How different is the world from the left

Sahra Wagenknecht: Lifestyle leftists live in a different world

They consider the nation-state to be an obsolete model and they consider themselves to be citizens of the world, and they find hard work and effort uncool: the left-wing liberals. A settlement.

What's left today? What right? Many people don't know anymore. They consider the old categories to be obsolete. They are only sure of one thing: They often do not like what public statements they hear under the label on the left. And they deeply distrust the milieu they associate with it.

It was different for many years. Left, that once stood for the pursuit of more justice and social security, it stood for resistance, for rebellion against the top ten thousand and the commitment to all those who did not grow up in a wealthy family and who do hard, often uninspiring work had to earn a living.

Sahra Wagenknecht, born 1969, is a member of the Bundestag for the party Die Linke, for which she also sat in the European Parliament. From 2010 to 2014 she was deputy party chairwoman, from 2015 to 2019 chairwoman of the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag. She also has a PhD in economics and has published several books. Her new book "The Self-Righteous" will be published on April 14, 2021 by Campus-Verlag. This text is an extract from it.

The left was to protect these people from poverty, humiliation and exploitation, to open up educational opportunities and opportunities for advancement, and to make their lives easier, more orderly and more predictable. Leftists believed in the ability to shape politics within the framework of the democratic nation state and in the fact that this state can and must correct market results.

The lifestyle left and morality

These traditional lefts still exist today. They are found comparatively often in trade unions, especially at the lower levels. In most of the social democratic parties they are already in the minority, at least in the executive suite.

The public image of the social left is dominated today by a type that we will call the lifestyle left in the following, because for him the focus of left politics is no longer social and political-economic problems, but questions of lifestyle, consumer habits and moral attitudes.

The Greens chairmen Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock: Lifestyle left in its purest form? (Source: imago images)

In its purest form, the green parties embody this lifestyle-left political offering, but it has also become the dominant trend in most countries in the social-democratic, socialist and other left-wing parties. The term left-wing liberalism has recently become established for the political and cultural worldview of the lifestyle left.

The lifestyle left lives in a different world than the traditional one and defines itself on the basis of other topics. Above all, he is cosmopolitan and a matter of course for Europe, even if everyone understands something different by these catchwords. He cares about the climate and advocates emancipation, immigration and sexual minorities.

One of his convictions is to consider the nation-state to be an obsolete model and to consider himself a citizen of the world who has little in common with his own country. In general, the lifestyle left appreciates autonomy and self-fulfillment more than tradition and community. He finds traditional values ​​such as performance, diligence and effort uncool.

Dad's fortune and mum's relationships

This is especially true for the younger generation, who were so gently accompanied into life by caring, mostly well-off helicopter parents that they never got to know existential social fears and the pressure that arises from them. Dad's small fortune and mum's relationships give at least enough security that long unpaid internships or professional failures can be bridged.

Since the lifestyle left has hardly ever come into contact with the social question personally, it is usually only of marginal interest to them. So, you want a fair and non-discriminatory society, but the way to it no longer leads through the dull old topics from the social economy, i.e. wages, pensions, taxes or unemployment insurance, but above all through symbolism and language.

Schnitzel with sauce: The name for it is being disputed. (Source: foodandmore / imago images)

Accordingly, everyday language is constantly searched for words that could hurt anyone and that should be avoided from now on. They are then replaced by new word creations which, at least among the strict believers among the lifestyle left, lead to a very idiosyncratic way of expressing themselves, which only has to do with the German language to a limited extent.

Often, outsiders may not understand what the discrimination is in terms such as "refugee" or "lectern" or in the designation as "mother" or "father" or why dubious asterisks are repeatedly found in the middle of left-wing texts, but who goes to the inner circle heard, he knows the rules and obeys them.


Another imperative is to bypass so-called trigger words, i.e. codes that sound harmless, but are supposed to trigger trauma in certain groups or are used by the right to camouflage their inhuman ideology. "Homeland" and "people" are part of it and are consequently taboo, and the term "immigrants" is at least a sensitive one because everyone who comes to Europe has fled, and there are certainly no "foreigners" or "parallel worlds".

The typical lifestyle leftist lives in a big city or at least a chic university town and rarely in places like Bitterfeld or Gelsenkirchen. He is studying or has a university degree and good foreign language skills, advocates a post-growth economy and pays attention to a healthy diet. Discounter meat eaters, diesel car drivers and Mallorca low-cost air travelers are a horror to him.

Greta Thunberg at a "Fridays for Future" demonstration: Lifestyle leftists too, says Wagenknecht. (Source: Dogwoof Pictures / imago images)

That doesn't mean that he doesn't drive himself or that he never gets on a plane. But this is not just about Ballermann tourism, but about educational trips that help to get to know other cultures, to visit the last remaining wild orangutans or to get closer to the inner self in the Ayurveda Hotel. The fact that inner-city routes are often conquered by bicycle or a second electric car in return makes your conscience easier.

What makes the lifestyle left so unsympathetic in the eyes of many people, and especially the less fortunate, is their obvious tendency to regard their privileges as personal virtues and to glorify their worldview and way of life as the epitome of progressiveness and responsibility.

The unmistakable lack of compassion

It is the complacency of the morally superior that many lifestyle leftists exude, the all too intrusive conviction that they are on the side of good, law and reason. It is the arrogance with which they look down on the world, the needs, even the language of those people who have never been able to attend university, tend to live in a small-town environment and get the ingredients for their barbecue evening from Aldi simply because that Money has to last until the end of the month.

And it is the unmistakable lack of compassion for those who have to fight much harder for their little wealth, if they have any at all, and who may also sometimes appear tougher or grimmer and are in a bad mood because of this.

Even a bigotry that is difficult to deny certainly contributes to the low public image of the lifestyle left. Anyone who struggles to afford a vacation once a year from their poor salary or who has to live on a small pension despite lifelong work does not appreciate it when people preach to them renunciation who have never lacked something in life .

And about immigration as a great enrichment for our society, one does not want to be instructed by friends of multiculturalism, of all people, who make sure that their own child goes to a school where they only have to get to know other cultures in literature and art classes.

From chicks and covidiotes

There are lifestyle leftists who simply despise the poor and less educated. In Germany, the old white men are a popular enemy in lifestyle circles on the left. The proll is also often used to denote a group of people about whom one can express oneself disparagingly and to whom the sensitive considerations in terms of offensive language suddenly no longer apply. At the end of 2019, the name Umweltsau was circulating for people who buy their meat from Aldi, Lidl and Co. In the corona crisis, the Covidiotes were added.

Lateral thinker demonstration in Stuttgart: Is the term "Covidioten" an expression of contempt? (Source: imageBROKER / Martin Storz / imago images)

On the other hand, there are of course lifestyle leftists whose sincere concern is to stand up for the poor and disenfranchised of this world, which inevitably includes the poor and less privileged in their own country. But instead of respecting these people and simply standing up for their interests, one usually encounters them in the attitude of the benevolent missionary who not only wants to save the unbelievers, but above all wants to convert them.

Of course, the lifestyle left also finds it less appealing that they continually demand an open, tolerant society, but that even when dealing with divergent views they often display a terrifying intolerance that can easily compete with that of the extreme right. This gruff behavior results from the fact that, in the opinion of its supporters, left-wing liberalism is ultimately not an opinion, but a question of decency.

The majority: racists?

For left-wing liberals, anyone who deviates from the canon of their thinking is not a dissident, but at least a bad person, probably even a misanthropist or a Nazi. According to surveys in all western countries, 60 to 70 percent of the population reject high levels of immigration and want more restrictive rules. Of course, that is exactly enough to be considered a racist according to the official left-liberal reading.

People who feel unsafe when they are alone on public transport with a large group of men who speak a foreign language are also put in the same drawer. Because of the obvious spread of such "resentments", the term everyday racism has become common in left-wing liberal discourses.

Anyone who expects their own government to primarily look after the well-being of the local population and protect them from international competition for dumping and other negative consequences of globalization - a principle that was taken for granted among the traditional left - is now considered to be national social also with the ending -istic. And anyone who thinks it wrong to transfer more and more powers from the elected parliaments and governments to an opaque Brussels lobbying group is definitely an anti-European.

In this respect, it is not surprising that lifestyle leftists almost always keep to themselves when they take to the streets. The fact that the lower middle class, at risk of decline, and the poor - including most immigrants and their children and grandchildren belong to this group - are seldom seen at such events, of course, has to do with the fact that the problems of their hard and often brutal everyday life do not play a role here. That they are angry, while lifestyle leftists are usually not that dissatisfied.

Instead of asking the question of whether the society in which we live is really properly described as an open society and democracy, people gather behind the message: We have to defend our open society and our democracy against the right. People who experience the "open society" as more of a closed shop, which denies them advancement and prosperity despite their own efforts, and who are profoundly disappointed in democracy because their interests are constantly being ignored, should not feel addressed by such messages.

The major role that questions of symbolism and language play in the political understanding of the lifestyle left is certainly also related to the fact that a huge field of activity is opening up here, in which changes can be made undisturbed without ever conflicting with an influential economic interest group to guess or to burden the public coffers relevant.

Raising the minimum wage or introducing a wealth tax for the upper ten thousand naturally provokes much more resistance than changing the language of the authorities, talking about migration as an asset, or setting up another chair for gender theory.

It is not surprising that such a policy offer is not very attractive for all those people who once voted for left-wing parties because they promised an improvement in their often difficult living conditions, and more security and protection. In fact, industrial workers, low-wage workers, the poor self-employed and the unemployed are not only staying away from the rallies of the lifestyle left. As members and voters of the respective parties, you have also left more and more of yourselves.

The views expressed in the guest post reflect the opinion of the author and do not necessarily correspond to those of the t-online editorial team.

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