The Emperor and Wolfgang Amadeus

The other day I saw on facebook an advertisement – apparently a new game.

KINGDOMS OF CAMELOT

I didn’t have a look at it. But of course, there is always this notion of ‘My home is my castle’ – although it is an illusion and the home of many is actually the home of their bank – in the best case. I write ‘in the best case’ as for probably most of the people it is not ‘my castle’ but a loan granted by their prince, the bank. And for increasing numbers it is victim of the loan-givers meddling collectors – the Deutsche Bank showing ‘German perfection’ even in crime.

The other day I talked to Marco, after we watched on RAI the report on Il Palio – he wanted to draw my attention to the anthropological side:

Isn’t there some medievalism in us: we are engaged in all these personalised and irrational attractions.

And he, the catholic, also wondered about the masses going to mass.

The recent visit of the pope in Milano caught the attention of …

I forgot the number, but it had been large enough to justify his words:

There is obviously something of this irrationality we need!? The feeling of security? Comfort?

Sure, this may also be an eternal resonance of the lost paradise, sadly looked at by Eve – captured by Antonio Allegretti with the masterful scuplture Eva doppo il peccato allegretti. And it is surely this challenge, defined by the gained independence and responsibility and the difficulty even of a genius as Euclid to fully master this independence.

*****

But Euclide’s problem had been the effort of keeping the world moving by handling a set of numbers and geometric forms. More radical attempts, for instance Stefano Porcari’s strive for a Catholic Republic had been cruelly rebuked. Not only that ‘he left life’, i.e. had been hang. But apparently he also failed to represent a demos – at least this is what we can concluded from Marion Crawfords who contends in the work Ave Roma Imortalis

The name Porcari calls up another tale of devotion, of betrayal, and of death, with the last struggle for a Roman Republic at the end of the Middle Age. It was a hopeless attempt, made by a brave man of simple and true heart, a man better and nobler than Rienzi in every way, but who judged the times ill and gave his soul and body for the dream of a liberty which already existed in another shape, but which for its name’s sake he would not acknowledge. Stephen Porcari failed where Rienzi partially succeeded, because the people were not with him ; they were no longer oppressed, and they desired no liberator; they had freedom in fact, and they cared nothing for the name of liberty; they had a ruler with whom they were well pleased, and they did not long for one of whom they knew nothing. But Stephen, brave, pure, and devoted, was a man of dreams, and he died for them, as many others have died for the name of Rome and the phantom of an impossible Republic; for Rome has many times been fatal to those who loved her best.[1]

It is somewhat symbolical that the space that accommodated the house where Porcari had been born and where he lived is now an empty space: in the middle of Rome, in a small street next to the Pantheon – a space where it is prohibited to erect a building. Is it prohibiting people to develop as collective and social demos, claiming a real res publica?

One can turn it around: The modern state, not least going back to Montesquieu’s ‘Spirit of the Laws’, never ever succeeded, and even aimed on, taking the res publica serious, the establishment of a public space. Not least as such public space is always a process as it had been shown in parts of that early French revolution that had been employed by processes rather than building up structures. The public had been systematically reduced on a gathering of individuals. At this point we may leave it open if and in which way this had been different in ancient times. But Euclidian arithmetical reductionism had to lead to the claim of private property being the ultimate ‘natural right’ as spelled out for instance by Locke. And even more, the individual had to be the ultimate point of reference – this had been the true spirit that Montesquieu managed to breath into history of modernity.

And as such, the state emerged as seemingly independent force not as what it is usually presented: the servant of the people. This res publica is a scattered mirror: Eve could only fall in despair, Euclid could only wonder why his genuine attempt crashed and Alfonso Balzico’s Cleopatra could seemingly choose but had been distracted from the affluence in front of her eyes by the permanent presence of the hissing snake.

*****

 And this allows to return to the remark on the

KINGDOMS OF CAMELOT

It is this ongoing and strengthened individualism that actually allows the new, now hidden emperors standing over the princes – and it allows the suggested servant of the people to act like a jester. Though the difference is: the real jester had been mocking about the ruler – and here it is the ruler, mocking about the people. Of course, this may easily be seen as clandestine clue: at the end of the day, the day that may well mark the beginning of real history, it will be the people ruling themselves.

But for the time being jestering is very similar to Euclid’s play with numbers and forms. It is not really far fetched: We find the very same picture in today’s economic policies: number crunching – even in many cases of the search for radical growth policy (my little project with Marica), the strive for Millennium Development Goals (topic of a new little project with Almas) and even the search for niches. As Brigitte says in a recent mail, referring to a book by Raul Zibechi

but he also thinks that the control over territories is getting increasingly important for the rulers and for social movements – something that also points on the re-emergence of feudal forms. Of course, the question is then how such theses can be applied here in Europe.[2]

This is exactly the problem: that many of the solutions are caught in the dilemma Einstein supposedly put into the words:

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

This search for solutions by following the same thinking that created them is not new – though Charles Anthony Smith, Thomas Bellier and John Altick present it as new. Be this as it is, it is heuristically surely interesting to read

the ego-panoptic construct we identify has two related but discreet dimensions. First, the individual has a greater capacity to keep the powerful in check through individual level surveillance of society. Second, the individual is more capable of constructing the world that exists around them. State and society have an increased susceptibility to control by or influence from the individual while there is also a simultaneous limitation on the ability of state and society to force the individual to conform.[3]

*****

All this may sound rather abstract – but actually it has a very simple expression in today’s economic policies. Though all this is a central part of the crisis, it is nevertheless a frequently forgotten one. Debt and in particular indebtedness by the states is undeniably a major problem. It is again and again highlighted by reference in particular to crisis in Greece. And it is made increasingly a topic in supposedly rich nations, complaining about the ‘cost of solidarity. And it is also frequently – even by several conservatives – brought to the fore that austerity policies are at least not without problems. Such policies are not so much ‘imperial’ than ‘medieval’: the brute force against the subject by the use of violence; requesting increased dues. However, there is another dimension to today’s policies in dealing with public debt. And saying today does not refer only to the current crisis but to historical predecessors from the previous century. For Western Germany it is generally accepted that special conditions after WW-II – in particular the support received by the Marshall Plan and the advantage of a near to completely destroyed material foundation of the industrial process (means of production), allowing a kind of ‘new start’, condition for a major competitive advantage on the global level – fostered a period of exceptional growth. But with this we reach implicitly another point: the problem of ‘growth’ – not least since W.W. Rostow growth is considered to be a magic driver, a self directing pattern that does not require any justification as the attraction is given by the Platonic understanding of numbers as real, gaining their justification from a supposedly natural order: 1 naturally followed by 2 naturally followed by 3 naturally followed by 4 maturely followed by … – ops, naturally maturely as the given and unquestionable order of development. And it is the competitive-individualist growth pattern. The Cartesian

proposition, I think, therefore I am, is the first and the most certain which presents itself to whoever conducts his thoughts in order

– later we will come back to it – is now perverted. We can reword: The

capitalist proposition, I grow, therefore I am, is the first and the most certain which presents itself to any economy conducting its balance sheets in order.

As this is a purely individualist principle, and furthermore: as this subsequently is a purely competitive principle, it is also a matter of permanent externalisation of costs. Investment is not aiming on

the production and reproduction of the immediate essentials of life.[4]

And as much as this is still an important aspect – and at the very end the decisive point, it emerges in its capitalindividualist perversion into a rat-race of accumulation of supposed wealth and the permanently enforced externalisation of costs.

We may leave at the moment an important point aside: the fact that the suggested wealth is an illusion. Instead a seemingly technical aspect of maintaining this illusion is worth mentioning.

Germany’s exceptional post-WW-II-growth had been mentioned. But after 1945/49 other economies had been growing with exceptionally high rates too, including the United States of North-America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And indeed, this had been based in – on the one hand – increasing income at least of the so-called middle classes and – on the other hand – the availability of an increasing number of long-term mass consumables (refrigerators, automobiles, household appliances, TV/colour-TV etc.). Interesting is to relate the growth rate for instance in the USNA, the increase of public debt and the inflation rate. The problem of public debt is not the fact itself, but the use of such debt as means of permanent and massive re-distribution. Inflation is an effective instrument – and not least an instrument that allows dispossession: the assets of citizens with an average income are not only eaten up by the changing cost-benefit ratio on the market for every-day’s consumables. Inflation is also a means of public debt relief.

As Carmen Reinhart and Belen Sbrancia state

financial repression is most successful in liquidating debts when accompanied by a steady dose of inflation. Inflation need not take market participants entirely by surprise and, in effect, it need not be very high (by historic standards).[5]

This is a mechanism that works directly against the population and also via redistribution where banks and funds are working as intermediaries.

*****

Indeed, here we find a ‘love-story’ between the different profit-making and –taking mechanisms – complementing and competing roles at the very same time – that evokes repercussions of the first lines of the recitative in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Despina contending

Now I can see

You’re a woman of sense.

and Dorabella answering

In vain, Despina, I tried to resist:

that little devil has such tricks,

such eloquence, such a way with him,

that he’d melt the heart of a stone.[6]

And in actual fact the problem of the entire story is brought to the point by Guglielmo, just a short time before expressing his pure egoism, expressing a misunderstood individualism:

such treatment of so many

is pernicious and a bore

… you treat so many thus,

that if your lovers complain

they have a good reason indeed.[7]

It is like the state which can easily be seen in sustaining a function of an indeed self-interested court: the emperor frequently changing clothes, appearing as social and welfare state, activating state, bureaucratic state etc.. There is no doubt, all these different appearances matter – politics do matter. But they do matter not least as part of a historically long battle about hegemony where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life may be metaphorically telling. A genius of a world that had not been invented yet, and a world that surely did not allow to live this collective notion – a world that finally deflated the genius, causing a puny withering away of a flower that lost its inner buoyancy at the age of 35.

a man defeated by life[8]

It had been and is world in which

[c]oncepts like ‘civility’ or ‘civilisation’ on the one hand and ‘culture’ on the other were used in Germany as symbols of different canons of behaviour and feeling. It was possible to show that the use of these words reflected the chronic tension between court establishment circles and bourgeois outsider groups. This also highlighted certain aspects of the bitter class struggles between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy.[9]

However, there are two points that should be reconsidered when reading Norbert Elias’ analysis and reflections: The first is to put a big question mark behind his thesis that this struggle

finally came to an end in the twentieth century with the rise of the two classes related to the productive economy and the de-funtionalisation of the nobility as a social stratum.[10]

Fact is that the ‘productive economy’, i.e. capitalism, actually systematically undermined productivity if productivity is seen as matter of use value. If

[i]t is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest[11]

it must be something else – and indeed: it is exchange value that – by an invisible hand – creeps into all pores of life, absorbing meaning and sociability with every breath, with every stroke of the hand. The Cartesian proposition

Ac proinde hæc cognitio, ego cogito, ergo sum, est omnium prima & certissima, quæ cuilibet ordine philosophanti occurrat

had been frequently criticised for the inherent idealism. But its utmost individualist stance had been barely objected – Descartes speaks of those individual

whoever conducts his thoughts in order.

And this is it: the order of the mind and thought of the individual philosopher – sitting on an earthly cloud, playing a virtual harp: professional perfectionism, excellence of universities: the realisation of

their own interest.

Second, it is too often forgotten that this new ruling class is in itself split: citoyen and bourgeois inevitably interconnected and nevertheless unavoidably in conflict, avoiding each other like the plague: The idealist freethinker – and Mozart had been one of them – standing against the materialist utilitarian for whom paradoxically the only ‘use value’ is a creature that lost its feet and legs: ‘use value’ is – for the utilitarian – the ‘uselless’ profit, a ‘social construct’ based on the alienation also of the product from itself. A social construct that does not have any own use despite being a placeholder for any use-valuable; interchangeable even with itself.

Thus – coming back to Mozart – he had been not just in a quandary. The individual solution obstructed by the lack of inalienable social integration, thus undermining socio-individual integrity. And the social integration undermined by the individual not accepting to be a mere part of an disruptive system of …, yes: self- obstructing individuals.

Sure, the privileged Tamino can live this role. But really: Papageno cannot.

*****

It surely matters in which way we look at things, the perspective we take. Recently, visiting the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, I had been fascinated by overlooking the town through the window.[12]

Actually it may be said that it had been more overlooking history. An inexpressible notion. Depending on the position, the ‘images’ change. What seems to be a from a more distant position as Napoleonic visage, withers into a small house covered by a dark roof – youy see it in the middle of the diagonal that spans from the Eifeltower to the house with the red roof. The imperial greatness, the appropriation of historical power by one person transforming into people’s life, translating into an authoritarian character of bourgeois society.

For the time being we play in our little realms as for instance a

KINGDOM OF CAMELOT

– not seeing the invisible hand of the emperor, in fomer eras claiming to be representing the devine, then the emperor by grace of god, in extremes the claims of being God’s chosen people and today enthroned by the new god of mammon – money as the ultimate good. – To make sure: this is not the failure of individuals. Nobody can ‘see reality and act in a free will’. Rather, it is a forceful reality – gods are always misleading: the ancient and the modern gods, deceiving for a while by golden fleece und the cover of which the collective knowledge of the abys is darkened.

Delaunay’s La Fenêtre sur La Ville allowing to overlook Paris – the metropole that may claim to at least one of the legs of modernity’s cradle; and allowing to see that

make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.[13]

Delaunay’s La Fenêtre sur La Ville: a painting with an inexpressible notion – evokeing helplessness. But even more suggesting the power of the de-indivdualised being – the kindness, solidarity, empathy and real self-realisation … – Herr Messerscharf und die Ameisenmenschen (Mr. Trenchant and the Human Ants) from Phanresia’s Stories of Friendship[14] once learned this lesson.


[1]            Crawford, F. Marion (Francis Marion), 1902: Ave Roma Imortalis

http://archive.org/stream/averomaimmortal04crawgoog/averomaimmortal04crawgoog_djvu.txt

[2]            may translation

[3]            Smith, Charles Anthony/Bellier, Thomas/Altick, John: (2011): Ego-Panopticism: The Evolution of Individual Power; in: New Political Science, 33: 1, 45-58; here: 46

[4]            Engels, Frederick, 1884: Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Preface to the First Edition – http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/preface.htm – 5/5/11 11:47 AM Online Version: Marx/Engels Internet Archive (marxists.org) 1993, 1999, 2000 – Volume 26. Frederick Engels. 1882-89

[5]            The liquidation of government debt; nber working paper series; National Bureau of Economic Research 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138 March 2011; Working Paper 16893 http://www.nber.org/papers/w16893

[6]            Così fan tutte. Drama Giocoso; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. Première: Vienna, January 26th, 1790. Wiener Staatsopernchor/Wiener Philharmoniker/Karl Böhm; Live Recording from the Salzburg Festival on the occasion of Karl Böhm’s 80th birthday, 28 August 1974; Hamburg: Polydor International/Deutsche Gramophon; Libretto (Engl.: Lionel Salter) 32-205; here: 166

[7]            ibid.: 164

[8]            Elias, Norbert, [1991]: Mozart: The Sociology of a Genius; in: Nobert Elias: Mozart and Other Essays on Courtly Art. The Collected Works of Norbert Elias. Vol. 12: Edited by Eric Baker and Stephen Mennell; Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2010; 55-167; here: 57 – it had been an uncompleted work by Elias, first published in 1991, edited by Michael Schröter who had been authorised by Norbert

[9]            ibid.: 64

[10]            ibid.

[11]            Smith, Adam, 1776: The Wealth of Nations. Books 1-111; Edited with an introduction and notes by Andrew Skinner; London: Penguin Books, 1999: 119

[12]            Robert Delaunay, 1885-1941 – La Fenêtre sur La Ville, 1910-1914

[13]            Marx, Karl: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. 1852; here quoted from the internet-version http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm – 15/12/2008 11:21 am .

[14]            Peter Herrmann: Phanresias Geschichten von der Freundschaft. Ein Kinderbuch; With Illustrations by/Mit Illustrationen von Franziska Herrmann; Bremen: Europaeischer  Literaturverlag, 2010

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  1. […] and business households by the means of undervalued government loans (e.g. a short note on this here), shifts of public money to private businesses using also mechanisms of tax exemption and tax […]



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