Il mondo – Passacaglia

 Vorrei tornare indietro

per rivedere il passato

per comprendere meglio

quello che abbiamo perduto.

Viviamo in un mondo orribile…

siamo in cerca

di un’ esistenza….
La gente è crudele

e spesso infedele,

nessun si vergogna

di dire menzogne

i giovani, i putti

gli uomini tutti

non vale fuggire

si plachi l’ardire.
Vorrei tornare indietro

per rivedere gli errori,

per accelerare

il mio processo interiore,

ero in quinta elementare

entrai

per caso

nella mia esistenza

fatta di giorni allegri,

e di continue esplorazioni

e trasformazioni dell’Io…

Franco Battiato

Annunci

War, Modesty and Good Life

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem—in my opinion—to characterize our age.
(from Einstein, Albert: “The Common Language of Science”, a broadcast for Science, Conference, London, 28 September 1941. Published in Advancement of Science, London, Vol. 2, No. 5. Reprinted in Ideas and Opinions [1954])

As in discussions on Greece the metaphor “from tanks to banks” had been used frequently, it may be of some interest then to look back at another war, where tanks, bombs and furious invasion attacks played a role, an attack on at least two countries: Vietnam and the United States of Northern America itself, undermining any kind of legitimacy, but also and with it its own integrity.

There is one passage in the

Remarks at the University of Kansas made by Robert F. Kennedy on March 18, 1968 

And this is one of the great tasks of leadership for us, as individuals and citizens this year. But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – purpose and dignity – that afflicts us all. Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in world. From the beginning our proudest boast has been the promise of Jefferson, that we, here in this country would be the best hope of mankind. And now, as we look at the war in Vietnam, we wonder if we still hold a decent respect for the opinions of mankind and whether the opinion maintained a descent respect for us or whether like Athens of old, we will forfeit sympathy and support, and ultimately our very security, in the single-minded pursuit of our own goals and our own objectives. I do not want, and I do believe that most Americans do not want, to sell out America’s interest to simply withdraw – to raise the white flag of surrender in Vietnam – that would be unacceptable to us as a people, and unacceptable to us as a country. But I am concerned about the course of action that we are presently following in South Vietnam. I am concerned, I am concerned about the fact that this has been made America’s War. It was said, a number of years ago that this is “their war” “this is the war of the South Vietnamese” that “we can help them, but we can’t win it for them” but over the period of the last three years we have made the war and the struggle in South Vietnam our war, and I think that’s unacceptable.  I don’t accept the idea that this is just a military action, that this is just a military effort, and every time we have had difficulties in South Vietnam and Southeast Asia we have had only one response, we have had only one way to deal with it – month after month – year after year we have dealt with it in only on way and that’s to send more military men and increase our military power and I don’t think that’s what the kind of a struggle that it is in Southeast Asia.

He quotes William Allen White – and White’s remark should be guideline for all, still and especially today when countries of the capitalist core force for the sake of their pure power ambition others to maintain an economic strategy that is unsustainable, unreasonable and serves only one interest: further establishing and maintaining central power — the power of the one percent. We clearly saw another time that all these negotiations had not been about reason and appeals. In the Greek case,

The only weapons they could bring to the negotiating table were reason, logic and European solidarity. But apparently we will live in a Europe were none of those things mean anything.

So what did White say then? Here you are:

“If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all their youthful vim and vigor, then there is something wrong with our colleges. The more riots that come on college campuses, the better world for tomorrow.”

This may be about riots, literally. But in any case, it definitely means to look for more radical answers to the current challenges – going beyond what we know for decades.
Kennedy’s reference to

mere accumulation of material things

can and to often is read as notion of changing values, asking all of us to change behaviour and move towards the appreciation of non-material values. In this context it is too often referred to modesty, suggested as means against supposed greed. The question, however, is that we have to look at some more fundamental issues which is suggested as five giant tensions:

  • the overproduction of goods and the turn of goods into ‘bads’
  • societal abundance versus inequality of access
  • abundance of knowledge and its misdirection towards skills
  • the individualisation of problems and their emergence as societal threat
  • the complexity of government and the limited scope of governance.

It may be another, hopefully not too modest proposal, not referring to overcoming the crises and their immediate devastating consequences today; but to think today about politics that help to avoid that we just move further from one crisis to another. There is no point to strive for growth where we produce already too much; there is no point in creating material wealth if there is enough that can be distributed; there is no point in creating faster computers and new IT-bases technologies that undermine developing wisdom to properly use it and making use of the results; there is no point in saving individuals to strangulate them afterwards; and their is no point in setting up more and more committees, consultations dcc as long as we do not find a way to legitimate them democratically and do not allow “stakeholders” to act based the money and power they have in form of private resources.
All this is not about greed, it is about combatting the objective laws of an economy that is embedded in a wrong society: a modernity that is plagued by the

Eclipse of Reason 

as Max Horkheimner titled his book from 1947
I presented this outline recently on the Conference of the Annual Conference of the Chinese Social Policy Association (the presentation will soon be online on youtube) and in various papers of which the publication will be announced here. In one or another way it is surely also reflected already in several contributors that are accessible on the researchgate-site.

If we bring things together, we can easily see another interesting point in the remarks by Kennedy, and linked to the devastating war:

we have made the war and the struggle … our war

And this is cum grano salis happening today: the bank-war is not about the interest of the rational functioning of an economy that serves people but it is about an economic system that serves itself, not disembedded, but embedded in a global society that serves the minority living in their gated communities … — an economy of financial markets where money is self-serving instead of being a means that keeps the economy spinning, a society where finally everybody establishes his/her own gated community: asking others to be good, without seeing that this individualist strive is exactly the spade that digs the grave in which we all will end.

Unfortunately those who are ending sooner in the grave are those who still maintain not just the ideas of

reason, logic and … solidarity

but who try to live it in there daily life instead of pompous declarations.

Two Dreams and One Nightmare

Well, hesitating (again) if there is any use in writing, as actually the facts are clear and thus little if anything can be added – perhaps a personal rant, and then of course the Beckett’ian danger is coming with it: 

I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation

Still, having decided to write I want to begin with two dreams – though seeing them as dreams may be in itself questionable[1] and it may be better if we talk about two claimed visions and gospels.

THE FIRST DREAM[2]

Well, the one is surely about a gospel, nearly literally

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “

” Praise be to you, my Lord”

– these are the words standing at the beginning of the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of The Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home

There is much to be said, finally we are talking about a document of 184 pages. And though most of it is not much more than a long lament, extending the praise of the Lord to the world and mother earth, there is also something said about this Common House highlighting that it is the responsibility of all of us. And the old vision is taken up: we are talking about the need of profound changes needed when it comes to

lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.

– thus already said in the Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus from 1991.

It is somewhat striking that the lament then translates into establishing a tension between individual behaviour and technical possibilities and ‘technical wrongdoing’ on the one hand and the celebration of the common good.
Sure, there is some general sentiment, highlighting that

[w]e are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to com- bating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.

And indeed it is highlighted that

the abandonment and neglect also experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or even the hope of a more dignified life.

And it is also emphasised:

Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary.

However, when the letter turns to concrete steps the ‘systemic character’ seems to be forgotten.

It is indeed remarkable that Francis highlighted on another occasion, with respect to the Evangelii Gaudium

The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.

It may be considered that exactly this lack, not as matter of (non-)Marxism but as matter of engaged reference to real discussions and power-questions and their scientific reflection is highly problematic. In a way it turns another statement of the pontiff against himself, namely the statement he made in Asunción on the 11th of July:

Ideologies end badly, and are useless. They relate to people in ways that are either incomplete, unhealthy, or evil. Ideologies do not embrace a people. You just have to look at the last century. What was the result of ideologies? Dictatorships, in every case. Always think to the people, never stop thinking about the good of the people. A sharp critic of ideologies was once told: “Yes, but these men and women are well intentioned and want to help the people”. The critic replied, “Yes of course, everything for the people, but nothing with the people”. Such are ideologies.

This may well be true even if he aims on the 180 degree turn, leaving everything to the people, including, with a bizarre twist poverty bay taking refuge in the preaching and living of Assisi, strangely taken up by Evo Morales

THE SECOND DREAM

Are we then, taking it from there, not living in a modern society, in a capitalist society with certain rules, and even democratic claims and standards? This is the danger of general statements and appeals: forgetting about the realities

– The one harsh reality is that the common house is only possessed by ‘the one percent’ and the praise of poverty easily translates into the praise of exclusion, though it surely is not meant by him.

Indeed,

[i]n some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty.

– The return to the medieval is toped now by European governments that recently went further back – it is not about beauty but about the brute force, betraying democratic rules, but also the command of enlightenment and its quest for rationality – indeed, they crucified him: Alexis and with the person they sacrificed exactly those rights that had been just mentioned.

In fact, the common home ‘belongs’ to the one percent and this one percent is not following its claimed rules of a ‘rational economy with an invisible hand’; instead it is based on a very visible hand, that denies the meaning of any rationality, even the IMFIMF now highlighting that the ‘victory’ is an expensive fixation of failure, making a sustainable development impossible – taken everything together making clear that negotiations had not been to any degree touched by a notion of respect and rationality as experience shows:

It’s not that it didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.

The only rationale had been the strangulation, strangulation even of top-level people if they are not fitting into their scheme.
Indeed,

the name of that game was deterrence. In plain English, make the terms of any deal with any rebellious, indebted, government in Europe so tough – almost unacceptable – that nobody in their right mind would ever dare challenge the status quo ever again. And while one is at it, make sure that everybody else understands that the terms of the agreement – like the one recently foisted on the Greeks – is seen for what it is: unconditional surrender.

and the reality had been characterised by Yanis in clear words:

The recent Euro Summit is indeed nothing short of the culmination of a coup. In 1967 it was the tanks that foreign powers used to end Greek democracy. In my interview with Philip Adams, on ABC Radio National’s LNL, I claimed that in 2015 another coup was staged by foreign powers using, instead of tanks, Greece’s banks. Perhaps the main economic difference is that, whereas in 1967 Greece’s public property was not targeted, in 2015 the powers behind the coup demanded the handing over of all remaining public assets, so that they would be put into the servicing of our unpayble, unsustainable debt.

What remains – amongst others? Debt not paid by Germany after WWII; no flourishing landscapes in the former GDR as they had been promised. But the humiliation of not only the people of Greece, but of those people of Europe who really have (had) a democratic vision.

The governors said and claimed they would have a dream of a Europe for all; in fact they confirmed a fortress, using banks instead of tanks and building fences as in Hungary, where the water the water is not ‘protecting’ the wealth of the few, right as said in Mathew 25:29

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

And they will happily take and distribute amongst themselves a we see here and here too.

What remains – amongst others? There are five giant tensions:

  • the overproduction of goods and the turn of goods into ‘bads’
  • societal abundance versus inequality of access
  • abundance of knowledge and its misdirection towards skills
  • the individualisation of problems and their emergence as societal threat
  • the complexity of government and the limited scope of governance

It is not ideology but simple necessity to tackle them by clearly looking at the responsible individuals and the underlying structures. Really arriving at a common home means that still some should leave, and these are not the people, ‘disappearing in poverty and humility’ but those who pull at the one side of the strings by one or another kind of force.

Sure, as it had been said

We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

But, equally sure is that the principle of Matthew will not be overcome by hope and retreat in joy as long as we face a

Dirty War for Europe’s Integrity & Soul

The challenge for us – as economists, social philosophers and even more so as people – is to think thoroughly about the alternative[3]

  • between an economy that is without values, i.e. that is disembedded and only following the value of reproduction – the paradox being that this means pure self-destruction
  • and a value system that finds its joy in retreat from reality.

If there is any truth in the common home, the

thinking about the good of the people

has to be made a reality an economy of, and not for the people.

[1] It is questionable as for instance the so-called European Social Model always had been a bit about a fig leaf for what had been foreseeable for a while

[2] See as well my notes on the Vatican Spring:

[3] see also my forthcoming works: The Silent Revolution Reaching Society – Outlining a New Analytical Perspective; Precarity – Outlining a New Analytical Perspective; Social Policy Development in the International Context – Social Investment or a New Social Treatise?; Social Policy Development in the International Context – From Contract to Treaty? And Employment Crisis or Crisis of Employment

What an end?

There are and will be many declarations, statements and analyses on the outcome of the negotiations against Greece. Hamlet came to my mind – how thought of suicide, and I titled
The sad victory of injusticeThere had been much written about the EU and the core character of the project – the debate not least of the so-called European Social Model. I also contributed myself, for instance under the tile: 
The European Social Model – Chimera or Core of the EU?

If there had been anything like it, (not alone) the German government death-sentenced it’d other now!

Instead of fundamentally reconsidering the path, taking a new approach to centre the project on people’s and peoples’ everyday’s life, instead of moving towards radical rethinking growth and thinking about the economic side on a possible end of the crisis of the productive system (see here and here , instead of fundamentally acknowledging precarity as matter of

The Silent Revolution Reaching Society 

allowing

Outlining a New Analytical Perspective 

(forthcoming) and rethinking

Social Policy Development in the International Context

and looking at the question of

Social Investment or a New Social Treatise? (forthcoming)

the institutions dealt a deathblow to Greece and in general to what some saw as European idea: solidarity, justice, democracy and solidarity. 

History will name the murderers of Europeans and Europe!

Indeed,

A senior official in the room believed that Germany was now the country that appeared to be acting in bad faith — no longer the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras. 

Indeed, as Alexis said,

Greece needs radical reforms in favor of social forces, and against the oligarchy that have led to the country’s current state. And this commitment to this new effort begins tomorrow.

We all need such reforms – this we should strive for it together!!

The sad victory of injustice

Hamlet’s thoughts come to mind

…To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks

That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,

To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes Calamity of so long life:

For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,

The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,

The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,

The insolence of Office, and the Spurns

Though instead of his proposals it is now even more the time to take up the weapons against those who dealt the deathblow to the European project.

Two tales from academia

Did you know that thanks to your librarian, you and your colleagues have access to hundreds of highly downloaded and cited articles, all available on the award-winning SAGE Journals platform?

An advertisement came with this content by mail from SAGE (ah could have been any other of these DIY-grandeurs (not as spammy as offers from Ivory coast but not containing more substance.

Valery comes to my mind, a librarian I really admired for her excellent work – she fearlessly faced the flood of

highly downloaded and cited articles

and still found the really interesting ones, barely known, this not (often) cited, but allowing true excitement when reading and thinking further …. 

————

We never find the entire truth … but part of it is written at least in the preface

As Levitt sees it, economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of interesting questions.

Not sure if the book is as exiting as it is promised in the prefaced “Explanatory Note” – but I am sure that I like to ask questions, and apply then the tools, instead to doing the thing the other way round.
Looking at academia I am wondering if denying the right to ask questions, forcing us to go the other way around, may be about denying a fundamental right ?