In citing this kind of courage, I turn to the man who’s presence imbues today’s colloqui-um. He is responsible for the great digital debate in Germany that is already making it’s mark on the historical record. Frank Schirrmacher— publisher of his beloved Feuilleton, the intellectual powerhouse of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung— lived Orwell’s kind of courage every single moment. Frank refused to concede the future to today’s contingencies of digital power. This was, as he saw it, the debate of debates. He understood that it concealed the oldest political questions camouflaged in the language of our times: master or slave? Home or exile? And he understood that these questions are part of the eternal return, cases that must be tried and retried across all the days of humanity.Frank Schirrmacher believed that the media not only could but must be the vanguard of this struggle. He wanted the media to give voice to new synthetic declarations that refuse to bow to the facts at hand—just as it gave voice to Edward Snowden. He also understood, as Milton Friedman cunningly observed decades before, that new laws invariably follow shifts in public opinion that occur twenty or thirty years earlier. Frank dedicated himself to stirring public awareness that it might shape a new sense of collective intentionality and ultimately serve in the assertion of new institutional facts. He knew that this was essential in order that, decades hence, our courts, our governments, and our capitalisms might return to their ultimate sources of legitimacy in our claims, our well being, and our democratic principles.
During the past year it has been the media, especially here in Europe, that fearlessly en-gaged the established facts of big contraband and the digital future. As America falters in its will to assert the synthetic declarations that can move us beyond surveillance capitalism, Europe stands as our best hope in this world- historic challenge. Europe must take the torch and forge a new path to a new home.
Do not let your courage falter. We are only at the beginning, and it’s true that be-ginnings are scary. But as Hannah Arendt put it, every beginning, seen from the perspective of the framework that it interrupts, is a miracle. The capacity for performing such miracles is entirely human, she argues, because it is the source of all freedom. “What usually remains intact in the epochs of petrification and foreordained doom is the faculty of freedom itself, the sheer capacity to begin, which animates and inspires all human activities and is the hidden source ..of all great and beautiful things.”
May we, together, carry forward Frank Schirrmacher’s legacy by sharing in the author-ship of many great and beautiful new facts that reclaim the digital future as humanity’s home.
Let this be our declaration.