FirstGenPhilosophers is a webpage (in German) curated by Daniel James Țurcaș and Barbara Vetter. It is about and for philosophers with a non-academic background and intended as a forum for sharing stories and ideas. Currently, it hosts stories by Elif Özmen, Andreas Hütteman, Christian Neuhäuser, and yours truly. The curators welcome further contributions.
In case you’re interested, here is a quick translation of my contribution:
My parents fled from Pomerania and East Prussia to West Germany as children at the end of the Second World War. My mother worked there as a cleaner and shop assistant, my father as a lorry driver. My ambitions surprised them. Nevertheless, they tried to support me as much as they could. During my studies and afterwards, I was not really aware of any particular difficulties. It was only much later that I realised that I had often tried to hide my origins and that my life was often associated with a certain shame in this way. When my academic teacher once pointed out how selectly I was dressed, I was somewhat startled because I realised how well I had learned to disguise myself – even from myself. Seeing how much it can encourage others to know about this shame and other difficulties has encouraged me to address my experiences occasionally. So I have stayed well in touch with my “inner student” and like to bring him out to understand and address certain problems. On the one hand, perhaps for this very reason, I realise today how much I personally owe to the democratic education orientation in the Germany of the 70s. On the other hand, it is frightening to see how much this orientation is now being fought politically. In this sense, the still claimed meritocratic orientation in academia appears as a toxic fig leaf. For philosophy in particular, it is essential to regain a democratic and pluralistic educational orientation. That is why I try to keep these issues present in my blog and through active work in the union. So if there is one experience that I associate in a special way with my background, it is this: Promoting academic work requires living in solidarity rather than competition.