Those who have to fight for survival every morning often do not even have the time, usually not even the opportunity, to even talk about their own misery. Whoever is responsible for the misery in the world and for the misery of the world itself must hide both: the misery and his or her own responsibility. He or she will always try to do this with lies, if necessary, with violence. Therefore, he or she cannot be trusted. The situation is different for those who try to help the miserable, who stand by them, who want to support them in their resistance and self-assertion. Those who are willing and determined to help must name the misery, must try to understand it, must be able to explain it. In doing so, they must not stop at the misery. In order to bring others, to bring you and yourselves to their side and to the side of the miserable, help must also speak of the world that would be better than the existing one. That is why aid must give account to itself and to others of its own experiences and its own actions, and that is why it must bear witness to what would be possible and better. It must also do this for its own sake: because misery is not only that of others, it is always also one's own misery.
Making the world habitable
That is what this conference is about. That is why we want to put our experiences up for political discussion, and that is why it cannot only be about the crisis but must always be about its solution: at least about attempts at a solution. That is why we are holding a conference not only on the miserable state of the world, but also and above all on the possibilities of its (re)construction. We put the (re-) in brackets because we know that the world has never been what it can and should become: the place that will finally be worth inhabiting, for all of us. In the experience of aid, perhaps nowhere is this more strikingly evident than in Haiti and in Moria: two islands that are already barely habitable, where there is really no longer any question of living. That is why we start with these experiences.
From the attempts of aid to resolve such experiences of the uninhabitability of the world, we know, after all, that they must be global, that they must be attempts at solutions for everyone without exception, if they are to be just and therefore sustainable. And the first question to be answered by all of us is the question of how to end a policy that means the end of politics, because it abandons dealing with global problems and instrumentalizes aid as a garbage disposal for the global ravages of capitalism. Politics should return to what it was in its great historical moments: a contest of the many in which freedom and equality become the conditions under which alone the world can become the place that all can inhabit.
In the face of the irrefutable misery of our time, this means, on the one hand, still having to understand this world as a capitalist world. But capitalism has always been more and different than just the social relationship in which capital and labor reproduce themselves. It has always been a colonially founded capitalism of ecological devastation. Today it is therefore always already a postcolonial capitalism. And: It has always been a capitalism of patriarchy. Therefore, this conference tries to understand this capitalism as the world system that must ultimately be overcome, here and everywhere in the world.
Talking about the revolution, once again
On the other hand, in view of the overcoming of misery that is given to us, this means that we have to talk once again about the revolution. Today, however, this revolution can no longer be thought of as a leap into a bright future. Instead, it must be understood as an attempt, as the multiplicity of all attempts to repair the world brought to the brink of its ecological and social destruction by postcolonial and patriarchal capitalism, to make it habitable again. To want to repair the world means first of all to have to make reparations for its destruction, reparations in the literal sense. These are reparations that the global North has to pay to the global South. Only with their reimbursement will begin what we are trying to think of at this conference as a revolution, as a (re)construction of the world. As an attempt to change both the global South and the global North in such a way that these two world regions, separated and connected in the domination, exploitation and disregard of the global South by the global North, come together to form one, the one world. To the world that we can all inhabit freely and equally. This will be, as in the triple beginning of the modern revolutions in America (1776), in France (1789) and in Haiti (1791), a revolution of human rights, that is, a revolution in which we declare our human rights to each other. The (re)construction of the world will therefore be a (re)construction of human rights themselves.
Reflecting the experiences of the world by and through aid, we trace the beginnings of aid in the politics of autonomy and solidarity that appear in the global protests for climate justice, the transnational feminist and anti-racist movements, the local uprisings for democracy and a dignified life. These politics come to be “politics" in the true sense of the word: the struggle of the many for equality and freedom. Out of it and from it, our conference wants to determine the relationship between aid, solidarity and politics from the promise we made to ourselves in the Declaration of Human Rights: The promise of a global and social order in which the rights granted to us all would be fully realized.
Because we are serious about this, we will discuss the relationship of the misery of the world to the possibility of overcoming it as a problematic relationship, that is, as a relationship that we do not yet understand today, that we do not yet know how to resolve. The colonial, the patriarchal, the capitalist devastation of the world is still more powerful than any attempt at its repair and (re)construction. We cannot yet know whether this devastation will not drag us into ruin. In this sense, the ecological crisis and the policies to overcome it have a primacy in the multitude of crises: a primacy that teaches us that the time we have to repair and (re)construct the world is a limited time.
Thomas Rudhof-Seibert is a philosopher, author and political activist. He works as a human rights officer at medico international and is also responsible for Southeast Asia. There he oversees, among other things, the campaigns against the exploitative practices of the international textile industry. He is also coordinator of the human rights network Sri Lanka Advocacy and vice-chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.