Why are flies so fearless

Harald Martenstein: About the struggle for more sensitivity - and why it is better not to kill two birds with one stone

Harald Martenstein

Editor of the "Tagesspiegel"

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Recently there was a dispute between the SPD icon Wolfgang Thierse and its chairman Saskia Esken. He finds identity politics (do you still have to explain this word?) Not quite as good as she does. The fight for more sensitivity is meanwhile being waged on more and more fronts. The animal welfare organization Peta has now called for no longer verbally belittling animals. Our language, says Peta, is permeated with "idioms that glorify violence against animals". This is not ethically justifiable. The animal rights activists think of such brutal formulations as "pick a chicken with someone". Instead, for example, one could "roll grape leaves with someone" in a completely non-violent manner. It would sound something like this in everyday use: The former SPD politician Wolfgang Thierse and his party leader Saskia Esken recently had to roll grape leaves together.

Instead of killing two birds with one stone, one should load two peas onto a fork. Something like this: In France I learn the language in the summer and take a little vacation, so I put two peas on a fork. Finding a substitute for "take the bull by the horns" is a little more complicated. One could say "do not torch for long", but language-sensitive people naturally immediately think of the torchlight procession of the National Socialists. Peta suggests: "I approach this as fearlessly as a cow mother." Instead of "Thierse will not be torched for long!" Saskia Esken would say: "I approach Thierse as fearlessly as a cow mother!" That is not yet optimal, it could even come across as misogynistic.

Peta believes that the phrase "neither fish nor meat" should continue to be used, but with a new meaning. At the moment this means that something is ambiguous, half a thing. In the future, "neither fish nor meat" should mean that something is vegetarian, so good. Saskia Esken could therefore say the following sentence: "For me, Black Lives Matter is neither fish nor meat." Thierse would reply in a dispute: "You, Ms. Esken, are fish and meat, and not even organic." It will take time for everyone to understand. Who knows whether the SPD will still exist.

I would be a little sorry for such a pictorial formulation as "there the bear is tapping", which many have a positive connotation, but according to Peta reminds of animal suffering. The suggested substitute "there the dog is waving its tail" suffers from the word "tail", which makes me think more of St. Nicholas. But it is clear to me that the S-word instead of "rod" would open up even more unpleasant fields of association.

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It is also interesting that words are banned that only sound similar to banned words. Bari Weiss, author of the New York Times, who quit there and now in the world is to be read, describes the case Greg Patton, professor at the University of Southern California. Patton lectured on meaningless filler words like the German "um" and mentioned the Chinese counterpart to "um". He pronounced the Chinese word, it sounds like "nigger". Outraged students wrote a letter to the dean. The dean stated that it was unacceptable for words to be used in class that could "damage the mental safety of our students". Patton was suspended from the course. If at some point these students have to go to China, hear the word there all the time and demand that the Chinese shut up, the Chinese will roll grape leaves with them.

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Harald Martenstein recently published the novel "Wut", which is about the fate of children. (Ullstein Verlag)