Two images have shaped global politics this week: In Washington D.C. Nancy Pelosi, spokeswoman of the House of Representatives, tears up the manuscript of President Donald Trump’s speech on the State of the Union – and in Erfurt, Susanne Henning-Wellsow, state chairwoman of the Left, throws her bouquet in front of the feet of the newly elected Prime Minister of Thuringia Thomas Kemmerich.
These two pictures symbolize that democracy in the United States and in the European Union is on the brink. This raises a crucial question: What is democracy – and where are its limits?
If I had to explain it to my little children, the picture of sunrise would come to my mind: When does it get light in the morning – and when is it light?
Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, proposed the following solution more than a thousand years ago: If we can distinguish a white from a black twine, then it is light. More than a millennium later we know that when the sun has risen, it is light.
What does this picture mean for democracy? “Democracy” basically means nothing other than the balance between majorities and minorities through dialogue. “Live and let live”, one could say proverbially. But what happens when the majority no longer allows the minorities to live in peace, when the majority ruthlessly asserts their interests at the expense of minorities?
If we stay in the picture of sunrise, then the darkest hour of history was National Socialism. In National Socialism the majority annihilated minorities as planned. This happened because politics defined an idea, the “German people”, and at the same time determined who was not allowed to belong to this majority. The balance between this majority and minorities no longer took place. There was no more dialogue because the political representatives of this majority no longer allowed conversation. On the contrary, the minorities were deprived of their freedom and ultimately their lives. The minorities were annihilated.
So where does darkness begin, where does the end of democracy begin? The end of democracy begins where the dialogue between the majority and minorities is no longer possible, where conversation is refused. Democracy ends when people no longer speak to each other.
Before Nancy Pelosi tore up Donald Trump’s manuscript, he refused to shake her hand. Before Susanne Hennig-Wellsow threw her bouquet at Thomas Kemmerich’s feet, he was elected as prime minister by fascists.
The dialogue between the majority and minorities in America and Europe is beginning to become impossible. Let’s dress warmly. The sun is beginning to set.