Elite or Common Sense?

It is, sometimes, difficult to draw a line between elitism and common sense. Especially when the elite is just a pretension, a claim that has no legitimate foundation in reality but is established on the pillars of imagined rules of which the validity is only …, the claim of their legitimacy, presumed to be unquestionable. those are claims of conventional wisdom, of which J.K, Galbraith writes

Because familiarity is such an important test of acceptability, the acceptable ideas have great stability. They are highly predictable. It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as the conventional wisdom.

(Galbraith, J.K., 1958: The Affluent Society; London: Hamish Hamilton:6)

‘Religious rites’ as he calls them a page later.

And they could also be seen as rules or hegemonic setting – we believe in them because …, we believe in them as all believe in them. And they are used to misguide the future generations.

The paradox: the elite turns into an ‘un-elite’, not knowing what they are doing but just doing what they don’t know. some time ago I read in an interview with the conductor Philippe Herreweghe the following lines, making me thinking about a strange reversal of elite and common sense we face in today’s algorithm society.

Ich bin beispielsweise der Ansicht, dass Beethoven seine Musik für eine kleine, hochgradig künstlerisch veranlagte Elite komponierte – diese Zuhörerschaft war mit seinen Werken vertraut. Fast alle spielten selbst ein Instrument, häufig auch im kammermusikalischen Rahmen, oder gehörten sogar einem Orchester an, welches diese neue Musik interpretierte. Und genau aus diesem Grund konnten seine Zeitgenossen den etwas später so genannten »armen Beethoven, der von niemandem verstanden wurde«, durchaus sehr gut verstehen. Das Niveau seiner Zuhörerschaft war schlicht und einfach um ein Vielfaches höher, als wir es heutzutage erleben. Heute kann es vorkommen, dass manche Zuschauer begeistert ein Tennismatch verfolgen, ohne dabei die Spielregeln genau zu kennen …


For example, I think that Beethoven composed his music for a small, highly artistic elite – this audience was familiar with his works. Almost all played an instrument, often in a chamber music setting, or even belonged to an orchestra, which interpreted this new music. And precisely for this reason, his contemporaries could quite well understand the so-called “poor Beethoven, which was later understood by nobody.” The level of his or her audience was simply a lot higher than we do today. Today it can happen that some spectators enthusiastically follow a Tennismatch without knowing the rules of the game …

(Ich habe mir meine Neugierde bewahrt. Philippe Herreweghe im Gespräch mit Louvres Langevoort/
I kept my curiosity. Philippe Herreweghe in conversation with Louvres Langevoort; in:
Kölner Philharmonie; Das Magazin. Nr. 3; Jul/Aug 2017: page 19; 18/08/2017)
Time to get back then to another common sense – that of asking what the rules are about, demanding to understand and not simply accepting acceptability.

Vie veritable

I was actually looking for the reference to this quote:

“Our life is part folly, part wisdom. Whoever writes about it only reverently and according to the rules leaves out more than half of it.”

A sentence I found in a review of Bakewell’s Montaigne-review. and I failed. But I found huge pleasure in reading Montaigne then, and just a bit for you to look for.

For instance looking at the question of true life – pouvons-nous encore le trouver?

Numbers and what cannot be counted // nombres – et ce qui ne peut être compté

Quel que soit le moment où votre vie s’achève, elle y est toute entière. La valeur de la vie ne réside pas dans la durée, mais dans ce qu’on en a fait. Tel a vécu longtemps qui a pour- tant peu vécu. Accordez-lui toute votre attention pendant qu’elle est en vous. Que vous ayez assez vécu dépend de votre volonté, pas du nombre de vos années. Pensiez-vous ne jamais arriver là où vous alliez sans cesse ? Il n’est pas de chemin qui n’ait d’issue. Et si la compagnie peut vous aider, le monde ne va-t-il pas du même train que vous ?

Montaigne: Essais. Livre Premiere: 116

Feet of Clay

This morning, while walking as I usually do, I have been accompanied by Fontane’s ‘A Summer in London’, the audio-book-version, to my knowledge unfortunately not translated.

In the chapter

Very, le Pays und die »Tönernen Füße« Englands

it says:

At all times, trade made large, but also small: large towards the others, but small in the heart. It buys courage; courage is not its inherent nature – and this is the danger. … Trade has never higher ambitions than its own being and its ultimate condition is – calmness. Hoping for profit and the City of London joins any dynasty.[1]

This morning I arrive in the office, going through the news, one of the headlines:

Dove Slammed for Racist Ad Featuring Black Woman Turning White

Trade wars and slavery …, of course they have new faces …


Well, to be added: The Britain Fontane was talking about, exits Europe … one may ask, of course, if Europe didn’t already exit itself.


[1]            Der Handel hat zu allen Zeiten groß gemacht, aber auch klein: groß nach außen hin, aber klein im Herzen. Er kauft den Mut; er hat ihn nicht selbst – und hier liegt die Gefahr. … Der Handel hat nie größte Zwecke als sich selbst, und seine erste Bedingnis ist – die Ruhe. Ein Gewinn in Aussicht gestellt und die City von London geht mit jeder Dynastie.

small print

Sure,elections – and results matter. Still, one may dare to ask how much. Merkel in a speech, opening the recent G20-meeting came back to my mind – you can watch it here. The really interesting part can be found at the and of the video:

I ask the members of the press to leave so that we can start to do our serious work.

Well, that is transparency -masterpiece behind the closed rhombus.

speed …

… the way we seem to live today.

From Alice, Through the looking glass: page 32 f:

Alice looked round her in great surprise. ‘Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!’

‘Of course it is,’ said the Queen, ‘what would you have it?’

‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else—if  you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.’

‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get some- where else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’

Corridors and Fields

It sounds a bit like an empty statement: I like concert halls as much as plenary parliamentary meeting halls, lecture theatres and rooms for seminars and intensive debates.

It fills with so much substance by the sentence Alvin Ailey contended:

I want that everybody understands that dance is not about wind-up-dolls. I am interested in ensemble-dance and human personality – that is the most important. Whet makes it really interesting is when a dancer can reveal something of him- or herself by the dance.

You can turn it as you like, never loosing, though always specifically gaining meaning:

Life is a dance – dance is living – political and learning stages are dance floors – all those theories and political strategies and studies make only sense if they reflect such dialectic that makes the apparent main actors to mere servants, keys opening gates to spaces, more than unlocking doors to corridors – allowing inner beauty to unfold … –

– … so strange, remembering dancing with the European Commissioner and heads of the “DG V”, many years back?

– … so strange remembering dancing with the young cygan woman, many years back? What went wrong that we dance less and less instead of more, and instead of all of us dancing together?

– … so strange, remembering the para from the German Ideology,, that is dealing with [overcoming] the division of labour?


straightforwardness – it could well mean not to follow the straight line …

Taking the words from Keynes’ General Theory we have to see:

The classical theorists resemble Euclidean geometers in a non-Euclidean world who, discovering that in experience straight lines apparently parallel often meet, rebuke the lines for not keeping straight—as the only remedy for the unfortunate collisions which are occurring. Yet, in truth, there is no remedy except to throw over the axiom of parallels and to work out a non-Euclidean geometry. Something similar is required to-day in economics.

And even beyond geometry and economics, the seemingly simple solutions, bringing us forward ling the straight lines, may be fatal, especially while standing next to the abyss.