I enjoy time on the lake and on the ocean, because the air there is good for my throat. Ever since, when I was a child, they removed my tonsils, l have been suffering from chronic throat aches more or less all the time. However, after a few days on the water, they are gone.
Whenever Barbara and I go places by ship, we try to get a cabin with a patio. Then we dream through the ocean nights with our patio door open, we breathe in the fresh sea air and enjoy the sound of the water. That was also what we did during our latest Caribbean trip.
At night, our ship travels from one island to the next. Since, more often than not, the islands are not far apart, the ship mostly travels at low speed. Regardless, it will dock in the morning before sunrise at the harbour of our destination, because the nights are long in December in the Caribbean.
Then comes the shock every morning. The air starts to smell foul and artificial light will penetrate the cabin. It is the less than pleasant trio of civilization characteristics as it welcomes us.
At home in Neubiberg, the smell is a constant throughout the day and the night. You will not find any place where it gets really dark. Wherever you are, a street lamp or some advertising glamour will illuminate your house. And you can hardly see any stars in the sky any more.
Even though I live in a rather privileged area, this is also true for my home. Keeping the windows open at night is not possible, if only because of the constant round-the-clock noise of the not-too-far city.
I refuse to take sleeping pills, especially if they become part of your normal life. Consequently, we use closed noise-proof windows and darkened bedrooms. By now, I am used to it, but that does not mean I find it nice.
If I leave my house on foot or by bike and turn towards Ottobrunn, I will quickly find myself on such roads as the Putzbrunner Strasse or the Rosenheimer Landstrasse. It is hard to breathe and it is a true adventure to cross the road. And you also find waste on the shoulders of the Bavarian streets – as probably everywhere else on the world.
After returning home, questions about the purpose of life come up again:
Do we really need motorized individual traffic? Does all this consumption really make us happy? Would a life that is less determined by efficiency and profit be more to our liking? How can we free ourselves from the permanent manipulation? Would it not be better to live a simple life and not let life become a hectic hunt for material properties?
Let me forestall possible criticism:
If you fly to the Caribbean and travel around nine islands by ship and enjoy the nice climate and the ocean, then you certainly have no right to criticize the MIV driver who takes his pre-heated SUV in the morning to go and fetch his breakfast. I am well aware of this.
So here is what I think:
Mobility is probably a central need of human nature. Consequently, I find it hard to individually abstain. But if we act collectively – for instance by high taxes on kerosene and a fair distribution of the external costs for those who cause them – we could at least reduce the volume of individual mobility and its terrible consequences on this planet.
If you argue that such measures would, again mainly be detrimental for the poor, then I think this is not totally true. Even the ancient Greeks knew that demanding an Arithmetic Justice is utopian and probably stupid.
I think such a thing has never existed and will never exist. Because life is as it is. And I would actually be quite happy with a geometric justice (geometrische Gerechtigkeit following the Nikomachische Ethik by Aristoteles).
(Translated by EG)