KCK – klatsch, cliché, kitsch

KLATSCH

Klatsch is a German term, though occasionally used in English. And when I first saw the headline
I admittedly clicked on it in a longing for some klatsch, gossip — distraction from the expected, though still worrying news, presenting Trump’s shocking speech of acceptance. Looking at all this development, there are three things that are specially worrying. Two are pointed out in an article in The Financial Times (17/7/2016):
This week, Republicans will endorse the first US presidential nominee since the second world war to reject America’s globalist consensus. It is hard to see beyond that stark fact. Yet it is only the second most troubling feature of Donald Trump’s rise. The bigger one is his impact on the health of American democracy. Even if Mr Trump is defeated in November, it will be hard to put the genie back into the bottle. Budding demagogues will have taken note. You can denigrate most of the people most of the time and still have a shot at the main prize.
The third point, of course not to be found even in the intelligent journals of the bourgeoisie, is that such extremes as Mr Trump make us easily forget the sound criticism of the past  the “health of American democracy”? — Sure, a very sick person appears to be nearly health, of we think about the decaying corpse. But …  I am not really in the American-style Moore films. Still, having recently watched the film
Capitalism, A Love Story
I really liked the beginning, forcing us to ask the question how people in 100, 1000 or more years will think about “our times”. The Trumps, Orbans and Erdogans being comparable with Nero, Cesar and hardly allowing to see the Cicero?

CLICHÉS

Glancing over the article

it showed the perfect match between reality and cliché – even in details:

While Trump family values may not be particularly honorable, they are perversely traditional. Melania Trump told the R.N.C. audience that “Donald is intensely loyal to family,” a claim belied by his own marital history — she is wife No. 3, and No. 2 was the woman with whom he cheated on No 1. Mr. Trump has children with three different women; he blames giving his wife too much responsibility in his business for his first divorce, and his wife’s wanting him to spend too much time at home with her and their daughter for his second.
Yes, hypocrites are not shrinking from slapping into their own face. I remember Milan Kundera about whom I chatted the other day with a friend:

Do you realize that people don’t know how to read Kafka simply because they want to decipher him? Instead of letting themselves be carried away by his unequaled imagination, they look for allegories — and come up with nothing but clichés: life is absurd (or it is not absurd), God is beyond reach (or within reach), etc. You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.

KITSCH

If there would not be so much bitterness coming up when thinking about recent events …, recent? Perhaps beginning in some strange way with the day when I left the French embassy in Rome: Charlie Hebdo …, a pilot crashing an aircraft with all passengers into a mountain, not being able to cope with his desperation, a “mysterious coup” in Ankara … – a friend wrote the other day that it is
not something a decent European academic can easily understand and digest
all this easily appears as kitsch – because
[i]n the realm of totalitarian kitsch, all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions. It follows, then, that the true opponent of totalitarian kitsch is the person who asks questions. A question is like a knife that slices through the stage backdrop and gives us a look at what lies hidden behind it.
It is
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
that comes to mind – in global politics of “the making history”, and also in the daily work of teaching, something I frequently mentioned on these pages.
And when speaking of bitterness it is also the inability of asking questions … – VERBOTEN, as a french friend would say.

REALITIES – THEATRALITIES

There seems to be a paradox when we are looking for answers – we can only find them with others, not searching alone, not moving alone, anti-totalitarian. And still
When I say totalitarian, what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because a deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood); every doubt (because anyone who starts doubting details will end by doubting life itself); all irony (because in the realm of kitsch everything must be taken quite seriously) ….
as we read also in Kundera’s book.
Doesn’t this mean that we need a radical rewriting of the scenario, instead of the US-lead and Hungarian-regionalist applauded tightening of the reactionary course? A socio-political course that is based on criminal offenses (watch here from the docu The Corporation.), executed by psychopaths (watch here from the docu The Corporation), the political “clowns” only their executors and implementers as we saw it earlier in history.

Attempts and Contributions

My modest contribution to a DIEM-meeting in Greece these days:
The Europe we know is dead – and it worked for a long time to forge the weapon that would work first to dig the grave and then to kill the ambitions. — The ambitions? We have to be careful: the ambitions, as ideas, had beens surely valuable and meant to establish a “good society”. But especially here in Greece, the home-country of Aristotle, we know what a good society really is: he Aristotle juxtaposes chrematistike and oikonomia, only the latter being concerned with a truly integrated system, and with this he refused moneymaking as end in itself.
Talking about oikonomia meant as well to accept the limits of growth.
Europe today – and it did not learn from Greece, not from BREXIT, Nice nor Ankara – is still based on the acceptance of what we may call Capitaloscene. And the following, written by Jason Moore, can capture it:

The decisive historical expression of Cheap Nature in the modern era is the Four Cheaps of labor- power, food, energy, and raw materials. These Four Cheaps are the major way that capital prevents the mass of capital from rising too fast in relation to the mass of appropriated cheap nature – when the delivery of such cheap natures approaches the average value composition of world commodity production, the world-ecological surplus falls and the pace of accumulation slackens. The centrality of cheap nature in the endless of capital can, then, be adequately interpreted only through a post- Cartesian frame that understands value as a way of organizing nature. In this, the law of value is co- produced through the web of life. We cannot make sense of value through a Cartesian sorting of “labor and nature” – commonplace in left green thought (e.g. Clark and York, 2005). Rather, be- cause value relations encompass a contradictory unity of exploitation and appropriation heedless of a Cartesian divide, only an analysis that proceeds from essential unity of humanity-in-nature can move us forward. The present argument, then, is a brief for such a post-Cartesian – I would call it world-ecological – reading of value. The goal is to focus our attention on the relations of the oikeios that form and re-form capitalism’s successive contradictory unities of the exploitation of labor- power (paid work) and the appropriation of a global zone of reproduction (unpaid work) from the family to the biosphere.

And furthermore this capitaloscene is about unpaid labour – only that made paid labour possible. …

Indeed, we need an antroponomic shift: a shift that is not a revival of the old idea. As said, this Europe is dead and we should be ready to burry it. There is a valuable heritage of ideas though and we have to select carefully And  we have to make use of the heritage of an enormous wealth that is available, though not used for the people and projects we need. We have too make “cheaps” a source for the future, valuable and to be paid for. And to accept the limits of growth means that the corpse of the most competitive Europe, celebrated 2000 in Lisbon, has to bear the child of a most cooperative partner in a world that serves the global citizen.

Europe is dead – long live Europe.

Annunci

Congratulations

Congratulations Mr Trump …. , while living in interesting times, it is a good occasion to remember

“Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

These are the first words, at beginning of the synopsis of the film V for Vendetta:
The film opens with a recitation of these words as a flashback sequence brings us to early 1600’s England. Guy Fawkes is captured and executed for his attempt to blow up Parliament, a plan he hoped would restore Catholic rule to a Protestant throne. …

It is worthwhile to remember ad to watch, indeed even if Mr Trump is not in Britain …

“Interesting times” we may say …

“Interesting times” we may say …

… and we may say that “probably every generation, every era was in its own terms an interesting time” …

but in any case we, at least not all of us can dance it away:

“Frankly speaking I am a bit afraid”

“Ich weiss nicht, wie es weither geht”

“Ho paura!”

Yes, every generation …

****

It may appear to be about details – and these are forgotten, overlooked details – and they are details by way of being

the concrete … [being] concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations, hence unity of the diverse.

As such they are part of the long history of imperialism, colonialism ….

Today it is for instance visible in the fact that the 6 richest countries of the world host only 9 % of all refugees.

Old colonialism went fro a kind of crusades, violently occupying foreign territory; the new colonialism presenting itself as “humane” by closing borders; like the old fascism, gasifying people in concentration camps, compared with its modern form of gasifying populations as we learn from the FT-Brussels briefing, Duncan Robinson stating on the 20th of July:

A conspiracy that started in a “cosy hotel” in Brussels ended in the EU’s biggest cartel fine, after the European Commission handed five truck makers a €2.9bn bill. Senior managers from Iveco, DAF, Volvo/Renault, Daimler and MAN fixed prices and delayed the introduction of emissions-reducing technology. MAN’s decision to blow the whistle was the best financial decision the German group has made in years: it dodged a €1.2bn bill as a result.

Back to the obvious colonialisation in its new dress. Indeed, as the OXFAM-media briefing contends

This crisis is far too big for any one country to solve alone. To save and protect lives, governments worldwide must act together and responsibly. In a couple of months the United Nations and US President Obama are holding back-to-back summits in New York to address this unprecedented situation. These summits are opportunities for rich countries to commit to offering refuge to far more refugees than almost all have done to date, and for all countries to improve the way people forced to flee are treated, and provide them with a dignified future.

Thinking about this, we surely have to go beyond the sole “distribution of surplus”, moving as close as possible to production. And though Imagining a New Bretton Woods, is still not much more than a Modest Proposal, it may be one of the first steps towards radicalisaiton …

Furthermore, and importantly mind: … the concrete is part of the solidarity against this system of global exploitation – the weak showing their strength by “giving more than they have themselves”

Community Doctors: A look inside Cuba’s medical scholarship program

****

The idea of inner colonialisation is usually seen in close connection with Rosa Luxemburg – it is, in a nutshell, the idea of the permanent and ongoing “primitive” or “original accumulation” as we know it from instance from Smith and Marx.

And we may think about it by recalling the occupation of the Americas by the White Settlers – the harsh reality that stood behind the kitschy and euphemistic images of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, presented by Karl May – and looking today at their conservative successors – peacefully dumb (sorry for ads – the clip itself is German/English); and aggressively taking over power (sorry for ads – the clip itself is German/English)

****

“Frankly speaking I am a bit afraid”

“Ich weiss nicht, wie es weither geht”

“Ho paura!”

– And there are enough who have good reasons to be afraid – for instance Erdal. Or Thuli Madonsela

And there still is something we, in the jobs of teachers and researchers have to do, resisting the permanent and ongoing inner colonialisation: We cannot take the fear away, but we have to teach about the conditions under which fear develops, searching together for ways to change this reality …

… living trustfulness as matter of accepting the other and supporting confidence – as condition for being active, for resisting

… as matter of Dreaming of a Butterfly becoming possible and true, rising against eagles and vultures …

… this way we may be searching and finding together with others – colleagues and students valuable people, truly acknowledging the value of people.

Value of People

The worth of a human being lies in the ability to extend oneself, to go outside oneself, to exist in and for other people.

(Milan Kundera)

It is great meeting them at least occasionally …, and feeling to be allowed to be a human being in this sense …

It is like a good piece of music, coming together…., the experience of play in its truest sense, as we know it from Schiller’s letters

For …man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays

 

.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Thanks Conny!!

SOLIDAR Weekly Round Up 15-07-2016

Editorial by Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Secretary General

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

15 July 2016

Yesterday, 14th July, Bastille Day commemorates the French Revolution. Its three principles engraved on every town hall and every public school in France have again been under attack, this time in Nice. What more symbolic day! France is mourning yet again and we express again our solidarity reaffirming that the defense of democracy, of freedom, equality and solidarity, the call for social progress remains the core of our commitment, our compass!

After the Brexit vote, these principles should more than ever lead a value-based debate on European policy.

Liberté is not only a principle of rights, it also means being free from poverty and exclusion. The 125 million people in Europe who live in, or under the threat of, poverty do not have Liberté. How can we get them out of poverty? How can we get the less qualified back into the labour market and into decent work? The EU had – once upon a time – a social agenda, a Lisbon strategy and later it had a Europe2020 strategy. Unfortunately, instead of taking the lead and using the mid-term review of Europe2020 as a basis for action, the Juncker Commission is instead continuing the European semester process, while not working on improvement of the strategy to make it more effective. The news that the ECOFIN Council has decided to send a letter to Spain and Portugal illustrates the main reference to guideline Number 1 of Europe2020: “the vigorous application of the Stability and Growth Pact”. In the interpretation of Schäuble and others, vigorous means vigorous, without taking into account the damage it has on society or without even taking electoral results and referendum results into account. Did the message not get through? This European Union of austerity has been rejected as the majority of citizens do not have the feeling that the EU cares about them.

Egalité. In the last four years the Commission has reported on Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE). We are not all equal. We are still a long way from equal pay for equal work in the same workplace. The gender pay gap is still huge, not to mention the unfair tax system that allows tax evasion and tax havens for the rich. Since 2008 there have been some efforts to tame the financial markets, but these initiatives have been watered down under a Commission President who has now been recruited by the bank responsible for the implosion of the financial markets eight years ago. So much for the the credibility of leaders! Only a handful protested at the publication of this news; at the same time some people in the European Parliament were preparing a report on whether Civil Society Organisations and NGOs should continue to be financially supported by the EU when they are being ‘too critical’ of it.

Fraternité. Competitiveness is the new criterion under which everything is evaluated. The dangerous poison of nationalism is unleashed because there is now also competition between member states in the north and member states in the south. Pensioners in Greece and in Germany are in completely different situations, but both expect the EU to contribute to ensuring the stability and the availability of decent, ‘poverty-preventing’ pensions. And what about the arrival of migrants and refugees? After the wave of solidarity last year, the Balkan route is now closed and people are dying daily in the new ‘Dead Sea’ (i.e. the Mediterranean). There are indeed fewer images on the news but the human loss is immense and it cannot be excused by ignorance. How to strengthen a sense of solidarity (Fraternité) is indeed a challenge, but first the mutual benefits of sharing need to be proven before solidarity can mould our thinking.

This foreword is not a new “J’accuse” in the Emile Zola sense. These are just the thoughts that many of us have who want the EU to progress, but we want an EU with different assumptions. Sustainable economic, social and political development, social investment and social protection for all should be the basis of the EU. We Europeans have to take the lead in the post-Brexit debate. We have to challenge the political leaders and the policy makers in the Institutions to make sure they put people’s concerns first. They should use the momentum for political change that delivers a real safeguarding pillar of social rights, and that translates the Sustainable Development Goals agenda into an ambitious European agenda. They should trust the next generation and promote their skills and competences and deliver on integration and the inclusion of migrants and refugees. Ambitious? Maybe! But still feasible. It is a matter of will. Those who believe that this Europe should first be destroyed and then reconstructed are playing with fire and instead they should learn from history. Reform is not a term of abuse, it is a progressive challenge!

See also Immanuel Wallerstein’s

Commentary No. 429, July 15, 2016: “Bastille Day: France’s Ultra-Confused Present”

Missed opportunity – or Io e Caterina

Topics in the headlines change – though in some cases it is only about names and institutions.

‘Migration’ for quite a while the dominant topic had been surpassed by BREXIT, pushing the GREXIT to a somewhat historical stage, though they apparently catch up again with T May-gie – may be Theresa May, the potential Iron-Lady the II, will once be known this way.

Headlines changes and so do names – or we may say we still find the old names in the headlines, though roles and positions change: Isn’t it a historical irony that Mr B is not only invited by Goldman Sachs for a bit of work, but that he is invited

to advise the bank on the U.K.’s negotiations to leave the European Union

(Sure, asylum policies need to be changed – so he may find a place in the UK …)

Well, from his previous experience he knows at least potentially enough about the European crisis – though it may be that he missed talking to people saying good-bye.

Be it as it is, there is another thing that keeps my mind busy these days – and it is going a bit back in history. The long way back leads to Narcissus, the bit shorter way to part of the history some of us still know too well – it leads back to Hitler, Truman and Adenauer:

There were three fathers of the division of Germany: Adolf Hitler, because the division was essentially a result of World War II and the German genocide. Harry Truman, as he commenced the Cold War against Communism to avoid that the US-war boom would enter into a recession and developed West Germany as loyal province of the United States in Europe. Germany was divided and in addition the exercise terrain for the troops had been secured by the NATO. Konrad Adenauer, who secured with the Federal Republic that for part of Germany the ‘western model’ – he vilified the other part of Germany as ‘Soviet Zone’ and in 1952 he – as well as the United States – declined the offer of the Soviet Union to German unification: ‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’.[1]

Or in other words:

It is better to have a western-democratic FRG than to have a unified neutral Germany.

In the medium-term – or we may say, one of the possible medium-terms – we may look at Lisbon and the pronounced strategy striving for Europe to be the most competitive region.

Without doubt, such classifications, periodisations and emphasis of any historical incisions are always problematic. But paradoxically the closer look at single events and individuals frequently allow us to understand the larger picture.

1987 Maggie T. contended that

there is no such thing as society

and with this she recognised very well where society was going: a utilitarianism led, competition based understanding of society: individuals being responsible for their greatest happiness and not allowing to keep in mind even the slightest notion of the aim: that it should and would be greatest happiness for all. One can and has to say a lot against the classical utilitarians as for instance put forward by Bentham and Mills; but one has to acknowledge that they wer at least loyal to the vision of ‘such thing as society’ and that it would be there forever due to notions of solidarity and responsibility and morality.

And it also meant  that at least in their vision the

bellum omnium contra omnes

was rejected.

Then it could even be translated into a vision like

Better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of s few.

We barely find a discussion that makes this link of conservatism – the link between human beings as individuals and nation states as patriam populum et proprium suum, the fatherland of its own people and property – explicit …, and it seems not to be changing with fatherlands being increasingly motherlands.

And part of this constellation is easily overlooked – for instance also by Juergen Habermas, writing

The Union is put together in such a way that basic economic decisions that affect society as a whole are removed from democratic choice. This technocratic emptying out of the daily agenda with which citizens are confronted is no fate of nature but the consequence of a design set out in the treaties. In this context the politically intended division of power between the national and European levels also plays a role: the power of the Union is concentrated there where nation state interests mutually block each other.

This is of course not wrong – but it is only half of the truth, and committing the other half makes it possible that nationalists reemerge: the other half clearly is: power, in the Western-European countries as power of a minority over the majority … – the sentence

‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’

gets another meaning here than just being concerned with the relationship between two countries – and in the 60s and 70s Juergen knew this too well.

——

Many thoughts had been employing my mind the last days and weeks – reading Camus’ L’Étranger and living a bit like Simmel’s Stranger, remembering Hegel’s Cunning of Reason and facing the Curse of Unreason, the Eclipse of Reason as so we depicted by Horkheimer. But also may others. After talking the one day with Yi about The Other Dimension, I stumbled upon a film-clip about robots: somewhat funny, somewhat frightening. One aspect that caught my special attention: the robot saying to somebody ‘Pleased to meet you’. My question is not ‘can the computer be pleased’ my question is: ‘Did we degrade ourselves to such a low level, did we programme ourselves in that way WE ARE THE ROBOTS?

And this is how we programme students, to be better business-people and better politicians of the future and … smilingly greeting

Pleased to meet you

before they wipe out the lives of real people, taking about BREXIT, though not asking if is

actually the real topic.

Indeed, a missed opportunity, and I still do not see the debate on a

better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of a few.

But I found one sentence in the video on the robots that caught my special attention. The celebration of one of the successes, namely the machine

being able to follow the leader

——

Something else caught my attention, not least these days while the academic world is busy with marking and deciding about the future of lives (spending so much time for administration instead of allowing us to be together with students, learn from each other, work together for a common future).

I recently mentioned the article, dealing with the envisaged future of universities as fun-parks. There is one sentence in the article of which the meaning is easily ignored:

You are also defining the higher-education experience in a way that has nothing to do with academic rigor, with intensive effort, with the testing of students’ boundaries and the upending of their closely held beliefs.

So, the alternative to fun-park is drill and Nuremberg Funnel?

I am excited by those students who come to me after the exams – not to as for a change of their marks, but to ask for more time needed to develop understanding, for gaining trust in a lived and livable future. And I feel ashamed working within a system that does only allow time for competition, offering little time for the real fun:

Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

This is what the robots cannot do – and this what a competitive robot, ops, a competitive Europe surely cannot offer.

The digital game should never been mixed up with the digitalisation of the player.[2]

And the religion should remain in the church and not enter crusade into the life again – by occupying our thinking ….

And so we have to do the thinking ourselves …, and find the right action

===============

[1]      Es gab drei Väter der Teilung Deutschlands: Adolf Hitler, denn im Wesentlichen war die Teilung eine Folge des Weltkrieges und des deutschen Völkermordens. Harry Truman, denn um die Kriegskonjunktur in den USA nicht in eine Rezession münden zu lassen, begann er den Kalten Krieg gegen den Kommunismus und entwickelte Westdeutschland als loyalste Provinz der USA und Standbein in Europa. Deutschland wurde geteilt und der Truppenstationierungsplatz über die NATO zusätzlich abgesichert. Konrad Adenauer, der mit der Bundesrepublik für einen Teil Deutschlands den westlichen Weg sicherte, den zurückgelassenen Teil als Sowjetzone diffamierte und 1952 – wie auch die USA – das Angebot der Sowjetunion zur deutschen Einheit ablehnte: „Lieber das halbe Deutschland ganz als das ganze Deutschland halb’.

[2]      Watch the eyes, minute 3.28 – sure, all after the initial order at 1:42: don’t speak