Taking the floor during the BEN MASS Global Conference on Religious Diplomacy, organised by the Academy of Arts and Science on the 17th of July 2021, I raised my old concern again, elaborating on the tension between a purely formal understanding of the rule of law, based in an individualist understanding as it stands in the tradition of the Roman Law doctrine on the one hand and the need to emphasise that humans have to be understood as social animals, shaping there life through production as social process on the other hand. This leads us to an understanding of law that includes what is commonly called an ethical dimension; at the same time it has to be emphasised, however, that such dimension is not based in voluntary perspectives, but in clear guidelines emerging from the social character of production. Even if the importance of individual genius (and individual failure) should not be underestimated, it is at the end of the day the social, the social conditions, the historical context that determine our action – be it success or failure. This provides strong point of reference for the definition of the rule of law, defining responsibility and in particular social responsibility not as matter of distribution of what had been privately appropriated, but of securing societal conditions – material and ideational – that allow people to live comfortably together, meaning leading an appropriate life. And obviously this entails the two spects, one being about approriation, the other being about appropriateness as coherence.
I have never been friend of addressing people by opening a letter with a lie, e.g.
I am/we are grateful for …
Or ending it by using a statement like
With friendly regards
Why not state honestkly what one means — also being honest to oneself:
Dear colleague, thanks for the mail though I really do not have time to bother
And then, from the customer-side, instead of writing Thanking you for the reply in anticipation
Please, do not reply – I know it is not the problem you as actual office clerk are dealing with; but instead of answering, please pass it on to the CEOs etc. who make profit from the sheep-like patience of workers like you and customers like myself …
Part of the move from use to echange value is surely reflected in “using” langauge as means of exchange, but not echanging “meaning” (meaning being the use value of information and any form of serious communication) – instead: exchanging paralysing formulae that allow selling nothing in a beautiful looking gift box.
There is another point, going beyond communication: a perverted consumer protection. Today, especially when it comes to online-business, we reveice the goods we ordered and with it we receive the label for “free return-shipment”, addressed to the dear customer and sent with kind regards., Great, if needed – and “deserved”. But then: how many people order a commodity or several of them, anticipating that they will return some of them. Even worse perhaps: omne orders an item and something seems not to work. So you call for help
The result is too often the”kind offer”
it does not really help if you want to use it … – did I mention use and exchange value? The use value is shifting to a perverse “KEEP THE BALL MOVING ON”, don’t bother what the ball is and where it goes. This kind of thinking and system ? It goes sooner or later onto the dustbin of history.
The other day, the App Store announced an update. When are going there the window with the latest security announcement (dictating this, I had to correct announcement, exchange it from “and nonsense”) opened, apparently concerned with some gaming. While I’m not into gaming, I thought I’ll still have a look: data protection is it always somewhat interesting, challenging and not least funny issue. And indeed, some interesting issues can be raised. 1) The operating system of my computer runs in Italian language, however the data protection site opened in German language, apparently taking it from my current location. – being able to read and understand German, I didn’t bother. 2) Still later I thought I’d change the language, not least because I want to do look something up for this blog entry. This is easy as I thought it would be, not least I ended up in the store for apps, but not in the section of data protection. I’m sure, if I would have wasted more time …. Somewhere that will be an English, an Italian, a French, a Swedish … version. 3) Reading through all the information and data protection, security and not least my own control options, more or less at the outset there had been the following sentence Apple ist der Überzeugung, dass Datenschutz ein grundlegendes Menschenrecht ist. Jedes Apple-Produkt ist daher so konzipiert, dass so wenig Daten wie möglich erfasst und verwendet werden, dass, wo möglich Daten direkt auf dem Gerät verarbeitet werden, und dass höchste Transparenz herrscht und du die Kontrolle über deine Daten hast. (in translation from the German, thanks to deepl.com)Apple believes that privacy is a fundamental human right. That’s why every Apple product is designed to collect and use as little data as possible, process data directly on the device where possible, and provide the highest level of transparency and control over your data. Alright then – a Human Right, it means there is no difference, we are born equal and avail of such human right independent of ethnicity, sex, gender, age, maturity, religion, faith and belief etc. — some relief it seems. 4) I flipped through all the information, thought it is a lot of reading, and also thought a lot of knowledge is required to understand all this – knowledge concerned with technology, jurisprudence, administration … and I thought that human rights are “universal” not least in the sense of non-discriminatory. The UN-website
states: The international human rights legal framework contains international instruments to combat specific forms of discrimination, including discrimination against indigenous peoples, migrants, minorities, people with disabilities, discrimination against women, racial and religious discrimination, or discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Well, education is not amongst it. Although accessibility to education is frequently mentioned is human right, I am not aware of any mention of a human right independent of the educational status. In other words, availing of human rights may well be dependent on a certain level of education, allowing to access ones rights. Sure, there are various mechanisms in place that ensure to some extent that everybody, even without education, can avail of protection – but that is usually another long way. 5) long ways, having much time …. An important issue when it comes to human rights; and as well an issue that is interesting to look at on a macrolevel. The juridification of modern life does not only require knowledge but also time — and it is societal time, time of society. Let’s have a look at the cost of reading privacy statements:
Human Rights – there is much more to it than killing people of colour or silencing political opponents; and as long as the small print is ignored, there is the danger that people feel legitimised to storm the white fortress in order to protect the “superior inmate”.
Again and again it is said that we are living in unusual times. Of course, in some way it is unquestionably true – taking unusual as exceptional.
Still, I’m wondering if it is not – for some – about returning to usual life, life and what it is really about, including some Jolt of Pure Joy – taking unusual as ordinary in its most positive understanding of authentic, genuine: wiping away all the stupidities and useless wants that come along with commerce and business and their harsh fairy tale of growth as ultimate goal; perhaps overcoming arrogance, ignorance, dishonest tolerance.
Of course, it is not about all this for all and in every respect: there are still many who barely get the bare necessities; there are people cramped – in a rich city as Berlin – with 14 persons on 100 square meter; there are entire countries living in severe poverty …, obviously I am not speaking about that kind of consumers and consumption but …
Of course, much is replaced by online shopping, still the old ding-dong, veiled in new dresses, the heavy weight now to be carried by … the couriers, badly paid, working under harsh conditions … I am not celebrating these new victims … and yes, a good cuppa or something like that, sitting down in the bar around the corner is something we all miss as we miss the local theatre, the music club and the cinema – many of them possibly not getting back on their legs. Still, perhaps it is a time, an opportunity to pay more respect to the little walk with a friend, an opportunity to talk about the film we saw in our little or large home, perhaps it is the time where we are becoming aware of some essentials …
And perhaps there is something many of us can actually DO. Sure, don’t ask me how many jackets and trousers I have, how old my mobile phone is, how many useless gadgets I own and …. – but I made personally perhaps a small step from words that may be exceptional to what should be ordinary, authentic action. And I offered as well to enter conversations about the books there, socialising the means of production … and perhaps we have to and can think about new ways, collective ways of reflecting and debating ….
Pausing for a moment is not a bad thing, even if we are forced to. There is a lot of talk about the new normal and indeed, it had been last week that we had been confronted with some news that had been surely worthwhile to think about. It had been world overshoot day, this on a global level. Qatar reached it already on the 11th of February, Indonesia will be the last, reaching it on the 18th of December (https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/country-overshoot-days/)
Of course, there are massive economic problems as consequence of the pandemic. However, a detailed analysis shows that these are problems of production: the commodity system of capitalism requires to keep costs of production low, thus separating production proper and consumption. This appears a to be a problem of distribution and linked injustice. However distribution is not really the problem. The problem is that commodity production in the understanding of capitalist production depends on separating production of use value and production of exchange value. Only refocusing the entire process on use will allow to produce what is needed by human beings instead of investors.
How is it that a car, driven by electricity, cleans the air from the polution that is caused by generating the energy? Please, submit answers until 31. of December 4217 – earlier submissions will be stored …
One of the reasons for delayed reply is actually given by some difficulties to re-register for the health insurance. I am resident in Germany and in China and the German Social Security system requires that people who are residents here, are covered by health insurance. It is a relatively complicated system – on the one hand it is possible not to be insured in Germany – under the condition you have a foreign insurance policy that covers necessary treatment in the country. However, in general it requires that you’re covered by a German health insurance. When I left Germany for China, I cancelled the insurance policy here; when I returned, I wanted for different reasons to re-join. Cutting a long story short, I can only ask you to believe what is unbelievable: getting addresses wrong, not being able to deal with the foreign insurance policy, issuing a temporary insurance confirmation to tell me at some later stage that I have to provide a flight ticket to prove that I returned to Germany … making contradicting statements etc.pp. At some stage suggesting that I never left the German system, at the very same time stating that they cannot formally recognise my insurance status in China which would be necessary to re-join in Germany. – If you do not understand this, don’t worry: nobody to whom I talked from the health insurance itself was able to understand what is going on. What is striking here and why I mention it, is the fact that they work with one central database and nevertheless manage to get different results. Again, why do I mention this here? Obviously, the technological system is used by different units, each of them having a different remit; these different remits are determined by a very narrow goal, defined in administrative terms, by a financial systematique, the logic of legal coherence etc.. In other words these are system-centered instead of focusing on the actual problem of the people involved: the person in need of heath care, the doctors providing this. I see this very much also as one dominant feature of the educational system: we are not dealing with what people really need in order to be able to cope with daily life, we are not looking at their conditions. Instead, at best we are possibly dealing with the integration of people into the system that is alien to them and in the worst case we are dealing with the University system and ways of academic thinking, that are dealing with only one interest: to maintain itself. The most telling example is in my experience the central issue of financing universities – not least gathering finance via fees is one of the main issues. Another experience i made the other day: one of the universities with which I’m affiliated introduced a performance-based payment for teaching-
– Rejecting all this on an individual basis means, of course, that one does not only ruin ones own career, but it is as well endangering the material basis of life: the vicious cycle, a catch 22 situation – a constellation which one cannot and shouldn’t escape from. At the end it means in actual fact that we allow “external”, non-substantial criteria to control our action and the direction into which we lead our students.
Online teaching being future expectation of my work, I looked a little bit around, registered for a “relevant” Open University course dealing with online teaching. Learning outcome: some trivial results (online teaching is asynchronous – actually this is to some extent also the case for traditional in-class-courses), some general issues (speak the language of your students; do not leave them alone), some, as I think, problematic orientations (learning should be “playful” and topics issued in little chunks, enough to fill a spoon) – no mention of learning as work, using knife and fork, instead of waiting to be spoon-fed, no mention of acquiring knowledge for the sake of “being educated” which should mean: being able to be in control, being able to cooperate, being ready to demand.
Taking this as background, stating that we are all learners means as well and not least that we are facing societal changes that have to be taken as focus on in our tea-learn-ching (sorry, language can be a toy):
Social in-equality – those who are lagging behind in the use of “global tools” are in some respect those who are – paradoxically – most advanced in the overall setting of globalisation: the excluded are excluded as result of the inappropriate international division of weal-abour-th (wealth and labour as entity) – Bill Gates would still sit in a garage without the many who are exploited in their huts;
Though not to be taken simplistic, much of production in a global-societal setting – production of daily life and the respective development of the productive forces – is a zero-sum game: the fire used in one place to drive the steam-engines of the spinning wheel is missing in another place to produce the energy for the fridge that is needed to keep the groceries fresh – needed due to global warming as consequence of having ignored global warnings, also needed as result of eating habits that are not reflecting the cycle of natural reproduction, needed for harvesting agricultural products of monocultural farming and extraction and not least needed to transport and store pharmaceutical products in(to) regions that are voided from own resources;
Robert Cox differentiated between problem-solving and critical theory (Cox, Robert, 1981: Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory; https://doi.org/10.1177/03058298810100020501) – with this we face in teaching and learning the challenge to work with a dual strategy, reflecting on the one hand the need to secure survival, taking up on the other hand the challenges to find solutions that guarantee the development of own resources.
From my admittedly limited overview of e-learning programs and tools (including LMS), I found an orientation that is one-sided, providing knowledge (or should we even say information of the ”how-to”-kind?) to build up a personal affirmative strategy, aiming on integrating into the given system instead of mobilising all resources of the learner, in order to go beyond the subordination under the rules of global production- and trade-chains. Learning, as it is understood now, is about adapting to new means instead of understanding the challenge to adopting what is learned to new societal conditions. In actual fact, this is a complicated multi-level process, that has to consider political, psychological, social and cultural intervention. Although we face different situations from country to country, from continent to continent, the principle framework within which we have to locate the different fields of action can be made out as presented in the following:
The foundation is concerned with locating the world in which we live, here presented as the globe, in the tensional field between the given nature (ourselves being part of it) and the build-up environment, here presented as the industrial society, however also encompassing human habitats as cities, estates, nature resorts etc..
The globe – in the middle of it – is what we can define as society that is condition and result of our action.
On the second level, we find the processes of creating wealth, here understood as accumulation regime and life regime. We are concerned with the way in which we make money, in which we spend money (as matter of consumption and investment alike) and the class relationships providing the social framework in which these processes are taking place. Seeing this as a definition of accumulation regimes, we can understand the life regime as socio-cultural pattern in which the accumulation regime is located – taken together, we are looking at natural conditions, the geopolitical location, the “national character” of the people and not least the class relationship. And it is in addition important, to recognise this relationship as metabolism in which human beings engage.
While this concerns the general level, we find on top of it the mode of regulation and the mode of living. Here we are concerned with the immediate and concrete ways of regulating those relationships by moral and juridical norms (as matter of the mode of regulation) and the way individuals adopt these frameworks to make a living – here making a living is not understood as matter of simply availing of the resources needed, but also on the way in which resources are in actual fact used. It is about resources obtained in terms of material goods, but it is also about resources as knowledge utilising social relationships, the relating to concrete, also local frameworks and the like – without going into deeper discussion we may refer to Bordieu’s theory of different categories of capital.
Breaking this down, we arrive at a kind of “task list” with for instance the following points:
Preparing students to deal with major shifts of the productive forces – this, of course, can only be undertaken if the teachers themselves are aware of these changes:
the emergence of patchwork products, i.e. products that can be increasingly assembled to different end-products and different uses
the increasing meaning of multiple use products, i.e. the use of certain goods for different purposes
the ongoing falling apart of processes of production and consumption and at the very same time the emergence of prosuming, ie the consumer acting as producer while s/he is consuming and vice versa
the factual expropriation of capital at least in the sense of objectively increasing control of products and processes of production by the immediate user (one aspect is the miniaturisation, the office in the hand held device; another aspect is the increasing role of network effects and the meaning of local knowledge – interesting in this context is is the work by Anna Tsing, looking at Supply Chains and the Human Condition (see Tsing, Anna, 2009: Supply Chains and the Human Condition; in: Rethinking Marxism. A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society; Volume 21, 2009 – Issue 2: 148-176; https://doi.org/10.1080/08935690902743088)
the re-emergence of cooperative forms of organising production (understood as encompassing manufacturing, consuming, distributing, exchanging).
Taking this together, we arrive at points of teaching with the purpose of managing life instead of making money. We can see this by taking the example of the sharing economy – the origin can be seen in a pattern of over production and the pattern of inequality of distribution, and at the very same time the distortion of many goods into “bads”. This goes hand in hand with a misled production of knowledge, by and large perverted into information management and reduced on “skills”. Another factor in this overall context is the fact that traditional forms of government do not work anymore in sufficient ways, while structures of governance and the needed knowledge base of using governance mechanisms in democratic ways are not developed (see e.g. for a presentation and discussion Herrmann, Peter, April 2016: From 5 giant evils to 5 giant tensions – the current crisis of capitalism as seedbed for its overturn – or: How Many Gigabyte has a Horse?; Contribution to the Seminar ‘Continuidad y Cambios en las Relaciones Internacionales’ at ISRI (Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raul Roas Garcia), Havana; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301815015_From_5_giant_evils_to_5_giant_tensions_-_the_current_crisis_of_capitalism_as_seedbed_for_its_overturn_-_or_How_Many_Gigabyte_has_a_Horse). The discussion of these allows in my understanding a new take on education, also (but not only) when it comes to distance-teaching/learning. The specificity – and progressive element – of the use of e-methods can be seen in the fact of the enforced decentralisation and with this the increased potential of project-oriented teaching/learning and the potential to immediate adaptability. – If we do not take up this challenge it may end as it is the case with the use of computers: in many cases the users still limits the use on that of an intelligent typewriter which includes a kind of easily accessible dictionary, called internet – in consequence it is too often the case that the user is actually used by the machine instead of being in control of what happens.
It may sound a silly conclusion but it will not be completely ridiculous or naïve to suggest that there is little use in teaching a person how to make money when s/he is in the desert, near to dehydration.
Sure, we may ask if we are somewhat near to any state of desert – being in positions where for many (to be sure, not for all!!) any complain is a complain that is arguing from a very privileged perspective.
Still, can’t we say that we face in African countries (or regions of the continent), in PNG (I refer to my experience of having worked in Oz), The Americas, India a kind of desert? The attempts to catch up had been in many cases ruining the countries and/or causing increasing inequalities, right? And my thesis is that the result of not talking about the content of e-teaching (taking the challenge up now), will result in one of the following: They will all have computers etc., but will lag behind, having the “previous generation stuff”. OR they will have the next generation, which will leave the now-advanced regions/countries behind. Empirical evidence can be found for both, bottom line will then always be ongoing and increasing inequality.
Now, what to do with the following two different points, for me exemplified by two different students? The one – I had been teaching economics, his course was “Finances” or “Accounting” – saying one day to me: I do not really like all this – I would prefer to have a pastry shop, selling bread and roles and cakes, making people happy. But my parents …
The other, an extremely bright student, truly a “research nature”, was turning to me one day, saying that she applied for course that she would find rather boring, but she would easily get a job and her parents …
Change: society instead of parents – skills/money orientation, predominating today’s educational system, is a choice. And having read Wells, and remembering the Morlocks, I am afraid that we as teachers have the responsibility to work “against that”. And I think we did not yet arrive at the grand-father paradox.
 E.g. the development of means of mobility (private cars) to a point where they result in immobility and destruction of the environment.
Are the labels on the bio-lemons, organically grown apples etc. made from recyled paper and biologically degrading? Is the glue used to stick them on the fruit edible? If not, what is about the extra water I may need to clean the fruits from this rubbish?
Sure, these are tiny things – but then, seriously, think about the seize of a virus and the harm it can cause