Today, I wanted to talk about politics. I don’t often do this but when I do, I tend to talk about silly things that happened in Germany or I tell people to go out and vote or something. This time around, it’s the former. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, was interrupted at a Catholic Convention (“Katholikentag”) by a “climate activist” who confronted him with the reality of the climate crisis. Scholz then ends up comparing climate activists in general to Nazis and called them “actors” – to which the crowd applauded loudly which then lead to Scholz adding even more fuel to the fire, saying that climate activists don’t want to have the actual discussion and that they rather want to manipulate events for their own gains.
I’m a little late to the party here, so obviously, there is plenty of coverage surrounding this out there already. Luisa Neubauer, Germany’s face of #FridaysForFuture, explained the situation in a wonderful thread over here that I recommend reading/translating. A lot of what I say will also end up having been said over there as I completely agree with her stance on it, although I also want to touch on promises and a politician’s image, as well as how that affects international relationships.
So, first up, the context:
Scholz was talking about climate change, kind of. When talking about stopping fossil fuels (more precisely, coal), Scholz asks what you should tell the miners who will lose their jobs because of these decisions. He’s pretending that 18,000 workers losing their jobs is a valid argument against climate change, even though he (and his party) called him the “climate chancellor” (“Klimakanzler”) during his campaign a few months ago. As Neubauer already mentions, however, 100k jobs were lost through the CDU’s and the SPD’s politics in the last few years and it should have been the chancellor’s job to explain the situation to these 18k workers in time and not just suddenly. Apparently, the coal lobby is more important than other lobbies (wind, nuclear, solar, etc.) and than global agreements to protect humanity – which he/Germany signed.
Scholz then was heckled/interrupted by some person who was apparently wearing black clothes. He then told the audience that people like that are “honestly” (“Ganz Ehrlich” is a bit more than just “honestly” but I can’t translate that too well) reminding him of times that are luckily (technically “Thank God”/”Gott sei Dank” but it doesn’t translate too well in my opinion) over. In the German context of a German/Catholic event, a German audience, a German chancellor, and it all happening in Germany while speaking German… As a German, it all points to a comparison to the Nazi regime. There are people that argue against that but if it’s not the Nazi regime what else is it? Scholz doesn’t want to tell us.
Onto the current issue:
The issue here is that this comparison would not only relativize and diminish the impact of the Nazi regime/the Nazi times but it also weirdly does the same to climate change. Neubauer calls it “Klimaleugnen 2.0” (denying climate change v2.0). The climate chancellor should obviously know that if you don’t explain what you said, people will take it the wrong way. He didn’t specify what he explained so he must have known that it comes across like that, especially when he references “black-clothed individuals menacingly standing in the back rows”. What’s more, is that he not only makes this comparison (kind of shocking the other older woman standing with him on that panel) but he further digs his own grave by talking shit about the only people that wanted to talk about climate change. He says that they’re “acting” and that they don’t want to talk and that they’re manipulating events for their own personal gains. Apparently, wanting a future where you can breathe air and where you don’t get extreme climate catastrophes is something very personal and/or an ideology, and to want to talk about that is appalling. How dare you? How dare you care about something that doesn’t affect most people that voted for Scholz.
Neubauer mentions how most of the people in my generation are concerned or scared about climate change. We’ll have to live with the consequences after all. If we have kids, those kids will live in a fucked world. Meanwhile, most of the older generations (52+) don’t care and essentially voted for Scholz because they always would have voted for Scholz. Their parents did so, so they do, too.
It’s ironic to see someone acting as if climate activists don’t want discourse when that’s all they did for the last few years. It’s appalling to see a politician like that go for yet another scandal with Scholz essentially not admitting to it but rather having one of his PR team say that “he didn’t mean it like that”. When asked what Scholz meant by it, the PR person didn’t know an answer.
At last, international politics:
What’s more, is that this is just one of many scandals that Scholz was a part of. As Roger from ContainsModeratePeril says: “A politician’s relationship with the truth is often a strained one. However, the role of Prime Minister requires that basic standards are adhered to.” This was from his article on “PartyGate” and in reference to Johnson openly lying after getting fined for having a party after deciding that you get fined for having a party. I’d highly recommend reading his post as Roger is not only one of my favourite bloggers but he also explains the situation incredibly well without requiring you to know any prior knowledge of the situation – and I love his commentary on it all. Either way, Scholz is practically our prime minister. He’s representing our country and it’s not about his lies or his PR team’s lies and ommissions but rather about his relationship to the truth and promises. He promised he’d do something about climate change and he’s part of multiple climate change agreements. Germany, however, is currently breaking a lot of them in regards to climate change which politically speaking shouldn’t be optimal internationally. As Roger said, how do you trust someone who’s involved in such a scandal – Johnson got fined for a law he passed and Scholz keeps “forgetting” about Wirecard meetings and the money he got out of it, *cough cough*. Should someone who constantly “forgets” about something so important really be our representative? Germany is supposed to deliver weapons to Ukraine but their weapons are late. At the same time, Germany is still paying for Putin’s total war against Ukraine by still proceeding to buy coal, gas and oil from Russia even when we’re supposed to stop using fossil fuels. Can we trust someone like that with representing our country? And what does the green party say to this extra scandal? Why are they quiet about it? What do we have to do to get people to take something as important as our future seriously?