Carolin Emcke debates with Michel Friedman: No more tolerance

S.that is, he agreed to a conversation with Michel Friedman on tolerance in the Jewish Museum debate series “Thinking Without Railings”. But in fact Carolin Emcke, who was pleasantly briefly introduced by museum director Mirjam Wenzel as a columnist and winner of the Peace Prize on Monday night, is somehow suspect about the term. The asymmetrical nature of the term is disturbing: one side deigns to tolerate deviations from the norm. And there is something else that, according to Emcke Friedman, must also feel: “We are both objects of tolerance because people feel insanely tolerant when they talk to us.” With her as a homosexual person, with Friedman as a Jew. The moderator replies: “I would like to be taken for granted,” he says. “Keep on dreaming,” comments Emcke dryly.

The Jewish Museum once again invited to such an evening to create a stage for social debates. According to Wenzel, it is one of the tasks of a modern museum. This seems necessary, especially in the light of the Documenta debate that will be touched on the sidelines of the evening. Emcke and Friedman agree: it was right to take the picture in Kassel because it echoed anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Tolerance as lasting too long

Discussion should be a space for common reflection. The main character of the evening and the presenter are successful. The audience’s reaction to the Bertha-Pappenheim-Platz lighthouse confirms this impression: after an hour and a half conversation, Emcke is summoned to the stage with applause several times.

The party is fully booked, but what Friedman and Emcke negotiate can be difficult. They not only criticize tolerance as excessive persistence, for example of people who radically reject other life plans, but also demand tolerance for this attitude. They also paint a sobering picture of the current situation. Otherness is demonized, says Emcke. It is seen as a permanent threat to one’s identity. “As if the moment someone comes wearing a headscarf, their identity is at stake. Like a droplet infection.

But what scares her even more: that the themes and language of such-minded people who postulate “racial, revisionist, inhuman dirt with a lust for malice” have penetrated far into public space. Disguised as ‘freedom of speech’, this group pushes their views into public discourse like a Trojan horse and thus robs the democracy that wants to protect freedom of speech from defending it. “Freedom of expression is not an absolute value.”

Emcke and Friedman reportedly met in Hamburg in the late 1990s. She was supposed to lead a panel with him. But the hall had to be cleared, there was a bomb threat. At the time, she was shocked to see that people went to great lengths to prevent someone like Friedman from speaking in public. That people who want to talk to others or take their own lives immediately demand tolerance for themselves.

There is no time for right-wing extremists

But should you talk to these people? Friedman goes even further, asking Emcke if he would sit on the podium with Gauland or Höcke. The answer is no. Emcke does not consider such a conversation “productive”. Mostly because no communication is successful in which the interlocutors really talk to each other, that is, really say what they think. And also: “Such staged controversy doesn’t make anybody smarter because you’re constantly busy explaining the other person’s crap.” When talking to people who are politically different – Emcke would certainly do that. But he does not want to spend time with a representative of the far-right party. So is Emcke intolerant? She doesn’t answer Friedman’s question, but since she likes intolerance, she probably doesn’t mind.

Tolerance, tonight is not going well. If this is problematic, what does society need? Emcke suggests respect. Indifference, at least. Then something else comes to my mind: “My grandmother would say kindness.”

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