Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 33 seconds

Thank you, Maha, I completely agree with Alan – this is what we need more of and it takes courage to touch on all of these topics in one post. I am not going into the history of oppression or the Israel-Palestine situation here.

You are right, we are experiencing a renewed uprise of a right-wing populist movement (mostly coined as Pegida) and a new political party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland = Alternative for Germany). They tap into frustrations of those who feel left behind in Germany (many from East Germany) and those who used to be working class (as in many other Western nations, not much left of the once strong working class group of voters). There has always been a minority of voters who vote nationalist/right wing and a democracy should be able to handle that without problems. The uprise of the AfD, however, draws on developments that can best be described by the term post-factual society. Those in Germany who are most against immigration, refugees, asylum as a human right, etc. live in region who are not ‘burdened’ with integrating refugees and what is presented as facts is usually just the expressed impression or emotion of a few. This is not new to anyone who follows politics: the UK, France, Italy, the USA, they all have had a share of this and there was a vivid discussion of the role of Open Education in this post-factual society (which I believe you were a part of, I was just lurking and trying to come up with ideas).

I mentioned this to someone at #2016DML: when I was in school (I graduated High School in Germany in 2002), there was not one year in which we didn’t talk about, discuss, analyze the horrors of the Nazi regime. Especially from 8th grade onwards, we discussed the role of the German people, of our grandparents and their parents (who knew what, who wanted to know what, who was solely executing orders, is that less of a crime than to give those orders?) and many other related issues. I remember that I was fed up by this (being a more or less regular student) and that I wanted to take on other episodes of human history, ages and regions of the world as well in school. Looking back, I think that this is one of the ways in which educators can contribute. Our teachers did give us room to express in a safe space, the classroom, that we then used to try out several ways of discourse. From my experience, there are few issues which need a more nuanced discussion than the German history of the 20th century in context with questions of guilt, blame, ethnicity etc. (which is why, even though I think my English is okay for the most part, I always feel a bit uncomfortable expressing my views on this in English as I want to be careful about context, meanings and potential links that my choice of vocabulary might hint at). The classroom can be that safe space for young people to try themselves out, so that, when they step into the real world, they will know a thing or two about how to get along with others, even if they have different opinions. Until two or three years ago, only the creme de la creme of knuckleheads would have voiced a comment as hurtful, wrong, oppressive and shameful as “the jew must burn” on social media. But it seems like this era is coming to an end with Pegida and AfD and their sympathizers and we now get to look back and value what we had without realizing it. This doesn’t seem like a German problem, lots of smart people have noticed this development in the UK, France or the US and their analyses were insightful for anyone who does stuff online (fragmentation of information sources, community and group think, silos, etc.).

For me, as a white male German, I think it comes down to this: not to talk about … [insert: race, immigration, diversity, right-wing nutjobs, the role of (online) education in this realm, asylum as a human right] is a privilege that I am not willing to draw back on. I might not always hit the right tone when I engage in conversations about women’s rights, hatred against others who look different than me or other things but I will learn and I’ll become better at it. We need to ask these big questions and we need to know that we can never be right about any of this. We can work towards doing the right thing and towards articulating the right answers.

One thing to add: I know I took a Syrian refugee as an example during my Ignite Talk but, at this stage, my project aims to enable refugees from everywhere to gain better access to HigherEd. Happy to take advice, though, if anyone thinks it might be more efficient to start off with on nationality and then expand (thought about this a while and then decided that I wanted to work with everyone who wants to, regardless of nationalities).

To end on a more positive note (and this just might be inappropriate): using ‘Rivers of Babylon’ reminded me of the song ‘Go West’ by the Petshop Boys. Two of my friends did a mini-playback show of this in 5th grade and I can’t get these images out of my head now. So, thanks for that, I will travel on the roads of California while humming ‘Go West’ 🙂