Christof Michael Wackernagel (Ulm, 1951) is a German actor and writer. He spent ten years (1977-1987) in prison for his membership of the Red Army Faction (RAF). He lived in Bamako, Mali, from 2003 to 2013. He is one of the founders of the initiative “The Ark of Humanity”, a project both new and old of communication, exchange, equality, ultrademocratic development of projects and ideas for a new world. It is obvious that the world in which we live is not worth living and needs a radical change. It is also obvious that changes cannot come from above. Christof just told me: “We pass on our ideas, each one of us contributes what he/she has to contribute, and together we create something new”. The Ark begins with an interview, with questions and answers, and then creates a chain of further conversations and complementary interviews. You will find here the presentation of the concept, which is of course dynamic and anti-dogmatic.
Detail of the mural “March of Humanity on Earth and toward the Cosmos,” by David Alfaro Siqueiros, Mexico City, 1971
Right from the beginning water is at the center of the Ark. Why is nothing possible without water?
Because nothing works without water. Water is the primordial material of all life. Humans consist of 70% water. After 5 days without drinking every human is dead. This is the key message: between 60 and 70 percent of mankind do not have access to drinking water. There are no statistics on how many people, especially children, die from poisoned water every day, of them in horrible agony. This is currently the greatest scandal of a humanity which calls itself "civilized" and would have the material and financial means to end this daily tragedy. The worldwide effort that would be necessary to provide drinking water to all people, down to the last village, would be less than the current worldwide effort because of the corona virus which causes only a fraction of the victims in comparison. The refusal of the rich countries to help the victims of the lack of drinking water is akin to genocide by default.
Why as many men as women?
Because there is the same number of men and women in the world. The whole quota discussion is a single imposition. Anyone who today still wants to seriously discuss “quotas” of women in no matter what, has not yet understood that patriarchy, i.e. patriarchal thinking, is the central cause of the current crash of world society. The idea of property accumulation is patriarchal thinking, even more so it is the material precondition for it. The nonsense of inheritance is the root of patriarchal thinking, the consequences of which lead to the fact that 1% of mankind owns almost everything and the majority of people have almost nothing. The consequence is not a return to matriarchy, even if this concept owns a more equitable approach to property, of which many elements could be included in a third concept: A new way of thinking and acting that takes over the emancipatory elements of both, which logically can only be worked out within an equilibrium between its female and male elements. Whether ying/yang or dialectic, black:white or above/below: life consists of two sides, whose living expressions are women and men. When it comes to rethinking the fundamental questions of human coexistence, “what do we really need?”, “how can we distribute the goods of the world among all 8 billion people on this globe?”, “how can we organize real democratic decision-making processes at all levels?” and many more, the balance between men and women, the tension between them, the energy they generate, their love and longing for a humane world, and the male-female differences in their expressions of this, is a necessary condition if all of them want to achieve a balanced result.
Why beyond religions and beyond cultures?
All religions, cultures, philosophies have given necessary but not sufficient answers to the elementary questions of human coexistence. They are indispensable as individual identity-giving factors. Their values are the basis of our thinking, but if they claim to be valid for all people, they lead to war and mutual destruction, the opposite of their own claim. If there is only one God, God has created all religions and cultures, so that each person can find his or her individual, suitable form of prayer and can realize the values of his or her religion in their actions. It is all about the dialogue of cultures, this is why the caravan is called « dialogue of cultures » in the world wide web. The diversity of people is the inexhaustible and greatest wealth of humanity. When women and men from all cultures of the world come together, they can not only learn to understand each other, but also enrich each other immeasurably.
How does the Ark deal with Eurocentrism?
Eurocentrism is stupidity, narrowness, loneliness and the preservation of vested interests. Most ridiculous of all is the sense of superiority of the generous “helpers” who, to take just one example, put money in the hands of “poor Africans” - I have witnessed the disaster of “development cooperation,” which is in fact a development prevention dictate, at first hand for ten years in Mali - because the recipients of the money only laugh at these idiots who think they are “superior” because they have more money and better weapons: in reality they are the superior because they know both cultures and benefit from both; development funds are the source of corruption. Talking about “equality at eye level” only shows the contempt of those who use these words towards those to whom they talk: like adults who, pedagogically correct, bend their knees when talking to children. The first measure to change this would be to cut all funding without replacement, as Brigitte Erler demanded as early as 1989 in her book “Deadly aid” and as Dambisa Moyo demanded in her book “Dead aid” in 2014, and as African intellectuals and economists have long been demanding. Africa, to name but this most blatant example, does not need help. The best way to deal with Eurocentrism was demonstrated by the President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara: he laughed not only at the lenders, but specifically at the French President François Mitterrand - which of course he did not survive. Eurocentrism is an attitude that can only be countered by a different awareness. This awareness arises from the experience of living together with people you feel superior to. This experience can create shame; if you allow it, you reap happiness. This is the idea behind the caravan. Every one of us carries remnants of this false consciousness within ourselves, no matter how much good we will have. Even the victims of Eurocentrism, who rightfully despise the perpetrators. When victims and perpetrators live together for a long time under existential conditions and exchange ideas, they can have this experience. An essential part of the Peace Caravan is carried by artists who spread these experiences all over the world at 5 festivals. Since an attitude is something that is fed from the unconscious, it cannot be changed with intellectual insights alone, but must also be challenged at the level of the unconscious. Only art can do this.
Caravan, by Komilbek Kabilov, Uzbekistan
Why should the Ark of Humanity be realized as a caravan and not on a ship?
A ship needs a captain, on a caravan the people can jointly determine the shape of the common path, and that is what it is all about. Animals need an alpha animal, which, as we know since Konrad Lorenz, can also be a human being. In the biblical context this role was manifested in Noah. The difference between animals and humans is that humans no longer need alpha animals, only then will they truly be human. The fact that alpha animals still determine the fate of people is the reason why mankind is racing into the abyss. Therefore we are still in prehistory. The history of mankind will only begin when it will have freed itself from these animal origins. The history of mankind will not begin until it uses the inventions made over thousands of years under unspeakable efforts, right up to intelligent technology, not as an instrument of power, but for what they are here for: To free humans from the work necessary for survival as much as possible and to give each of the 8 billion individuals on this planet the greatest possible freedom to develop their personality and their diversity from all others: the diversity of human beings is their greatest wealth, the exchange and cross-fertilization the possibility of diversification and the flowering and development of this diversity which is still unimaginable for us today. It is not about the stupid question whether people as such are good or bad, but of how they organize their living together. It is historically overdue that they finally begin to realize the possibility of this coexistence. The caravan as the ark of humanity is a first step towards this.
What are the foundations for this new world?
Exactly these topics are to be discussed on the caravan. Exactly these cannot be dictated by anyone alone or a small group, by any ideology, any religion and certainly not by any guru or philosopher, no matter how wise. Exactly for this purpose, proposals should be submitted before the caravan starts. These ideas will then be discussed in detail on the journey. I have, for example, proposed a return to the origins of Greek democracy. Since the beginning of the last century, there has been the idea of a council-democratic organisation of people, which the philosopher Hannah Arendt claims to be the natural form of human organisation, which is formed automatically, as soon as power disappears. The best-known example is Cronstadt - the destruction of this development by the Soviets was the end of the revolution and their greatest crime. The self-organization of the people during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to the point of cultural flowering, even under these circumstances, is another example. There are also anarchist ideas and much more: all these are collected and discussed over a long period of time. In this context, the culture of dialogue is necessary for the dialogue of cultures. This means not wanting to convince the other person of one's own idea, but offering one's own idea, listening to the others and thinking about it with the honest willingness to change one's own if necessary. That is the hardest task of all. I have experienced this culture of dialogue in Mali for 10 years and therefore love the people there. They are my role models and this culture, which has grown over thousands of years, gives me the confirmation that all people in this world are capable of following this concept.
How can I participate directly and actively?
By asking questions and promoting funding.
The work of the people on the Ark Caravan consists of answering the questions that are compiled in advance. Further developing the questionnaire is the most urgent task that can be tackled immediately and worldwide thanks to intelligent technology. The whole project stands and falls with the development of this catalogue of questions. This is where the independent cooperation of people from all over the world can begin immediately. Without any further efforts, it can be proved that non-hierarchical cooperation of people from all over the world is possible. This also includes the translation of the website into as many languages as possible, which up to now has only been done by automatic programs. The caravan's language of communication should be English, but you cannot expect this from everyone, so translators are an elementary part of the whole. This interview was realized because people from Istanbul, Tunis, Málaga, Paris, Munich and Bamako worked together - the rest is welcome to continue.
The funding of roundabout 250 million euros is peanuts for the world's major industrial companies. The initiative has been active since the beginning of the millennium. The German Minister of Finance and Economics, Wolfgang Clement, wanted to collect this sum from 10 industrial companies with me, which was prevented by the then Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. The fact remains that this global effort must not be financed by one person or one company, but by at least ten. Wolfgang Clement agreed with me that the global peace caravan would give Germany in particular the chance to pay off part of its historical debt. Anyone who has the opportunity to convey these thoughts to decision-makers can contribute to making it a reality.
Why is there no other way than through a participatory initiative from below?
Because the structures of the organization of the coexistence of the ark, developed and realized on the caravan, should be the model of the structures of the coexistence of people in the world. Any specification coming from above would lead to a reproduction of exactly those power structures that are about to be abolished. It is nothing less than an end to the domination of humans over humans. I am fed up with this talk of “man is evil” etc. Under the given conditions, the majority of people usually have no other choice but to be just as bad as the alpha animals who lead by example. Human learns by imitation, so he·she must be offered another model to imitate; most people are demotivated by the overwhelming power of the majority of human alpha animals in power, most of which are evil. The culture of dialogue practiced on the Caravan, its realization at the very bottom of the scale, the confirmation that this culture of dialogue is indeed possible, even though it is the most difficult one there is, is presented to the rest of the world at the five festivals that take place during the Caravan and are broadcast all over the world, inviting other people to imitate it. Turning the present structures from top to bottom, the example and model of the realized possibility of living together from bottom to top is the path and goal of the Caravan.
Why is the drinking water initiative the prelude to the ark?
Because it would be a crime, politically and spiritually unjustifiable, to think about the basic needs of human beings and their satisfaction as long as countless people, especially children, unnecessarily die in agony, because the rest of humanity refuses them to satisfy the very first basic need of all life: drinking water.
“One must choose between champagne for a few and drinking water for all”--Thomas Sankara