Philipp Ruch on revolution
Authors and representatives of public life write personal opinion pieces for goethe.de/kultur about a particular concept that influences their life. Philipp Ruch founded the Center for Political Beauty, an initiative that organizes high-profile and often controversial protest actions.
Which symbol or object do I associate with revolution? Ever since we have been engaging with the activities of Hans and Sophie Scholl, there can be only one answer: flyers. The art of the Center for Political Beauty that we established involves salvaging examples of humanistic activities – acts of extraordinary political or moral beauty – from the past and updating them for the present day.
We live in a digitized era and the dictators of this world without doubt receive far harder-hitting e-mails than anything that we could direct against them in the form of flyers. However, it is only flyers that have the effect of subsonic explosions in totalitarian states. They can trigger revolutions. They are manifest convictions that cannot be eliminated at the click of a mouse. And they exert pressure in a way that is more powerful and more beautiful than any e-mail or any tweet.
When Hans and Sophie Scholl risked their lives in the Third Reich to appeal for humanism and enlightenment by distributing flyers, this was a compelling revolutionary act: “Support the resistance movement. Distribute the flyers!”, was printed beneath the flyers of the White Rose. Not only did these flyers shake the population awake, they also unsettled an entire regime.
“Doing something beautiful for civilization”If the word beauty is struck against the word politics, the spark for a revolution is generated. This is the case to this day. It is noticeable how rarely we hear politicians ask: What is the most beautiful thing we can do for our civilization? By contrast, young people still carry the great revolutions within them: they have a sense of justice and ask why we do nothing about the huge numbers of deaths at Europe’s external borders. There can be no humane or even rational answer to this question – or at least none without which we would be betraying the legacy of the Enlightenment.
If I were asked what the opposite of revolution is, I would say that just as indifference is the opposite of love, apathy is the opposite of revolution. What is more, I believe that revolution essentially means the same for people all over the world. This is because of the relationship between citizens and the state. Political insurgency, the experience of rising up as one against intolerable conditions, self-empowerment in the Storming of the Bastille – these are revolutionary experiences that are probably the same for all people.
Philipp Ruch studied political philosophy and obtained a PhD in the history of political thought. He organized artistic admonitory and protest actions relating to the civil wars in Bosnia and Syria, and to the European refugee crisis. He has produced plays at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin and at the Munich Kammerspiele, among others.
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