Tuesday, May 28, 2024

75th Anniversary


Photo of the front page article from the daily
newspaper "Die Welt" from May 23, 2024

Last Thursday, May 23rd, marked the 75th anniversary of Germany’s ‘Grundgesetz’, which translates as ‘Basic Law’ (you can find the English translation here) and is Germany’s constitution. Its name derives from the fact that it was passed by a legislative convention that included members from only three of the then occupied sections of Germany, the American Sector, the British Sector, and the French Sector. Representatives from the Russian Sector were not included as the Cold War was already in its beginning stages, a unified Germany was not in the interest of the Russian occupiers. The convention declared a continued interest in aiming for a unified Germany, therefore this linguistic specification.

The document included paragraphs that left open the option for the other parts of Germany to join the union, two different possibly ways to achieve reunification were outlined, and the Federal Republic of Germany with a clear West-orientation was on its way.

The Russian Sector passed a separate constitution a few months later, leading to a de facto separation of the two German states that would last forty years, until just a few months respectively weeks after the celebrations of the 40th anniversaries of the two different documents, when dissatisfaction, demonstrations in the Eastern part of Germany and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire led to the opening of borders in November 1989 and political reunification in October 1990.

The Grundgesetz aimed to improve on deficiencies of the constitution of the Weimar Republic, learn from other democratic countries and their experiences and was worded explicitly to make it impossible to have developments such as the destabilisation of democracy as had happened during the Weimar years that then led to the dictatorship of Hitler and his Nazi regime.

We were taught to be proud about the Grundgesetz, and although I have always had an emotional difficulty with calling myself (and being) German because of the historic load that comes with it, I have indeed always been patriotic about the intentions expressed in that document. I must not be the only one with this condition as there exists a special term for this feeling, "Verfassungspatriotismus", i.e. patriotism for the constitution. As a political constitution I think it is really pretty darn good. Even if there are flaws in its execution in some areas, and I do not agree with some of the changes that were made in later years. (A two-thirds majority is needed in both chambers of parliament to enable a change in the wording, and there are a few articles that are not open to attempts at alteration.)

I made a quilt that runs the text of the first (unalterable) article, “Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar” (‘Human dignity is untouchable’). 


Part of the text messages series: Article 1

It was part of the SAQA Europe-Middle East exhibition “Made in Europe” a few years ago, and on display at FoQ, and it sold recently. So it got out there, and it’s maybe having some impact now.

These words were also one of the driving motivations behind my long and intensive involvement with refugees, which is still ongoing on a smaller level, even though I don’t talk about it much anymore. (I might, once the current bout of uncertainty is over, but only, if it turns into success.)

Likewise, my love and appreciation for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is grounded on these words, as they were drawn in part from that document. UDHR has been influential in several of my quilts, the words appear as the quilting and title of “Everyone has the Right” and “#UDHR” from a few years ago.

My strong feelings about justice, equality and human rights has made it rather difficult to live with a peaceful mind in the last years as more and more wars are erupting in so many different areas of the world, social justice seems to be eroding in developed countries and the countries that developed countries have been exploiting, climate and plastic crisis is increasing and so on and so on. I don’t know how to deal with all of this. And I don’t know whether making a quilt about that will help. So perhaps there won’t be any more ‘political’ quilts of mine? Who knows. I have no clue whether it makes sense to make quilts expressing a political opinion, what do you think?

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