The Story behind the (Red) Ball of Yarn đŸ§¶

You might have noticed that I started putting a certain emoji next to my name a lot: đŸ§¶. Equally, some of my profile pictures on social media platforms have changed over the past few days into the icon visible here: A thick red ball of yarn.

Logo of the "L'esprit de Sassoli: Pledge of Solidarity" (red ball of yarn)

Why? A friend of mine put it best: In essence, this ball of yarn expresses a promise to be nice. We – some students at the College of Europe – started using it as a symbol of knitting a warm and comfortable, cosy network of trust. As a symbol of connection; growing closer to each other, treating each other with respect and consideration. It is connected to a pledge we wrote, that we hope shall guide us – like an Ariadne’s thread – through the labyrinths of our lives.

So if you see this symbol, online or in the streets of Bruges or Brussels or wherever on the world: You can think of this pledge – someone promising to be nice! 🙂 If you want to know more about the creation of this pledge, the philosophical theory behind it, I have written a long blog post with a explanation. It’s complicated. One thing however is very simple: If you like the symbol and the thought – start using it! đŸ§¶

Take care! đŸ§¶

Leveraging the Opportunity to Prioritise Well-Being over Accountability: The Genesis of a Localised Procedural Litmus Test of Trust

Grab yourself a cup of tea. What follows is a long read. It offers reflection and insights – and potentially an idea to inspire similar action in other campus environments.

Juggling discomfort and perceptions of a hostile campus environment

There are students who – for various reasons – perceived the campus I have spent my past weeks on as a fundamentally hostile space. Having heard of their experiences, I think that the particular perception and fear of the campus as more of an authoritarian space rather than a democratic one is very understandable. At the same time, of course I refuse to believe that the College of Europe being an authoritarian/fascist organisation is an accurate portrayal of reality, and I luckily have evidence that to me strongly shows it isn’t. Still, as long as there is even a single person on this campus for whom this campus is a space of being terrified, we as student body are collectively perpetuating a violent environment and part of the problem. And it’s not something a code of conduct can solve. It’s something an institution’s administration can’t solve.

The importance of speaking up and the legitimacy of going public

Of course, addressing this internally and individually is the first path of action. Unfortunately, the courses of action aimed at that in our case didn’t work. And then, when attempts to increase internal pressure to encourage honesty and showing accountability for your actions have failed, a logical next step would be to apply external pressure. Would a strategy of searching for accountability through a collective submission to public scrutiny in principle be justified? In my eyes, yes. The justification, to me, stems mainly from (1) the unique position the College of Europe inhabits in the history of higher education institutions in Europe, (2) the implicit and explicit expectations of College of Europe students to throughout their lives assume extraordinary responsibility for the European integration process and for citizens in Europe and worldwide, and (3) the collective character of silence and indifference exercised towards students expressing their discomfort meriting an in-kind, i.e. collective, means of being addressed. Put in simple terms: The career prospects of 350 students are not more important than the well-being of 1 single of these students. If public pressure is the measure that can help change the campus so that people don’t have to be so fundamentally distrustful any longer and bring about accountability, then reasonable public pressure is, in light of my convictions stated above, a justified means.

There are downsides, of course. The magnitude and the dimensions of the retaliation for bringing public scrutiny on your own promotion aren’t predictable – especially, in a context in which you live in shared housing on campus. Public pressure will forcibly externalise the internal divisions among the student body, that run along the lines of how much we respect human dignity or each others rights. It would certainly break the silence. But even though one might hope that the chance for it is high, there is no solid guarantee that it would lead to people showing themselves accountable. It is uncertain whether public pressure makes people more compassionate and understanding. And if the creation of a dialogue of reflection and peace-building stemming from people understanding themselves as accountable for their actions fails, public pressure runs the risk of defeating its own purpose: After all, for those indescribably hurt and violated, when the process of bringing about justice and peace fails, the effects to our mental health from a changed campus dynamic after an attempt to leverage external pressure might worsen.

Adjusting priorities: Placing well-being over accountability, without being forced to grant a blanket amnesty of trust

In this sense, while justice is a noble goal – and one that we should not give up! – , the pursuit of accountability through engaging public scrutiny might effectively lead to a tangibly deteriorated living situation for those on campus who strive for justice in the first place. But if external pressure cannot promise to effectively address the problematic of a campus of fundamental distrust, and complacent silence and continuity of the status quo is highly undesirable, which path of action remains available? After many conversations and intense reflection, I together with a small group of students have decided to write and distribute a voluntary pledge.

There is one central idea which runs through the Pledge. In the fewest words possible, the idea behind the Pledge is: If you sign it, you can be trusted. If you sign the Pledge, that means that you believe in the convictions and dreams expressed in the Pledge and shared with all others who signed it. You show others that you want to be trusted just as you want to trust others. A friend of mine described it maybe in the best way: A promise to be nice.

The theory behind the Pledge: A localised procedural litmus test of trust

In a philosophical sense and in more abstract words, I would describe this Pledge as a localised procedural litmus test of trust. Describing these concepts one by one: To me, it is a litmus test, because the act of deciding to sign (or not sign) this Pledge exemplifies how you position yourself with regards to the contents of the Pledge which cover a distinct range of ideals, values and norms. It is a litmus test of trust, because trust to me is the key motivation behind the creation of this Pledge, and the guiding thread in its contents. A description as “litmus test of values and ideals” or something of the likes might be equally accurate, but in my opinion doesn’t caption the essence of the Pledge as good as the significance of “litmus test of trust” does.

It is a procedural litmus test of trust, because it is a test that is not qualitatively examined or requiring any substantial answering of questions. The test does not entail any evaluation, and there is no one assessing your performance in this test. You succeed in a procedural test simply through successfully completing all stages of the procedural steps by which it is defined. This procedural test only has one stage, and that is the individual decision to sign the Pledge.

Finally, it is a localised procedural litmus test of trust. Given the well-defined group of students at the College of Europe and its static character, one can reasonably assume that any given student on campus knows about the existence of this Pledge and therefore has the choice between signing it and not signing it. Assuming that, generally speaking, a person from outside the College does not know about the existence of this Pledge, that also entails that persons outside the College do not have the choice between signing it and not signing it. The localised character is further expressed in the words of the Pledge which specifically are directed from and towards the students of the 2022/23 promotion.

Gaining benefits without compromise and without disadvantages

And here’s why employing a localised procedural litmus test of trust in the form of this Pledge is a great idea:

It’s a path that actively builds a network of trust and thereby can reinforce a general feeling of safety and integrity for students. And it’s a test that you can’t fail. Seeing as it is a procedural test without any time limit, it might take shorter for some and longer for others to complete it, but everyone who wants to can pass it at any given moment.

Equally, it’s a test that you can’t cheat. Cheating a test, in this context, would mean that you complete it without the intention of completing it truthfully. A performative signature of a Pledge without believing in the contents of the Pledge, so to say. But here’s the thing: A person who doesn’t believe in the relevance of this Pledge will also not sign this Pledge – exactly because they think it is irrelevant. If they sign it, that means it has some relevance to them. It is impossible to sign a pledge and not understand the relevance of the contents of this pledge. And by virtue of the contents of the pledge, in the moment you signed it, you are, in the eyes of all others who have signed the pledge, morally bound by its contents.

Opposed to that: If you’re obliged to accept a code of conduct, you will most likely accept it regardless of whether you attach any relevance to it. But the decision to sign this Pledge or not is completely voluntary, and in its publication, we paid attention to create as little social pressure as possible to avoid any undue distortion.

By keeping the Pledge open to signature for all throughout the academic year, this path of action further avoids constructing any spaces that, in their essence, are exclusive or hierarchical. No one is put at a disadvantage. And it achieves all of that without compromising on its contents and the importance attached to the values and principles expressed in it.

Outlook

I am convinced that this Pledge will help and already is helping. It is impossible for me to empirically prove precisely the specific positive psychological and social effects that it has. But I have indicators. I see the smiles and contentment of friends. We’ve distributed stickers with the Pledge’s logo that I suddenly find on random places around the campus, gently reminding us that we’re not alone.

I do believe that the concept of a voluntary pledge like this might be transferable to other places. Be it different university campuses around the globe, a specific town, or for communities in general. Shared commitment to the ideals of such a pledge can reinforce and build networks of trust, aiming at positive paths of action contributing to the well-being of those negatively affected by others’ behaviour. It’s important to stress that such a pledge does not aim to replace frameworks that already address hurtful behaviour, but complements them and contributes to a feeling of safety. This is especially crucial where the existing frameworks are inapplicable, inaccessible, or simply fail.

If you like the Pledge and would like to support or replicate the project or it inspires/inspired you in any other way, please let me know and get in touch with me.

Take care!

how to (slowly) stop using twitter

It’s hard to not see anything deeply problematic with the centralisation of social media platforms, namely Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in 2022. Especially if you’re politically interested, there is a good chance you’re fully aware of their negative impacts on individual mental health and the democratic functioning of society, or you’re critical of how by using them you forsake an insanely huge portion of your privacy – and yet, just like me, you find yourself scrolling through their feeds everyday.

In this blog post, I will not call upon you to shut yourself off and radically close down your accounts at once. If you want to do that, please go ahead, I’ll cheer you on! But if, like me, you have many friends, acquaintances, and connections that make you dependent on those centralised social media platforms, I want to show you a soft path that is open for us as society to go. This path can lead us towards (slowly) regaining a bit more of digital sovereignty as individuals – and towards fixing the damage surveillance-capitalist platforms have inflicted upon society while retaining some of the benefits their innovations have brought us.

quick repetition: why twitter isn’t great

Skip this paragraph if you don’t need an explanation. It’s just here for completeness.

Twitter is great. You can, without much time investment, keep up with what your friends and what the world is up to all in one place. You can even interact with what’s going on in the world without much work. But unfortunately, Twitter is also insanely powerful. And by Twitter I mean the company, its employees, its decision-makers, its bosses. Its algorithms scraping your data and metadata. It knows when you’re awake at night and when you’re procrastinating during the day, what you like in life, who your friends are. Whom you share tweets with you think are funny and what GIFs you send your childhood friend. It tries to keep your attention for as long as possible to maximise its profits and wants to prevent you from actually doing anything but being on Twitter. On the other hand, if you do something that Twitter doesn’t like, you can be cut off. Just as much as it can put you at the top of the algorithm, Twitter can kick you out of your account at any time.

how to use twitter without using twitter

Now, there used to be a time when you could either be on Twitter or not have access to the benefits of a whole world of free microblogging at all. But in the past few years, that’s changed.

Thanks to a handful of programmers and a larger community of people enthusiastic about open source, since around 2015-2016 multiple projects have continuously developed which tackled this one problematic I’ve sketched above: How can we design and organise social media so that it’s independent from the control of a monopolistic entity? How can we build digital social networks that as a philosophy serve the interests of their users (connection, exchange, learning) instead of their operators (monetary gain)?

Their solutions: Instead of building one single website, they’ve built a language – a protocol. It’s a language one computer can speak to another computer! The beauty of it is: No one owns the language. No one has control over who can speak it or not. No one can force you to watch advertisements every time you want to speak the language. You can speak the language to whomever you want to, and you can equally decide to not speak the language to someone. And no one controls and archives every time anyone speaks or listens to the language.

More specifically: The projects and platforms that have been developed around this language, this protocol, have gotten the nickname Fediverse.

how the fediverse works

To make it quick: Many smart people have written good and comprehensive explanations of what the Fediverse is. I’ll try to give the most important things to you in a couple of bullet points:

  • The Fediverse knows different variations of social network languages – you can imagine them a bit like dialects.
  • The most popular variation (“dialect”) is Mastodon, which is most similar to Twitter.
  • Buuuuuuut: There’s not one single Mastodon website, but thousands of Mastodon websites!
    • They all speak to each other and whatever website you’re on, your experience will be the same and you can connect with anyone who is on any Mastodon website in exactly the same way.
  • If you want to, you can even run your own Mastodon or a Mastodon for your friends, and you don’t need a degree in computer science to do it!
  • A different variation (“dialect”) in the Fediverse is PixelFed, which looks and feels a lot like Instagram. Just without all the advertisements!
    • With any Mastodon account, you can also connect with and speak to a PixelFed account – and vice versa! So even if it’s different dialects, the language underneath is still the same 🙂

I’ve been around the Fediverse for a long time now. I’ve switched servers multiple times – but you can find me with the username @thilosophus@chaos.social since April 2017. Long enough that I can wholeheartedly recommend the Fediverse and say that I know what I’m talking about. And that I can say that it’s a more enjoyable experience to interact with people or institutions there than to interact with people or institutions on Twitter in every conceivable way.

how to get started

Now it’s up to you: If you’d like to try it out, read on! A lot of smart and much more knowledgeable people than me have already written a plenitude of blog posts and articles. I’ll link some – feel free to just dive in!

Have fun, enjoy, and send me a toot soon! 😉

welcher william mcbride?

Well how do you do, Private William McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?
And I’ll rest for a while in the warm autumn sun,
I’ve been walking all day long, and I’m nearly done.
Do you know about me? I was also 19
My life is so funny and so interesting
unlike yours, tell again, what has your name been?
Ah William, oh well, that sounds booooring.

Haben sie dich damals schon genauso belogen,
so wie wir’s mit euch heute immer noch tun?
Hahaha, du hast alles gegeben –
deine Kraft, deine Jugend, dein Leben.

We call ourselves brilliant, and honest, and bright,
but the truth, oh dear William, we don’t care that you died
oh unless, yes dear William, can’t you give us your vote?
cause we’re an incredibly smart and trustworthy crowd.
Upon us the heavy cross of privilege fell.
We earned it, we went through unspeakable hell
not like our ancestors who’ve just had a real swell
and peaceful time chilling up on this hill.

Did they laugh at you phony, have their jokes been unholy,
can you explain to us, what are rifles again?
We’re innocent, cute, please adore us,
empathy doesn’t fit on our scorecards.

Soldat, gingst du glÀubig und gern in den Tod?
Ich glaub schon, sonst hÀttest du dir nicht so ne GrabstÀtte gesucht
Mit all den Mohnblumen, dem Marmor und Prunk
Das hÀtte ich auch gern in meinem Zimmer, ich aktivier den Flurfunk
Berichte dass du dir alles Gute wegschnappst
Und uns unsre Chance auf Instafame verpatzt
Zum GlĂŒck gibt’s ja keine Kriege mehr
Auf der Welt, was ein GlĂŒck, ja wir freuen uns sehr

Qu’est-ce que c’est, le last post, je n’ai aucun idĂ©e
peut-ĂȘtre que WhatsApp ou des livres nous peuvent dire
vraiment, ce sont beaux les champs verts de la Flandre
oĂč le vent Ă©tait chaud, et les coquelicots dansaient

Yes oh dear Willie, you know how easy it’d be
to pop off your head in trenches like these
pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew
pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew
pew pew pew pew pew pew
pew pew pew pew pew
pew pew willy did you get the idea alright?
eines weiß ich nur, hier existiert keine zeit

Haben sie dich damals schon genauso belogen,
so wie wir’s mit allen anderen heute immer noch tun?
Ă€tschibĂ€tsch du hast alles gegeben –
trotz dir opfer können wir jetzt frei leben

Worte aus dem Halbexil.

Heidelberg, 25. Januar 2022

Ich will keine Kerzen anzĂŒnden mĂŒssen. Aber ich tue es. Tue es, weil Kerzen anzĂŒnden eben eines der besten Dinge ist, die man machen kann, wenn es eigentlich scheinbar nichts mehr sinnvolles in der Welt zu tun gibt. Also bin ich in unsere Stadt gefahren, und habe heute eine Kerze fĂŒr dich angezĂŒndet. Ich weiß noch nicht wer du warst. Wie du hießt, was du liebtest, ob ich dich kannte. Ob du mit mir Abi gemacht hast, wir dasselbe LieblingscafĂ© hatten, oder du mir irgendwann mal die TĂŒr zur Straßenbahn aufgehalten hast als ich mit drei Postkisten in den HĂ€nden durch die Stadt rannte. Ich hoffe, ich bin dir irgendwann mal begegnet und habe mitbekommen dĂŒrfen wer du warst.

Du lebst nicht mehr. Und so klingen meine Worte hohl in einen luftleeren Raum. Was bleibt, ist fĂŒr mich zu schreiben. Und fĂŒr meine Mitmenschen. FĂŒr meine Abi-Stufe, fĂŒr unsere StudiengefĂ€hrt*innen, fĂŒr unsere Dozent*innen. FĂŒr die akademische Gemeinschaft, fĂŒr die Stadt, fĂŒr unsere Freund*innen, fĂŒr unsere Familien. Also schreibe ich nun fĂŒr uns.

Denn unsere Trauer ist was uns noch Halt und Kraft gibt. Und so trauern wir. Und wir weinen, und wir zĂŒnden unsere Kerzen an. Und wir gedenken, und wir bleiben gedenken, denn nur so können wir voranschreiten. Und so trotzen wir, indem wir das vollbringen, was unsere MitbĂŒrger*innen ĂŒber den Globus hinweg milliardenfach am Tag machen. Wir binden unsere SchnĂŒrsenkel, öffnen die TĂŒr, und gehen mit Gott und einer krĂ€ftigen Portion Lebensmut und GlĂŒck aus dem Haus. Wir kommen zusammen, und zĂŒnden unsere Kerzen an, und werden sie leuchten lassen. Bis in alle Ewigkeit.

Wir danken den EinsatzkrĂ€ften, denjenigen die sie unterstĂŒtzen und leiten, und wir danken fĂŒr eine unverblĂŒmte Pressekonferenz der qualvollen Wahrheit. Wir fĂŒhlen mit der Toten, den Terrorisierten, den Angehörigen. Wir zĂŒnden unsere Kerzen an.

Wir finden unsere Freund*innen. Wir kommen zusammen, wir spielen Spiele, wir erheben unser Glas. Wir umarmen unsere Liebsten und genießen den nĂ€chsten Tag, der uns geschenkt wurde. Wir zĂŒnden unsere Kerzen an. Und wir finden Zuflucht in den GesprĂ€chen die wir fĂŒhren und denen wir lauschen, in den Menschen die uns zuhören und denjenigen fĂŒr die wir ein offenes Ohr sind; gleich ob auf der Straße, in der OEG, in der Kirche, am Telefon, hinterm Bildschirm. Wir finden zu Zusammenhalt wenn wir unser Herz ausschĂŒtten, wenn wir weinen, wenn wir gemeinsam schweigen; wenn die Seniorengruppe in der benachbarten Straßenbahnsitzgruppe sich noch darĂŒber freuen kann gemeinsam wo hie fahret zu derfe, und wenn die SchĂŒler*innen auf der anderen Straßenseite auf ihrem Heimweg noch ungetrĂŒbte Wettrennen veranstalten können.

Und alles was bleibt, ist das zu sagen, was mer KurpĂ€lzer dann immer sagen. Es ist unsere Verzweiflung, unsere Hoffnung auf Erlösung, unsere Dankbarkeit am Leben zu sein, unser Mantra des Leidens und des Lichtes; Unser Gruß an eine scheußliche RealitĂ€t, der wir in unserer Machtlosigkeit entgegen starren, und der wir dennoch stoisch das letzte Wort entziehen; Unsere ewige Trauer um ein entrissenes Leben, unsere ewige Demut vor den Opfern, unser ewiges Gebet –

Alla guud.

Anlaufstellen

In Person

Anonym

FĂŒr unmittelbar Betroffene & Angehörige:

Autor dieses Textes

21 jahre alt, born and raised in and around Heidelberg/Neuenheim, damals aktiv in der katholischen jugendverbandsarbeit. zum studium weggezogen. zum tatzeitpunkt mittagessen-kochend drei dörfer weiter nördlich.

Graduated!

Geslaagd!

People who have gotten to know me a bit closer know that wherever I go, chance is I have one and a half feet out of the box, with all the good and bad that comes with it. And so it is kind of fitting that my graduation has also taken place outside of the regular academic rhythm: I physically and mentally wasn’t able to hand in a thesis when it was foreseen – and that I failed some courses and took an extra semester to balance those out and augment my knowledge a bit further either way goes without saying.

That graduating in September – at UCM, you usually graduate either in January or July – was even possible showcases what an enormous privilege it was to follow a tailor-made undergraduate degree at University College Maastricht. Four years ago I ventured into the world of academia, not knowing whether I might become an activist, a scholar, a politician, a thilosopher, a lawyer, a data scientist. Today, I can assure you that I have successfully managed to not let myself be constrained to either of these things. I’ve learned to speak the languages of the different disciplines. I’ve written exams and handed in exercises in statistics, machine learning, and data analytics just as I have read and written legal memoranda or papers in political theory. And I could write my thesis on a topic that I have carried in my heart and mind ever since I had my application interview.

But most importantly of all, I have gotten to know the most interesting, curious, and caring friends and mentors. They have made me grow immeasurably and shaped my transition to young adulthood in all the best ways. Be it in- or outside the classroom, academic or non-academic, in the context of one of the many organisations I hopped around or purely personal, it is what I am most thankful for and humbled by looking back on the past years.

If you’re curious about what I’ll be doing next, you’re not alone – so am I! There’s a great number of things that can and should be done in the world, and my thesis is one great example for a personal working programme for the upcoming decade. Where and in which contexts I’ll find the strength, knowledge, and resources to tackle those things I can’t tell yet. All that I know is: I’m back on my feet, and not knowing which box they will break out of next, can proudly proclaim: 2000’s kid out!

Fixing the Relationship between the EU and its Youth: The Case for the Creation of a European Youth Parliament

I have handed in my Bachelor’s thesis. I think my topic, the systematic exclusion from youth in politics, is highly relevant. And my proposal powerful. Since many of you will have neither the time nor the motivation to casually read it in its entirety, I have summarised the argument here.

I argue for the Creation of a European Youth Parliament (no, not the educational NGO – an actual Parliament). And I have several reasons to do so. First, let’s define what a European Youth Parliament is.

Criteria for a European Youth Parliament

I say that a European Youth Parliament that lives up to its name needs to fulfil three criteria: It needs to

  • be able to legitimately claim to represent the European youth,
  • have a meaningful influence on EU politics, and
  • be legally solidified so that it can’t be abolished easily.

Justifications: Reasons Why a European Youth Parliament is Good for the EU

There are (at least) four major trains of thought that can show why the introduction of a European Youth Parliament is good, necessary, and overdue.

  1. In order to break the cycle of political apathy, political representation of youth must be addressed. Participatory events as frequently held by EU institutions cannot provide for that, but political representation must actually be guaranteed. A European Youth Parliament can provide that and thereby help as an empowering tool of civic education.
  2. Young people in politics are continuously discriminated against. Traditional means of emancipation are not available to them, so we need to make sure that they are protected from a youth-hostile political environment. A European Youth Parliament can act as such a space.
  3. Young people are unequally equipped with lobbying resources. Whilst adults and the corporations they work for spend loads of money and personnel on influencing politicians, children themselves have no lobbying resources. Even though there are organisations that lobby on behalf of children and teenagers, children and teenagers themselves do not possess over an equal weight compared to adults. To balance that out, they should get their own institution – a European Youth Parliament.
  4. Adults are driving the planet into a catastrophe. They can make decisions with disastrous consequences that won’t affect them equally as the ones for whom those decisions are more incisive. Giving the upcoming generations a greater weight compared to the weight adult citizens have in political decisions is good and just. This can be achieved by a European Youth Parliament.

Has this sparked your interest? Do you happen to disagree with me? You are cordially invited to read my full thesis and let me know what you think!

Op de weg naar de Europese maatschappelijke betrokkenheid in Nederland

Flag of the European Union in the European Parliament in Strasbourg
© European Union 2013 – European Parliament. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Maastricht, 17 februari 2021
Thilo Buchholz


In een wereld die zich steeds sneller draait en in een wereld, die voor ongekende uitdagingen staat, moeten we deze uitdagingen globaal aankunnen. Met steeds meer onzekerheden, wisselende globale partners, en een digitaal bestuurde wereld wordt het harder en harder voor een enkele burger om mee te kunnen praten en beslissen hoe onze maatschappij er zal uitzien. Kansenongelijkheid, een gebrek aan makkelijke en betrouwbare sociale zekerheid, internationale conflicten en globale problemen zoals de klimaatcrisis houden ons af van vrede en geluk, en het kijken naar het nieuws brengt ons vaker en vaker aan het twijfelen of in het 21ste eeuw de politieke autoriteiten ĂŒberhaupt nog een goed leven kunnen garanderen.

De gebrekken van de hedendaagse EU

Een kans die we in Nederland hebben om invloed uit te oefenen op de ontwikkelingen in de wereld is dat we gelukkig lid zijn van een Europese Unie. Dat geeft onze regering meer invloed om te gaan handelen in een internationale context. Maar wat we eigenlijk bereiken moeten, als tussenstop op de weg naar de wereldrepubliek, is de Europese democratie. Deze is tot een beperkt niveau omgezet in de hedendaagse EU – we mogen Europese burgerinitiatieven starten en ondertekenen, hebben een heleboel rechten als EU-burgers, en het meest belangrijk mogen we alle vijf jaar een Europees Parlement kiezen. Maar toch blijft wat Rutte, Merkel, en Macron zeggen belangrijker dan de besluiten van de Europese volksvertegenwoordigers. Als belangrijke beslissingen worden genomen dan alleen als het van de premiers en kanselieren mag – en terwijl in het Europees Parlement al lang meerderheden tussen alle partijen en landen gevonden zijn voor meer sociaal rechten, een stabieler financieel systeem, of een humanitair asielbeleid, blijven de oplossingen jarenlang hangen in de gaten van een institutioneel half-democratie.

Democratie betekent meer dan naar de verkiezingen gaan

Maar wat kunnen we nu doen om de Europese democratie te gaan realiseren? Zeker gaat participatie door de bestaande democratische instituties zoals Tweede Kamerverkiezingen of Europarlementsverkiezingen behulpzaam zijn. Maar een democratie leeft van en met een actief en betrokken maatschappij. Van burgers die zich dagelijks inzetten voor de bescherming van kwetsbaren en de betrekking van iedereen om hun het best mogelijk leven te gaan garanderen. En dat is een tak, die politici niet alleen kunnen vervullen. Zij zijn afhankelijk van maatschappelijke bewegingen, die de wensen en belangen van burgers gaan integreren, afwegen, en vertegenwoordigen.

Deze maatschappelijke bewegingen moeten van beneden uitgaan. Ze moeten hun wortels hebben in mensen die bijeenkomen om zelf democratisch te beslissen wat ze gaan willen doen en hoe ze zich ervoor willen inzetten. Vandaag vind je inmiddels wel een tal van instellingen, instituties, stichtingen of gemeentes die het proces van debat over Europese integratie graag steunen en burgers erbij betrekken. Maar deze kunnen uiteindelijk burgers niet zo duurzaam betrekken als een democratisch vereniging. Want uiteindelijk gaat daar het niet een burger zelf zijn, die zijn of haar belangen aan overheid en politici gaat presenteren; het is een projectleider, een evenement organisator, een onderzoeker. Als we geloven in de kracht van democratie moeten we zij ook zelf gaan beoefenen: Wat we dus echter nodig hebben is een breed coalitie van burgers, die zich inzetten willen voor de Europese democratie – en dat doen door hun lidmaatschap in een democratisch vereniging.

En nu?

Bestaande verenigingen en stichtingen, zo ver zij nog actief zijn, doen dit onvoldoende. Wat moeten we dus gaan doen? Het is verzamelen, netwerken, en krachten bundelen. Daarbij kunnen wij de Nederlandse directheid en eerlijkheid combineren met de ervaringen in maatschappelijk betrokkenheid van burgers in ons buurlanden, die het debat over Europa al langer democratisch voeren. En dat moeten we doen binnen de netwerken die al bestaan, om het wiel niet opnieuw uit te vinden. Kunnen een grotendeels dood blijkend Europese Beweging Nederland of een ter deze tijd zwakke Jonge Europese Federalisten Nederland dat nog aan? We weten het niet.

Maar als we nooit beginnen ons samen te gaan inzetten, zal het nooit geburen. Dus als je nog wat kracht of enkele euro’s voor een lidmaatschapsbijdrage over hebt en je Europa wilt gaan verbeteren, doe mee! En als we dan verzamelen, netwerken, krachten bundelen, kunnen wij het mogelijk maken om de Europese democratie begrijpelijker en sterker te maken. Europese burgers die in Nederland wonen de gelijke rechten en de gelijke garantie op een goed leven geven als Europese burgers die in Duitsland, Spanje, of Griekenland wonen. De stem van Europeanen die in Nederland wonen over de politiek van de toekomst nog een beetje duidelijker te laten horen. En een belangrijk stapje naar voren op de weg naar de wereldvrede zetten.

Die 3 Sorten von Messengerdiensten einfach erklÀrt.

Read the English version of this article here
CC-BY-SA 4.0 (thilobuchholz.eu)


Nach der AnkĂŒndigung von WhatsApp, eine verpflichtende Zustimmung fĂŒr neue Nutzungsbedingungen einzuholen, sind im letzten Monat Tausende von Nutzer:innen zu anderen Messengern migriert. Aber zu welchen? Schließlich kann, wenn dir deine Daten lieb sind, ein Wechsel zu z.B. Telegram ein Schuss ins Knie sein. Innerhalb der Szene von Datenschutzenthusiasten gibt es nun zwar dutzende Diskussionen und Blogs, welcher Messengerdienst weshalb besser sei – aber ich habe bisher keinen Artikel gefunden, der die Struktur der bestehenden Messenger einfach und verstĂ€ndlich erklĂ€rt. Dieser Artikel versucht diese LĂŒcke zu schließen.

Es gibt drei Messengerarchitekturen, nach denen Instant-Messengerdienste strukturiert sind:

  1. Zentralisierte Messenger
  2. Föderierte Messenger
  3. Direkte Peer-to-Peer Messenger
Grafik, die die 3 Messengerarchitekturen visuell veranschaulicht.
CC-BY-SA 4.0 thilobuchholz.eu, basierend auf CC-BY-SA 4.0 niboe.info.
SVG-Datei verfĂŒgbar.

Zentralisierte Messenger

Zu den Zentralisierten Messengern gehören z.B. WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Threema, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, oder Snapchat: FĂŒr sie alle gilt dass es einen Anbieter, und eine App fĂŒr den Dienst gibt. Alle, die auf der Plattform miteinander kommunizieren tun das ĂŒber die Server der Anbieter. Dabei sind die Dienste natĂŒrlich trotzdem noch unterschiedlich: Manche (z.B. Discord oder Instagram) sind vollstĂ€ndig unverschlĂŒsselt – das bedeutet, dass der Anbieter alle Nachrichten die du schreibst lesen und verwenden kann. Manche (z.B. Telegram oder Signal) veröffentlichen den Quellcode der App – das bedeutet, dass alle sehen und ĂŒberprĂŒfen können, was die App auf deinem Handy macht. Manche sammeln mehr Metadaten (z.B. die Daten mit wem, wie lange, wo du kommunizierst), und manche weniger, usw.

Bei den Zentralisierten Messengern gibt es aber trotzdem sehr datenschutzfreundliche Messenger. Am bekanntesten davon sind Threema und Signal, weniger bekannte datenschutzfreundliche Messenger sind z.B. Wire und Wickr. Aber wenn einer dieser Dienste eine Funktion in seine App einbaut, die dir nicht gefÀllt, hast du Pech. Alle diese Messenger sind an die App und den Anbieter gebunden: Du musst die App des Anbieters benutzen, oder anders kannst du die Menschen auf diesem Messenger nicht anschreiben.

Föderierte Messenger

Föderierte Messenger bauen auf einem vollstÀndig offenen Protokoll auf (ein Protokoll ist sozusagen die Sprache des Messengers). Die beiden föderierten Chatprotokolle die grundsÀtzlich verwendet werden sind XMPP und Matrix. Ihre Funktionsweise lÀsst sich mit E-Mails vergleichen: Du kannst ein Chatkonto auf irgendeinem Server anlegen den du magst (oder deinen eigenen betreiben), und mit Chatkonten auf allen anderen Servern schreiben. Bei den Föderierten Messengerdiensten kannst du auch frei wÀhlen, welche Apps (Clients) du verwenden willst um mit deinen Kontakten zu schreiben, oder auch einfach durch deinen Internetbrowser auf deinen Matrix oder XMPP Account zugreifen.

In E-Mail-Sprache

Die Kommunikation zwischen den Servern funktioniert so wie das Senden einer E-Mail von einem Gmail-Konto an das Yahoo-Konto eine:r Freund:in. Es gibt keine Begrenzungen wie oder mit wem du kommunizieren kannst – und wenn dir Gmail nicht mehr gefĂ€llt, kannst du dir einfach eine neue E-Mail-Adresse woanders anlegen und deine:r Freund:in von deiner neuen Adresse aus schreiben.

Auch die Freiheit, verschiedene Apps zu benutzen ist wie bei E-Mails: Bei diesen kannst du ja auch mit bspw. der Gmail-App, oder mit Outlook, oder der iPhone Mail-Anwendung, oder Mozilla Thunderbird etc. pp. deine Mails checken. Egal wo dein E-Mail-Konto angelegt ist.

Ob nun XMPP oder Matrix das bessere Protokoll (“die bessere Sprache“) ist, darĂŒber streiten sich einige. Persönlich denke ich, dass XMPP das ĂŒberlegene Protokoll ist, wobei man sich als neue:r Benutzer:in vielleicht einfacher an Matrix als an XMPP gewöhnen kann.

Direkte Peer-to-Peer Messenger

Direkte Messenger (auch ‘serverlose Messenger’, ‘dezentrale Messenger’, ‘verteilte Messenger’ oder ‘Peer-to-Peer Messenger’ genannt) brauchen ĂŒberhaupt keine Server, sondern bauen nur auf einem vollstĂ€ndig offenen und vollstĂ€ndig verteilten Protokoll auf. Briar, Jami, Tox, und RetroShare sind die bekanntesten Beispiele dieser Messengerdienste. Unter den drei Messengerarchitekturen bieten Direkte Messenger die grĂ¶ĂŸte AnonymitĂ€t und Sicherheit deiner Daten. Im Gegenzug dafĂŒr bedeutet das auch, dass du Kontakte immer manuell hinzufĂŒgen musst. Da deine IdentitĂ€t geschĂŒtzt ist, kannst du ja auch nicht einfach per Telefonnummer identifiziert werden.

FĂŒr diese Messenger spricht jedoch, dass sie nicht wirklich scheitern können: Es gibt keine Server, die unerwartet offline sein könnten, und du musst dein Vertrauen nicht in die VerfĂŒgbarkeit von irgendwelchen einzelnen Anbietern setzen. Durch diese UnabhĂ€ngigkeit wirst du immer deine Kontakte benachrichtigen können – in manchen FĂ€llen sogar ohne Internetverbindung. Allerdings unterstĂŒtzen nicht alle Direkten Messengerdienste Sprach- oder Videoanrufe.

An die Arbeit!

Freund:innen lassen Freund:innen nicht WhatsApp oder Telegram benutzen! Hierunter findest du eine Leseliste mit mehr Materialien zum Stöbern und Informieren, und Links zum Durchstarten. Wenn du Englisch sprichst und noch mehr wissen willst, empfehle ich auch einen Blick in das ‘Further reading’ der englischsprachigen Version dieses Artikels. 

Hast du jetzt noch Fragen? Willst du das Chatten auf den Föderierten oder Direkten Messengern ausprobieren? Brauchst du Hilfe dabei, einen Anbieterserver auszusuchen oder die ersten Schritte zu gehen? Schreib mich gerne an!

Leseliste

Clients (Apps) fĂŒr XMPP

Beispielclients: Gajim, Conversations, Quicksy, Siskin, ChatSecure, Dino, 

Mehr Informationen ĂŒber das XMPP-Protokoll kannst du hier finden.
Auf dieser Liste findest du mehr Clients, auf dieser Liste eine Auswahl von Servern. 

Clients (Apps) fĂŒr Matrix

Beispielclients: Element, SchildiChat, ditto, NeoChat, FluffyChat, 

Mehr Informationen ĂŒber das Matrix-Protokoll kannst du hier finden.
Auf dieser Liste findest du mehr Clients, auf dieser Liste eine Auswahl von Servern.

An introduction to the 3 types of messengers, simply explained.

Zur deutschsprachigen Version dieses Artikels


Read this article on Gemini (about Gemini): gemini://gemlog.blue/users/yellow/1612715438.gmi


CC-BY-SA 4.0 (thilobuchholz.eu)


Within the recent month, particularly after WhatsApp’s announcement and subsequent postponement of its updated privacy policy, thousands of users started migrating messengers. Whilst within the blogosphere known to me there are many examples of people arguing intensely for or against a certain instant messaging protocol, I haven’t found one introductory article to the world that is instant messaging services. This article aims to fill that gap.

There are 3 different architecture philosophies of instant messaging services.

  1. centralized,
  2. federated,
  3. distributed/Peer-to-Peer (P2P)

Centralized Messengers

Centralized messengers are e.g. WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Threema, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat: There is one provider, and one application for the service. Everybody who communicates with somebody communicates via the servers of that provider. That doesn’t mean that those messengers are all the same: Some, like Discord and Instagram, are entirely unencrypted – the service provider (i.e. the company) can read and use everything you write. Some, like Telegram and Signal, publish the source code of the apps – that means that everyone can see and verify what the app does on your phone. Some, like Threema and Signal, are always end-to-end encrypted. Some collect more metadata – e.g. the data when, with whom, how long, where you communicate – and some less. And so on and so on. Still, there are very privacy-friendly messengers among those – most popularly Signal and Threema, followed by messengers with a smaller user base such as Wire and Wickr. But if any of those messengers implement a feature you don’t like, you’re screwed. All of those messengers are app-reliant: You need to access the application of the service provider, otherwise you’re excluded from messaging other people.

Federated Messengers

Federated messengers are messengers which rely on a fully open protocol (think of ‘protocol’ as ‘language’). The two existing protocols are XMPP and Matrix. Their main principle can be compared to email: You can register an account at any server (or host a server of your own), and communicate with any other account on any other server. Think of it like sending an email from your Gmail account to your friend’s Yahoo account: There are no limits as to how you can communicate, and if you dislike Gmail, you can just switch to any other email provider and send an email to your friend from your new address. Likewise, you are free to choose any app you like to use your account (people generally speak of apps as ‘clients’). Similar to how you can access a Hotmail email-account from different clients (e.g. the Gmail app, Apple’s email app, Mozilla Thunderbird, …), you can access your XMPP or Matrix account through different clients or simply access your account from the web browser. There are people who prefer XMPP and people who prefer Matrix, I personally think that XMPP is the better protocol whilst Matrix offers an easier user experience for people who are new to federated messenger protocols.

Peer-to-Peer Messengers

Peer-to-peer messengers don’t rely on servers altogether – they just rely on one common protocol (‘language’). Briar, Jami, Tox, RetroShare are all examples for this. Among the three groups, they provide most anonymity and security. However, this also means that you need to add your contacts manually – as your identity is protected, you can’t simply be identified by your phone number. On the other hand, they provide the comfort of not being able to fail. There is no server which can go offline and you don’t need to place your trust in the availability of the service on a specific provider. You will always be able to message your contacts – in some cases even without needing an internet connection. But pay attention: Not all peer-to-peer messengers support voice or video call functionality.

So, let’s go!

I included links for further reading below. 
Do you have any questions left? Or do you want to practice communicating on the federated and distributed platforms? Do you need help in picking a server or getting started? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Further reading

On these websites, you will find general advice that I personally deem valuable on how to become a digitally sovereign citizen:

In general, I am hesitant to share videos, as they can often get very lengthy and can have a strong personal bias. However, I think that this video explains the differences between the messengers in more detail really well, so if you’re up to learning more, listen in!

Also see this matrix if you’re interested in an in-depth comparison of the features of the different messengers. Look here if you’re searching for alternatives to MS Teams, Slack etc.

Clients (apps) for XMPP

Examples are Gajim, Conversations, Quicksy, Siskin, ChatSecure, Dino, …
You can find more information on the XMPP protocol here.
See this list for more clients and this list for a selection of servers.

Clients (apps) for Matrix

Examples are Element, SchildiChat, ditto, NeoChat, FluffyChat, …
You can find more information on the Matrix protocol here.
See this list for more clients and this list for a selection of servers.