After writing articles together you began to write books in cooperation. Right now the translation of your first book as a team of authors („Miteinander Neu-Denken“, 2019) has been published in English: „Re-Thinking Togetherness“. In our interview in 2019 I had asked you about what triggered off your book project. Do you agree, that now, with the pandemic there is even more need for change?
LaBGC: Oh yes, we are currently experiencing very clearly the consequences of the loss of responsibility for the common good. But we also see how intertwined things are. Health, education, economy, traffic, environment - the need for rethinking the structures of our coexistence is obvious and shows that changes must involve and take into account each and every individual.
The book „Re-Thinking Togetherness“ unlocks for today what had emerged from experience over thousands of years and turned out to be useful and protective for human coexistence, and it shows that this was preserved for 3000 years, that is for more or less 120 generations, to thrive without devastating conflicts. The book highlights structures that secured peaceful growth and development.
In interdisciplinary approaches and within a network of international exchange of ideas, Harald has traced and collated for more than 30 decades of scientific work the footsteps of forgotten civilizations. The most stunning result is that the first advanced civilization - called Old Europe or Danube civilization - indeed existed for more than 3000 years without war and destruction, made groundbreaking discoveries and developed an immense network for economic and cultural relations. Thus, Old Europe became a hub for collaboration, exchange and transfer of technology, creativity, views, languages and more. On the basis that all members of the community, women and men, old and young, participated in and benefited from the growing prosperity. What a finding!
When mirroring the structures of the Old European societies into our presence you can quickly notice that it is like a key to unlock the door to a part of history you would have thought is a utopia, something unreal, for dreamers only. But it was no utopia. It was real. It is scientifically proven knowledge.
Harald Haarmann: It is truly fascinating to see that the communities of the broad regions of Old Europe - on todays map these are Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Northern Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia and Ukraine - had lived and worked together peacefully on equal terms, trading goods in exchange for other goods and ensuring the livelihood of all. The Danube and its tributaries were the trade routes - hence the name Danube civilization. In addition, with the ability to build also seafaring ships the trade routes opened into the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
With trade routes traced as far as the Iberian peninsula in the west, northern France, southern England, northern Germany, the Baltic States, southern Russia, Anatolia and North Africa - territories which were not named as such by that time - Old Europe became truly intercontinental. These dimensions dwarf anything that existed elsewhere in the world during that remote time, during the sixth and fifth millennia BCE.
Such high standards of living-conditions could only be achieved and maintained on the basis of intact communities with well-functioning local self-governments and the natural orientation at the common good which ensured that everyone benefited.
ProMosaik: How did you proceed?
LaBGC: Well, first of all, we have looked at the available data and the conclusions that have been reached based on such information concerning life in Old Europe. With Harald always having the research results at his fingertips that was a quick intensive time travel! Then we looked closer at what is known about structures and regulations in small settlements, in cities and supra-regionally between trading partners. From this we derived topics like the common good, democracy, property, responsibility, but also home, religion, love etc. and made them the headlines of the chapters of the book. We then decided that the chapters had to be brief and focussed, mirroring the life of the Old Europeans into ours of today. The readers interested in more details about the Old European societies find them in an abundance of publications. Relevant literature is listed in the bibliography of “Re-Thinking Togetherness”.
ProMosaik: Your books, Prof. Haarmann, on Old Europe, or the Danube civilization, present a particularly rich fund. Additionally, your publications on what the teachings of Plato still contain and reveal of the people of pre-antiquity, are an interesting source. Isn’t it about time that all these findings which shed a completely new light on world history were included in school books and textbooks? There is for example the fact, that democracy already unfolded in the Old European societies, that is long before Greeks made their appearance and established only a fragmented form of it.
Harald Haarmann: Right. Although Old Europe has been intensively studied for more than thirty years and archaeological and cultural research in Southeast Europe has had a dynamic upswing after the political turnaround in the early 1990s, the results are still in the shadow of established science.
The history of the world has indeed to be revised. The most important building blocks are available. It is proven and it can be read what is said about the Old European societies which were established over a period ranging from 6000 to 3000 BCE. Their orientation in politics, economy and spirituality, and their innovations in techniques of architecture, engineering, metal working, pottery, shipbuilding etc. laid the basis on which later cultures could built upon. All this can no longer be ignored.
ProMosaik: When I read the German edition I thought in many contexts: Yes, that’s how it is! Or Yes, that’s how it should be! And I experienced it again browsing through the English translation. But one loses so much of these basics in the daily marathon of tasks for one’s job and at home. Your book confronts us with the essential factors of coexistence in small and large. What is the aim of your book?
LaBGC: We can only describe the knowledge of what had emerged and proven useful in the course of the development of humans and had kept the first advanced civilization in balance for some three millennia. It is an invitation to contemplate on ways for setting the necessary change in motion. The change is for us only to achieve by acting together – in small and large.
The most thrilling fact is to know that, originally, humans had lived in peace and man is not unavoidably wolf to man. And to understand why. The wolf, whom we all undoubtedly carry within us, has no reason to go on a raid if we have food, a place to sleep, when we can learn, when we can actively contribute as equals, when our voice is heard, when we have work and enjoy recognition, feel love and give love. Everyone of us! And we need responsible leaders and organizers. Women and men who are assigned authority and are elected to these positions because they have the skills and have shown that we can rightly trust them. As long as they do no abuse their responsibility or our trust, we will re-elect them. The wolf in us can turn happily to the other side and continue snoring.
Today, when we debate the pros and cons of a decent basic income and adequate pensions for all, a basic right for housing, the right to work, education and participation in public life, to function as possible means to improve our fragile coexistence, it is as if the veil on our cultural memory is lifted.
ProMosaik: What are the obstacles on the way to change?
Harald Haarmann: The main obstacle is that we are no longer naturally orientated towards the maxims of the common good like the people in the era of Old Europe. The original acting and thinking in terms of the common good has been overformed and obscured by upheavals in history. And much has been lost altogether. In this context the chapter on fusion in our book is instructive. It describes what ended the balance in the life of Old Europe and eventually led to violent conflict and destruction. Our next book, written as a team („The hero cult - A spectacle of world history that changed civilization“), gives the details. This book will be released in April.
Already in antiquity, the knowledge of societies in balance was almost completely buried. Only one philosopher shed light on the guiding ideas from pre-antiquity times under the auspices of the common good. That was Plato who took influence in intellectual life in the fourth century BCE. A knowledge probably transmitted by his mother Periktione, who also was a philosopher. In his model of an ideal society, Plato illustrates the essentials of his political theory on the basis of equality and the common good.
In antiquity, the solidification of social hierarchy, the strengthening of forms of absolutist rule, the hardening of state bureaucracy, and the separation of social groups with no direct means of influencing the fate of society had already taken place and determined the development of state and society up to modern times. In the context of the revolutions in America (1776) and France (1789), the revival of democratic values hailed the model of Athenian democracy, which had long since ceased to represent the full spectrum of fundamental values. In ancient Greece, women were no longer equal to men, and there was a large group of lawless, the slaves.
In the post-antiquity history in Europe, thinking in categories of social hierarchies remained dominant. As the model of Old Europe was forgotten and no longer available for comparison, a one-sided way of thinking became entrenched in which fundamental values increasingly took on the role of ideals, which, however, became more and more distant from everyday practised politics and in many contexts faded away completely. In order to put the basic values seriously back at the heart of activities a new thinking is necessary, and this can only be gained in true cooperation. How this works in detail, we have illuminated in our book.
ProMosaik: In his afterword to your book, a philosopher of our time, Harald Seubert, takes a stand explaining why change is indispensable. And also Bascha Mika, editor in chief of the Frankfurter Rundschau from 2014 to 2020, votes for a change in the foreword to your book: „In an easily understandable and pleasantly readable way, the authors go through all terms, which may be relevant in this context. From responsibility to equality, from property to love. What becomes clear: they are not only concerned with knowledge, but with deed. Act! Now!“ Is there more hope for visions of our future when cultivating the knowledge of Old Europe and putting its values to work?
Harald Haarmann: The knowledge about the pre-antiquity societies and the structures of their communities must be made widely available, in the media and of course in the curricula of the educational systems in order to compensate for the deficit caused by the canon of our education anchored in Western Enlightenment. It will depend on creating new knowledge based on our engagement with Old Europe, to what extent this may have a dynamic effect on the construction of our future.
LaBGC: If our book blows warm wind beneath the wings of thoughts and brings together visions, ideas and models of many people on all sorts of levels, then we shall be very satisfied.
ProMosaik: Thank you both for the insights. I am very much looking forward to your upcoming studies dealing with aspects of togetherness.
LaBGC & Harald Haarmann
Know. Act. Now.