Please never ask me how I keep going. I have no idea how – or even why, for that matter. All I know is this: The shadows will never tire of chasing me, and there is no long-term escape. Just now they are closing in on me again, as I stumble and sputter along the well-trodden path, bound for another fall. I can feel them everywhere, in the glaring sun as well as in the pale moonlight. The space to manœvre, or even move at all, decreases rapidly with each step and with each breath I take. I desperately clasp every little bit of happiness I have managed to get a hold on and tack on to my heart. Yet there is not a hope in hell when the time comes for the shadows to engulf me. And they will feast upon me, eagerly and mercilessly devouring whatever I may naively have believed to be mine to keep, from the fondest memories to the most intense feelings of love still lingering. Finally, they will leave me alone in the dark to rot for two eternities. Alas, they need my repeated suffering to nourish them, and so they will leave the seeds of false hope to be betrayed to grow another tree of life from within the despair-infested grounds. For where death would be the only true companion, only emptiness awaits to corrupt the very essence of my being. May the day that death do us part come soon.
The societies that humans have built and kept reproducing indefinitely so far all share one basic principle: inegality. The reasons for both the status quo and its continuation have always been provided ex postfacto and ad hoc; why the privileged deserve better than the underprivileged has always been argued for with sophisticated but untrue mental constructions bending reality to a predetermined scheme departing from which has been associated with chaos and the downfall of humankind. Explanations have been lazy and lame, unconvincing at best and ridiculous and insulting at worst. But then again, why would someone born into a privileged position care? Humans take that which they have for granted and will react to its loss as though a limb had been torn from their torso. The truth is that we own nothing: we come to this world naked and with nothing in our possession, and we leave it without anything. If we are buried with a ceremony, taking place for the sake of the living, of course, the body may have some clothes attached to it; yet come to think of it, it is just that, a body, not a person, that is buried. And thus we leave as we came, after all.
But rather than rendering the status quo irrelevant, it makes it all the more important. Conservatism appears to be a default position in many small communities, especially in tribal societies and even modern villages. There is this proverb appearing convincing, or at least having a point to it, that what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing. What if, however, it is broken without your noticing? Also, that something is not broken does not mean that it is good the way it is. You may have a house consisting of wooden walls and no roof. It is not broken, but a house made of stone and with a roof would arguably protect you better nonetheless.
Change is the engine of improvement, and while things may change for the worse, this is by no means a logical necessity. Instead, history has proven time and again that change will occur at some point or other; if it is brought about controlled by science combined with reason and compassion, for the better; if it is repressed and met with all kinds of artificial obstacles, for the worse, for the result will be chaos and misery – that is to say, exactly that which conservatism seeks to avoid by preventing it from happening.
Conservatism is not only a concrete political conviction, it is an intrinsic part of everything humans do and think, if ever so slightly. Even those among us who consider themselves to be liberal and open-minded will, if entirely honest to themselves, at times catch themselves in the act of telling someone they cannot do something because it does not fit the bill or agenda they have in mind. Whereas we take our own freedom for granted and consider our own desires logical consequences of that which we deem best for everyone, we are way to eager to restrict everyone else’s freedom and dismiss their protest as ignorant, nonsensical, or ridiculous.
And thus it is that people who stand up for other people’s freedom, who come up with new and refreshing ideas the implementation of which would actually improve things for most people are shouted down and met with the most passionate resistance, insults, and ridicule, while dangerous demagogues like Donald Trump, to name just a recent case in point, who barely have any idea of that which they are talking about and wish to do get huge support.
The political and in general social elite, the wealthy and rich, keep playing the same old game to remain where they are: ‘Divide et impera’, this well-known imperative from antiquity and probably before there was any method of pinning the words down, applies today as much as it ever has. For if the majority of people keep arguing and fighting among themselves (dividere), they cannot stand united against the privileged to undo their rule (imperare).
Unfortunately, this is not where the story ends, as history has equally proven. Those overthrowing one rulership always appear eager to establish another not differing much from the one they undo. Is this simply a consequence of human nature, or is it rather the case that each time so far the wrong people have come to power?
Things are seldom as simple as we should like to think or portray them. We all know in principle that monocausal explanations are worthless, yet for the sake of simplicity and laziness and argument and excuse, we pretend them to actually serve a good purpose. They never do, and we never learn, it would seem.
I do not know about you, but I have never understood those who claim not to regret anything. I am always reminded of the notorious song ‘Je ne regrette rien’ performed by Edith Piaf when I think about this. I, for one, regret much; it is not so much that which I have done or said, but rather that which I have refrained from doing or saying.
I once promised someone to write and send them a letter, which I never did, and while most people would simply shrug this off as irrelevant or a remnant from the past, it has kept haunting me ever since. I am not one to break promises easily.
Back then, the internet had only just begun to become available to private people, with just a few websites including a few chatrooms, where real people talked to real people. It was an exciting time because unlike today, there were no flatrates, so you had to think carefully about what you were to do with your time. Oh, and you had to ensure that no one had to make an important telephon call for the next twenty minutes or half an hour because being online and making a telephone call used to be technically mutually exclusive.
During this admittedly short time period, we did things that would be considered insane viewed from today: We exchanged telephone numbers and postal addresses to get into touch with people we only knew from a chatroom. There was no such thing as online-only contacts. It might have been naive even back then, but nothing bad ever came of it, and I certainly do not regret doing the aforementioned things.
Yet one day, I had a very nice and long conversation with a girl, and I promised to write and send her said letter. I did write a letter – over and over again, but it never seemed quite right, and so it remained in a drawer of my desk, never sent to the one it was meant for. Perhaps it was my perfectionism that got in the way, yet I like to blame my entire self for it, not just this single aspect of it, since it sounds like a lazy and lame excuse to me.
And then, not so long ago, someone send me a text message stating, inter alia, ‘I think of you very often’, to which I intended to respond in kind because it was the truth and would have made sense and would have been the only sensible reply. Yet I did not reply to it as I originally intended, erasing the words mid-typing and replacing them with something stupid because for some unbeknownst reason, I had been listening to some idiots telling me to behave this way. I regret this bitterly, even though others may wave their hands dismissively at this.
That which I regret most, however, is that I cannot help everyone asking me for help. Often enough I meet homeless people or those who came to Germany looking for work in order to support their families in their home countries. Despite the fact that some of them may be frauds, I usually give some of them whatever I can spare at the time, and sometimes I even have a conversation with them. They are human beings, too, after all, with a story and a family – waiting for them or long lost. I suffer from their suffering, and it breaks my heart each time not to be able to be of more help.
People always ask me why I care so much. ‘I just do’ is all I can say in return. I do not know why. This is simply who I am. I may ask, ‘Why do you not?’, yet I see no point in it. This is simply who you are, I suppose.