I do not believe in accidents. There are only hints. Whether you notice and use them is up to you. I received one of those hints on June 5th, watching an interview on a TV show dealing with topics of culture. The guy being interviewed was Christian Marty a Swiss journalist and “ideas historian”. Being interviewed Marty delivers a pleading for the need of more “idiots” in our society and against absolute conformity. Especially one comment draws my full attention on the interview: Marty talks about Max Weber, the “father” of sociology and cites him by: “The most adaptable person will be awarded.” What this quote is all about and why this citation describes exceptionally well our times I’d like to talk about today. In my opinion our society definitely needs more idiots.
Three cheers for the idiots
“Well, if somebody is an idiot and does not follow the mainstream in every aspect to me it is a good thing”, Marty states at the beginning of the interview. He defines an idiot as somebody who has the guts to be different from the rest which Marty considers a good quality to develop social structures. In western societies many considers themselves as individualists, in fact there a only a few people who can be called idiots in Marty’s sense. Why is it so? The historian delivers a plausible explanation: “It is a widespread phenomena that one has to adapt to society and social rules.” Both on a political, cultural and economic level one has to stand in for a certain view. If one does not obey to it, Marty continues, you can do so, however this decision is affiliated with negative consequences (for a career).
Fools of the present age
“Within society”, Marty quotes the sociologists Max Weber and Georg Simmel, “not matter in which, the most adaptable person will be awarded.” Christian Marty did his doctorate on Weber: “Max Weber. A thinker of freedom” that’s the title of his dissertation. I also referred to Weber in my doctoral thesis and furthermore on Simmel and Schütz. Therefore their body of thoughts are well known to me. I was and I am still impressed by their theories. In my discipline, intercultural learning, it is also important to adapt to the rules of a new society in a sense. However this adaptation does not mean assimilation – these are two different things. As Marty emphasizes in his interview it is important in every society to agree on elementary things otherwise living together does not work. However, whenever adaptation is not necessary to live together individuality should be possible. These are the fools of the present age, in a positive sense.
No place for racism
The timeliness of Max Weber shows also in the current debate on racism and exclusion in our society. The acceptance of views, looks and behaviour beyond social norms seems to scare a lot of people and is thus declined. And that does not only hold true for different colours of skin or views. No, even career paths are blocked to persons who do not obey to company and performance rules. But how can a society or a system change or develop itself if the credo is conformism? I wonder why we often measure such values in different ways? On the other hand we often stress how important individuality and freedom are to us, especially lately with the Corona regulations cutting our civil rights?