When Europe lay in ruins after the devastation of two world wars, it was clear, and by this I mean that it was clear to most bodies of survivors on the basis of an immediate experience, that the value of a new order could only be measured by whether this construction would succeed in stopping, cutting a destructive Trieb, one that slides into the beyond of a life-affirming function. There was a lot to be said for this. I mean, one composed elements of the Lacanian registers to build a bulwark against the headlessness of the destructive and deadly side of the Trieb. Human rights in their simple and elementary reference to the Golden Rule (do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you) – which, beyond a mediating ideal, proposes feedback with the real as a direct touchstone – the legal letters of the rule of law as a symbolic framework fixed in writing, the symbolic algorithm of majority voting, where each vote has an umpteenth weight of the umpteenth voter, the documented right of the press to contradict the signifier of the man, etc. In the imaginary, one immersed oneself in the narcissistically charged image of enlightened humanism, an openness to the world, a developed society, etc. All this knotted itself in the term democracy to a self-understanding of Western Europe. Firmly joined, this construction seemed like a cut against the passions of the Todestrieb, hatred and ignorance.
The connection to this construction democracy lives from the direct experience of Not and Angst. For instance, because of the fear of my mother-in-law, who survived an escape by a hail of bombs as a little girl in the back seat of a bicycle. It is imposed on the late-born to somehow find their connection to this reality in order to grasp the relevance of democracy at first hand. This is not limited to a mental culture of remembrance. This means a connection by means of a savoir y faire, by means of an invented knowledge how one can concretely try something here with this traumatic.
If now, 70 years later, the connection to the traumatic core of the construction of democracy is more and more forgotten, it seems as if it is an unalterable matter of course, as if the hardware box of democracy with all its pleasant consequences continues to tick when it is gradually abolished.
But the real of democracy still hits us as a cut. As a cut in the wake of the Geneva Refugee Convention, which imposes on us to arrange for people from other cultural areas to live next to us, as a cut, that we have to arrange ourselves with the enjoyment of our neighbours, as a cut, that a politician has to live with the fact that he is criticised by the media and has to arrange for the separation of powers.
The question is whether it is precisely in these disagreeable cuts that one can recognize the necessary price and therefore the relevance and presence of democracy, or whether one, with which political capital is made today, does everything possible to avoid these cuts – in the erroneous belief that democracy could still continue to exist.