's consciousness determines if something is useful or harmful. For example, some people see Picasso's pictures as "art" even many others say they're nothing but "strange graffitti," but it's their consciousness which gave them such a value to the pictures. Civilizations that don't recognize such quality will be limited to the material production, unable to satisfy the demands of people with their own identity to do their spiritual activities.
Ende explains the quantity and the quality as follows: "The reason Goethe's natural science that tried to recognize the 'quality' in the nature was defeated by Newton's one which was based on the measurable is by applying Newton's one we've been able to develop the variety of the technology which has produced so many industrial products we enjoy now while Goethe's one is unable to do so, but today's fault is the assumption that we can 'produce' societies, city plans, our behaviour, our happiness and world peace by applying this demonstrative thinking." "Ideal society," "our behaviour", "happiness" and so on belong to the "quality" and can't be obtained by using the materialistic scientific methods. It's up to those who live inside to think how their society or city should be and there's no "scientific" and "universal" rule on it. If somebody would try to find such rules those who pursue other "happinesses," "behaviours," "cities" and "societies" would be driven away to the marginal area. Ende, even without trying to deny such technologies enabled by the quantitative thinking, askes us how to get it over. For more ideas on this issue confer "Einstein Roman 6."
Ende tells, however, that he didn't have the slightest will to solve the problems the current industrialized society has when he wrote "Momo." What he intended to do was just to transform the society's image into internal world's figures as fabulists of the Middle Age did(cf: "Talk with Ende). What he wanted to depict is the antihuman system, and he didn't want to the battle scene where the villain and the hero shoot. It's sure that "Momo," despite its "unpolitical" appearence, played a big role in changing people's subconsciousness which became clear at youngstars' demo in Munich.
Here Ende talks of the French Revolution's slogan "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" that became the motto for all those who wish to build their own utopia, saying that "Until now we've tried to pour these three ideas into the same pan. Building the United Nation where three ideals can be realized as much as possible. There's a point, however, that we've been unaware: the gobernments' mission is to realize not all of the three but only one of them" and defining it as "Equality under the Law." Liberty and Fraternity belong to other domains of the life governments shouldn't touch. "Free spirit" means everybody's talent or their search for their own lifestyle, and as to this area "any generalization is wrong," because "spirits must be formed independently according to everybost's capacity." As to the fraternity what Ende said is a bit extraordinary: "In this times it's too naive or ridiculous to say like this, but fraternity is the rule that is inherent to the modern economy." We can't apply the "free game between damand and supply" to the economic field." If so, what'll happen is "the battle of everybody against everybody else" and the weakest will always be the "sufferer." The utopia he talked of at a conference in Switzerland can exist only under such fraternal economic system and was far over the economists' head. But you can't imagine the communism from the word "fraternal." For Ende communism is the economic system with the total governmental intervention and it's clear this system can't satisfy our demands. Thus the economic system Ende suggests is the community independent from the governments and capitalists where producers and consumers can see each other directly so that consumers' demands can be satisfied without exploiting the producers.
After telling so Ende defines the "Minister of Culture or Education"'s role as "self-contradictory," commenting that "organizations like the Ministry of Culture or Education can't exist if the politics are part of our culture." If the three parts, i.e. politics, economy and spiritual activities, have such a relationship they will be integrated into the "culture" and we'll be able to have such one that is different than the one which is created only to contribute to the economic activities. In other words, the culture will be the definitive factor on our social life, politics and economy serve only to realize such life, continuously being nurtured by the free spirits.
Surely Epler, who had spent quite a few years on the political field, had a lot to say against Ende's idea, beginning his rebuttal by saying "But today less and less services are under governments' control: from the governments to the EC(currently EU) and NATO or state government or cities," and mentioning the necessary consideration for the "equality of the chance to have themselves educated" as "the realization of the equality is under the governments' role." But Epler misunderstood Ende as to the first rebuttal, because Ende said the word "governments" just as the representative of the official administration offices. We should took his word not as "international organizations or local authorities should do it if governments shouldn't" but "we should do it by our own effort without asking help to the administrative organizations."
Respect to the second rebuttal it sounds reasonable. But ithe education belongs to the "spirit" area as it plays a big role in forming citizens' "free spirit," and the current education system, done under the name of the "compulsory education" to do the same spiritual formation, is "extremely unacceptable." Ende says: "Isn't it possible to create the equality of education chance by citizens' own hand? It's up to the society's consciousness." He meant by these words that if people wish to realize the equality of education chance they have to do it without governments' aid, and denys our attitude to ask governments all the projects that don't make money. To Epler's rebuttal "If governments stop offering this free education system there'll be cheap and expensive schools. And this is against the 'equality'" Ende says "the 'social economy' is based not on the competition and exploitation but on the common labor, and if we imagine such 'economy' everybody will have almost the same chance." A long discussion by Epler and Ende is done, but it's about the difference of their economic viewpoint: Epler's idea is based on the "mix economy" between the capitalist one and the public sector's one whose aim is to adjust the social disparity the capitalist one produces, while Ende's one insists on giving up the current capitalist economy itself to move to another totally-new economic system. You can see how much Ende hates the capitalism just by noticing that he, usually without using harsh words, says of it as "cancer."
The difference of their viewpoint on the economy is clear in the following words: Epler, disgusted by Ende's denial of the governments' role on education, asks "so who's paying money to the schools right now?" and Ende answers "Citizens. Governments don't pay but redistribute the money they've collected as tax." In this sense all the public facilities, such as national hospitals, city libraries, are maintained by citizens who pay tax to the governments but Ende says all those who need these services should pay directly to the facilities without using the "redistribution organizations." Epler, who sees the economy from the current capitalism's viewpoint, justifies governments' intervention: "Without the detours schools will be run by entrepreneurs' donation, because donation reduces the tax pay rate. Then the economy will play even much bigger role on our society" And Ende says: "It'll be true if we go on being based on the capitalist 'economy.' We can't set the 'spirit' free without moving economy's basements to another place." The schools Epler imagines when he listened to Ende's words are those who are maintained by big companies and where only 'useful subjects'(calculations, English and other useful languages, physics, for example) are taught while those who aren't directly related to the economy(literature and music, for instance) are disregarded, but what Ende imagines is run by citizens(parents, for instance)' donation where all the subjects that are necessary to live a civil life are taught. Ende thinks it's our duty to pay such cost to realize the ideal education. Hanne Taechl talks of the Waldorf school where her children studied, above all the dicision the parents took to pay the money to expand the school, Epler comments that politicians must demand more to the citizens, and this attitude wishes citizens' voluntary participation to solve such complicated questions as education.
Ende talks of the "strange inertia" produced by the disconnection between the governments' culture and citizens' one: "Writers, painters and musicians says like this: 'we're nothing but fools for the court or the society. We can do anything we like, but the reason we enjoy such freedom as fools is that we're harmless. The society won't change however we play. They're totally indifferent to our performances.", followed by his comment: "it's because governments' 'spirit', nutrition for the culture, is somehow paralyzed." And it's our role to support these activites by paying some money and the cultures that need subsidy are "unnecessary." If they want to see a gorgeous opera they have to pay the cost so that the show take place, and Ende thinks they give up doing opera if they can't afford to give so much financial support.
After lunch Ende mentions of the two contrary ideas: "conservative to the values" and "conservative to the structure," commenting that those who cherish the values try to change the structure to save it while the others "destruct" it. Respect to the "conservative to the structure" it seems, even without clear mention, that Ende talked of the social system of the communist nations. Those who have read "Momo" must have noticed his irony on the communist at Marxentius Communis's story, but communist nations' first task is to maintain their own structure and tend to kill all the dissidents as Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot did. It seems me this problem isn't, however, peculiar to the communist nations, but also Islam nations try to suppres all the other values(especially Western one) to keep their own Islam values. Anyway Ende applied this idea to the modern art, saying that it's more valuable to go back to ancient values than to deny all the established ones.
Ende goes back from the modern art to the politics: "Some years ago those who talk of the Marxism were considered as avant-garde, or they considered themselves so. But today they're confronting a big crisis. Nobody's sure how to make use of the idea." The times when anti-war movements were worldspread, Sartre tried to integrate his existentialism with the communism and students in various countries thought of socialist, if not communist, ideas ass progressive, are already over, this talk took place in 1982 when this talk took place, wars such as Iran-Iraq one or Soviet Union's intervention to the Afghanistan deprived such ideas from its splendor, and I compose this page in 1999 the US-oriented global capitalism which seemed to be the only viable way is becoming more and more fragile, but it's true that no alternative idea to build another world has been given until today. Ende, even not denying all the merits Marxism has given us saying that it sharpened our consciousness on certain social issues, comments it as follows:
"We can't get rid of the materialism as far as we talk about Marxism, since in my opinion materialism, in a sense very avant-garde in the last century and a necessary process for our consciousness to go through, today gives us no help to solve the questions we face with. What we'll have if we complete the materialism is nothing but a vain humanity and it'll be nothing but a fruitless effort to imagine how the better society or the the humanistic life are. The pure materialism can't justify our dignity, freedom, and creativity since these values came from the other viewpoint: humanism, Christianity, or Greco-Roman culture. These values have been accepted as normal without being questioned so far. Marxism, even inheritting these values, denies all their bases since it can't explain why they're important."
What Ende meant by his words is as follows: Materialism was born from the natural science which tries to explain everything with cause and effect, and many contradictions occured when Marxism tried to apply it to all the domains of human life. The human life, such as enjoying the gorgeous food with delicious ingredients or going to a concert, is "nothing useful" from the materialistic viewpoint(remember that the gray gentleman denied Fusi's all internal values with his eloquence), but if it's true all we must do is to satisfy all our material needs and even personal correspondence between friends, as "waste of paper", or elegant costumes for the wedding ceremony, as "of no use," will disappear, making us at last nothing but robots that serve for the economic activities. Even I'm sure nobody will like to live such an inhuman life, I believe our error is to impose such materialism under the name of "objective social science" on our culture based on non-materialistic ideas.
Ende says, after talking about how to get over such materialism: "I suppose right now a new mental capability is being widespread." This mental capability, named "predictive instinct" by him, is a method for the times when nobody can't stick to the past to solve our current complicated issues: Our spirit will visit the future, we see how our issues are solved there, and we go back to our times to realize it. You must say this mysterious idea is unrealistic, but it was not so to Ende who had read Steiner's so many books for years. In the Western world this idea hasn't been so strange, and some prophets applied this method: Nostradamus forsaw how to heal pest, Daniel foresaw what would happen, and so on. Ende believes that this idea can be so popular among us in such a short time as the intellectualism became popular in Europe in the 17th century in only 30 years.
Ende talked of the Chinese ancient medical system that can be an alternative way to the current one which only persues the "technically best healing," obliging us to pay thousands of dollars for the medicines or medical instruments thanks to our current capitalist society. According to him, in China some 50 families gather to employ a doctor and pay him a salary if there's no patient. But in case somebody becomes sick not their but all the other families stop paying him, and he have to do his best to heal the patient so that they pay him again(of course it's the doctor who pays the cost for the healing). For me this way of maintaining the doctor is, even unviable for this capitalist society, very interesting. In the current medical system doctors oblige patients to pay as much as possible so that he can receive the best treatment, which only surged the medical cost, but I suppose it important to revise our system from other viewpoints.
End's other interesting idea is on machines' labor: "What is money paid for?" Ende begins his theory by asking a question, analysing the Middle Age economy as "when shoemaker made shoes one by one by hand the shoes' price was based on the costs to make ends meet during making these shoes(the cost for the shoes' material will be also included, of course)" and the current one when machines do most of the works human beings did in the Middle Age: "Should current workers receive all the value just as Middle Age workers even their labor is now much less? Or should they receive only the amount of money according to their labor?", concluding: "Actually they receive only the money for their labor while capitalists receive the value produced by machines' labor. But what works when machines work is our knowledge on the technology we've piled up"(even due to the current severe economic race what Ende said won't be true) and "it's not good for us to have to pay money for our shared heritage." For those who cherish the intellectual property will get angry at his opinion, saying like "it must be justified to pay reward for those who invent the technology," but for Ende their view itself is "capitalistic" and must be refused.
Here they discussed Hanne Taechl's "contact theater" where, according to her, we can touch the issue with reality by giving a play based on a certain political issue, but for Ende this isn't an art but something else that must be sorted out into another category from theater. Maybe it's easier to see the political issues' essence in this way, but it's quite different from the "art" which contains the beauty inside. "Yesterday I said of the social 'culture'," said Ende, "but I didn't mean that every culture should be the dilettantism," defining again what the "culture" is for him. We tend to imagine something like music, picture or theater when we here the word "culture," but the culture he meant is such as "German," "Spanish," "Japanese" ones, and the reason he opposed to Taechl's "contact theater" is because for him theater is unseparable from the art, even he wouldn't hesitate to recognize it as family of politicial discussion or journalistic activities.
Furthermore he talks of an example to see how theater must be: "Let's say a woman is being attacked by a guy over the walkway, crying for help. When you see her on the street you'll be forced to make a moral decision you wish or not. You can rush toward her for help, you can make you believe as if you didn't notice her, or you can even escape from the scene, but any act you'll take is your moral decision. When you see "Othello" and he kills Desdemona, on the other hand, you are free from making a moral decision. You know it's only an imaginary incident or just a performance on the scene, but you are no more indifferent to what's happening. That means, you expericence something." In short, we play God's role on seeing theater, which gives us the effect to heal our heart. Even so, this idea is so that you can see the slaughter as somebody irrelevant to the situation and doesn't tell you to do so. The no-more-indifferent you will surge on seeing the play, who will unconsciously transform yourself, and Ende says it's "indispensable." You must be aware, however, of Ende's warning "experience can become only dangerous or destructive to human life if you mix the level experiences depend on," talking of Nero who praised the burning Rome. In the artistic world the goodness coexist with the malice which we can't bring into the real world. Ende stresses the importance to distinguish the imaginary world from the real one, but I won't deal with this issue since it seems redundant to me.
This afternoon they talk about woman live(in fact, this included man live), and Ende accuses the current speech style: "Nowadays we have already a certain form for the public speech style: Groaning, crying and striking the table. Men who do so aren't pleasant for me, but women who do so give me the pain." I suppose there's more than the sex difference issue. We imagine politicians like Adolf Hitler or Fidel Castro when we think of such politicians, but their speech, however fascinating may be, owe more to the speakers' charisma than to their own contents, and I find this speech style symbolizes our modern civilization that's been built "by force." The reason Ende doesn't women to take the same speech style for women is because he feared that women lose their own female characters by participating in the "masculine" modern civilization, masculinizing themselves.
Finally Ende talks about the critics toward him that he's an "unpolitical writer," showing the fact that most of the participants of Berlin's Peace Demonstration on Oct. 10, 1981 beared "Momo": "We've thought that 'political writer or artists' are those who deal with something political in their works, which I've been opposing to. And to see how that idea is too shallow it's enough just to see what significance the 'Sunflower' of Vincent Gogh had. From the simple artistic viewpoint Gogh's picture will be 'socially inappropriate.' In fact, nothing else, except the sunflower, is painted. I'm sure, however, that 'Sunflower' had more power in changing our consciousness than all the anti-Vietnam-war placards. .... If we wish the 'social tridimensionization' I talked of, we have to base ourselves on another mind: the impulse born from the 'culture.' And it's the role of writers, artists, musicians, paintors, or everybody who's engaged into the creative work, to form such culture. The human life style, created by such people, will be adopted if it fixes our unconsciousness. And it will give birth suddenly to a movement that will lead us to another new political form. It's enough just to think of Rousseau and the French Revolution." It's not writers' work only to write something, i.e. economic activities or education issues, that are directly related to the politics. For instance, those who have read "Momo" are more aware of how to spend their own time, which lead to other lives(other than work, I mean), with more freedom, and which will eventually transform the whole society. Ende says: "No other questions like 'Is bread and wine only considered as the symbol, or changed into Christ's flesh and blood during the mass?' would be so unpolitical, but European people killed each other over this questions for as long as thirty years. This unpolitical issue affected so politically. Everything that composed our culture will be in general related eventually to the politics." You'll see how difficult it is to divide into "political" and "unpolitical." Ende ends the talk as follows: "The area of the politics is the battlefield where surging ideas, new movements and lifestyles will be the dynamism to form a new country."
* There were other interesting comments by Epler or Taechl, but I cut most of them as this page's goal is to 'let you know Michael Ende's philosophy.' I'm not sure if English version is available or not, so I'd be happy if you tell me about it. Thank you!!