“Oh God, please not cancel culture and identity politics again,” a friend said when I told him about the idea for this issue, an issue about culture wars. We wanted to report on people with power and those without, those who are struggling for more justice. We wanted to hear from a mixture of voices - diversifying the “normal” white-male perspective. We wanted to talk about how the struggle is unfolding, what tools are being used, the emergence of strict new language rules as well as the social exclusion of those accused of using the wrong words or holding the wrong views. Outrage abounds in debates about what is “right” or “wrong” in our culture. Uniting people behind ideas appears increasingly unattainable. The rifts and frustration run too deep, there is too much black and white thinking.
We have been having tough discussions on these topics in the editorial office for quite some time. Our opinions are wide-ranging - and we ask ourselves whether our small scale debates also are happening in a larger community: How can we find common ground, even if we disagree on many things?
We considered these questions, talked to international authors such as Ibram X. Kendi or Maaza Mengiste about their ideas and views, discussed, and explored this issue. Then came the war in Ukraine, and suddenly these internal social upheavals seemed trivial and meaningless. Suddenly, almost everyone, in the light of the catastrophe of war, found they had something in common after all: Now we are largely united against the aggressor, in favour of peace.
But I am convinced the other questions in this issue are both timely and relevant. “Making political alliances is essential for democracies to survive,” writes historian Ute Frevert. One might add: Alliances can also emerge from disputes, but at some point we must all take a step towards each other.