What have libertarians contributed to the world?

Observations in a changed world 21

With the pandemic, we need to rethink our understanding of individual freedom, says Jacqueline Boysen. In everyday life with Corona, our behavior must be constantly re-explored. The more freedoms government regulations give back, the greater one's responsibility - a Protestant virtue

Untie to tie - that's the name of an exhibition on migration in Berlin Mitte. The exhibition title comes from pre-Corona times. Unbond, that is: untie to tie. The lack of irritation these days arouses new attention: Today, even three words you read while cycling past have time to haunt your head. What do you say, these words? Loosen the shackles to shackle - that sounds like obsession, psychological terror or Machiavelli 2.0. Promise freedom and create addiction. In the face of the pandemic and life in tight confines, the words read differently: Loosen the restrictions and strengthen cohesion.

Untie to tie. In German, the sentence raises the following questions: Who liberates or breaks away from what or from whom? In our libertarian, western world, much has been loosened that has stood in the way of the free development of the individual for centuries. We enjoy secured fundamental rights and freedoms. Obligations and obligations are to be entered into today of one's own free will. Borders and walls have fallen, constraints and traditional conventions have long been loosened.

Everything should be made possible so that we can do what we want, what we personally think is right. The others seem out of sight. The state should protect freedom - and bear the costs, the community is held liable in order to cushion risks. In this scenario - exaggerated here - freedom is as great as the fallacy that our life no longer has much to do with responsibility for others.

This exaggerated understanding of alleged freedom ends with the pandemic. Because the virus can be found in each of us, each of us can become fatally ill, even people who are not assigned to any risk group. After that, we must all act now. The politically responsible were able to decide that everyone has to stay at home, that all wheels have to stand still, that only existential needs for food and drink, education and health care are met. But it doesn't change the fatal context: Everyone can be contagious or can be infected. Nobody can absolve themselves of this. There is no insurance against these two related risks. This inevitably affects our understanding of togetherness: Suddenly it becomes apparent how much it depends on each and every one of us - our own behavior. Just as we are in agreement about the commandment, you shall not kill, most people in our country are now following the unwritten commandment: You shall not infect. Be considerate, if everyone does this, you won't be infected either.

Even if politicians initially made the decision for us, as it is their task according to the Basic Law - now it is up to us. Untie to tie: The easing obliges us all. They appeal to our common sense. Can I take responsibility for having a glass of wine with the old gentleman in the neighborhood after I just went shopping for him in a rather overcrowded store? Should I pay with cash even though the card payment involves less touch? Does the employee, who is spared the long train journey, work in the home office or perhaps better the colleague who has to look after his children?

Those who are dying have to be held in hand - the risk of dragging viruses into the room or perhaps becoming infected is secondary. Everything should be done to make a farewell possible. It was wrong that family members had to die in isolation, more than at normal times, because they were acted with excessive rigor. And many people have felt it this way: not being able to stand by the dying, not being able to say goodbye, is inhuman. But very few situations are so clear-cut.

We have to constantly sound out our behavior in everyday life with Corona - and the more freedom the state regulations give us, the greater our own responsibility. The nurse, who has not seen her elderly father since February because of an obligation to limit her personal contacts to protect her patients, has no choice. But most of us have leeway and can weigh up. It just takes common sense and compassion. Understanding that each of us is responsible for our health and our coexistence. The bans of the past few weeks have unfortunately contributed little to independent action: If playgrounds are completely closed for weeks, they will of course be overrun as soon as the barrier is released. Prohibitions encourage doing what is prohibited even more ...

Untie to tie. An order of the day. Relaxed restrictions expect reason from us, because they empower us to act responsibly! The Protestant reading could be: There is commitment in the freedom of belief. Our relationship with God makes us free - it carries and binds us. The grace of God expects nothing, but our faith is not connected with arbitrariness, but active neighborly love. We could clearly show society that Christians are called to do this. Especially in difficult days like these.

Dr. Jacqueline Boysen works in the Bundestag administration and is the project director of the East-West European memorial meeting in Kreisau.


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