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Featured Börse Bündnis 90Die Grünen AB Christian Thiel Versmannstraße

2022 was a year of freedom

It was his first major speech as chancellor, and it was as predictable as it was quickly forgotten.

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2022 was a year of freedom

It was his first major speech as chancellor, and it was as predictable as it was quickly forgotten. In the background the Reichstag building, the same Christmas tree, the same flags as its predecessor.

Back then, almost a year ago, Olaf Scholz, folded hands, serious face, spoke of challenges, mutual hooking and different opinions on Corona, this pandemic, which was still not over after 21 months; no big New Year's Eve celebrations afterwards.

The 21 months had sapped the strength of many people - and worse. Not only the new chancellor knew that, and there was still no certainty that the end of the pandemic could begin in the new year. That everything would finally get better.

In fact, even though the virus lost its potential as a threat, things got a lot worse. In fact there was war. But despite - in some respects also because of - the dramatic development that was to take place very quickly, 2022 was a year of freedom.

A year in which, in several places around the world, the fight for freedom was so courageous and radical in a way that many no longer thought possible. In which the value of freedom was valued more highly than it had been for a long time. In which countries stood together to defend this freedom. Those were the big moments of 2022.

Not that the word freedom wasn't ubiquitous before. During the time of the pandemic and the measures taken to contain the virus, many people became aware of the fragility and value of what generations, at least in the western world, had taken for granted.

From time to time, freedom also became a combat concept, occasionally used beyond the actual meaning of the word, an indication of a long-described and lamented division in society. In which populists and extremists from the right flirted with lack of freedom just as much as canceling identity politicians from the left.

But many younger Germans and Europeans had now experienced for the first time that their lives were being threatened by an external situation. This should be repeated dramatically in a different way in 2022.

In late February, Russia invaded Ukraine and began the war of aggression in Europe that continues to this day. A few days later, Olaf Scholz gave a speech that, unlike the New Year's speech, was immediately perceived as his most important speech to this day. As is well known, a lot was about the word turning point in time.

The government said goodbye to some things that had been certain of German foreign policy up to that point, announced arms deliveries (unfortunately we all know what happened next) and a lot of money for armaments. She promised to take responsibility (how this will continue is not foreseeable at the moment). These were defense-political decisions, but for many citizens the word “turning point” became the word that accurately described the following months.

The war was a reality that hardly anyone had naively expected, barely 1000 kilometers away from warm, safe German living rooms. Freedom in security became something to be defended. The craters left by Russian bombs, the houses and places collapsing, the civilians injured, dead, civilization damaged.

The scenes of families who had to say goodbye, the trains with refugees arriving in Germany, images that most Germans only knew from books. And the shots of Ukrainians who began – if no pathos here, then when – to defend their country with their hands and their lives.

It was also this energy, this anger, which, together with the onset of support from abroad – contrary to initial odds given the balance of power – ensured that Ukraine successfully defended itself against the attack by the aggressor from Russia. Against what the dictator had planned in the Kremlin.

Thousands of kilometers further, people understood that this energy had a lot to do with the fight for freedom – the freedom of a country, but also of a system, the democratic one. The fact that this system is not a sure-fire success has dawned on many people in recent years - given the economic situation that authoritarian leaders obviously had, even in western countries. Putin was far from the only one who found illiberalism attractive.

And for some strange moments at the beginning of the pandemic, authoritarian regimes even seemed to appeal to those who normally opposed them, when they seemed to be handling the crisis better than democratic ones. This error has since been cleared up. As is the misconception that there are societies in which people choose to be oppressed.

The protests in Iran have now lasted just over 100 days. They began after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody and after being seized by the mullahs' regime's vice squad. More than 100 days, in which first young and very young, then very many Iranians rebelled against the omnipotence of the clergy, against the narrowness of their lives and country.

Schoolchildren tearing off their headscarves, old women taking to the streets, fathers protesting for their daughters' freedom. The more there were, the more brutally the regime hit back, and it is now trying to break the movement with death sentences. But the demonstrators did not and will not be stopped, and they soon came from all walks of life.

The protest, and this was new, overcame social and ethnic differences. Many people in Iran continue to risk their lives every day out of a rage for freedom and the courage to be free. They say they can't go back. The revolution started by women continues, it is the greatest hope for freedom since 1979.

Eventually, people in China also began to rebel, in an organization, in a multi-place simultaneity that was new. Against the government's Covid policy and its consequences. Against the regime. Despite everything that threatened them - and it's not little.

And then there are the women in Afghanistan who are resisting being excluded from universities. There are male students who refuse to take exams as long as it stays that way. Every one of them knows what the consequences can be. They do it anyway.

It's beginnings that have been made. With a courage whose dimensions we can only guess. But perhaps more and more people in Germany are trying to make that clear. Apparently many have realized that freedom has a value - and sometimes a price. Despite inflation, despite the energy crisis and personal strain, the willingness to support Ukraine's struggle for freedom has only slightly decreased. The feared burglary did not materialize.

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