Munich (dpa) – In the corona pandemic, the presidency of Donald Trump and the refugee crisis, the writer and psychologist Frido Mann sees three causes for the strengthening of anti-democratic currents.
“In times of upheaval and turmoil, everything increases: solidarity and reason, but also stupidity”, explains the grandson of the Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann. With his new book “Democracy will win – Confessions of a citizen of the world”, which will appear at the end of August, he engages in the political discourse.
Dialogue between and across all age groups and social classes can help support the democratic order – it starts with children in day care centers and includes supposedly angry citizens, Mann says. In conversation with the latter, for example, one could denounce the populists and their theories and isolate them and win back the Democrats who are skeptical of the democratic idea.
It has been about 80 years since Thomas Mann, while in exile in America, spoke out with force and passion against fascism in Europe and fought for the renewal of democracy. “Democracy wants to win,” said the author of Buddenbrook in 1938. In a speech in Washington in 1943, he said: “It is a terrible sight when the irrational becomes popular.
In a guest article for an American newspaper in 1941, Thomas Mann wrote that “Democracy First” was not the slogan that would lead America to the number one place in the world. 75 years later, Donald Trump used the motto “America First” in his 2016 election campaign.
Almost simultaneously with the election of Trump, the Federal Republic of Germany purchased Thomas Mann’s former home in Pacific Palisades, California in 2016 and – also against the backdrop of atmospheric tensions between Germany and the states United – built a transatlantic meeting place there in 2018..
For Frido Mann, the house purchase and the American elections were the trigger for devoting himself to political dialogue and speaking with schoolchildren and students in Germany and the United States on a speaking tour. In Trump, Frido Mann sees the most powerful figurehead of populism in recent years.
The 81-year-old man, who has both German and American nationality as well as Swiss and Czech nationality, has deliberately chosen Thomas Mann’s quote “Democracy Will Win” as the title of his new book, in which, among others , it takes a look at nationalist and anti-democratic trends in Europe and the United States and shows how political dialogue can be successful.
The theme of dialogue runs like a red thread in his life, says Mann. During his theological studies he was influenced by the work of religious philosopher Martin Buber. Later, while working as a psychology teacher, he focused on conversational psychotherapy.
It also considers the ability and willingness of people to engage in dialogue as the basis for maintaining democracy. Education for democracy should be encouraged much more strongly in preschools and elementary schools, especially by teaching children to exchange arguments and be heard.
Through his political commitment, Frido Mann travels in the mind of his grandfather, with whom he spent many years of his childhood and youth, first in California and then in Switzerland. Conversations in the family sparked his interest in politics from an early age. Mann first studied music and did a doctorate in divinity before taking a doctorate in psychology and becoming a professor. The 81-year-old lives in Munich.
An exhibition due to open at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin at the end of October, as Frido Mann reports, deals with the political thought of Thomas Mann – from monarchist to democrat. The title of the show is also “Democracy Will Win”.