moving – settling – borders

Moving, settling, exploring spaces … such ways of overcoming borders and habits are, possibly paradoxically, all about drawing borders. Questions of individual responsibility by some, issues of management and coordination, intercultural mis-understandings …, and in addition other things play a role and all are coming together. And of course, in some way the most important things are at the end “positions and titles” as means of distinction, possibly of increasing meaning in a world where the material means of distinction re apparently fading away: income being increasingly precarious for an increasing number of people, thus inept to serve as distinguishing factor; employment is for a growing number of people and for long times of life a matter of projects and grants, and subsidies and temporary incomes … – a rather bleak future if we think about the social welfare systems still being bound to nationality and industry patterns of employment. Surely, at least for many somewhat exciting times: living in different cultures, exploring different work and also lea sure time activities – I mean settling and exploring, surely different from living for some time in another place. Worlds that had been previously hidden, simply exotic being now part of the hoc and nunc. Part of the one and global capitalism? Or part of the one and global silent move against it? Latin-America – a spring of hope? Really becoming the new, or even the new-new world?
Leaving personal contacts and experiences aside – or limiting them on exploring Rome, this new-new world is something that is actually also relevant, present … … – well, it is surly a new challenge to learn now about the reality of a world that is so full of contradictions and anachronisms that goes far beyond my pervious experience. I am not sure yet …- Rome, the Vatican, their interwoveness ….?
It would be too much even for a long letter: a state (Italy) that didn’t have a revolution – and in consequence a city where even today members of the “nobility” have their special places and palaces where they are having their “clandestine dinners”; vestiges of a fascist system that had been so completely different from the German, though being part of the society that is characterised by an unworldly political ruling class that seems to be more “theatralic” than anything else (the more or less recent experience with the comedian as successful candidate being the tip of that iceberg) – and on the other hand devastating poverty, a bureaucracy that is so stark that is paralyses everything – paradoxically in this  way undermining itself, so that there seems to be no rule at all; an economy with some positive performances in some pockets, but as national economy simply being a disaster.
The need for a new, a moral economy? In a smart society or as condition for a smart society?


Moving to another topic then:
Two days ago I retuned from a short trip: Euromemorandum – “alternative economists”. I returned late, arriving about midnight from the airport at the train-station. I sent a message to a friend:
“City well looked after, security increased – so ready for my short stay … the mind is now set for being surrounded by spirituality, though perception of reality cries more for mercy for the poor, less celebration of the holy …” – obvious alluding to the canonisation that took place yesterday.
Having written before “the reality of a world that is so full of contradictions and anachronisms that it is going far beyond my pervious experiences” is also a matter of the presence of the church. Leaving aside that

there are two churches at each junction – one to speak a prayer before crossing the street, allowing to to ask for mercy; one to thank god for having survived

(merci Jaqueline; guess this is the French way of characterising Italian enlightenment), I am now directly involved in some discussions about and also with the Vatican – surely for me as atheist remarkable: not just a new world, with at times (admittedly unexpectedly) open spaces for debate, and with major substantial questions that employed me already for a longish time, but are for different reasons now more pronounced. The one reason is the physical nearness, namely the direct contact to one of the Vatican universities; the other reason the current pope with statements “condemning amoral capitalism”, but also some real measures, for instance concerned with the Vatican bank. So, all this is about the somewhat new DIRECT confrontation with the old question: morality and economics. Aristotle, Smith, Mills, Keynes …. – just a few. And of course with all this the issues of social policy. No, I’m not getting religious with all this, I appreciate some thorough discussions and not least I face the challenge to “defend my position”, actual strengthen it in some respect and being challenged to extend arguments by looking for instance at Aquinas. So much I did not know – no surprise there; but also so many illusions even I have had about the church which is at least for me some surprise; and surely many insights that I should have had before editing the book on social policy and religion.

But honestly, it is not about a ‘hostile defense’ but a move further – may be it is part of the dialectical movment that we needed the failed enligthenment first to reach a new level of renaissance – I leave it open what it exactly it may mean, and some answers my be found in the book I am just preparing, the working title being

Opening Views against a Closing World View.

And with all this it is not just settling in the new world here – but it is the confrontation with the new global patterns.
As I wrote some time ago – after I visited Cuba – in a mail:

I get increasingly the impression that we have to think much further when analysing the economic challenges ahead: Indeed, as much as the organic combination of capital changes, we may also see the organic combination of means of consumption changing in the same direction: its shrinking. More means needed to achieve the same effect. Sure, there is not much new about this: theory of marginality, Pareto optimum etc. all worked on this. Though what may still be new is the following: this way we can econometrically calculate a kind of “double-helix” that reflects the two dimensions of the accumulation regime, i.e.
“[a] system of accumulation describes the stabilization over a long period of the allocation of the net product between consumption and accumulation; it implies some correspondence between the transformation of both the conditions of production and the conditions of the reproduction of the wage earners. It also implies some forms of linkage between capitalism and other modes of production. [. . .] A system of accumulation exists because its schema of reproduction is coherent . . .” (Lipietz, 1986, p. 19)


It may be an oversimplified – but I thought about it the other day in Berlin, when I passed a shop in the middle of a densely populated housing estate.
The one poster in the shop announced the opening hours:

Monday from 7:00 until Saturday 23:00 24 h open

(yes, by the way: the new German word for offen is open)
The other poster ( I translate):

For reasons of noise control we kindly ask to use the trolleys only within the shop and the parking area.

Yes, indeed, the local residents have a right to be protected – and the question may be asked if the church does enough by keeping the Sundays for the prayers; while leaving the streets during the weekdays to the preachers of money …
… and leaving now even death openly to commerce. At least this is what some shop windows of funeral homes suggested:
Presented is a world that nearly invites to passing over to the world of …. – yes, actually it is not so expensive making yourself reappearing as diamond with certificate of authenticity …

Small Wonders ?!

Il pullulare di lotte e di violenze aveva spinto la popolazione ad espedienti caratteristici: ciascuna famiglia cercò di proteggersi con lo stringersi alla propria consorteria, e ciascuna consorteria so alleò ad altre in società. I più ricchi rafforzarono le mura dei loro palazzi ed eressero torri; torri eressero a comune difesa anche minori famiglie, piccole fortezze intorno a cui si combatterono furiose lotte intestine; e, mentre tutti i nobili si collegavano in alleanza tra loro (Società dei militi), tra la borghesia so formavano associazioni di mestiere che andavano crescendo di numero e di potenzia.[1]

Certo no, Cara, there is always more to be said and done – even if it is only to say and do experience of what had been said and done

Actually with every additional step I make in my “religious studies” I am wondering if we sometimes shouldn’t simply accept that at least many things had been said and done: There are some of these church intellectuals simply not in a position to accept crusades having been and being undertaken in their name and …. – and are we all so limited in tolerating that we failed. In this respect Francis is surely a good example, admitting that he had failed ….

… but then he waits for people praying for him.

I am not sure about all this – and one of the problems is that it is so difficult to get sufficient information for something that one can justifiably suggest to be a “complete picture”.

The pope driving in a Panda … – isn’t that also a wonder? or is it a wonder that we (or some of us) think it is a wonder. I heard the other day about people who went to Argentina – some time ago – and asked to see the cardinal – apparently it had been granted, with something like: yes, just go there, at the side of the church…that door … – and they stepped in, seeing the cardinal preparing his meal: two (scrambled?) eggs.

And I also heard about today’s procedures of the inquisition. And I read the many articles about the Changes of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, the changes of the Vatican policies …, and the fear that nothing happens, and the knowledge that in some what nothing can change as long as certain foundations are not touched – but that will then still to be elaborated for the little essay to come on the Vatican Spring, [2]and the presentation I will have to give in two weeks.

For me it is always somewhat a wonder how people are, how they are seen and how they are made seen, i.e. are presented: kind of “made of and built on sand”, formed by people, but also the kind of sand from which they are made and bey the wind and …, and the image we make of them – and so we read at CCC2427:

Il lavoro provieni immediatamente da persone create a immagine di Dio …

Leaving aside that this image making is according to other sources a sin …. – well, it is “work”, the way in which we all create …. prejudices.

There is a not so funny story. 10 people, one has to look at a painting, tell somebody else what s/he saw, who tells somebody else what s/he saw … – At the end a gentle man with black skin, saving a woman who is attacked and would have been raped by a furious man with white skin turns out to be a f… nigger who rapes a woman while having a knife between his teeth … – the reality “re-written” by the racist real society, the rally racist society, the societal racist reality … – and thus making reality as you many well know from the Song From The Capeman.

In this way, I am living personally in a somewhat interesting (as I did most of my life), living (another time) between worlds …, and though I think these rolling heads (well, in actually fact I think they just fell into the bucket) are not so nice, I think there head been some good reason for it; and apparently a missed opportunity here in Italy. – I told you about the student who is now here fro placement – she arrived during the week with her sister – just a couple of days for accommodation before work starts. I went fro dinner with them – and then the next evening we went again The local hero who wanted to join us on the first occasion missed it – and so … – … we ended up strolling a bit through town before sitting down in a nice restaurant: two somewhat old men, and two definitely young women. We passed the palace of the Borghese – sure, if you have a villa you have to have a palace. I knew the place but I did to know: “It is private. They are still living there.” …. Well, yes, there had not been a “real” revolution here. We walked further … turned left, into the entrance – few words by Marco and that gate opened intron of us: “but only to … “ we had been told where to stop. While some other people walked further, turned left, opened another door and we learned: There is a special room. the nobles can go there for having a meal. Still served in the “appropriate style”: servants in their uniform …

I could go on …

… and I could go on, add about this feeling yesterday when I went to the “village”, i.e. via Alexandria: “my village”, quartier …, : I passed a bar, a person standing in front …: Buona Pasqua – asking for money; I left the post office, next to the bar, turned right, seeing a woman sitting a few meter ahead on the ground, begging; I didn’t walk so far but had to cross the street, managing the way throughout he parking cars, directly confronted with a woman sitting on the ground, begging …. – I went into a small shop: cheap stuff for little money” – Pound shop they had been called in the country where I lived for a while … A young Chinese man, being there from earlyish in the morning until latish in the evening – I go frequently there: for some strange reason I am attracted by this kind of shop. When I went there the first time, I paid in the ordinary way, just handing the bank not over the counter. He took it carefully and respectfully with both hands, making a little bow …. – I am Chinese enough, i.e. lived long enough in the Chinese culture to know how to behave the next time … – and this day, after having nearly left the tiny premise I turned back:

E Buona Pasqua. –

– Buona Pasqua a lei!

He waved and made a bow, and he waved and made a bow, and left a me a bit disturbed … – yes, traditions can be kept and still a surely meaningless tradition of others: Easter which for him most likely does not have the meaning it has for the Westerner, gains an entirely new meaning, gains importance the importance of being accepted …

… Later I went to Trastevere …, sitting there, with the computer, making a lengthy Skype call with a Russian colleague, being occasionally approached by some people – morendo di fame …, something that happened also when I walked back to the scooter: the contrasts, walking pass the Vatican palace, adduct to Santa Maria in Trastevere, housing Caritas Internationalis, looking at Santa Maria, the building of the church, its beautiful top of the front (though a meagre shadow of its inside) – Buona Pasqua – morendo di fame. And finally I vespaed home, passing the front of the central train station: Termini. Termination in the front, on the little traffic island – perhaps you saw the two old women – I thought everybody would know them, would know there story – but nobody of those whom I asked, does … termination of a life, like being crucified … – I felt that day more appalled than other days. This society …, celebration of Easter may be by and large for the heads that had not been chopped off, and for the many others who should have been and should be more radical in their moves just a crusade in a different habit, crusades in general being a habit … – HE suffered for us? If so, he surely did it not for us but for one percent of humankind only.

… Still, I wish you a very happy Easter – Buona Pasqua, independent of your beliefs …




[1]            Foligno, Cesare, [without date; 1921]: Dante. Con 186 illustrazioni e 3 tavole; Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche: 3

[2]            to be published in Tausch et altera: “El Papa – ¿Cuántas divisiones tine?”