“Any future we do want has to be invented, otherwise we will be given a future we never wanted.” This quotation from Joseph Beuys warns us to think about the future because the future begins now. Every day the government – together with the newspapers, the Kronenzeitung, Heute and Österreich – poison the political climate in our country.
The brutality of degrading words, the insulting behaviour shown to victims of violence and a total ignorance of numbers, facts and arguments expose an attitude that we have only known from historical reports. Till now.
Wherever one looks there is defamation, degradation and debasement as a calculated political strategy.
And that no longer applies just to those whose place of birth lies outside of Austria.
In the meantime hate is being dumped on the heads of everyone who is not successful enough according to benchmarks derived from an economic system based only on competition and performance.
Why, for example, do we read so much about tightening up the right to asylum but so little about the changes to the law carried out at the instigation of the property sector?
The revenue of the Ministry of Finance has risen by almost five billion Euros. Money that could be used to improve the school and health systems, fight child poverty, increase the care allowance, encourage renewable energy and support integration projects.
But instead the money is hoarded in order to reduce corporation taxes. This benefits first and foremost rich company owners and big companies.
Billions in gifts to those who financed the election campaign of Sebastian Kurz. Savings are made to the detriment of the poorest.
The minimum benefits system is cut and tens of thousands of children are cast into even deeper poverty. It is made dependent on a good knowledge of German but at the same time the courses in German are also cut.
Ex-convicts are to receive nothing even though that makes it more or less impossible to begin a new life.
Financial support for feminist initiatives and projects offering protection against violence are being massively reduced even though experienced specialists and proven concepts with sufficient funding are so desperately needed, especially here.
Against their better knowledge Chancellor Kurz, Vice-Chancellor Strache and the entire cabinet of ministers are pushing people into hopelessness and frustration and are intentionally destroying social peace. They fuel suffering, violence and criminality and that is happening in one of the wealthiest and most peaceful countries in the world. And now they have declared an assault on Vienna.
What can we do about it?
Not worth the effort, many say, in that typically Austrian mixture of resignation and indifference.
Or, dear filmmakers, to put it more bluntly: in the typically Austrian mixture of opportunism and deference to authority.
But that is fatal.
We simply cannot hold our tongues when the Minister of the Interior ridicules the elementary principles of the rule of law and democracy.
Each and every one of us can explain to one person a day just how the collective way of life in this country is in the process of being destroyed.
Each and every one of us can correct false reports, uncover prejudice and counteract hate posts on digital platforms by answering them with humanitarian stories – each and every day.
Each and every one of us can exhibit backbone – without vanity or pretentious superiority – each and every day.
Each and every one of us can show moral courage and intervene when a person’s dignity is infringed.
We can form alliances with those who think as we do and realise long-term projects together, in solidarity.
And every Thursday we can give expression to our disquiet and implement concrete plans of resistance.
Let us not submit to the pressures of total commercialisation.
We, as culture professionals, should be using the opportunities at our disposal to encourage what is difficult, exact and critical.
Let us not leave the field to the profit-oriented, the apolitical, the destroyers, without a fight.
We have to do something.
Let us defend and extend democracy.
Let’s be loud mouths!
Ruth Beckermann too found strong words against the rightwing agitators in the Austrian government in her acceptance speech.
Dear colleagues, thanks you for this recognition.
Now I’ll say five short sentences – you would have expected no less from me – because I think as long as you can say something, you have to take every opportunity.
A year ago, when this film had just been finished, we were all really shocked by how up-to-date it was. This was shortly after the inauguration of Kurz and Strache.
Well, a year later, reality has overtaken the movie.
The ÖVP went from Waldheim to Waldhäusl, from “forest home” to “forest outhouse.”
Waldheim lied in order not to be associated with the Nazi regime. In contrast, the Waldhäusls, Hofers, and Kickls, as well as the Kurzes and the Sobotkas, find a lot of Nazi ideas worth imitating.
At the end of the film “Waldheim’s Waltz,” Peter Turrini says the ÖVP can handle the truth. What they sowed in the election campaign, they are reaping now.
We can handle the truth, too. The majority of Austrians chose these people and are still happy with their dehumanizing policies.
But none of them should ever be able to say, at any point in the future, that they didn’t know what was going on.
Thank you for listening.