What is open discourse

Open discourse

There are so many methods in this country to avoid a conflict. How about an open discourse for a change?

I once had a boss who had a problem with me. I could tell from casual comments that I was bothering him, and since he was always teasing in front of the audience or between the door and the hinge, I hardly ever had a chance to comment. Finally, I asked for a one-to-one conversation. I was given a formal appointment, so I finally had the opportunity to ask, “What's the problem?” I'll never forget the look that question put on my boss's face. It was as if I had suggested to him to take a tour of the Viennese swingers clubs with his wives in order to improve the working atmosphere. When he had collected himself, he said: "No problem, no problem!" - and complimented me from the room.

We Germans may sometimes lack diplomacy, but where the unopened visor becomes a method, there is also no culture of conflict.


For more than half a decade, attempts have been made in this country to set up a house of history, a national museum of contemporary history, as other countries have. A commission of experts presented a concept two years ago after intense internal dispute, but the government does not publish it, apparently fearing controversy. Historians call for a discussion of what such a house should look like. Rightly. But: why don't they lead them? And where are the publicists, politicians and writers on this matter? Such a debate could be a long overdue agreement on the foundations of this republic - an identity discourse that goes beyond the usual snobbish lamentations. It would also be an opportunity to discuss the neuralgic points of contemporary Austrian history, such as the years of the corporate state, independently of party interests.

Recently, a very promising debate in a no less explosive field appeared to be developing in the “press” when the cultural philosopher Wolfgang Müller-Funk responded with a sharp edge to a contribution by Rudolf Burger in “Spectrum” on April 2nd. The question was whether liberalism still played a role in society. Finally a debate! And what happened next? The following week, the writer Michael Scharang spoke up and described Müller-Funk as an “intellectual thug” of “democratic fascism” and his article as “stammering an educational philistine”. And otherwise? Not a single argument against Müller-Funk's theses. Why a discourse if defamation does it too? That ended the debate, of course, what should have been answered?

By the way: Did I mention that Müller-Funk is German?

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("Die Presse", print edition, May 1st, 2011)