By Ingo Niermann
  • Ingo Niermann

    Ingo Niermann is a writer and editor of the book series Solution. His debut novel DerEffekt was published in 2001. Recent books include Solution 247-261: Love (ed., 2013), Choose Drill (2011), The Future of Art: A Manual (2011), Solution 186–195: Dubai Democracy (2010), Solution 1–10: Umbauland (2009), Solution 9: The Great Pyramid (with Jens Thiel, 2008), and The Curious World of Drugs and Their Friends (with Adriano Sack, 2008). Niermann co-founded the revolutionary collective Redesigndeutschland, and invented a tomb for all people, the Great Pyramid.  Together with Rem Koolhaas he has been building a tool for public ballots—Vote—in Gwangju, Korea. In cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) Niermann started the international digital publishing project Fiktion.


Four years ago I accompanied Hell Fire, a German AC/DC cover band, on tour through German military camps in Afghanistan. At each concert I witnessed an outburst of untroubled joy that was beyond comparison: the soldiers were screaming, jumping, rolling, hugging, kissing. This came as even more of a surprise since aside from the concerts the soldiers were engrossed in untiringly explicating the misery of what they considered to be a useless—if not absurd—military engagement.

These complaints were not just empty words. Without a doubt, the last decades have seen more and more incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder among combat soldiers returning home to Western countries. The reason for this is less the brutality of the operation than the return itself. A soldier who survived a battle is no longer revered as a hero, but rather as an unwelcome reminder of a barbaric past that continues to live on in faraway lands. The soldier as such is a groomed anachronism. She or he does not even have to be killed or wounded: the simple fact that the soldier has shown her- or himself prepared to kill other human beings burdens her or him, from civil society’s perspective, with guilt. The matter of the soldier being specifically sent there by them only adds a second layer of guilt to her or his own. Such guilt—both the individual and the social—is not to be punished, but immediately redeemed with therapy.

Humanist society strives for a peacefully coexisting world community. In an expanded understanding, this also includes nature. In the end, the only battle left to fight is that of each individual against her- or himself. It is the only one that requires the opponent’s consent from the start. More and more weapons are being developed to this end: medication, psychotherapies, exercise regimes, diets. Though it is possible to risk your life in a battle with your hitherto-self, the survival instinct and the humanist appreciation of people generally only allow a fight for the prolonging of life. Which is why most people, even those who have prevailed in battle after battle against their own imperfection, lose in the end. The body inevitably wears down, and even if we manage to break old habits and traumas, new ones form shortly thereafter. Even with that which humanism assigns beyond oneself—equal opportunity and world peace—one fares no better. People should commit themselves to goals that only a species superior to humankind is ever really capable of achieving, and the people should not even die for them.

Humanism is based on the magical assumption that everyone would only have to want properly. As for those who do not do so, all you have to do is name the right reasons. You appeal to the intellect rather than surreptitiously manipulate. In cases where this is not enough, because people are too dumb or too crazy, then there is consolation and—when the wrong wills harm third parties—also violence. Violence that, wherever possible, does not kill or injure but ideally cleanses as well. The violent urge should never be fueled by hatred; you should only bring yourself to act on it as a very last resort. But still it should be carried out immediately should the situation call for it.

Automatic response is only possible, however, when it no longer necessitates conscious will. This is where drilling comes in. Humanism is celebrating the power of awareness, but it’s the dumb repetitiveness of drill that enables you to go to war and risk your life without hate. On the other hand, you can also drill yourself into feeling certain emotions in the first place. An army of lovers can put themselves in the position not only of commiserating with those in need, but also loving and desiring them.

In a nonviolent and property-less society, everyone has access to basic commodities at their discretion, though when it comes to desired sex and love partners, the partner’s consent continues to be necessary. In socialism’s fight against unequal ownership structures, the unequal distribution of attractiveness was simply ignored. The hippies, following the tradition of Charles Fourier, assumed that sex and love need only be liberated from the prison of monogamy, after which they would blossom and flourish so much that there would be an abundance of it for all. Still, no longer laying claims to libidinous ownership would free one from faithfulness, but not from the aesthetic, intellectual, and character standards required of one’s partner. Free love, in the end, only expands liberalism to the intimate sphere.

A truly all-encompassing fellow love—even for the nasty, ugly, old, and retarded—demands more surmounting effort than the usual, charitable one. Yet one is also rewarded with the most extraordinary experiences and deepest gratitude. And only then will a welfare society satisfy the demand for comprehensive justice for all. This reinforces the acceptance of the welfare society’s both on the side of those who take, as well as those who give.