The Day After

It is spring, indeed, and some see it as Vatican Spring, others highlight that the flue, a typical ill-health of this time of the year, is increasingly fatal in Greece,

La Grèce présente le taux de mortalité lié à la grippe le plus élevé des pays européens. Les politiques d’austérité drastiques dans le domaine de la santé publique semblent responsables.

Well actually I had been asked to write about the Vatican spring – and I accepted. The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium is undoubtedly an interesting document – or at least a remarkable one. The one reason is what looks like a radical rebuke of the dominant system. The other is perhaps not least important: the strive of circles within the Catholic fortress to move back behind Vatican II.

Even as non-believer I believe that the this Exhortation is a document of honesty, and also a document of hope.

But there we arrive already at the very end, shortly after starting off.

Sure, it is difficult to oppose upfront a statement as the following, taken from para 57:

Ethics – a non-ideologi- cal ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.[1]

And we all can agree when it is said that

[m]oney must serve rule

as stated in para 58, backing Francis defense of the poor, outlined in para 59[2]

But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or glob- al – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.

Today here is not the point to investigate this. But at least it is a place where it may well be worthwhile to shake off this bad feeling of a hangover one feels the day after – and there no pill can be offered as cure.

The day after?

Well, yesterday, March the 27th Obama paid a visit to the Roman people (well, the Roman paid quite a lot to host him – but may be as symbol of fraternisation with the Muslim brothers it is justified). And leaving the meeting in the Quirinale aside (of course a kind of ‘standard’ part of such visits: il presidente), there had been two less common moments of Obama’s visit: the one to papa Francesco; the other to the Colosseo.

Both OK if I my say so – well, who I am – but referring to Francis I may claim such right to comment as he quotes the Fifth General Conference of The Latin American And Caribbean Bishops, Aparecida Document, 29 June 2007, 360:

Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others

But there is also something that causes this hangover, and this is caused by looking at the wider context. Let us briefly turn to John Maynard Keynes, who comes at the very end of his ‘General Theory’ to the conclusion

that the vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas … …, soon or late, it is ideas, not bested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.[3]

There is some doubt though that ideas will bring the life of those back who died in Greece as consequence of a policy that imposed austerity measures in the interest of personal enrichment but even more so in the interest of a system that is kept running by money – be it gold or black. The Ukraine may be taken as Colosseo on the global scale; and the visit of Mr. O here in Rome may be metaphorically taken as validity of the old principle: panem et circenses are strictly in the way of an evangelii gaudium.

Bloch’s presentation of ‘possibility’, allowing us with this an informed approach to understanding them in their objectivity. He points on (i) the formally possible – what is possible according to its logical structure; (ii) the objectively possible – possible being based on assumptions on the ground of epistemologically based knowledge; (iii) the objectively possible – possible as it follows from the options inherently given by the object; (iv) and the objectively real possible – possible by following the latency and tendency which is inherent in its elementary form.[4]


[1]      55 f. of the printed edition of the Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana; with reference to Saint John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio, II, 6: PG 48, 992D.

[2]      page 56 f. of the printed version

[3]      Keynes, John Maynard: the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money; BN publishing,2008: 239

[4]      see Bloch, Ernst, 1959: Prinzip Hoffnung; Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp [written in 1938-1947; reviewed 1953 and 1959]: 258-288; see also Herrmann: Social Policy – Production rather than Distrbution; in print


Kafka – or: The most reasonable person in town …

Well, one of the most reasonable I met occasionally in Rome – I mentioned this guy yesterday in a mail to a friend. Here the little story:

Had been to the post office today – guess there I meet (or just see) one of the most reasonable people …, every time I am going early to that place I see him – so I assume it is a “daily event”: He enters, bids good morning to everybody – mutters something that nobody understands – and after having reached the one end, he leaves again – same muttering, same smile on everybody’s face. And probably what he mutters and nobody understands is more meaningful than all this nonsense official stuff that is exchanged when it comes to transferring money, buying a stamp etc. (the good news: for buying a stamp you still do not need your fiscal code …)

What I did not mention …, well, the real post office experience:

Queuing at the post office: number A4.
It is showing up on the display: counter 5. You start going there, but some customer is still standing there.
You wait, near to counter 5, holding number A4 between your fingers.
The customer is still there.
The display changes: A5.
While the customer moves away, you approach the counter, but another person too, holding A5 in her hands.
“Sorry, it is A5, you see ….” – comment by the clerk

So you feel like a drowned rat – which is in German a “begossener Pudel” and as such you put the tail between the legs and say to yourself:

Yes, I came, I saw … and I lost.

(But in all fairness in the Italian system A5 is followed by A 4 …)

It is easy to forget – as before going to the post office, actually the day before, I received a mail: Please, contact customer service, the booking of your flight could not be completed. So I contacted customer service of the business immediately … – dot.coms are global and do not any time: open 24 hours. Well, I waited for a reply. As I din’t get any reply, and also as I understood immediately as being valid on both sides, I sent 16 hours or so later another mail …., and finally thought 24 hours after the first mail (the one I received) check the website and you will find at some stage a premium phone number (as I booked premium service … Actually the premium number on the booking form had been an alien one: Mars, Neptun or UK, some strange place that cannot be reached from Italy. Finally I found another phone number (probably on Jupiter – but it worked). “Yes, how can I help you.” – a friendly voice. I provided the booking number, she found my name in the computer – (I could have told her; actually I did tell her after she sled “How can I help you?” And she found the information: “Everything is fine, the booking is confirmed, There had been a technical problem on our side.” “So everything is OK then?” “Yes, you don’t have to worry. … Thank you and have a nice day.” Gosh, all this is so mind-boggling: a friendly word at the end – I had been near to tears, wanted to hug her …, but tuuut, tuuut, she had been off, probably to next customer, booking number [Ticket#2014030218470056]  8K6zKJ.
Why did I check yesterday evening the Internet for something nice – pure incidence? And why did I end up on the website of the AUDITORIUM CONCILLIAZIONE ……did google know already what happened during the day, now offering with the magic calculation. Perhaps they have an conciliation algorithm?
Probably not:

“No tickets available”….

Even algorithms fail … – or should it be: algorithms fail?

What today then,
yours Kafka the Second (I know, many can claim this)