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How much change can we take, Economist?
A daily chat about tomorrow / #26
E: Good morning, Photographer.
P: Good morning, Economist.
E: How was your weekend?
E: Tell me.
P: Temporarily, I had left my bubble.
E: You're making progress, Photographer.
P: I met old friends. I used to do sports with them, team sports. We even had been successful at times.
E: I can hardly imagine.
P: We spent a day together. Drank beer. Brought old stories to life and discussed the present. But…
E: … things in common were more limited to the sporting past and less to the views of the present?
P: You guessed well. There are a handful of topics in Germany where society seems very divided. Migration, gender-appropriate language, climate - with the sub-topics fossil-fueled cars and heating - as well as meatless nutrition and authoritarian states - with the sub-topics war in Ukraine and the authoritarian leaders and parties in Turkey, Hungary and Poland. When it comes to these topics, sparks regularly fly. Two opinions at one table are then hardly possible.
E: How long did you stay with your former sports colleagues?
P: Quite long. I wonder, too long? From some of my former colleagues, views were expressed that I in no way share. If we hadn't shared a past, I would have left annoyed. But I like these people. That made me endure their stances.
E: That‘s nice.
P: That's precisely the question I'm asking myself. Was that really OK? Shouldn't I have been more upset? As usual. Sharing a past made me accept what I would otherwise not accept. You have to fight for your beliefs. Don't you always say that, economist?
E: Am I saying that? What would it have changed? Everyone is fighting for their beliefs, they say. What most people really want is what they believe to be believed by others. These people regularly start monologues with "I want to make clear from the start" or "One thing is certain". With this attitude, nobody changes their mind.
P: I recognise myself a bit in it. On the other hand, how willing to understand should I be when people think that too many foreigners live in our country and that the narrative of man-made climate change is being used to oppress people?
E: You could try to understand why people hold these beliefs. Why they feel patronised? Why they feel on the defensive?
P: Why do they?
E: I think that there is a generational conflict going on. Fossil-fueled cars, the preservation of familiar language and cultures: a generation is trying to preserve their world as they know it. And a younger, more academic generation is creating a new worldview. It's always been like that. Maybe it won't work without generational conflict.
P: In this sense, the debates are common and necessary. But can democracy withstand so much change?
E: I would say that is living democracy. A necessary conflict. Think of climate. The political majority has decided to become CO2-free within a generation. This will contribute to a better climate. But it comes at a price elsewhere. Society is currently negotiating whether this price should be paid. And if so, who is paying for it? What we are experiencing is a classic distribution struggle. And this struggle is mainly about money.
P: Not all controversial issues are about money.
E: Not about money literally, but about economic costs. This can include many things, for example, language changes.
P: In what way?
E: Language is power. If you can speak well, you can convince others better; you can then use language to your advantage. Gender-sensitive language is, among other things, about who asserts what is appropriate language. Anyone who speaks appropriate language is socially more accepted, has more potential power, better career opportunities, a higher social position.
P: Does that mean that the boiling emotions are justified because there is a lot at stake?
E: These emotions wouldn't exist without much at stake. There is always much at stake when one's beliefs are challenged.
P: It seems easier to bear different positions when you look at the conflict this way.
E: I think so too. And it helps to realise that we all are similar in some way. Everyone has their system of beliefs. But: That doesn't mean that views can be objectively wrong.
P: What do you do then?
E: On my good days, I can make offers. Then I calmly tell facts that the other person can consider if they want to. Fortunately, economics provides quite a lot of evidence that we live better lives today than we used to. And it provides only few reasons why this should not continue in the future.
P: And on your bad days?
E: I can hardly stand such false views.
P: I had a good day over the weekend.
E: Seems it's a good thing to break out of your bubble from time to time.
P: Looks like. Have a nice day, Economist.
E: You too, Photographer.
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