Störenfriede - Pensées - eigensinnig wien - puer robustus, dieter thomä, greta thunberg, ralph waldo emerson, gezi-park, tian'anmen platz



Puer robustus is what philosopher Dieter Thomä calls the troublemaker: “the stout youngster who takes matters into his own hands, doesn’t abide by the rules, offends, rebels and sometimes lunges out.” This troublemaker exists in many facets: the egocentric who only pursues his own interests, the eccentric who only dramatizes himself (“enfant terrible”), the disturbed destroyer who wants to create a different order by force and crushes everything in the process. „Man is […] a misfit from the start,“ wrote the author Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But troublemakers can also, or especially, be heroes and heroines. Without them, there would not have been an Arab Spring. Without them, Istanbul’s Gezi Park would not have become synonymous with civil protests against the Erdoğan regime. And who does not remember the Tank Man, that unknown rebel with two shopping bags in his hands who stood in front of a tank slowly rolling towards him during the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989?

We disrupt normality to ensure that the alarm reaches everyone.


Troublemakers like Harvey Weinstein fall into an entirely different category. Troublemakers who want to perpetuate an order – patriarchy, in this case – in which the oppression of women is not only not questioned, but even approved of. And even if it feels wrong to try to find something good to say about this “scandal”, there is no denying that it has caused a global #MeToo ripple effect – and at some point, the outrage, the shame and the silence will turn into protest, strength and action. Into an enhanced awareness that has been potentiated manyfold, a fortunately never-ending debate which, on the other hand, should no longer be an issue in 2019.

We can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.


Unfortunately, Thomä hardly ever mentions women in his discussion of troublemakers, which is why we include them in our considerations. Regardless of their gender, the philosopher says, troublemakers are threshold creatures.

The good and heroic ones among them constantly linger on the thresholds of an order which they shake, the borders of a system that should have been questioned a long time ago. In doing so, they stir up those who have made themselves comfortable in this order. “We disrupt normality to ensure that the alarm reaches everyone,” says journalist and climate activist Lu Yen Roloff. They awaken, they shout others out of their lethargy, force them to take a look and to look down into their own abysses. Looking the other way is not an option anymore. And not breaking the rules becomes impossible as well – that is why the concluding words are by “puella robusta” Greta Thunberg: “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.”

Recommended reading:

- Dieter Thomä: Troublemakers - A Philosophy of Puer Robustus
- Jean Genet - Notre-Dame des Fleurs


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