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Political scientist Tamara Ehs in an Elevate-Interview about the Festival theme Human Nature.

Tamara Ehs joins Elevate on Thursday 5th of March. She will take part in a discussion panel "Quo Vadis Humanity?".

Free entry at the Festival location Forum Stadtpark! -> Full programme info.


Elevate's festival theme 2020 is "Human Nature". What's your second thought about it?

I should formally quote Herbert Marcuse for his rallying cry, ‘Nature, too, awaits the revolution.’

And your first?

Nature, too, awaits the revolution.

Quo Vadis Humanity? In 2009 Elevate's main theme was the climate crisis. 10 years have passed. Whats your take on the next 10?

Speed up your efforts! We are still used to the old philosophical maxim "natura non facit saltum". But it does. Climate crisis makes leaps and we must not underestimate its speed. My work focusses on democracy, inequality and the crisis of social cohesion. For the near future, I see further precarisation, the rise of right-wing populism and authoritarianism, and state of emergency legislation in the wake of an inadequate response to the climate crisis. We urgently have to correct the system errors, because "The alternative to a changed society is darkness" (Eric Hobsbawm).

The relationship of humans and technology - more reasons to be pessimistic or optimistic? Can you name some?

Technological upheavals could hold an enormous potential for liberation if they were democratically controlled and not driven solely by capitalist rationalisation interests. They could free people from physically exhausting or alienated work. Instead, people are often overtaken by technological innovations as catastrophes, accompanied by precarisation or job losses, fear of social decline and a loss of solidarity. Like 19th century Luddites and machine breakers workers are driven to oppose new technology as it is not invented to make labour easier but obsolete. Therefore, we must reorganise production and realise economic and workplace democracy.

And our relationship with nature? Of course we are "part of it", but....where are we going?

Are there any two domains of reality – nature vs society? Bruno Latour states that, "Nature and Society have no more existence than East and West." The terms are utterly arbitrary poles on a mental map. Therefore, everything we "do to nature" we do to ourselves. My scholarly work focusses on democracy and social inequality. It relates to the climate change of the political which threatens our co-existence just as much as global warming: the conflict line authoritarian vs. democratic. The question of democracy will also be decided by the ecological one: Who will determine how much we consume and produce in the future, how we work, how we may spend our leisure time?

Since it is feared that – due to the advancing populist polarisation – democracy will topple earlier than the ecological balance, the necessary solution to the climate crisis fails to materialise. This overlooks the fact, however, that the many crises reinforce each other and that instead of rigidity and austerity based on fear, what is needed is the courage for more democracy.

"Psycho-spiritual crisis", "a psychotic society",... How bad is the status quo of humanity?

We are told to panic because our house is on fire. Therefore, psychologists already speak of a "pre-trauma". That's not the usual post-traumatic stress-disorder but rather the fear of a future terrifying event caused by the climate apocalypse. But this rather agonises than activates most of us. Indeed, what we are missing are utopian discourses to counteract the dystopian imaginaries. Therefore, we need to combat the mental constraints of a system based on austerity we already grew up with.

A message to the Elevate Festival community? What can we do?

Capitalism will not die a natural death. Be assistant.

Elevate features many amazing artists in the music & arts programme. Can we meet you on the Dancefloor too?

I recommend: Listen in a dark room, very quietly, to Adriana Celentana!


Tamara Ehs joins Elevate on Thursday 5th of March. She will take part in a discussion panel "Quo Vadis Humanity?".

Free entry at the Festival location Forum Stadtpark! -> Full programme info.

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