Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review. Also head of the Norwegian monthly newspaper NY TID. Based in Oslo/Berlin.

Was Jesus only an illegitimate child who made up stories about his dad being up in heaven, asks philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in his latest book After God (Nach Gott)

Germany’s great freethinker recently celebrated his 70th birthday with a comprehensive, in-depth interview in Der Spiegel. Next month, a Norwegian version of his book In the Same Boat (I samme båt) is out.

In line with Nietzsche who believed that God is dead, Sloterdijk believes we killed off Jesus’ dad ages ago. In other words, our current globalisation has weakened religion, traditions, family and rituals with what Sloterdijk deems the new “mobility of the hyper-civilisation “.

The Norwegian newspaper Class Struggle (Klassekampen) recently indicated that more people than ever feel negative towards globalising. It is understandable that many see it as threatening with strangers knocking on your door and your national identity and welfare in danger. Besides, it was hard enough to gather people under one national banner, so why would you be willing to be part of a diverse global citizenship?

In the epilogue of the Norwegian version of the latest Sloterdijk book, In the Same Boat, translator Anders Dunker hints that instead the world now forces people to stick together through the media’s cynical stress they inflict on people to stay in business: “A constant communication of mutual problems and potential dangers, using terror threats as a prime example.”

According to Sloterdijk, the road took us here because, over time, we developed into different “immunity spheres “, protected local communities. The original herd – the family and the little, ancient communities – all had their own techniques and rituals for cosy togetherness and protection. As a result, claims the philosopher, we are not yet ready to embrace the sudden and ubiquitous global community. The phase of globalisation makes people anxious: “Living in a synchronised world is a massive attack on the human mental structures.”

Politically active in the radical 1968 movement, Sloterdijk has become increasingly conservative with age. He no longer defends the conservatism of the 1800’s where you “preferred 100 years of despotism over three days of anarchy “. On the other hand, his own so-called historical conservatism is interspersed with an anthropological pessimism.  Sloterdijk wants to preserve the order painstakingly built up by society; new ‘little advancements’ should not tear these down. As he points out, there are no guarantees that the next generations will be able to live in peace, with welfare and State protection.

It is interesting how he points out that the judiciary and solidarity have thus far only been able to be built within national frameworks. As an opposite, Sloterdijk mentions how “a fraction of the Left or anarchists of the Left…. every mention of nation or national interests, identity or tradition is seen as a crime against humanity “. In line with Theresa May, Sloterdijk believes that it is easy to lose a foothold in today’s post-national mobilised no-man’s-land,” where no one up till now knows how to create new functional order structures “. He negatively dismisses the fact that anarchists want to reconstruct other alternative worlds as a repetition of the Bakuninian thesis: “Only by pulverising the existing will a new society be able to grow.” Well, today’s anarchists are probably too pragmatic to consider a revolution.

Peter Sloterdijk

You Must Change Your Life is also the title of one of Sloterdijk’s latest books. You yourself have to walk out in front. You may comment that owing to the media’s coverage on terror and the people’s plea for security, we are in danger of entering a regressive era. And although Das Zeitalter der Sekurität has not yet quite happened, according to Sloterdijk, we may now be in need of increased globalisation rather than more nationalism. Because, in a world consisting of emerging dictatorships and autocracies instead of democracies, things do not look good for Roosevelt’s outdated notion of freedom from fear. Democracy is, according to Sloterdijk, a “term used to cover power structures” – a world organised and governed by oligarchs, belonging to the minority.

 «Today’s anarchists are probably too pragmatic to consider a revolution.»

This July, the G20-meeting declared free trade rather than protectionism and common environmental demands. National environmental policies are able to crumble without global executive orders. We must get rid of carbon sinners. And the UN meeting on eliminating nuclear weapons shows how many countries now support introducing such a ban. Shamefully, Norway is not one of these. National politicians are not as conscious of the great community, something which is also ‘forgotten’ about in party programmes.

The point is, we are all in the same boat: we all live on spaceship Earth. In the global community, it is in fact possible that people outside of Norway are able to think more responsibly than us. We need more people like Eva Joly in the European Parliament and others who work towards a supranational ethics and law. The laws of the EU already protect your working hours, the environment, water and air quality and pursue a strict policy toward new technology and medicine, etc. Allow me also to remind you of the problem with global companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook. They are let off with minimum taxation by certain ‘smart’ nations such as Ireland instead of paying reasonable tax back into the communities they take advantage of.

Some 2,500 years ago, the ‘cosmopolite’ itself was jokingly described as commuting between the buoy and the firmament. Regardless, in today’s trade-off between freedom and security, some people – including anarchists – are ready to live in the post-national hyper-civilisation. Despite secure immunisations and safety wishes, to reverse the internet, tourism, multi-ethnicity and international trade.

As Sloterdijk states in Der Spiegel, philosophy first arose under the guise of therapeutic cosmology  “in an attempt to enable humans to feel at home in an extended world “.


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