Too tiny to think about it?

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

I am the law

Written for the blog of the Human Rights Centre of the Law School at Central South University, Changsha, PRC

Obviously we are facing a very dramatic challenge since some time: the virus that dominates the world, suggesting to humankind

Nothing will be the same again after defeating me!

If this is true or if we will fall back into the age-old ding-dong, we are challenged today for example by

  • near to 1,000.00 deaths per day in the UK (the figures from the 10th and 11th of April)
  • an increasing fear amongst people
  • lack of coordination – globally and locally
  • political debates that are not discussing the security of life but the maintenance of individual freedom – and economic profitability
  • in many regions of the world – the so-called developing countries – substandard of medical supply and medical care and the lack of means to secure a minimum what is needed, Including the lack of Social Security
  • the president of the United States – carelessly or stupidly – stating in a press conference, talking about the virus , that
    “It comes from China. It will disappear, one day – it is like a miracle – it will disappear …”
  • the president of the European Union proclaiming – nearer to tears then to political realism – that we have to help each other and there’s no other way then helping each other
  • the murder of a 33-year woman in Berlin, FRG, who suffered from psychological distress, killed by a policeman, “executing his duty” – this in itself is a complex story. What is of interest here is the fact that since 2016 the police is not allowed to file psychological abnormalities in order to protect the privacy of the individual (https://de.indymedia.org/node/61800 and https://www.tip-berlin.de/polizist-erschiesst-maria-b-kommentar/)
  • and finally another time Trump who

Signs Order Allowing Private Companies to Mine the Moon    

The list could be extended, but in the present context of the so-called virus-crisis I want to highlight the following three – seemingly not  belonging to the current humanitarian challenge, they can be seen as the core of the entire debate we have to engage in. These are the * political debates, * the politicisation and * the fact of private companies being encouraged to move to the moon. Why? At the very core of the current debate we are dealing with the process of socialisation and its analysis, characterising a specific relationship of accumulation regime and life regimes. The cutting edge concerns the question of valuation with the two dimensions of exchange value and use value. The globalised economy has – today – as its focus the production of exchange value and furthermore the orientation of life and living along this line. Exchange value is as such considered as the ultimate use value – the actual use in terms of managing daily life is shifting away from the metabolism of human practice. This, in consequence, means that we externalise control of daily life as artificial aspect of an alienated economic process: we live in order to work instead of work in order to live; we are in order to eat instead of eating in order to be; we consume in order to keep the machine going instead of maintaining the economic process in order to satisfy our needs; we absorb knowledge in order to be informed instead of gathering and processing information in order to develop knowledge … . Indeed, these are complex processes at the core of which we see an alienation of the social as the core of human existence today. In this light the privatisation of the moon, the exploration that has as its ultimate goal the enclosure, the destruction of the common good, can be seen as a metaphor, though a very real one, of the current debate. Happening in the background of the debate of the virus crisis, it is clearly showing that the core of the crisis is about the disruption of the connection between accumulation regime and life regime. This disruption establishes a hiatus that is difficult to overcome. As stated on a different occasion, we face the following dilemma – a cage from which it is difficult to find an escape. It is this constellation of mutual dependencies, that makes an escape nearly impossible. Individual behaviour can hardly be changed due to system requirements; change of the system is equally impossible due to the endurance of individual behaviour. Equally, there is the blockage between the accumulation regime and the life regime on the one hand and the mode of regulation and the mode of living on the other hand. The complexity is furthered by the tension between the two different regimes and between the two modes.

Indeed, as Hannah Arendt suggested that a country has to be very rich to be able to cover the loss of imperialism, a country has to be also veryrich to cover the cost of privatisation of public services.

All this means not least that we have to find a different way of discussing rights. So far,  we are usually concerned with the juxtaposition of social  and individual. In other words, the rights of individuals, indeed individual freedoms, are counterposed to matters of intervention in the public interest – the first is expressed by individuals being allowed to define their own rules, as mentioned previously with the reference to Tinder; the latter can be expressed by the phrase recently brought forward in a Chinese article, saying

don’t be the farmer who saved the snake.

Realistically, the complex situation is not about social and individual orientation of action, activities, praxis and behaviour, but about the relationship between accumulation regime and life regime, and subsequently the mode of regulation and the mode of living. The following definitions are underlying this interpretation:

  • the accumulation regime is the way in which we make money and spend it for reproduction
  • the life regime presents the fundamental pattern of production and consumption in the perspective of classes and social groups
  • the mode of regulation can be understood as the framework and the rail system, supporting and limiting the processes of accumulation
  • finally we arrive at the way in which individuals translate the general opportunities and restrictions into their real life.

At the very core we find the metabolism, determining the position of human beings in relation to the world around them, determining the two dimensions: “what is  given” on the one hand, “what had been built” on the other hand.

Thoroughly thinking through these dimensions and the interdependencies will reveal the true dimensions of the political: on the one hand it is about the political economy which is today specifically shaped in order to promote profitmaking instead of securing people’s life; on the other hand it is about is the political management not only of the healthcare sector but of services of public or general interest and their denial. In other words, we are dealing with the question if the economy is grounded in commons, understood as common control of the use of means of production in the widest sense in the common interest of the common people, or if the economy is geared to secure the profits of a minority. This is not only about the immediate threat, but it is an issue that concerns the way in which society is shaped, the way the social is actually understood – on the one hand we have the merciful understanding and support, on the other hand we see a rights-based approach that emphasises the need of social security not as matter of supporting individuals, but as matter of societal responsibility, the focus of government action on the common weal and the balance of rights and obligations, based on the principle of acknowledging everybody’s needs and everybody’s capabilities.

Epistemologically it should not come as a surprise that in the country that provided the fertile ground for a very peculiar philosopher from Koenigsberg coming up with the categorical imperative:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.[2]  

social distancing takes the form of a very different peculiarity,

namely that of being by and large ignored – finally one acts in the supposed freedom, of the individual who defines the rule … – go back a bit, and read again, and perhaps a third and even forth time as it is such a paradoxical situation that in fact results in pulling the wool over one’s eyes, making white to appear as black. As stated on another occasion, all this is concerned with the question of how to define freedom – as liberty to do what one wants or as insight into what is necessary – and how to understand public responsibility – as control or provision of social security. And to be honest, I do not value freedom of miners to work on the moon; instead, I value the security of minors, established on a firm foundation of rights.

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A long time ago, in a very different context, I wrote

One highly important although by no means conclusively defined aspect is the blurring of borders and boundaries in conjunction with increasingly strict closures. Thus, the contributions to this book may also be read as contributions along the line of tension between ‘gated communities’ and the open global village. The question quo vadis? gains a twofold meaning. It is asking where people actually go, where and why they move and where they find some kind of belonging. And the question is also about frames and gains. Where are moves allowed and how is moving allowed and what are the expected outcomes for the different actors? One point can be made at the outset: we have to start from here – this hugely tensional question. And there is a long way to go until we arrive at a position which allows all of us to feel – at least for some time – comfortable in the global village.

Decisively, we are today all migrants and as such in need of The Right to Stay – The Right to Move with its mental, intelectual and spatial dimension. This makes it also meaningful to speak of lockouts in the context of the virus crisis and the crisis of the health system: while we are in fact locked in/quasi-locked in – being privatised, dispelled from the social and this way denaturalised considering that humans are social beings.


[2]               Kant, Immanuel, 1785: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

The Common Good

Freedom and the Control of the Individual that Lacks Insight into Necessities

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Written for the blog of the Human Rights Centre of the Law School at Central South University, Changsha, PRC

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Of course, mentioning ”common goods” remains abstract, as long as we do not connect it to concrete forms of social and societal processes. The same is true, if we look at anthropological patterns, usually claiming to be constant, characterising human behaviour independent of socio-historical formations. Remaining on this general level, it is probably fair to say that two tensions guide human beings in their behaviour and acting: The one is the tension between the Ought-To-Be and the Is; the other is the tension between the individual will and societal dynamics. However, making any anthropological reference has to acknowledge that it is always about an anthropology that is specifically shaped by the concrete formation that serves as “frame” and “network of rails” (see Herbert Marcuse in his presentation titled Man in a Socialised World).

Taking this as point of departure, we can see that another issue is about security and problem management – understood as individual and as well as a collective issue. However, such general statement needs to be clarified by establishing a concrete understanding of the different points in question. These are in particular the understanding of security, the definition of the collectivity, and the understanding of responsibility. Against this background the following will highlight some sets of norms and behaviour, allowing a tentative classification – the following may be a justifiable simplification when it comes to different ways in which the crisis is encountered and managed – in some respect we can see this as reflection of different understandings of the common good.

  • La Vita e Bella – even if circumstances changed to the worst. Central is Nessun Problema – no problem. First, any expectation that comes along as a restriction is refuted, then fearfully accepted but only on a superficial level. The pattern is actually well-known from intercultural studies with – amongst others – the following traits:
    • proxemics (relevant is what is close to me, not what is at distance)
    • denial – why should I worry …, it is not me, it is not here (like the child, for whom the parent seemingly does not exist anymore as soon as he/she is around the corner)
    • chronemics (time as “wild ocean”, things overlapping and everything has to be dealt with the second it occurs instead of seeing time as chronologically ordered, like the linen hung up to dry, one after the other …) – which translates into dealing with things as they occur, without any strategic consideration, as in the case of the virus: its coming had been foreseeable but remained ignored until it actually shoerd  for some time
    • kinesics (most part of communication is non-verbal, its interpretation very much depending on tacit knowledge, a pattern that is emphasised, using strong gestures and an expressive body language, appearing to the outsider as eccentric/something that is not explicitly “used”, the person him/herself by and large not aware of it, reserved, hiding behind a mask of neutrality).

How does it translate into the way the corona-crisis is encountered? Taking from some recent communication with my former fellow-citizens (I lived a couple of years in Rome, the city that claims hosting the Holy Grail of western culture): initially, seeing some shops closed, panic showed in eyes and words, feeling like being innocently imprisoned: not being allowed to visit the coffee bar (for us Italians only a matter of minutes, but as essential as the boring blue suit, dressing the Italian gentlemen), not able to meet neighbours and friends for a chat and making up rumours … . – all under the veil of innocence, as catholicism, the quasi-state-religion, is about exactly this: escapism as escape into the here and now, as a friend says: people are having more time for family, to look after themselves … and they are singing from the balconies and rooftops. – All this sounds nice …, until we are getting aware of some bitter facts: the health services are collapsing under unbearable pressure, mismanagement and the lack of an early coordination of intervention. Being a country that depends economically to a large extent on tourism it is – at first glance – of course the best to deny as long as possible. And sadly – though not limited to this country – “it had not been me”: looking for the origin in order to think about preventive measures is of course appropriate; however, to point with the finger on “the bad boys” (it is suggested that the virus arrived from France and Germany, both countries not taking any security measures) is another thing. In a nutshell it is what Francesco, a friend, said many years ago when I criticised the result of the elections. His reply: Certo, Berlusconi è una vergogna. Ma in realtà nessuno si preoccupa di quelo che fa il governo centrale. Noi italiani facciamo quello che ci piace fare. [Sure, Berlusconi is a disgrace. But actually nobody bothers what the central government does. We Italians do what we like to do.]” – And indeed, both are common: the romantic scene of people standing on rooftops or balconies; singing like Luciano Pavarotti, acting like Totò or Sophia Loren…, and feeling like Romeo and Juliette; the common joy – or should I say: the joy of common action – also now and also as expression of solidarity as for instance the virtual choir that is dedicated to the medical workers (https://youtu.be/VubAWDQ3gco); and on the other hand the extremely poor, neglected and self-neglecting – the ugly, not even waiting for the beast, knowing that it will be at most the helpless helper, more likely the police or the fellow citizen who denies their right to be fellow citizen. It may be taken as recurrence of those medieval times: ten young people enjoying themselves in a retreat, mutually entertaining by their narrations, while the ordinary people had been victims of the black death. Boccaccio’s well-known Il Decamerone (腾堡计划中收录的)the well-known outcome, enjoyed by many even today; the suffering of the many wiped away – today as in those days.

  • Alles im Griff – all well controlled and ordered, also a matter of individual freedom – but European freedom has different faces, the German version is about well-ordered life. The country is for good reason known for law and order – the country of poets and thinkers (in German: Dichter und Denker) being at the very same time the country of judges and hangman (in German: Richter und Henker). There are definitely huge advantages of federalism, in principle realising by and large the catholic notion of subsidiarity, suggesting that decisions should be taken as near as possible to the people who are concerned – and actually they should be taken by the people. At the same time we find here the re-interpretation of this principle in the light of the protestant work ethics as presented by Max Weber: work hard for your own benefit which will be in your favour in the after-life – or as the saying goes “every man for himself, and God for us all” (admittedly a slightly obscured presentation of a relatively complex ideology). All this sounds reasonable and attractive, doesn’t it? However, there is definitely a miscalculation when it comes to Corona:

While seemingly something that occurs in multitude, there is only ONE virus: instead of looking for ONE answer, in Germany every Land (“county”) is looking for its own answer: in some there is more or less business as usual, only large public events are not taking place, in others the County-Government announced the state of emergency, some issues are up to the decision by the municipalities … – and in any case, the state of fear has to cope with the virus and with the lack of political and administrative security. Taking up the patterns presented above for Italy, it looks somewhat different for a country like Germany:

  • proxemics (relevant is as well what is close to me, not what is at distance
    • denial – why should I worry …, it is not me, it is not here (but not like the child, for whom the parent seemingly does not exist as soon as he/she is around the corner; instead, it is about the illusion of protestant work ethics: being industrious, not chasing up for the joyful life but being convinced of “standing above evil”)
    • chronemics (time as “wild ocean”, things overlapping and everything has to be dealt with the second it occurs – here this wild ocean is chronologically ordered, like the linen hung up to dry, one after the other … – this translates into dealing with things not as they occur, but in a strategic way, …. – elaborating a plan, consolidating the plan, coordinating it with the different countries, coming to the conclusion that such coordination is not possible, revisiting the plan on the regional level …  this sounds more than ridiculous; and while the advantages of federalism are not denied in total, it is suggested that it is not a pattern that can claim general validity (the reform of the German language [Dittrich, Monika, 2016: German Spelling Reform. Nearly a cultural war; Goethe Institute; https://www.goethe.de/en/spr/mag/20802137.html; 25.3.2020] at the end of the last century showed indeed such a pattern of taking decisions, recalling them again to taking them again in one of the Laender, not the other etc,. – meaning also a huge material loss. Huge losses are currently also accepted by orienting along the lines of herd immunisation, without any further backing – it is a Darwinist mechanism, following the principle of the survival of the fittest. The presumption is that it is necessary that approximately 60 to 70 % of the population needs to be infected so that can speak of immunity being reached – allowing this means to allow at the very same time a high mortality rate: especially older people, young children, people living under unhealthy conditions (substandard accommodation, homeless people … these are most vulnerable groups, most likely victims paying with their lives.
    • kinesics (most part of communication is non-verbal, its interpretation very much depending on tacit knowledge, a pattern that is emphasised, using strong gestures and an expressive body language, appearing to the outsider as eccentric – here this is not explicitly “used”, the person him/herself is by and large not aware of it, reserved, hiding behind a mask of neutrality).

At some stage then, this neutrality and remaining individual freedom turns into its opposite: the fear if one behaves correctly, if the relevant government (though one may not know which one is relevant in the particular case) made an announcement of which one is not aware, the fear also of the other: isn’t everybody potential host of the virus: the other and oneself? It is not the bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all), Thomas Hobbes was talking about – or perhaps it is: at least the very moment one stands in front of the empty shelves, the milk being sold out, the moment juicy lemons are sold out and one has to buy the more expensive ones, not really suitable for freshly pressed juice facing the empty shelves, one has the idea that there could be another virus at play, the virus of fear, which is itself a hiding place, the real name being the “left-alone-you-must-fight-for-yourself-virus”. Feudalism, in its absolutist version, had been about the king announcing l’état c’est moi”. The anti-feudal revolution, at least part of it, resulted in making everybody king, everybody defining him/herself as owner of the common good, boldly claiming as individual what actually belongs to the community – and one may feel alone, though standing in the middle of countless others.

Now, the latter has to be qualified as many are staying at home – being told so or escaping into the apparent security of “the home being my castle”; all this may well be about the revival of the family, mutual support and public responsibility: on the latter, after years of seriously deconstructing the public health system, the UK plans investment in the health sector; the head of the Deutsche Städte- und Gemeindebund (German Federation of Cities and Communities) stating “We are currently becoming a little more considered about whether it is really economic efficiency that is so decisive, whether it is not necessary to say: We are going to maintain certain hospitals, even in the wider terrain.” (Landsberg, Gerd, March 11th, 2020: Schliessung von Krankenhaeusern ueberdenken; interview. SWR Aktuell; translation P.H.). And the family? According to some sources the lack of structuration of the day, living together on limited space, not being used to lively children and the like can often cause domestic violence (https://www.msn.com/de-at/news/other/ausgangsbeschr-c3-a4nkungen-anstieg-der-gewalt-gegen-frauen-bef-c3-bcrchtet/ar-BB11l21D; 28/03/2020).

  • EUropean unity – how should it work if unity does not work on the national level and between the member states. In actual fact, lack of coordination and cooperation is in several instances the better option – better at least than competition, hostility and envy. However, the latter is by far not uncommon. Even in circles, that we may call enlightened and cautious about the responsibility, we find critique that may well be founded, that is however appearing as hostile afront, brought forward emotionally instead of searching for common solutions in solidarity. Of course, this is understandable; however it is surely not helpful. Just a few examples may show what is meant:
    • The Italian South Tyrolian tourist industry, severely hit by the corona-bust, complains that in the German North Rhine Westphalia more cases can be counted – many other cases of shaming and blaming could be listed. The mentioned case is, however, especially meaningful as it is about reviving patterns of nationalism that reach far back. Isn’t this a clear sign, showing that the discussion it is not about human lives but about political interests of nationalism and protectionism?
    • Primarily an issue between the United States of America and China, we find also the European Union playing a role in the trade war: mainly the rise of China is seen as a threat, although one should be more precise and speak of geopolitics and a global trade war: the People’s Republic of China is indeed the most successful of a group of countries that is increasingly a threat to the so-called developed world. Sure, a manifold of issues is at stake: the so-called Boomerang-effect, the questionable Rostowian model, the debate on the explanatory reach of quantitative approaches (in particular GDP) towards measuring progress are just a few. Leaving all this aside, of interest is here that the hegemonic position of “the West” – the USA, the EU and the EU-USA – is questioned. As said, China is one of the main “push points”, but also countries as Brazil and not least international cooperative efforts as BRICS and “the Belt” have to be seen as perceived threat. In this light, Corvid19 is a welcome opportunity to argue against China, and to propose even to name the virus “China virus” – we see only slowly the awareness that cause and dealing with epidemics and mass diseases is something that needs to be approached globally (an interesting course from Yale-university can be found here: HIST 234: Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600: https://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-234/lecture-1 – though already from Spring 2010, it did not loose anything of its meaning). – It is surely a bit trite, but there is some truth in what supposedly Blaise Pascale, theologian, physicist, mathematician, physicist, and inventor who lived in the17th century, said: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Shall we take it as variation of the insight that man is a social being? – Summarising and in short: not competition and blame, but cooperation and understanding should be at stake.
    • Sure, there is more to it but can we expect citizens behaving rational and considerate, if their political leaders aren’t? At stake is, indeed, eth long-term hegemonic notion that characterises “Western Modernity”. There is, of course, the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathing water, denying the progressive side of the development. However, experiencing the negative side in such a concentrated form as I do now, makes me probably first time feeling deeply what this Europeaness is really about: I am not talking about the short-term issue, namely the reaction on the virus pandemic and its management. It is a mindset that shapes history in the longue durée, the temps des événements and as well the time spanning between these poles (see Braudel, Fernand, 1987: Grammaire des Civilisations; Paris: Flammarion, 1993: 30). It is a common and firm floor, providing sufficient ground for erecting differently featured superstructures. In the present context superstructure is not understood in the traditional Marxist sense; instead, reference is made to the theory of regulation, here put forward in an extended and elaborated form. The core are the accumulation regime, the life regime, the mode of regulation and finally the mode of living. In a nutshell and in a more or less casual formulation and they can be defined as follows:
      • The accumulation regime is the way in which we make money and spend it for reproduction
      • the life regime presents the fundamental pattern of production and consumption in the perspective of classes and social groups
      • the mode of regulation can be understood as the framework and the rail system, supporting and limiting the processes of accumulation
      • finally we arrive at the way in which individuals translate the general opportunities and restrictions into their real life.

It is within this framework, that we find individualism, short-termism and localism being centre-staged by systems and individuals alike. Today, this is in the European and more general western debate frequently reflected by reference to neoliberalism. While this is a valid reference in some respect, it is easily forgotten that neoliberalism itself is a complex and differentiated system. One important aspect can be seen in the fact that on the national level and equally in the European Union we find patterns of centre periphery-relationships, as they had been analysed and elaborated by Immanuel Wallerstein. It is this constellation where we find mutual dependencies, that make an escape nearly impossible. Individual behaviour can hardly be changed due to system requirements; change of the system is equally impossible due to the endurance of individual behaviour. Equally there is the blockage between the accumulation regime and the life regime on the one hand and the mode of regulation and the mode of living on the other hand. The complexity is furthered by the tension between the two different regimes and between the two modes (En passent, underestimating this complexity and its political-economic grounding is the problem with – in tendency – subjectivist approaches that focus on a supposed imperial mode of life as brought forward by Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen).

One further point at the end of this list remains to be mentioned: all these examples are not least a matter of a certain arrogance of the Western countries towards Asia and in particular towards China. This is about the underlying assumption of the “advanced countries” being advanced in their cultural development, their ability to avoid catastrophe’s like this and to deal with them in the supposedly unlikely case of their occurrence. Although very critical about the politics in China, Verena Kreilinger and Christian Zeller state:

Auch sie gingen vielfach davon aus, dass unsere reichen Länder mit ihrer vorzüglichen technischen Infrastruktur eine solche Herausforderung schon meistern würden. Einige tun das immer noch, womit sie sich ähnlich verhalten wie die sogenannten „Klimaleugner*innen“. Das ist Ausdruck einer völligen Verkennung der Ausbreitungsdynamik des Virus, der beschränkten Leistungsfähigkeit unserer Gesundheitsinfrastruktur sowie der ökonomischen und sozialen Konsequenzen, die diese Krise mit sich bringen wird.

Many of them also assumed that our rich countries with their excellent technical infrastructure would already be able to master such a challenge. Some are still doing so, which makes them behave in a similar way to the so-called “climate deniers”. This is an expression of a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of the virus’ spread, the limited capacity of our health infrastructure, and the economic and social consequences that this crisis will bring with it.

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

(Kreilinger, Verena/Zeller, Christian, 21.3.2020: Corona-Pandemie – eine historische Wende Gesundheitswesen gesellschaftlich aneignen, Produktion kurzzeitig und geplant runterfahren! (gegenüber der Version vom 20. März leicht korrigiert und Abbildungen aktualisiert); http://www.oekosoz.org/2020/03/corona-pandemie-eine-historische-wende; 23.3.2020)

At least at this stage, namely since the middle of March, we find some European awareness; this is, however, not a matter of coordination. Instead, it is about the development of a common understanding of the  supposed need defined by the European accumulation regime. Verena Kreilinger and Christian Zeller again, who suggest:

Wir zeigen in diesem Beitrag das schwerwiegende Versagen der europäischen Regierungen und insbesondere der EU auf. Bewusste Entscheidungen, Fehleinschätzungen und Versäumnisse führten dazu, dass Europa zum Epizentrum der Corona-Pandemie wurde. Die Regierungen und die EU sind nicht in der Lage, die für die Gesundheit und das Wohl der Bevölkerung erforderlichen Maßnahmen zu treffen. Sie können das nicht, weil sie sich dem Primat der Kapitalakkumulation und der Wettbewerbsfähigkeit unterwerfen. Anstatt die erforderlichen Einschnitte in alle Sektoren der Wirtschaft vorzunehmen, die für die gesellschaftliche Versorgung nicht notwendig sind, ziehen sie es vor, eine unbestimmte Anzahl Menschen sterben zu lassen.

In this article we highlight the serious failures of European governments and the EU in particular. Deliberate decisions, misjudgements and omissions led to Europe becoming the epicentre of the corona pandemic. Governments and the EU are not in a position to take the measures necessary for the health and well-being of the population. They cannot do so because they are subject to the primacy of capital accumulation and competitiveness. Instead of making the necessary cuts in all sectors of the economy that are not necessary for social care, they prefer to let an unspecified number of people die.

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

(Kreilinger, Verena/Zeller, Christian, 21.3.2020: Corona-Pandemie – eine historische Wende Gesundheitswesen gesellschaftlich aneignen, Produktion kurzzeitig und geplant runterfahren! (gegenüber der Version vom 20. März leicht korrigiert und Abbildungen aktualisiert); http://www.oekosoz.org/2020/03/corona-pandemie-eine-historische-wende; 23.3.2020)

As said, it is not just the reaction on the virus pandemic. Indeed, it is if it is perhaps the first time that I really feel Europeanness – a mindset that shapes history in the longue durée showing its exclusivity clearer than usually: exclusive equals exclusion.

Earlier it had been said already that this is founded in and leads individualism, translating into egoism and egocentrism, presentism as orientation on short term periods, localism in terms of “reachable space” and finally exclusionism as matter of externalisation. It seems to be fair just see the focus of the entire – Western? Modern? – mindset oriented on the supposed compatibility of leaving the definition of the common good to individuals, resulting also in a strange utilitarian understanding of ones own life.

Nach meinen Regeln – According to my own rules

Tinder, one of the so-called social networks is an example par excellence – what Uber and Didier are for “ride-sharing”, is tinder for … partner-search: “use & enjoy & drop”, just as you like … – ops, just as I like. The critique here is not based on any puritan attitude; it is not questioning changing sexual partners, something that is here simply not of concern. At stake is …, well, even this terminology of things “being at stake”: we are permanently creating ourselves not as personalities but as stakes, “items on a scale”.

Most obviously the incongruence – between and within the nation states – results in different national, reginal social “performances” different with specific emphasis, related to religious festivities, specific national or regional experiences etc., though (nearly) never reaching a real collective identity, something for which we even lack a clear term. And what is it the EU-member states come up with as togetherness? On the 26th of March, the EU-summit proves its inability to act “with one voice and in support of those who need it most” (see the Joint statement of the Members of the European Council, Brussels 26th of March, 2020; https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/43076/26-vc-euco-statement-en.pdf). Looking at the debates in detail, the decisive step had been postponed: a systematic support programme for the two European member states that are under the most severe pressure. – Having mentioned earlier the being and feeling “really European”, remembering the earlier involvement in these debates, it shows another side of what it can mean that history is like a nightmare determining our life: the seems to be no way out – and protest from within doesn’t change anything; at most it ends in the inability to act.

*****

Hannah Arendt proposed, that it is not cruelty that characterises tyranny but the destruction of the public political realm, the tyrant monopolises for himself (a claim based on supposed wisdom or craving for power), thus insisting that the citizen cares for the private realm, leaving it to him to look after the public realm (paraphrased from Arendt, Hannah, 1958: Vita Activa oder Vom Tätigen Leben München/Zürich: Piper, 1967, Neuauflage: 1994: 215). Of course this is a wide and difficult field – organisations of the civil society are often referred to and equally often criticised as prolonged instrument of the state and/or the ruling classes (see already the critique by Robert Michels, concluding 1915 in his book on Political Parties, an iron law of large organisations: to be effective and influential they have to grow; but if they grow, they stagnate and bureaucratise). If this is an iron law …? In my PhD-thesis I argued against it … but that is another topic. Here, coming back to Hannah Arendt, we know that latest since the “era Thatcher” such sentence as hers would have to refer today to “him/herself” and “him/her”. And looking at the “public”, one issue comes especially these days to the fore, while they are often ignored and forgotten when the question of freedom is discussed: While it is at least at first glance easy to prove individual freedom or oppression, one random pick of a daily newspaper (Neues Deutschland, March 13th, 2020) should make us thinking: page 13 (reports from the Land Brandenburg) has an entire column, considering the difficulties of “limiting public life” in the run of the corona crisis management, about half the page reports on violence of right/fascist forces, 1/3 reports on economic difficulties of public hospitals, not least due to recent cutbacks; half a column on new police equipment; page 14 then: a long article with photo (more than ½ page) on the difficulties to maintain child protection due to recent cutbacks; a short note on shortages to establish barrier-free access of public places; nearly one column on the need of emergency investment: public schools being in a disgraceful state; approximately a third of a page on a “deal” between a small town and the successors of the last Hapsburg-emperor, promising the family a huge amount of money and a gain of reputation. And in the same line it should make us thinking that China and Cuba are now helping other countries, not least Italy – they are helping in a situation that is much worsened by previous cutbacks. A look at relevant data is alarming: According to World Bank data (, the development of the number of beds and the medical staff decrease can be taken as clear indicator for the “success” of neoliberal policies – a frightening development in the light of standards based on professional requirements.

Just so far – some impressions … – looking at expressions: I suppose it is fair to say that much of what we witness is the combination of at least four strands:

  • The objective “threat” given by the virus, and the lack of knowledge countering it;
  • The “national social character”
  • The objective conditions, not least the material resources that determine the space of action
  • The “sensibility of governments”, aiming on coherence of policy making and citizenry – we may speak of social (dis)harmony

While this gives some approximation, the hard classification goes along the lines of containment, i.e. the intended limitation of the spread of the virus; mitigation, the “flattening of the curve”; and finally herd immunisation, possibly to be translated into “famishment of the virus” and it can also be translated into “feed the virus until it is saturated and calms down” – of course, the weakest being especially sacrificed. Each strategy is, of course, based in a specific interest and while caution is needed (as it is with any synopsis, the following can be taken for a useful approximation:

StrategyMeasuresMain GoalExamples
ContainmentMore or less strict control of movement; reducing economic activities on what is necessaryHuman livesChina, South Korea
MitigationControl of movement, especially targeted (“vulnerable people”) and reducing economic activities on necessitiesHealth care managementSeveral EU-member states
Herd immunisationLimited control of movement, often based on appeals; reducing economic activities, while maintaining that “we will us all means we can avail of to ensure that the … economy will withstand this storm.” (U.v.d. Leyen in ORF: Mühsam berechnete Milliarden. 12. März 2020 https://orf.at/stories/3157397/; quoted Kreilinger, Verena/Zeller, Christian, 21.3.2020: Corona-Pandemie – eine historische Wende Gesundheitswesen gesellschaftlich aneignen, Produktion kurzzeitig und geplant runterfahren! (gegenüber der Version vom 20. März leicht korrigiert und Abbildungen aktualisiert); http://www.oekosoz.org/2020/03/corona-pandemie-eine-historische-wende; 23.3.2020; translation P.H.).“keep business going” + health care management + securing individual freedomGermany

******

Well, it surely is for all of us a difficult situation; difficult to deal and cope with in different respect: the fear of some, the need to accept requirements that limit behaviour, the coping with physical distance which sometimes really comes across as social distance and of course for many the difficulties emerging from material cuts and/or bureaucratic requirements.

Still, there is perhaps a global trend – just a trend that is visible and that is presented here without any qualification, any valuation. 26th of March, I receive a mail, informing me of the death of Lucien Seve – a profound critical thinker, who passed away already on the 23rd. The first victim of the virus I personally know …. knew – and even if he had been already in the 90s … . The message to me has also a link to a French daily, the Huma. I open the page, follow also another link:

“Gérer les décès, les familles, je n’y suis pas préparée…” Le témoignage bouleversant d’Alice, infirmière en réanimation“Managing deaths, families, I am not prepared for it …”

– The overwhelming testimony of Alice, resuscitation nurse – an article reporting on the work of a 33-year old, but also on the hypocrisy of a political system that leaves workers and patients alone. A very personal statement, emotionally touching … . Later I am talking to a colleague from one of the universities here in Berlin. He invites me to join one of the next days for a drink: the regular’s table of the institute I am affiliated with – he sends me later the details, a URL. I promise to join, it will be after a meeting with colleagues from China, Italy and South Africa, preparing an online conference for early April. Indeed, another world is already happening, a somewhat weird world of which we have to master the dangers, and develop the opportunities … – together.

For us an old debate has to be taken up, under changing conditions – and is of interest again what from what find in Pashukanis’ Selected Writings on Marxism and Law:

“Comrade Stuchka, from our point of view, correctly identified the problem of law as a problem of a social relationship. But instead of beginning to search for the specific social objectivity of the relationship, he returned to the usual and formal definition-although a definition now influenced by class characteristics. In the general formula given by Stuchka, law figures not as a specific social relationship but, as with all relationships in general, as a system of relations which corresponds to the interests of the ruling class and which protects it with organized force. Accordingly, within these class boundaries, law as a relationship is indistinguishable from social relations in general, and Comrade Stuchka is therefore not in a position to answer Professor Reisner’s venomous question: how do social relationships become legal institutions, or how is law converted into itself?”

The True Virus hiding behind Covid19

My University, more precise the Human Rights Center at the Law School of Central South University, Changsha, PRC asked me, when I left in February for some
conference visits. to report a bit on the CVC-the Corona Virus Crisis, which is actually at least equally a lesson about how crises are managed. Much had been said, is being said and will be said. Too much? Well, there is hopefully some special perspective here to be added – at least the original publication (part 1 and part 2 … to be continued) met huge interest and acclamation.

0. Introduction

Just to be clear from the beginning: thinking biology, medicine and the like are as exact science impeccable, without errs. But this is not the topic – it only mention as some definitely competent people stated that without downplaying the dangers, they should not be exaggerated and, for Corona that as it is, there is surely something to be said about the virus being very much “holder of its own passports”.

1. My Life with the Corona Virus

During the holidays I faced some difficulty at the checkout of a supermarket – Biyu, another customer helped me …, knowledge of language definitely helps. Then, bidding farewell she said: I am so sorry that you experience the country now, the virus doesn’t allow real Spring Festival Mood. Strangely enough it seemed that she had been more worried about me missing out than her own “loss”. Every little makes a difference – I remember one Christmas day when I lived in Ireland, a power cut making it impossible to live the traditional “turkey” – more worrying than anything else. This is not to say that the Irish aren’t hospitable or less than Chinese people. But it still may point on a rather meaningful difference between the East and the West (this as any other categorisation has to be taken with care !!): There is a generally a more pragmatic orientation to be found in China – call it resignation, subordination or you also may call it freedom, of which one definition says that it is the “insight into necessity”. What I saw these days, being back in Europe had been just the opposite: first, complete ignorance, of course suggesting that there is a problem in China, increasingly reacting protective – here protective is just another word for hostile; then, second, the reaction had been more like stepping hastily into a chicken barn, exaggerating reactions instead of a calm, systematic approach.

Some examples will follow over the next time – impressions. And as valuable – and a bit entertaining – as they hopefully are, a systematic analysis, perhaps under the title of The Virologist’s Socio-Political Compass, may be valuable for developing global responsibility and rights-based approaches as crisis management.

2. Oh folks, remain realist …

Definitely, it is for us in China a kind of nightmare-situation: the threat, the insecurity, the psychological strain and also the inconvenience and thus physical strain: shops being closed, villagers deciding quarantine-ing themselves and people just accepting, staying calm and cooperating. And then …. – the German news magazine coming up with a title-page like this:

Sorry, for me it is sending a wrong message, it is simply tasteless … “when globalisation is becoming a deadly danger” …, I suppose that is more about Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, though mind: not produced there … and so many other similar incidents …

And, indeed, there is something else made in China – the other day I received a message from a former student of mine – when I had been teaching economics. We are still in touch and Isn’t him a message, just the hello and how r u and take care -part of the answer:

Not only protecting myself, also protecting people around me. Ordered nearly 1,800 face masks from Japan last week and looking forward to receive them. Going to sell them at original price with a limit number per person and donate revenue from selling them. Purchased 2kg of “hande desinfektionsgel” from Germany for my parents.

Now, I would not even be surprised if les boches claim that is “German benevolence”

…………..

Machine translation of the letter mentioned:

Hello, I thank you for this letter and the assurance of solidarity from the German side. While searching for this mail-address of the BS I also see the reference to the naturally welcome wish for respectful cooperation. Germany East not Germany and the AA cannot be everywhere and control etc. But I must confess that such a tasteless cover picture, like the one of the Spiegel, simply shakes me. The experience that I make with my life in China lets me see with my German passport such an insult with shame and anger.
Der Spiegel is not the German press and I can only hope that this is the exception to the rule of reporting. This “naughtiness” of the seal with criticism and rejection but the AA would certainly be compatible with the freedom of the press, because this is equal to the responsibility in reporting.
With kind regards
Peter Herrmann

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

3. Every Little Counts – The Common Good

Finally, with 14 hours delay, I left the Empire of the Middle on the 9th of February – I use this old-fashioned reference to mark the ongoing mystification of China, but also other Asian countries: in the West there is often a strange way of …, well, call it respect for the unknown, the exotic. And as exotic as anything unknown is, a new version of “the magic” appeared to me, walking from the shuttle train to the final passport control: the “magic” of a futurist scenario:

Please, walk slowly – temperature measurement in progress

Compliance again, very likely everybody saying I do not want to be infected and I do not want to infect anybody else – sure this measurement is not the proper medical one in the strict sense …, but every little helps. Big Brother as good friend – let’s take it pragmatically. And of course, every control has different sides. This is what I mentioned earlier, filling in some questionnaire, amongst others containing the questions:

  • Have you ever have had temperature?
  • Did you feel exhausted recently?

I guess even every toddler did have temperature and then: in connection with the delay of the flight I had been chased across the airport for a couple of times – consider that I’m not trained olympionique, consider as well that I’m not the youngest anymore, it seems quite natural that I had been exhausted. Every little helps …, and every little needs attention, even the smallest thing. All this shows that there is always the “human factor”, leaving us with some errors of a special nature: Formal approaches are applied, assumptions are made and the best and probably the only thing we can do is moving on, accepting the four fundamental notions:

  1. Common sense is – not always, but often – a sound guide for our action and activities
  2. Though we may often feel alone – seemingly a characteristic of modern societies – we are never alone; thus, any kind of complex situations and processes needs toell be explored from different sides, not only considering what is self-evident for ourselves (think about it: you see something that is “yellow”; your friend sees the same thing but does not see it as yellow but as “in a very bright colour” – you may easily end up in some misunderstanding).
  3. Not least: communication is decisive – society had been characterised by various terms: society as theatre, as leisure society, court society, welfare society, and of course as industrial society, service society, class society, middle class society. It is Niklas Luhmann’s merit to have introduced the term communication society, however, he understood communication in such a way that …, ehem, there had not been any people left: communication in his understanding had been a process without subjects (if you do not understand this “autopoitic process”, you actually are right: it cannot be understood – it has a bit of swimming in a lake without getting wet). I propose it may be appropriate to speak of a court-room society, the latter understood as place where justice is negotiated by applying a specific language, one that is necessarily both, precise and disputatious, neutral and strictly goal-oriented.

This way the every little helps, combined with the every little needs attention is joined by a third pillar, namely everybody has an important role to play.

Thus, the Kantian categorical imperative –

  • “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”

(this is the wording from Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals from 1785, later he used slightly different formulations)

applies, but needs to be enhanced:

  • Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that you action and activity is well interwoven and coordinated with the action and activities of others

and

  • Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that the result is one that can prove validity in the future.

And the expert may justifiably feel tempted to see some Rawlsian veil of ignorance at play.

Leaving the funny aspects of obviously (and also seemingly) unreasoned questions aside, there is a further serious issue, not least in perspective of rights to be raised: we are always caught between highly standardised means, possibly applied in a mechanical way on the one hand and the need for what had been frequently called the struggle for law, that is the dispute and human empathy to elaborate a solution that is just, meaning that is appropriate to the situation. Or in more common terms, the tension between legality and justice (and those who studied law will of course remember the seminars on the different takes on “ought” and “is”).

This section may be concluded by the most crucial point, arising from what had been said so far: at the very core we are dealing with the common good, and importantly this stands at the beginning – as such it is one of the interpretations of the Marxist thinking, expressed in two frequently quoted sentences:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past”

standing at the beginning of The Eighteenth Brumaire.

And in the Introduction to the Outline of the Critique of the Political Economy

“The human being is in the most literal sense a ζώov πoλιτιχόv [political animal], not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society”

Seeing here a superiority of the social would be problematic, as such interpretation presupposes the social as “reification of its own”, arising from nowhere – like a deus ex machina. However, this common good is nevertheless of special – quasi-superior – character, as it is source and objective of acting individuals – take (a) simple issues as language (needed to speak with somebody else, something that is shared), (b) more complex issues as common sense and morals (yes, something you share) or (c) highly elaborated systems as the regulative body (or call it civil code and related legislation) of a country or the trans- and international system –and remember: crossing the street, buying a tiny commodity or making a present …. all these are legal acts. Highlighting the crucial meaning of the social – for instance in form of the common good gains at present some special relevance as in the context of CORVID19, one of the leading online gazettes on EU-affairs laments its BRIEF (Stam, Claire: Common Good; https://www.euractiv.com/section/coronavirus/news/the-brief-common-good/; 12/03/20; ) that “[t]he swiftly-spreading coronavirus forces all of us to take a reality-check and face the ugly truth. It also forces us to adapt and change our behaviour for the common good. Because this is what it is all about. This is what is at stake.” This statement – and the then following reference to “disruption” caused by the virus, is remarkable, showing the Western (under)valuation of the public good: peripheral, related to emergencies, the last resort. With some good will one classify see it as slip – an argument of bad taste brought forward by one of the many unsettled journalists. However, looking at EU policies over the years, in particular the debate of services of general interest, there cannot any doubt that there is little appreciation of the common good as general standard: everything is geared to individuals looking for their own, personal benefit.

– Doesn’t this connect nicely with the argument I brought forward, when addressing the international Human Rights conference in Changsha in December 2019, an argument that is widely discussed, often as matter of a fourth generation of human rights – here I would put it under the heading of human rights (also) as right of humanity, not (only) of individuals.

 

 

Once upon a time … – a success story

Once upon a time there were Kings and Queens and the entire feudal fo<it had been said. But …

https://www.frontlinemissionsa.org/uploads/1/0/4/1/104153586/bastille-day-parisianist-6_1_orig.jpg

There had been times when all this would change: the rulers would be chased away, the formerly ruled becoming the new rulers. Or concrete: customers had been appreciated by giving them “royal status”: treating the customer like Kings or Queens had been treated in the ancient regime … And even more so, of course: really radical forces wanted to overcome even these relics of the old system, getting completely rid of the feudal system … and indeed, so often we see they succeeded.

the new kings and queens, the customer-king and customer-queen would now be treated just as dairy cow and fat-stock ….

new princes and princesses … – making themselves known under the title ABC.XYZ

overlooked the valleys of the new age, be they silicon valleys, silicon docks or whatever the emperors new clothes appeared to be – surely not allowing the customer to play a noble role anymore.

Well, the 15th of March is annual World Consumer Rights Day – it surely makes sense to acknowledge this breed of capitalism as mire and different from paying customer, now increasingly as the prosumer, is not only called to the stable to be melken; instead it is about a trend to produce, sell-it to yourself and continue to develop your product ,,, . for free,

Tour- and Life-Guides

recently ….., well, yes taking a historical perspective it had been recently I had been strolling through Rome and a touristy asked for the way – I cannot recall where he wanted to go, but it actually doesn’t matter. 

“You should just walk to the Main Street and then turn right; you see the church on left side, cross the street and into the little Street, just go on for a few yards, you will come to church and turn right until you see …”

overview result from google-image search churches

I gave up this way of explaining a route – being in Rome, churches are not really useful to guide a persons way. The other day I went out for a walk in Changhsha – nobody asked me for any way. Still, I was thinking, making a route:

“Walk along the Lushan Road, it is not long walk – approximately 30 minutes. I guess after passing probably between 5 and ten universities

overview result from google-image search universities

you will pursue the huge statue. What ever you say at the end (and I said a lot in the 60s and 70s), it is with him that everything begun.”

Oh folks, remain realist …

Definitely, it is for us in China a kind of nightmare-situation: the threat, the insecurity, the psychological strain and also the inconvenience and thus physical strain: shops being closed, villagers deciding quarantine-ing themselves and people just accepting, staying calm and cooperating. And then …. – the German news magazine coming up with a title-page like this:

Sorry, for me it is sending a wrong message, it is simply tasteless … “when globalisation is becoming a deadly danger” …, I suppose that is more about Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, though mind: not produced there … and so many other similar incidents …

And, indeed, there is something else made in China – the other day I received a message from a former student of mine – when I had been teaching economics. We are still in touch and Isn’t him a message, just the hello and how r u and take care -part of the answer:

Not only protecting myself, also protecting people around me. Ordered nearly 1,800 face masks from Japan last week and looking forward to receive them. Going to sell them at original price with a limit number per person and donate revenue from selling them. Purchased 2kg of “hande desinfektionsgel” from Germany for my parents.

now, I would not even be surprised if les boches claim that is “German benevolence”

…………..

Machine translation of the letter mentioned:

Hello, I thank you for this letter and the assurance of solidarity from the German side. While searching for this mail-address of the BS I also see the reference to the naturally welcome wish for respectful cooperation. Germany East not Germany and the AA can not be everywhere and control etc. But I must confess that such a tasteless cover picture, like the one of the Spiegel, simply shakes me. The experience that I make with my life in China lets me see with my German passport such an insult with shame and anger.
Der Spiegel is not the German press and I can only hope that this is the exception to the rule of reporting. This “naughtiness” of the seal with criticism and rejection but the AA would certainly be compatible with the freedom of the press, because this is equal to the responsibility in reporting.
With kind regards
Peter Herrmann

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Moving On …

2019, now 2020
the year of the pig, now the year of the rat

the time of old years coming to an end and new years taking their commence is often and commonly the time of thinking back … – the year that just come to its end and the early years of our personal lives and the lives of societies, ach and all with thither own dreams of “once upon a time ….” – some of the dreams possibly became true – and probably more that had been disappointed – what else could be the reason behind the new-years-resolutions: he hope for change and at least the little one can do oneself.

*****

Recently a friend (acquaintance, colleague, somebody I occasionally meet and like to meet, just to chat with across so many borders that mark our completely different backgrounds and lives) … , well, already last year she had been a bit in despair “…. I hear a problem.” – “Tell me!” and she did: her mother was going to retire – 55 years old (as it is [going to change now] the retirement age here in China. So young if we are honest and in many cases marking such an obvious break, evidencing that employment is not only some time we spend in some place, doing something defined in a contract and getting remunerated according to the same contract); it is a complex social relationship, also – at least very often – defining our “lives beyond” (this evidencing the simplification that is entailed in the formula of “work-life-balance”). And when it ends … – well, presumably especially daughters taut come up with what she said : “I have a problem”. The parents now expecting … – well, what do they expect? That the children compensate for the social loss: permanent visits, invites “wouldn’t it be nice …”; overacting the grandchildren or even moving into the same house: making their own loss to the loss of the children, in turn loosing their children just in order to get another time lost (mind the subtle though difficult to understand formulation of this formulation of the multiplication of loss). All this actually a consequence of justifying the alienation by auch nonsense of speaking off work-life-balance, affirmation and celebration of that fact that the worker

feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home.
(Marx, Karl, 1844: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844; in: Karl Marx. Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 3: Marx and Engels: 1843-44; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1975; 229-346: here: 274)

Instead of work-life balance we should investigate more the question of individual and society in the spirit as Norbert quasi-implanted it into my thinking (Norbert had been surely grater influence than Niklas Luhmann although I had been occasionally classified as pupil of the latter, also with some justification).

Recently the said friend came back to this her problem, though she did not draw the link: My mother is getting more and more child-like …

*****

– for some time something popped up again and again seeks for a rest, wants to be resolved in one way or another – small things, and perhaps such blog is a way of resolving one issue, perhaps also by way of leading to a resolution …?

One or the other reader will remember what is still rather common here in Asia – I remember it from my childhood in the West: The Henkelmann, or as we usually said Düppe.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henkelm%C3%A4nner.jpg#/media/Datei:Henkelmänner.jpg 
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4c/Henkelmänner.jpg/901px-Henkelmänner.jpg
Von Claus Ableiter – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5197464

A simple container made from metal. Where I had been grown up it had been used by the workers: meals, having been prepared at home, had been carried to work and often heated up in large water basins – the workers sitting together, munching their individually prepared meal together. Today and here they are still used – but supposedly for carrying food from restaurants home, to be consumed then there. But what seems to be here and there the dominant pattern is different: the container is replaced by plastic bags and paper cups and the consumption …, well it seems to happen – while the various traditions of the family meal, the we-meal, the luncheon and you name it still play an important role, another and perhaps increasing role plays the throw-in-meal on the way: consumed out of throw-away crockery, throwing away the breaks between events and activities by focusing on the title plastic bag that send up in a bin …  seen from today’s perspective the vocation of an archeologist in hundred, two-hundred or five-hundred years time appears to be promising: looking at what is left a long time after there eis not much left of us individually and exploring what we just throw away today, not only materially.

*****

Is it justified to say it is the ability of togetherness that depends on the ability of independence and vice versa? Does this not suggest, that such break as entering retirement-age brings up all disappointments, all the unrealised dreams we have heard at some time and that remained unfulfilled while growing into a society that did not allow us to make them becoming true in mature forms. I do nit remember the exact wording – Pablo Picasso said something like the following:

It to me three years to paint like an artist that is recognised by the academy – but it took me ages tor paint like a child again.

Highly recommended reading on this occasion the work by Norbert Elias, it least that part that is directly addressing the question of individual and society.

revealed

The influential dinner party, where the 13 lads served themselves the food, each of them brought along (at least there is no kitchen and there are no waiters mentioned) is reasonably well documented – amongst others Leonardo had been witnessing and painting (Ok, that one is a bit blurred) it. Recent research revealed another meeting, the veil had been at least lifted by a Chinese Human Rights Researcher at Central South University – it may become known in the future as DD, the December dinner. The editors of this blog could take a glimpse, especially at the host’s toast. Here it is presented in a somewhat dramatised form, titled :

Virtual Christmas Dinner

staring age and ages, times and eras.

Another great day ….

… and there I am hesitating. Sure, the terrible rain on the 25th had been not really bearable – even if I just received the day before my fancy new boots:

promising comfort, security …

… promising a deception? As enjoyable as it is to see the sun back, as delightful it is to look back on a long spell without rain, with pleasant weather in Changsha, looking back on a summer in Berlin with near to zero drops of rain and plenty of warmth, it comes with a bitter smack of fear and worries. Is that the global warming, possibly bringing draught and extinction at some foreseeable time in the future?

Perspectives change – also the perspective that is entailed in the variety of my work and jobs, being now law-prof. I asked this in different ways earlier, and put it now in a juridical nutshell:

Can we continue calling on individual rights, rights of the individuals witnessing that so many individuals, and on occasions being just one amongst them, have no other idea than buying a gun to amok? Sure, a person who finally storms a school to kill kids is being severely sentenced (if he is caught alive and did not kill himself – he/himself, never heard bit she/herself); but, while acknowledging the difference, I dare to ask if we should simply allow people driving their SUVs, companies dumping waste water into the rivers, ourselves sitting in a comfortable warm room, wearing a shirt instead of reducing the temperature a bit and wearing a warm jumper; seeing mass-SPAM-mail not just as matter of intruding into the private sphere but as terrorist attack on the environment (considering the cost of sending mails), defining it as criminal act to heating rooms while leaving the windows open ..? …. – Human rights had been and still are defined as protecting individuals against the state. isn’t it time now to think about human rights as matter of protecting society against excessive individualism … – protecting it by law?

some interesting notion for further debate can be taken from work undertaken in the 19th century. An important aspect is mentioned in the following para, taken from a work on the history of the rule of law, reading

The impossibility of opposing to it aliunde-founded elements was the ground of the central dilemma: how to combine an unlimited sovereign power with a legal order regulating it and making its intervention foreseeable. The central features of the theory that was gradually refined throughout the second half of the century and was thoroughly elaborated by Jellinek were the idea of the state’s self-limitation (which made sovereign absolutism compatible with the existence of fetters on its power), the existence of legal relationships between the state and individuals, the distinction between the state (as a whole) and its several institutional components, so that this or that organ could be limited whilst the state “as such” could be deemed as the holder of an absolute power.

New challenges, old debates, the need to reformulate and “reinvent” them – not least under changed and changing conditions: where states are not nation states anymore; and where the corporate sector strives to replace state.

Forthcoming: Herrmann, Peter: Human Rights: watch out for the trail before you bridle the horse – The search for a Future Global Human Rights Agenda; in: International Journal for Social Quality

Herrmann, Peter, December 8th, 2019: Search for Future Global HR-Agenda; Conference presentation, Changsha