It is all very well to be told that we have to listen to the people more attentively then they wouldn’t elect Trump, Hofer and Le Pen and they wouldn’t vote for Brexit.
But what does this mean? Who is meant by the word “we”? What is listening more attentively? I am in Burgenland at the moment. I was out shopping and met an old friend. We had a chat and she told me how she is getting on. So what pose should I adopt to “listen more attentively”? Should I look intent or concerned, or what?

Firstly, I am a totally normal person and my friends are totally normal people. Surely I don’t need to listen to “the people” more attentively because I am part of the elite. That is what Strache is saying but I don’t believe anything he says and least of all that. I will certainly not have him and bleeding-heart columnists telling me that I am not normal.

Secondly, I travel around the state and, as far as possible, around all the federal provinces. I listen and I follow the threads – and I even answer. Around the clock. As an equal. Therefore I also tell racist idiots that they are racist idiots and don’t feel sorry for them with their victim blaming mentality. This is the line Strache takes but I don’t believe anything he says and I don’t believe that either.

Thirdly, what is all this whining that the Internet and Facebook and all these postings are to blame? I read that the people out there want the good old days back. Perhaps. But nobody wants to turn the clock back more than the political correctness brigade. The workers are feeling nostalgic for the Kreisky era? So what? I can understand that 1000x better than the readers’ letters nostalgia. We have always selected the bits which the workers are allowed to say in public… how nice it all was.

Let me tell you something: the people are empowered. Not only through Facebook and postings – that is just the icing on the cake. The people are also financially empowered after 70 years of peace and economic upturn. I read that “people have a smartphone, two cars, three holidays a year and four televisions and they are still not satisfied.”

Yes, that’s true, dammit. Because they have no say. But, in contrast to former times, they would be able to and they also want to. No longer are they the poor coal miners who grafted for 16 hours and were grateful just to have a warm room. Thank goodness. They are higher up the hierarchy of needs. They are buying their second car and choosing every detail down to the seat covers. When they go shopping in H&M, there is an iPad near the exit where they can enter feedback on every aspect of their shopping experience. For goodness sake, now you can assess how clean the public toilets in shopping centres are and enter your evaluation in digital systems.

But people can only vote once every five years and the rest of the time they are supposed to put up and shut up? And this won’t drive the people to distraction?

To be honest, all this whingeing and nonsense totally reminds me of Habermas and the points he puts forward in ‘The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere”: the middle classes climb the social ladder and become prosperous and influential but the aristocracy has its court ceremony and affirms its importance, and the members of the bourgeoisie do not feature in this establishment. So they create their own society, with salons and coffee houses and reading circles, and a new approach to politics is a subject of discussion in this new society. Metternich sends out his spies and they were probably also to be heard at the court saying, “We need to listen to the people more attentively. There is such a frenzy of hatred in all these postings in the reading circles. Have you read the poems by this one called Schiller???”
No, we don’t need to listen to the people more attentively. We have to let them join in the conversation. They are not poor wretches who need us to translate their concerns into policies. They are citizens with the right to vote. Period.
Parliamentary democracy, as contrived in the last structural transformation of the public sphere and as we know it today, is optimised for the territorial state of the 18th century (!!!) The people wanted to have their say so they elected representatives who rode to the capital on horseback and joined the debate in parliament. That was all that was possible in those days.
Today more is possible. And no, that is not the end of parliamentary democracy. Nobody will want everything to be sorted out by the democratic route. 99 per cent of politics is made up of issues which people don’t want to be bothered with while they are picking their children up from the nursery and still have to go shopping at the local supermarket. But that still leaves one per cent who want to get engaged. And they are not allowed to take part in the debate although they would be capable of doing so. And yet they do have the right to take part. Not the right in the legal sense, the constitutional right, the right of “the system”… but the moral right. It is our state, our democracy. And if we are not allowed a say *although we would be capable*, it is not a democracy…

It may be fine as long as we feel that it is working anyway. But what happens if it isn’t? What if we are gripped by a fear of falling? Should we just watch? And if no progress is made for years, should we just keep watching? Really? That would be negligent. It is only natural that the pressure will increase. It is only natural to want to do something… and it does feel like acting in self-defence!

I can understand that. No, I won’t listen to the people more attentively. I will let them speak.

Like this. Rant over. Thank you for listening.

Posted by Michel Reimon