Streets blocked by cars in Mannheim

In some streets in Mannheim, one side is occupied by parked cars and only one lane remains for moving traffic. This creates uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous situations for cyclists. I often cycle there with an uneasy feeling.

First example: Spinozastraße in the Oststadt

Traffic goes in both directions. However, one lane is totally occupied by parked cars – probably mostly belonging to local residents who have a garage, but who place their second or third cars on the street, or fill their garages with other things. The oncoming car visible in the distance (coming from northwest) has to switch onto the left side of the road. This means that people coming from the southeast are on the right side and have the right of way. Car drivers respect this as long as that person is in a motor vehicle, and utilize such gaps as are visible on the left side of the picture in order to yield.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few unreasonable car drivers in Mannheim, who do not respect the right of way of cyclists. They seem to think that cyclists only require 50 cm of space in order to squeeze between the sidewalk and an oncoming car. A few times I forced such a person to stop before I passed by him. Those were men every time, since testosterone seems to promote unreasonable car driving! Invariably this led to a very tense confrontation. Those people seemed to have no comprehension that a person on a bike needs some safety space from an oncoming car, nor did they seem to know that the law prescribes leaving 1.5 m of space between car and bicycle. I have the impression that such car drivers regard themselves as kings and cyclists as plebeians who should bow in submission before them. They are outraged if a cyclist demands of them to make way by going on the right side of the road.

I do not like such confrontations. Ever since the bike path on the Augustaanlage (which runs roughly parallel to this street) was opened, I practically never use the Spinozastraße in an East-West direction. I also rarely use it in West-East direction, though in that case I yield before oncoming cars because they have the right of way – and in this direction I have never experienced any conflict.


Second example: Karl-Ludwig-Straße in the Schwetzinger Vorstadt

Here also one side of the street is filled with parked cars, and only one lane is available for traffic in both directions. If one turns into here by car from the Seckenheimer Straße (like the car visible in the left picture), one can not see whether anybody is approaching from 20 or 30 m ahead. There is no space on the right side to make way, because there are no gaps between the parking spaces. The only appropriate solution if somebody is approaching by bike is for the car driver to stop for a moment in order to let the cyclist pass. After all, the path of a normally driving car overlaps the path of a bicycle in the opposite direction, a far cry from 1.5 m safety distance!

Here also I encounter total incomprehension on the part of many car drivers that they should stop. They react with outrage and anger. They think I have so much space, what do I want?

I just want people to follow the law. Any car driver would allow enough space for a person on a motorbike. Why not for a cyclist – does she have less right to physical health and integrity?

It appears that cyclists who demand their rights violate the Eleventh Commandment:

Thou shalt never question the prerogatives of a car driver!


Third example: Tatersallstraße near the Wasserturm

This is officially a street where cyclists have priority. Only few car drivers seem to have noticed this – maybe they consider the colorful street markings to be some pretty decoration. Does the city administration perhaps share this view?

Cars are only allowed to drive in one direction here. They primarily need the street in order to access parking lots (although there are a lot of parking spaces nearby beneath the Wasserturm, visible in the background). Cyclists are allowed to go in both directions, because this is an important connection for them between the main railway station, the central city and the Neckarstadt, parallel to the car-dominated Kaiserring. Here also: lots of car drivers are unwilling to yield to oncoming cyclists or to briefly come to a stop. In the photo one sees how the cyclist barely has 1.5 m space between the oncoming car and the parked car on the right. The picture is not posed – I only made photos for a few minutes until this situation happened to arise.

The situation is similar in the many streets in the central “Quadrate,” where parked cars leave only one narrow lane and there is one-way traffic for cars and two-way traffic for cyclists. All of these streets I use as a one-way street even as a cyclist in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts and danger. To me, the rule allowing cyclists to go in both directions on these streets is a bad joke.


How would it be possible to assure safety for cyclists in these cases?

A considerate, decent solution would be for car drivers to stop in order to allow cyclists to pass. Some do this. Many do not. It is practically not possible to demand one’s rights as a cyclist in these situations. Publicity campaigns calling car drivers to be more considerate, and calling for sensitivity about this issue in driving lessons could help, but only in the long term. The culture of the supremacy of motorists is too deeply entrenched in our society.

As a short-term personal solution, I avoid dangerous places if I have encountered too many conflicts there. However, this is only a fallback solution because it restricts my mobility as a cyclist. A city that wishes to promote bike traffic should not wish for this kind of solution.

My proposal: eliminate parking spaces at these places, because they block traffic flow. Plus I think that even while the total number of parking spaces should be reduced, more parking spaces should be created for people with disabilities and for delivery vehicles.

A city requires space for moving traffic such as public transport, bicycles, delivery services and of course for foot traffic (because without movement by foot there is no traffic at all) – and only after this for parked cars.

In Mannheim I unfortunately have the impression that too often, highest priority is granted to parked cars.
















The mural “Silence”, the city (Mannheim), and the joy of diversity


Last year, I decided to run for the city council election in the city of Mannheim this coming June, for the Green Party. I am grateful that the Greens have elected me to run on their 17th seat in this election.

In order to better present my positions and points of view to potential voters, I am now revitalizing my blog.

But before writing a new blog entry, I wanted to select a new header picture for my website. Previously there had been a picture of rose colored clouds illuminated by the rising sun. But now I wanted a photo that would show something that I find valuable about Mannheim. So I searched photos that I had taken on a walk through the city last March. I used the photo that I liked most for the header. Here is the complete photo:

It is one of the murals of the Mannheim project Stadt Wand Kunst (City Wall Art) a project that supports the creation of new murals every year on the walls of buildings in the city. These are interesting works of art that visitors can encounter as they exit the main train station, and that in various places in the city invite people to think or to have another look. I see it as a successful multicultural project, because it includes works by artists of numerous backgrounds. In addition, it is inclusive, because everybody who moves around in the city can look at these works of art. I see the project as symbolic of what a city can and should be: a place where people of many different origins meet each other, converse with each other, develop new ideas, create new things, and enrich each other. Cities were such places of encounter ever since the first cities of humanity. This, and not the population size, distinguishes a city from a village. And I enjoy living in a place like Mannheim, that is a city in this sense, where I hear many languages around me and not just one.

But back to the picture. What is that woman doing with the bell, ducking beneath the roof in the city block O4? What is she suggesting we do with the word „silence“ at the traffic-packed Kunststraße, where it is seldom possible to hear the silence after the sound of a bell has dissipated? What does she want to tell us at this place, above the bookstore Bender and across from the erotic store?

Every viewer can answer in their own way – that is in the nature of every work of art. But let us turn to the artists who created this piece. This piece, as also several more murals in Mannheim, was created by the Duo Sourati, who live in Mannheim. They are Mehrdad Zaeri, who hails from Isfahan, and Christina Laube, a German photographer, author and book illustrator. Zaeri fled with his family from Khomeini’s Iran, worked for some time as a taxi driver in Heidelberg, and finally became an artist. The two together have also created many other works, for example Imagine in Amman, Jordan, with the support of the project Stadt Wand Kunst. This piece encourages women to dream and not to lose courage. In the year 2022 the two together created an installation in the town of Göppingen, Dedicated to Tati“ – Tati being their friend Tatiana, as she had written to them as eyewitness of the Russian attacks on Kiev.

Aren’t Souratis pictures impressive examples of what exchange across borders can do for us? What enrichment occurs when people from distant countries come together?

On the one hand, I find it incredibly sad that people like Mehrdad Zaeri had to flee from Iran, because this country has been suffering so long under the regime of reactionary clerics (and before that under the murderous and repressive regime of the shah). In Iran there are innumerable creative people, and despite ongoing repression some of them write books, make movies and otherwise fight for their freedom. An example is the lesbian activist Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani, who was condemned to death but last month was allowed to come to Germany.i Since September 2022, many thousands of people in Iran dared to go on the streets to demonstrate for woman, life, freedom. In 2009, masses of people took to the streets as part of the „green movement“ around Hossein Mussawi, to demand free elections and civil rights. These are just a few examples of resistance in the country. In addition, Iran is home to numerous religious traditions such as Zoroastrianism, the Bahá’i religion and the mysticism of Sufis, that are being suppressed by the present government. What an enrichment would it be not only for Iran, but the entire world, if all these people could express themselves freely!

On the other hand I am extremely glad that Germany is a country where people seek and find refuge from deadly and repressive conditions. That can not be taken for granted. Not too long ago, countless people had to flee from Germany in order not to be gassed or otherwise murdered. I am deeply grateful that, despite this history, Germany has become a country on which people of all kinds of backgrounds place their hopes to build up a life of self determination. I want it to remain like this and I am shocked about the people who reject this achievement increasingly loudly and shrilly.

But does it have to be this way, that people have to flee from some countries in order to find refuge in others? Can we imagine a future when human rights are respected everywhere, when people can migrate without being forced to, and all kinds of exciting encounters are possible? As long as such a situation is mere imagination, it is no wonder to me that the woman with the bell hasn’t found enough space to stand upright, and that we do not hear the silence that follows when her bell has stopped ringing.




iI have attached a German-language link about Seddiqi-Hamedani’s release because I was not able to find an English-language report about the event. English-language sites (such as the BBC) as well as Amnesty International and Wikipedia reported about her death sentence, but not about her release to Germany.

P.S.: For interested readers: Link to the report by Correctiv regarding a conference of people from the AfD party and allies, about how they want to organize mass deportations.

I am a trow!

I am a trow.

What is that supposed to mean?

Trow is my term for a trans woman, but in the form of a simple word rather than a compound word or a pair of two words. The “tr” stands for trans and the “ow” stands for woman, the word should be spoken to rhyme with “wow.” It is my rendering into English of “trau”, created by combining “trans” and “frau” (woman in German). As I learned via an internet search after creating this word, in Shakespeare’s time, the word “trow” was used for believing, trusting, clearly related to the German word “trauen” (trusting). That is, German “trau” corresponds to English “trow” by an old established linguistic pattern.

For me, “trow” represents exactly what I am. I am not a “man”, because I hardly feel a sense of belonging to this gender, because I simply do not have many of the feelings generally ascribed to men, because I feel a stronger emotional bond to women than to men, because I feel comfortable in women’s clothing. But neither am I a “woman” because being a woman is intimately bound up with many experiences that I never had and never will be able to have. Being can not be separated from one’s own body, and after all I do not have the body of a woman. I have never had a monthly bleeding, I never had the hope or expectation or fear of becoming pregnant, I never had to confront the possibility of birthing a child. Practically all women have to deal with all these issues, regardless of whether they want to give birth to a child or not. To separate these and many other experiences from being a woman means negating the body and reducing existence to a matter purely of the spirit. If being a woman or a man is reduced to the mere feeling of being a woman or man, the words “woman” and “man” lose most of their content.

On the other hand, being a woman or man can not be reduced to a matter of the body only. If people were purely biological organisms, lacking culture and society, without social roles and traditions, with no laws, then one could reduce the terms “woman” and “man” to the biological function of reproduction. However, women are not mere “females” and men not mere “males”, but instead they are human beings who are raised in their families, societies, cultures according to the predominant gender roles. There are conceptions of how a “proper” woman and a “real” man are to behave. People who can not find a way to fit themselves into this scheme, who would rather live according to many of the precepts for the “other” gender or who would rather see themselves in the body of the “other” gender, simply do not fit into the gender category that corresponds to their body.

Yet, I do not quite like the term trans woman. To me, this term suggests that I consist of two opposite parts. A female spirit in a male body. A duality rather than a unity. A woman trying to break out of her male body, but not quite managing to do so. A person who constantly struggles to emphasize her femininity, who has to fight her body in order to look as much like a woman as she can. This may involve operations, lifelong hormone treatments, removal of facial hair that may have to be repeated every few years, difficult voice training the results of which may not be fully convincing, daily cosmetics. Feminists have long criticized that women are pressured to adapt their bodies to beauty ideals conceived by the male-dominated fashion industry, wreaking violence against their own bodies. Does it make sense for trans women to work even harder on modifying their own bodies?

In contrast, I see great promise in the word “trow”. I see it as a way to find a new unity, my own path. A person with a “man’s” face wearing “women’s” clothes doesn’t need to be a contradiction – that is simply a person with a “trow’s” face wearing “trow’s” clothing. With my “trow’s” clothing I can adopt elements of women’s fashion and adapt them to my body, emphasizing the natural elegance and beauty of my body, without having to follow beauty ideals that the fashion industry has created for women. I can even cultivate certain “feminine” elements more strongly than women usually do (for example, I rarely wear pants, in contrast to most women whom I know). Rather than having a woman’s mind in a man’s body, I have a trow’s body-mind. At a mental/spirit level, I am a trow because I do not think and feel exactly like a woman, but neither do I think and feel like a man, but rather – like a trow. My bodily feeling of comfort in women’s clothes was a key driver of my growing awareness of being a trow – in this regard, my body led and my mind followed. I savor those of my bodily characteristics that are more typical of women than of men. As a trow, I do not try to force my body to become a woman’s body, but rather develop in mind-body-spirit as a trow. To the extent that I modify my body, I do so according to my image of how I want to be as a trow.

If in public I am quite simply a trow, I do not need to pretend to be anything. I do not hide that I am not a “real” man and I do not try to “pass” as a “real” woman, because either of these would require huge effort and ultimately denial of self.

In other words, I am completely “out”. I am “out” just like all women are “out” as women and men are “out” as men. Like all Muslim women who cover their hair and Jewish men who wear a kippa. Like all foreigners who speak the language of the country where they live with a foreign accent or a limited vocabulary. Like all people whose skin color is considered darker than “normal” in the country where they live. Like all people who require a wheelchair for movement. Like all people who, in certain contexts, use language that is not sufficiently “educated.” All of us stick out as somehow different in certain situations. That as such is not a problem. We humans constantly observe each other and notice differences – we are hard wired to do that. And since we are not clones of each other, there are differences.

What is a problem and causes trauma and injury is to be treated as inferior, to be excluded, to be verbally abused, to be violently attacked because of one’s “difference” – whether that be one’s gender, one’s cultural or national origin, one’s skin color, the religion one belongs to, one’s sexual orientation etc. Fortunately, so far I have never been attacked because of being a trow. In many places I would have no such luck. Regardless of such experiences, for me it is now a matter of course that I am “out.” What unfortunately continues not to be, but should be, a matter of course is that people who are visibly “different” are treated as being of equal value.

Spreading freer markets

In the previous blog post, I wrote about the need to spread the preconditions for “relatively free markets” around the world – defined as markets where everyone involved can freely participate in working out the rules. I raised the question how countries with relatively free market conditions can organize trade in such a way that conditions for greater freedom will tend to spread ever further, rather than contracting.

One effort along these lines is the passage of supply chain laws, such as the German “Supply Chain Due Diligence Act” (that has come into force on January 1, 2023) and the European Union “Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.” The latter exists in draft form; once it is passed, it will require the 27 EU member countries to pass enabling legislation. The intention is to require companies exceeding a certain size to ensure that the products they import from abroad have been produced under minimally fair labor and environmental conditions. The EU directive (as drafted) will require companies to monitor the production conditions of their suppliers throughout the commodity chain; the German law only requires monitoring of direct suppliers. These are laudable efforts, despite their limitations (for example, enforcing compliance may present great challenges, companies under a certain size are exempted meaning that a large portion of imports is not affected at all, and the financial industry is largely exempted). Information sources on these legislative efforts are listed at the end of this blog entry.

Yet, even the best commodity chain laws have a serious failing: they locate the responsibility for change primarily among private companies. This means that companies are asked to perform tasks for which they are not constructed (e.g., monitoring labor conditions among their suppliers) and which they are therefore likely to perform poorly and with little enthusiasm. In addition, even the largest companies can not (and should not) be held responsible for a country’s legislation and the enforcement of its laws. As the official German government FAQ on the topic states, “No company will be expected to change the legal and political conditions in the partner country.” However, spreading relatively free markets to other countries necessarily involves the responsibilities of governments: to pass, enforce, and themselves observe laws to protect freedom of speech, the environment, the rights of laboring people, etc.

Therefore, in addition to supply chain laws, I propose to build on anti-dumping provisions. According to rules of the World Trade Organization, these provisions allow a country to impose import duties on goods that have been unfairly subsidized, meaning that they are being sold abroad at less than the selling price within the exporting country (and usually also less than the costs of production). The excessively cheap prices make it difficult or impossible for competing companies to produce and sell the goods in a responsible manner. The duties are justified as a defense against such unfair competition. Below I have listed some sources on anti-dumping duties.

However, anti-dumping duties are often imposed rather arbitrarily (against some countries but not others), and the revenue they raise can be used for any purpose that the importing country’s government wishes. They are therefore currently a tool for punishment but not for spreading truly free and fair market conditions.

What I propose instead is to base anti-dumping duties on a set of clearly and transparently stated criteria, and to spend the revenues they raise within the exporting country to address the causes for imposing the duties. I call these “anti-dumping duties for democracy” or ADD for short. If the government of the exporting country does not allow the funds to be spent in this way, the funds can be spent in another country that faces similar duties. However, under no circumstances may the funds be spent in the importing country.

To flesh this out: Country X exports garments to country Y. The garments are manufactured in ways that lead to severe water pollution of a kind that is not allowed in country Y. In addition, unions are suppressed, leading to very poor wages for the workers. These practices allow companies in X to produce garments at such low costs that producers in Y can not compete. In addition, companies in X that wish to use more expensive production processes that avoid water pollution, and who pay their workers better, are not be able to compete within country X. Classic anti-dumping duties would simply hurt the entire garment industry in X.

However, if country Y (and hopefully, a number of other importing countries as well) imposed ADD, then the funds raised thereby would be spent within country X in order to do things such as:

  • pass laws for better protection of water quality, and to fund agencies that monitor water quality and enforce the water protection laws,
  • finance the introduction of more environmentally friendly technologies in the textile and garment industries (e.g., via low-interest loans),
  • pass and enforce laws that support free labor unions,
  • directly support labor unions financially (particularly in the textile and garment industries),
  • pass and enforce laws pertaining to labor conditions, including the funds needed to perform regular inspections of work places.

The more precisely the reasons for the ADD are articulated, the more precisely can the funds be directed at measures that will make it possible to eliminate those duties in future. As implementation proceeds, the duties are reduced or eliminated.

If the government of country X refuses to accept funds for the purposes described above, then the funds can be spent in another country Z with similar environmental and labor conditions as in country X. Then, change is supported in country Z instead of country X.

For the ADD to achieve their stated goals, they need to meet certain standards of fairness and justice, to be adjudicated by an international court. For example,

  • A country may not impose obviously different standards on different trading partners (countries or companies).
  • A country must not impose standards on other countries that it does not meet itself.
  • All ADD must be grounded in international law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions signed and ratified by a large number of countries.

That is, the introduction of ADD needs to occur within an institutional framework that avoids their arbitrary use, setting standards for the ADD themselves and allowing aggrieved parties to go to some kind of court. This would require the establishment of an appropriate institutional structure, either changing the responsibilities of existing organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization, or founding a new organization with its own mission.

All of this is extremely far-fetched today. But it is the kind of institutional framework that I believe is needed in order to spread relatively free markets around the world. By this tool, countries would be able to protect their own legislation for human rights and the environment against destructive competition. The same tool would help other countries to implement more progressive agendas. It would support trade among those countries willing to promote change in favor of democracy, human rights and environmental protection. Gradually, anti dumping duties for democracy would make a difference on a world scale.



Sources on Supply Chain Laws

Initiative Lieferkettengesetz (Coalition of organizations based in Germany that supports the passage of more stringent legislation in Germany as well as the EU; note that the English language version of this site is very limited)


German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development:


European Commission

Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937


Reclaim Finance and Friends of the Earth France

Press Release Dec 1, 2022: CSDDD: under pressure as EU Council adopts measures excluding financial sector

EQS Group

Dec. 12, 2022: EU Supply Chain Law Obliges Companies to Operate in a Fair and Sustainable Manner


See also an article on the difficulty of tracing supply chains backwards:

Kelly Oakes, Feb. 7, 2023, Why fabric fraud is so easy to hide, BBC.


Sources on anti-dumping duties

European Commission. Anti-dumping duties

European Commission. Trade defence

Corporate Finance Institute. Anti-Dumping Duty


Free markets

In my previous post I argued that the European Union can only convincingly promote values of freedom, of liberal democracy and the respect for human rights beyond its borders if it makes “clear that it values democracy and human rights in the rest of the world (not just at home) more than it values low prices of the goods it imports.” However, before turning to the question how it can do that, in today’s blog I attempt to work out the values of democracy and human rights and of the “free market” and “competitiveness” can best be connected.

Competitiveness is commonly understood as the ability to sell a product at a lower price than the competitors (for example as a result of lower production costs) or the ability to sell higher quality products at a higher price (for example as a result of innovative technology). The “free market” is often reduced to prices not being set by the state, most products being produced and sold by private businesses, and at least two companies competing to sell similar products. However, even according to such minimal definitions, many markets are not free at all. For example, a very large portion of fossil fuels is mined and sold by state enterprises, and in many sectors there are monopolies or quasi-monopolies that impose their conditions on all participants in a market (for example, in large-scale trade of many agricultural commodities, agrochemicals and seeds).

However, there are also more demanding definitions of the “freedom” of a market, according to which there are not many truly free markets. Is the book trade free if Amazon establishes its European headquarters in Ireland and thereby pays substantially lower taxes than smaller bookstores all over Europe? Can workers freely negotiate over the price of their labor if they have to suffer hunger if they lose their job, but their employer can easily find someone else to do the job – perhaps in other countries or continents? Can farmers freely decide to carefully tend to their land and soil, to treat their animals reasonably well, if they end up producing at somewhat higher cost than their competitors? The so-called free market is full of constraints from which only few market participants can extricate themselves. Nothing shows this more obviously than business literature that prescribes in very authoritarian language what you “must” do in order to survive in the market. In the end, the most ruthless market participants set the prices and thereby the conditions by which everyone else must abide.

Some advocates of “free” markets wish to “free” markets by abolishing virtually all legal restraints. This is called “deregulation.” To the extent that such efforts are successful, this means that everything is sacrificed to the market: clean air and water, soil fertility, the physical and psychic health and old age security of working people, and so much more. After all, in the absence of regulation, anyone who does not care about all these things can sell their products at a lesser price and gain market share. This does not change if people who are both well-off and well-meaning try to shop as socially and ecologically responsibly as tehy can. Such behavior only enables niche markets for the goods produced in this way; the mass market is not at all affected.

In fact, laws and regulations are necessary for competition to motivate businesses not only to use resources effectively, but also to take care of them, not only to use human labor for some useful end, but also to care for the people. Unregulated competition leads to a mentality of taking without ever wanting to give back. Ultimately, this leads to the ruin of everybody involved, because the ecological and social conditions for life are destroyed – without which no market can exist. Rules are essential.

The more is at stake, the more rules are necessary. An analogy to sports can make this clear. A football match on the neighborhood pitch requires only few rules, two backpacks can serve as goalposts, referees are not needed, offside rules are interpreted rather casually, etc. However, the higher up one goes to local and regional leagues, to national amateur and professional leagues and finally to international football, the larger and more detailed the rule book becomes. Four referees, video review, detailed examination of the minutiae of each handball and offside position etc. are only found in the highest leagues, where incredible sums hang in the balance in each match. It is similar in markets. The more world-encompassing markets are, involving a sheer endless number of goods the production of which can hardly be monitored from a distance, the more important is a comprehensive set of rules.

Thus, a market is not free if there are no rules. Instead: a market is free if everyone involved can freely participate in working out the rules. Free negotiation of rules is only possible if everyone has the right of free expression, there is freedom of the press, if all people can freely associate together in unions, parties, associations, non-profits and interest groups in order to collectively defend their rights, if the courts and regulatory agencies actually enforce the agreed-upon rules, if there is protection from political violence. That is, free negotiation of market rules is only possible in the conditions of a democratic polity with a reliable legal order. These conditions nowadays are only fulfilled in democratic states with a stable legal system. From this it follows: in the absence of a democratic state and the rule of law, there is no free market.

I repeat: in the absence of a democratic state and the rule of law, there is no free market.

Or put somewhat differently: democracy is a necessary, but not sufficient precondition for a free market. It is not a sufficient condition because firstly the mere existence of a democratic system does not at all guarantee adequate political and societal participation by all social groups, and secondly negotiation processes of this kind take a long time and can take generations. Thirdly, market conditions have to be renegotiated constantly because of technological change, changes in the availability of all kinds of resources, changing threats to ecosystems etc.

That is, free markets are a utopia from which we are far away. To the extent that we hold on to the concept of free markets, it is worth making the effort to make markets incrementally more free. The same applies to all other social institutions that structure our life together. Any institution can only be free if the rules pertaining to it can be freely negotiated and renegotiated. As a reminder, by far not everything is determined by markets. Transport infrastructure is generally managed by the state, public transit is usually managed by local authorities. Health care in the UK is managed by the NHS and in many other European countries by state-run insurance schemes, retirement benefits are to a large extent provided by public authorities (e.g., the Social Security Administration in the US). In addition, we provide for many of our needs individually or in households. Universal education anywhere in the world has been made possible by means of public schools (which in England and Wales are called state schools). It is thus part of the freedom of a country that the political system allows free negotiation about which aspects of life are governed by which social institutions.

In international trade, goods and services are traded which are produced under extremely diverse circumstances. In many countries, these circumstances have little or nothing in common with “free markets” as I defined them here. In the absence of binding rules to protect the environment and human rights, those products which were produced without regard to the environment and human rights can be offered at a lower price. Their sellers thus enjoy a competitive advantage.

Why are there nonetheless some countries with internally relatively “free” markets? Because these countries enjoy a privileged standing in world trade, usually due among other things to a history of colonialism. These countries can to some extent avoid destructive competition – at least temporarily.

But freedom can not be a luxury – because luxury is a privilege, not freedom.

Therefore, people in countries with relatively free market conditions need to think about how they can organize trade with relatively less free countries in such a way that conditions for greater freedom will tend to spread ever further, rather than contracting.

This will be the starting point for my next blog entry.

European/Western values

On October 10, Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy gave a speech at a meeting of the delegates representing the EU to countries around the world. I find this speech remarkable both for what he said and what he omitted.

In today’s blog entry, I use selected statements from the written transcript of this speech (of which there is also a video available) to reflect on the values that the European Union presents to the rest of the world – that is, what are commonly referred to as “European values.” These are more or less the same as what are often referred to as “Western values”.

Near the beginning of the talk, Borrell stated:

Our prosperity has been based on cheap energy coming from Russia. Russian gas – cheap and supposedly affordable, secure, and stable. It has been proved not [to be] the case. And the access to the big China market, for exports and imports, for technological transfers, for investments, for having cheap goods. I think that the Chinese workers with their low salaries have done much better and much more to contain inflation than all the Central Banks together.

It would be more accurate to broaden the statement about China to say that European (and North American) prosperity is to a very large extent based on cheap labor across most of Asia, Africa and Latin America, allowing Europe to cheaply import raw materials as well as relatively low-tech manufactured goods from these countries. China is remarkable in that even high-tech exports from there continue to have a market advantage due to low wages. European prosperity also continues to rely heavily on imports of fossil fuels, from Russia as well as autocratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia. With respect to all of these countries, the focus of “the markets” (that is, the market participants) is on the price of the goods, not the conditions under which they are produced. This may keep inflation in check, but even more so wages – in the rich countries as well.

Borrell went on to raise questions about Europe’s reliance on the United States for military security. Perhaps I will discuss these questions in a future blog entry, but here I will skip over this part in order to remain on the topic of Europe’s and the West’s relationship with the rest of the world. In this context, Borrell discussed the divide between “democracies vs. authoritarians”, while recognizing that “on our side, there are a lot of authoritarian regimes” (was he thinking about Orban’s government in Hungary for example?). On a self critical note, he said:

We think too much internally and then we try to export our model, but we do not think enough about how the others will perceive this exportation of models. Yes, we have the “Brussels effect” and we continue setting standards, but I believe that, more and more, the rest of the world is not ready to follow our exportation of model. “This is one model, it is the best one, so you have to follow it”. For cultural, historical and economic reasons, this is no longer accepted.

We have to listen more. We have to be much more on “listening mode” to the other side – the other side is the rest of the world. We need to have more empathy. We tend to overestimate the rational arguments. “We are the land of reason”. We think that we know better what is in other people’s interests. We underestimate the role of emotions and the persisting appeal of identity politics.

But what exactly is the “European model”? For centuries, European countries colonized the rest of the world. They gradually, in fits and starts and with plenty of reversals, introduced representative democracy at home. They extended the franchise to working class men and to women only when strong political movements hardly left another choice. But similar rights were only allowed extremely sparingly in the colonized countries. Many colonized countries had to fight bloody wars in order to gain independence. And today, the insistence on low prices of goods in markets with cutthroat competition means that being “competitive” means to push down wages to a level at which a dignified life is impossible. Keeping wages this low depends on drastically limiting union organizing, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and other related freedoms. Political repression all too often is a prerequisite for successfully entering global markets that are still dominated by Europe and North America. Is that what the “European model” signifies?

Toward the end of his speech, Borrell said:

We have to explain what are the links between political freedom and a better life. We, Europeans, we have this extraordinary chance. We live in the world in this part of the world where political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion are the best, the best combination of all of that. But the rest of the world is not like this. Our fight is to try to explain that democracy, freedom, political freedom is not something that can be exchanged by economic prosperity or social cohesion.

Borrell made a questionable comparison of Europe with the rest of the world here, which he reinforced in another speech a few days later, likening Europe to a garden and the rest of the world to a jungle. This led to diplomatic protests, for example by the United Arab Emirates. He has since offered an apology and a clarification of his remarks (see links below).

But has Europe not been a powerful driver converting the “rest” into a “jungle” and to keep it that way? What have the countries of Europe – and of the “West” as a whole – done the last several decades? They have effectively communicated to the rest of the world that political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion are “nice to have” for the “West”, but that these are not important among the “rest”. What is important is that the “rest” provides the “West” with goods at the right (low) prices (at whatever cost) and provides lip service to ideas such as democracy and freedom of speech. And so for example, Chinese leaders have to endure sermons about the Uighurs or about Tibet or about Ai Weiwei, but after or even before the sermons, trade deals are signed based on the really “important” matters, such as the prices of goods.

What the European Union needs to do in order to communicate “European values” to the rest of the world is to make clear that it values democracy and human rights in the rest of the world (not just at home) more than it values low prices of the goods it imports. In addition, it should stop talking about “European” or “Western” values, and instead simply talk about the values of “liberal democracy” or of “human rights.” Quit the pretense that these values are shared by all Europeans or all people of the West, as well as the implication that people in the rest of the world have to become European or Western before they can share these values!

In my next blog entry I plan to discuss how European or more broadly countries of the “West” might do that.



On Borrell’s “garden and jungle” metaphor

Tim Stickings, Oct. 16, 2022, EU’s Josep Borrell under fire for calling outside world a “jungle”, The National (United Arab Emirates).

Josep Borrell, Oct. 18, 2022, On metaphors and geopolitics, HR/VP Blog.

Jorge Liboreiro, Oct. 20, 2022, Josep Borrell apologizes for controversial ‘garden’ vs. ‘jungle’ metaphor but defends speech, Euronews, Lyon.


Currently, there is an ideological divide concerning “growth”. Some are all for it and want more of it. At most, they talk about “sustainable” growth because at some level they are aware that not all growth is good and so it is necessary to distinguish good growth from growth that is not so good. On the other side, people advocate “post growth” or “degrowth” or “decroissance” in order to finally get away from the growth path.

How do I stand regarding this debate?

I’ll put it like this: the debate has nothing to do with growth. We have to clarify what we are talking about.

What is growth?

Growth in the literal meaning of the term, such as the growth of an organism or of a human being, occurs in cycles that include death. No tree grows to the sky. At some point it falls, gets struck by lightning or gets devoured by fire or beetles. The remains decay and become part of the soil that brings forth new life. We come from the earth and we become dust. Growth is part of this cycle, it issues forth until it passes away and makes place for new life. Growth is something good, without it there would be no life and no development, no evolution. We need growth, and a post growth society is not possible.

The so-called economic growth, that is measured by means of gross national product and similar measures of revenue or output, is not growth. That is because everything is expected to increase for ever, and increase is not seen in the context of life cycles. When in the year 2020, as a result of the Covid epidemic, “only” a little more (!) air travel happened worldwide than during the not particularly crisis-ridden year 2003, that was seen as a catastrophe for air travel.1 All kinds of economic interests depend on everything becoming ever more. This is the reason why more “efficiency” never actually reduces the demand for resources. For example, more efficient motors are installed in ever larger cars, which consume more gasoline than older models.

There is a German word for uncontrolled growth, “wucherung”. There is unfortunately no exact equivalent to this word in English. “Rank growth” gets close. The word is related to another German word, “wucher” which refers to excessive interest rates, or usury. Interest or usury is based on the expectation that an amount of money will continue increasing exponentially without regard to natural and thereby limited growth processes. It is simply expected to proliferate with no rhyme or reason.

“Wucherung” also refers to an overgrown garden, in which everything that spreads is allowed to grow. This can make sense on the way toward a natural ecosystem, but not in a garden that is expected to provide food, relaxation or joy for humans. In a garden it is important to evaluate what should grow and what should not, and when growth should cease. In the economic and political spheres we also need to evaluate what should increase or decrease or come to an end. We cannot avoid such value judgments if we are to avoid the rule of might over right. Conventional definitions of economic “growth” avoid such value judgments and are therefore not truthful.

The term “economic growth” also conceals the fact that what is measured is not actually growth, but rather turnover, that is, how much money is spent. In other words, a measure of effort. How many people are hired at what cost, how many natural resources are mined from the earth with how much technological investment? The more effort is made, the more “growth” there is.

As an example: somebody who travels to work by foot or bicycle only requires minimal resources (the wear and tear on shoes or the bike), promotes their health by moving their body, does not contribute to traffic jams, causes no air pollution, and even saves money (and thus working time) in comparison to somebody who travels by car. If the locality in question is reasonably pleasant, the travel to work is pleasurable and thus adds to quality of life. It costs practically nothing and does not create costs for others. Therefore, this kind of travel does not add to “economic growth”. However, it adds to the quality of life not only of that individual person, but of many people.

Books can be filled with similar examples.

While measures of effort or cost or turnover are useful, they only make sense if placed in relation to the outcome that has been achieved or that is expected. Did you spend a lot or a little money when you went out to eat recently? This question only makes sense if you also think about whether you liked the food and whether you enjoyed the outing.

Another analogy: a measure of effort resembles the revolutions per minute measured by an rpm counter in a car. This should always remain in a middle range, so that you can move at reasonable speed but don’t destroy the motor. However, the rpm counter will never tell us whether we have reached our destination or are even getting close. That we can only tell by looking around us where we are, or by studying a map or a GPS.

We do not need a better measure of the effort that we invest, but rather better maps and GPS systems to help us find our way. These must help us in a highly complex and difficult terrain. Thus, a single number like the GNP is not sufficient.

We need good measures of whether the needs of the people of a country are being satisfied, and relate these measures to measures of the resources that are being consumed.

How well the needs of a person are satisfied – that is, the level of their satisfaction – a person ultimately can only say about her or himself. So, we can not measure satisfaction by reference to statistics about the production of consumption goods, or how many people have earned a degree etc. We simply have to ask people directly how satisfied they are regarding various aspects of their lives. There are highly developed, reliable and representative survey methods for this purpose. These are far more balanced than any quantification of money flows, because the latter resembles a vote where rich people get to vote many more times than the poor.

The effort dedicated to satisfying human needs can best be measured with respect to the natural and human resources that are being used. Resource use can be measured with respect to the annual use (flow) as well as the quantity and quality of resources that are still available (the resource stocks). It is especially important to make sure that renewable resources are used within their regenerative capacity and that nonrenewable resources are preserved for future generations.

So, what is my position regarding growth?

Growth is necessary – but we should seriously talk about what should increase and what should decrease or pass away. We need to talk about where we want to go and how we can get there. For that, we need good maps and GPS-devices, but we should keep the rpm (the effort) in a moderate range and not confuse it with growth!

In future contributions I plan to write about which kinds of growth we need or do not need.



1 Data source: International Energy Agency, World air passenger traffic evolution, 1980-2020, last updated 4 Dec. 2020, Original source: International Civil Aviation Organization.

Woman or man

“Being” woman or man

In my previous post, I mentioned that most of my life I lived as a man, but I now largely live as a woman. I sign with a woman’s name, Wiltrude Höschele.

“Am” I now a man or a woman?

This question is taken very seriously. As soon as we see a human being on the street, we categorize that person as male or female. Most people find it bothersome to talk to a person without knowing their gender. As such it could be irrelevant for you, my readers, whether a man or a woman has written these lines. Why is it so important to know that? Perhaps one reason why ignorance about a person’s gender causes us such discomfort is that European languages make it very difficult to talk about somebody without mentioning their gender by the use of female or male forms. In any case, I am quite happy to oblige by explaining how I want you to refer to me.

A problem about the question whether I am man or woman is the assumption that a person “is” either a woman or a man. I “am” certainly a human being and can do no other than to think and feel like a human. This identity is clear. But regarding all other identities within the category “human”, the boundaries are less clear cut. For example, I can not absolutely say that I am “German”, despite having been born with German citizenship and never having relinquished it. After all, I have lived most of my life in other countries, have been deeply formed by my experiences there and am therefore in many ways a stranger in Germany. Although boundaries between countries and nationalities really exist and are made as distinct as possible, they can be crossed, and there are overlaps and blurred lines.

I propose to see gender identity in a similar way as national identity.

Gender is a multilayered phenomenon. There is the layer of biological reproduction that goes back to the first sexually reproducing organisms. There are several bodily layers of female and male bodies among mammals in general and humans in particular. There are modes of behavior that are found predominantly or exclusively among members of one or the other human gender. There are various sexual preferences and behaviors. There are gender roles which are either fixed or flexible depending on each human society, and which continuously change. There are forms of clothing, accessories, jewelry and bodily adornments which are gender specific, according to culture. There are linguistic forms that indicate gender, different in every language. There is the felt sense of gender identity. Each of these layers can be explored at depth. And there can be discrepancies and contradictions between different layers.

The multilayered nature of gender is recognized in the expression that a “real man” does this or doesn’t do that. What “this” or “that” are is constantly changing. It used to be that a “real man” didn’t do any “women’s work” in the home. This age is hopefully past. But may a “real man” today appear in public wearing lipstick or nail polish? Or may a “real man” out himself as gay? Anybody who uses “fag” as an insult certainly doesn’t regard a gay person as a “real man”. Anybody who talks about “real men” thus recognizes that being a man (and conversely being a woman) does not just depend on a person’s biological sex, but also on a host of usually poorly defined modes of behavior, preferences, thought patterns, emotions, modes of expression etc. The expression “real man” is thus logically and philosophically incompatible with the notion that being a man or a woman depends solely on that person’s biological sex.

Talking about “real men” of course also implies that “unreal” men are of lesser value – because in some way or other they behave like women, they are considered “effeminate”. There is no corresponding term that would indicate that women who act like men are in some way diminished. This means that women are classified as being of lesser value than men. This is incompatible with equal rights for women. As an analogy: is a person from the United States who has spent many years of their life in England and who has adopted many English ways or mannerisms no “real American” any more? Perhaps people who associate being “American” with being insular, avoiding higher education, being fundamentalist Christian and extremely conservative would say so. However, somebody who sees people from both countries as being of equal worth and recognizes that vibrant cultural exchange enriches us all, would most likely regard the question itself as silly.

If we regard women and men as being of equal value, there is no cause to regard a man as inferior if he practices some modes of behavior that he learned from women. He is simply a man who learned some things from women.

The multilayered nature of gender, and thus its contradictions, is especially apparent among transgender people, but in some way or other is recognizable in almost anybody. Any person who doesn’t feel completely at ease in traditional gender roles, or who sometimes wished to belong to the other gender or to do things that are usually forbidden for people of their own gender in their culture, shows evidence of contradictions between various layers of gender. This is just as “natural” as millennia old wishes of people to fly or to visit the moon, to converse with animals, to discover spiritual worlds, to travel to distant parts of the world, to learn foreign languages and so forth. All these and many more examples show that people do not always comply with “natural” orders, but rather question, challenge, overcome or even negate them. Crossing borders belongs to human nature.

Somebody who crosses a border still retains something of both sides within. Such people are not fully classifiable with one or the other side. However, for some purposes an unambiguous classification is necessary. A migrant from Mexico to the US who has obtained US citizenship must be unambiguously classified as a US citizen when it comes to voting rights for example. This does not depend on whether they continue to feel themselves as in some way Mexican, what memories they have, what fluency they have in which languages etc. All these overtones are important if you want to get to know that person. But it must be very clear that this person has all the rights of a US citizen.

As a border crosser, I “am” at some levels a woman, at other levels I “am” a man or perhaps something between man and woman, or neither one or the other but simply a human being. In the last years, I have discovered that I can only truly be happy if I acknowledge that I identify more with women than with men. Therefore, I prefer to be spoken to with a woman’s name and to be referred to in feminine forms. That is why I also ask of you, my readers, to refer to me as a woman. That requires at most a bit of getting used to on your part, and gives me joy. But that does not mean that I “am” a woman in every respect (just as referring to me as a man would not mean the opposite). It only means that in my social interactions and in my activity as a writer, my female identity stands in the foreground.

Maybe it helps to regard the female or male forms of address as being something similar to the title “doctor”. A person who has earned a Ph.D. may be referred to as “doctor” in recognition of this achievement. Transgender people have usually invested a large amount of life energy and will into their transformation, and I think this deserves to be recognized by referring to them by the gender with which they identify. I personally am thankful for such recognition.


From half-strange eyes

Today I am seriously starting a new blog. I intend to write about my views from “half-strange eyes”, on issues of society during the present period of rupture – when it will become clear whether we collectively are able to make the overdue transition from the current frantic age of continuous acceleration to a more relaxed, calmer age that cultivates the art of living.

Why half-strange?

I was born of German parents in Germany. Since birth, I am a German citizen. Yet I do not truly feel German, having grown up in Thailand, Korea and Greece and having lived the greater part of my life in the United States. In the US, I started to feel increasingly strange over time, and so was half-strange there. Since I moved to Germany, I have been half-strange here as well.

I was born as a boy and lived the greater part of my life as a man, but I never felt like a “real” man and was only able to be happy once I stopped identifying as a “man”. Now I live as much as I can as a woman, but I am still to a great extent a man and therefore I am half-strange whether as a “woman” or a “man”.

I have studied several academic disciplines, had an academic career in the US, but I am now no longer in academia. Thus, at universities I am – half-strange.

Since over 30 years I am searching for ways out of the existential crisis of our civilization and ask questions about how a future sustainable society can emerge. However, since birth I live in the society that I am criticizing. So I feel half-strange in this society.

Now I intend to write a blog from this half-strange perspective. I hope to offer helpful insights in a world at the edge of chaos. Perhaps people can draw insights from my blog even if they do not feel strange, or on the contrary they feel totally strange, or they also feel half-strange but in their own unique ways.

Interview August 2021 Part I: Gender Issues

In the last two years I have gone through a transformation, as a result of which I now experience and define myself as a woman. Two women whom I am very fond of interviewed me about this transformation process in August 2021. The first part of this interview is reproduced here. The questions in this part were posed by Jane Goldbach and address gender issues. Jane Goldbach is currently working on her masters study on transformation studies at the University of Flensburg. During her bachelors studies on ethnography in Heidelberg, she worked both as a volunteer and in a paid capacity at the TransitionHaus, a project of Transition Town Heidelberg. It was in this connection that we got to know each other.


Jane: Wiltrude, when I got to know you, you were known as Wolfgang, and now you go by Wiltrude. Please tell me about your path from Wolfgang to Wiltrude, what moved you, what accompanied you, what were your impulses?

W: First, I have to go back a bit, some aspects go back to my childhood. As a child, I had long hair and it didn’t bother me if people thought that I look like a girl. I played quite a bit with girls. But I wouldn’t ever had the idea of calling myself a girl. Those were very different times.

Part of Wolfgang Höschele's half page in "Oracle 1983", the Yearbook of the TASIS Hellenic International School in Athens, Greece.

Self-presentation in school yearbook as a 17-year-old

During my university studies, I thought a lot about feminist issues, got to know various people, realized that I often understood women better than I could understand many men. Two women students whom I got to know appeared to me as highly intelligent when I talked with them one on one, but with their boyfriends they suddenly appeared stupid! They pretended to be more stupid than their boyfriends, so that the boyfriends would feel good! So I had some experiences about gender issues, and I found it much easier to identify with women who write about feminist issues than with the common image of manliness.

All the methods that men use to show that they are men appeared to me as proof of their idiocy. I really couldn’t accept such an image of manliness for myself. Also, I was not much interested in technology, but rather in complex relationships, whether those were ecological relationships or human relationships. Those are interests that are usually considered more feminine than masculine.

How I imagined myself as a woman when I was about 27 years old

I lived a long time in the United States, where I met my life partner Ishita, but then we moved to Germany. There I was involved with Transition Town Heidelberg, including a clothing swap, doing organizational work as well as clean up afterwards. After each such event, there is more clothing there than before. And it’s especially women who are involved, because most men aren’t interested. So then I was alone in a house full of women’s clothes, and one day I tried on a few. That was really intoxicating for me, I was overwhelmed! I found men’s clothing totally boring, and still do. Pants and shirt, only a few cuts, few colors. But when I tried on a skirt or a dress and it fit, then I didn’t want to take those pieces of clothing off any more! As a result, soon I wore women’s clothes in more and more different contexts. That was simply the right clothing for me!

This started a process beginning in early 2019, by now about two and a half years. Soon I wore almost exclusively women’s clothing – that is, often men’s shirts, but at least wearing a skirt, and I felt amazingly good doing that.

Then I though of a woman’s name for myself, Wiltrude, which is a combination of my middle names Rudolf and Willi. The name means “the strong willed woman”, a good name! Initially I used the name rather hesitantly. Jane, you were there at the name-giving ceremony, you were so supportive along with the other women there! Later I asked people to call me WoWi, as a combination of Wolfgang and Wiltrude. A few months ago I came to realize that it really is better if people just call me Wiltrude, that feels really good!

Since I have asked the people close to me to call me Wiltrude, and they actually all do that, the depressions from which I had often suffered until then have totally disappeared! My general mood is simply much better! And so there is no going back! So I am now Wiltrude!

J: That’s a really great experience as you describe it, that you were able to heal yourself from your depression, by changing yourself. That is really touching! By now I know from various contexts, that people ask how they want to be called, and what are your pronouns. Is your pronoun “she”, and do you consider yourself to be non-binary, or what are the terms by which you want to be called?

W: I do prefer it if people talk about me in the female form, but not everybody has to do that. For example, where I work, people still refer to me as a man. Everybody knows, that I constantly wear women’s clothes, but there I am still Mr. Höschele or Wolfgang. That’s okay with me. I don’t feel the need to explain to people to whom I am not close that I am really a woman. It’s easier to tell them that I am a man who likes to wear women’s clothes. Everybody accepts that. In that sense, non-binary is really very fitting for me. I can also say that in my inner being, psychologically, in my soul I am a woman, but bodily I am a man. That is simply the case, and there is no necessity to change that. I don’t have to change my body because of that. I am not trying to totally become a woman.

J: Exactly, you feel or see both in yourself, and want to live both.

W: Yes.

J: How is it when you move around in public, when you sit in the tram or go on a walk, do you experience unusual situations or get into conversations?

W: Rather rarely actually. Some people look at me a bit longer, maybe just to figure out whether I am a man or a woman. Of course, I can’t read their minds, I don’t know what they think. But altogether I must say I raise very little attention, and I am very satisfied with that.

Sometimes, especially in the beginning when I still had a mustache, there were more frequent comments, but mostly positive. One woman called to me on the pedestrian crossing, saying that she thought it was great that a man has the courage to wear a skirt! Once a mother came running after me with her three or four-year-old son. The son didn’t dare talk to me, but his mother spoke for him. She said that he thinks it is great that I wear a skirt in public, because he wears skirts at home but doesn’t dare do that in public! These kinds of reactions I have experienced, which was really gratifying! Very rarely there has also been a reaction that was negative in some way, but in two years that happened maybe three times.

J: That’s a really beautiful story, how you can appear as a positive model and you get feedback about that on the streets!

When you talked about your feminist times and your studies, you said that there was a lack of positive male role models and that you found the female role models much more positive. Have you found new role models now because you can identify with them more easily, because you see yourself as a woman and call yourself a woman?

W: I can’t really think of specific individuals. The authors whom I have read and that I liked, I still like, regardless whether they are women or men.

But I just feel more relaxed and free to orient myself according to women as role models, or according to ideas of what is appropriate behavior or interests for women. I don’t need to think at all about whether it is considered appropriate if I do something as a man, because I’m not a man!

In general, I think that men are not challenged enough concerning working on relationships. Men are expected to be concerned with technology, or with control, with earning money, but they are not really expected to concern themselves with complex issues concerning relationships. Women often blame them that they don’t do this, but they are not really prepared from childhood to address such issues.

But I find relationship issues to be the really important issues for society. We have more than enough technology but far too little engagement with questions how we can live together better. How can we support each other so that we all can live well? How can we give space for other living things, other species, so that they also can live? All this is complex work on relationships, both concerning ecosystems and human relationships. We have to put enormous work into this. This involves skills that so far women have been educated to acquire more than men.

J: I find that really interesting. You have talked about your becoming a woman as liberation. Is that what you mean, that you feel freer to address issues that you find interesting and that move you?

W: Yes, I find this image of maleness restricting. It is quite simple, one can create a simple world for oneself, in which one let’s say works in a technically oriented job to earn money. If one earns more money, then one is successful. Particularly technically oriented jobs are often paid better than those focusing more on human relationships. But for a person for whom all this is not enough, then this established picture of maleness is restrictive. I actually always told myself, I want to be the best person I can be, and for that maleness or femaleness is really totally irrelevant. But, in some way this image of masculinity is still restrictive. So it’s a liberation for me to say, I am a woman, and I don’t need to waste a single thought on masculinity!

J: Now we have heard a lot about what motivated you personally on your path. Do you understand this as a private matter, your particular path of becoming woman as liberation, or do you also want to use your clothing style, which is always also a message to others, as a conscious message to the world?

W: Yes, with one’s choice of clothing every person communicates something to other people in their environment, that is inescapable. Of course, I don’t know what exactly people read, but they can certainly read that I am not a normal man, let’s say! That perhaps I identify more with being a woman, and that I certainly have no fear to present myself in a way that will be seen as feminine. That I certainly do not consider womanliness to be anything inferior to manliness. It is inescapable that I communicate a lot, and I want to do that. I certainly want to look different from a conventional man!

J: Now I would like to address your social vision. In your work on systems change and systemic consulting, in your proposals for an economy of abundance of life, I have experienced you as a person who thinks very systemically and is oriented to solutions. How would you describe the discourses about gender, transgender, non-binariness from a systemic perspective? What moves you about this and what are you wishes for a future society?

W: Gender is often described as a performance, that one performs as a woman or a man or something else, and that one has to learn how to do this. This means that kids have to learn how to present themselves as boys or girls or something else. How they finally do that, for that every person finds their own solution, in interaction with other people. That is a systemic interaction with many different people. What emerges from this can never be predicted exactly, and that is what creates societal change. There has been quite a lot of change in the last several decades, but there is a lot that has yet to change if we are to successfully address the social and ecological challenges of our time. What I do specifically is not meant to be a model for other people, but just my specific solution, my particular gender bricolage. Every person needs to find their own solution. I think in any case it is important to be open to a variety of solutions, and that there is not a single solution, but many. It is important to be able to experiment, so that we can freely find good solutions that contribute to the abundance of life of all people.

J: Thank you so much for this fascinating perspective and the valuable vision that you stand for. I find it very touching and moving. My heartfelt thanks for this wonderful interview, Wiltrude!

W: Many thanks to you!