Posted 5 мая 2021,, 09:25

Published 5 мая 2021,, 09:25

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Enlightener and dictator: how a German philosopher refused from the Sheikh Prize

Enlightener and dictator: how a German philosopher refused from the Sheikh Prize

5 мая 2021, 09:25
The most prominent German philosopher of our time, Jurgen Habermas, refused from the $ 225,000 Sheikh Zayed Book Award after criticism of Der Spiegel. This is the largest prize in the world under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed and the de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi, which is awarded for a book.

Announcing the award, the crown prince on his twitter congratulated the 91-year-old philosopher Habermas on the award and spoke of a "common language" and common goals - love, tolerance and dialogue between peoples and countries.

Der Spiegel notes that it is not only the "fake pose" of one of the richest and most powerful rulers in the world that catches the eye. There is no place in the Emirates for what Habermas considers holy and to which he dedicated his life. There is no free and critical public, no competition of political ideas, no parties and free elections, no equality, which is ensured through the rule of law.

In the kingdom of the Persian Gulf, there are many things that obscure the eyes with their brilliance, for example, the Louvre Abu Dhabi. But it is the splendor that adorns the power of the ruler, his family and his courtiers, as it was during the days of absolutist monarchies in Europe. The reality outside the shopping malls, where enthusiastic tourists like to go, is different. For many years, human rights activists have been talking about the inhuman conditions in which migrant workers from all over Asia live, but everything remains the same. The American Foundation Freedom House , which annually measures the state of democratization around the world, estimates the level of freedom in the Emirates as 17 points out of 100 possible. For comparison, the regime in Iran, where the Ayatollahs set the tone, received 16 points, Vladimir Putin's Russia - 20 points.

At first, the philosopher Habermas accepted the award. At the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair on May 23, a ceremony was planned for the scholar to receive the Outstanding Cultural Worker of the Year award.

After clearly articulated but respectful criticism from journalists, Jurgen Habermas turned down the award. His refusal speaks of loyalty to his principles and deserves a standing ovation. A critical note in one albeit influential journal made the scientist ponder over the arguments and change his mind. Such a step is also difficult for younger people than for the 90-year-old patriarch of philosophy. In his letter, the scientist writes that he admits his mistake: "I did not understand well the connection between the committee that issues the award and the existing political system of the country".

The system that Jurgen Habermas is talking about is a system of non-freedom and systematic suppression of democratic values. Oppositionists end up in prisons, there are no elections that would deserve this name. The ruling elite has special rights. Therefore, the risk that Jurgen Habermas would become the next trophy of the ruler of the Emirates Mohamed bin Zayed and another argument in his propaganda system was great. For the scientist, it was not so much a matter of money as an opportunity to spread his ideas in other countries. Fortunately, principles are more important than possibilities.

In their critical article, journalists wrote that "in the struggle between ideas and power, the power most often wins". The philosopher did not agree with this:

“In the short term, power wins. But then I believe in the enlightening power of a critical word if it reaches the public. It is served by my books translated into Arabic".

Only the future shows how much a word can change power.

In the 18th century, the Russian Empress Catherine II invited the French encyclopedist Denis Diderot to the court. Diderot's hope of promoting changes in the system of state power in Russia by the power of words remained unfulfilled. “I listened with pleasure to your brilliant thoughts, but Diderot's ideas are good for books, but not suitable for government,” Catherine coldly remarked in her letter to the philosopher.

During his lifetime, enlightenment reached its limits of influence. But 5 years after the death of Diderot, the Great French Revolution began, in which the ideas of enlightenment played an important role. The “Declaration of the Rights of People and Citizens” would have been impossible without Diderot's ideas. The Declaration became the basis of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, it served as an inspiration for the authors of many democratic constitutions.

This is the tradition that Jurgen Habermas speaks of. But being close to power can be dangerous and counterproductive. Therefore, the decision to reject the tempting offer of the Emirati ruler was correct.