Saturday 19 November, 5.00pm until 7.30pm, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Domstraße 10, D-60311, Frankfurt, Germany
Venue: MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Domstraße 10, D-60311, Frankfurt, Germany
During the World Cup in 2006, many foreign guests were astonished to find there are no speed limits on the German autobahns, and to discover smoking was allowed in restaurants, while people could drink beer in the streets and squares without any restrictions. Since then, a lot has changed. Following a worldwide trend, Nichtraucherschutz (‘non smoking protection’) has become firmly established in most parts of Germany. Particularly restrictive rules were enforced after a referendum last year in Bavaria. For the first time in its more than 200-year history, there was ‘No smoking!’ even in the tents of the world-famous Oktoberfest. Alcohol has been banned from the Alexanderplatz in Berlin and the Hamburg subway, and similar bans are spreading into more and more cities. Government campaigns against ‘binge drinking’ suggest alcohol consumption is somehow dangerous, antisocial and unnatural. Many lifestyle choices that were previously considered a private matter are now prohibited without reservation. Politicians are calling for a fast-food ban for small children in order to prevent obesity; others demand slot machine bans, and prohibitions againt computer games or internet porn. Earlier this year a Cologne court even banned welfare recipients from betting on sports.
At first glance, this comprehensive campaign for public health seems apolitical. Politicians claim that they only want the best for those affected. Everyone would like to live a healthy life, after all, and appropriate legislation, awareness training and administrative measures are simply tools to protect the citizens against their own weakness or ignorance. But what are the broader political consequences of these interventions into the everyday lives of millions of citizens? Does this interference in highly personal aspects of lifestyle in fact lead to an unprecedented politicisation of the private sphere? It seems the boundaries between state and society are becoming increasingly blurred by modern health policy. Free spaces in which mature citizens are able to make autonomous decisions – even if it’s only to light up a cigarette or not – are circumscribed. Are we becoming more and more subject to authoritarian administration? What kind of effect has the spread of a health and social policy that micro-manages personal behaviour had on our democracy?
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer
freelance researcher and author, writing on lifestyle prohibition in Germany
member, editorial board, NovoArgumente
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36