slow death – of individuals and societies


a long way … from the priests on the Acropolis [ἄκρον (akron, “highest point”) and πόλις (polis)] to the gardens which had been the roaming place of the philosophers to the reality of today’s Europe …- back at the desk after returning from Athens, where we organised at the Harokopio University in Athens, with support of the Nicos Poulantzas Institute the Euromemo-conference under the title

Can the EU still be saved? The implications of a multi-speed Europe


I remember the recent reading of Juergen Roth’s Radetzkymarsch from 1932. It seems to be clear that we can speak of a kind of congeniality when it comes to death of individuals, stubbornly caught by their ideas and societies going through some agony before the final step:

He lived long enough to know how silly it is to say the truth. He allowe people making this mistake and he believed less than the jesters who talked about him in the wide realm of anecdotes, that his world would persist. [1]


He was old, and tired, and death already expected him, still life did not release him. Like a gruesome host it kept him at the table because he did not go through all the suffering that life had prepared for him.[2]

I leave it to the reader to find out why it returns right now to my mind ….: after having returned to Greece after the elections in Germany, after Macron launching his ‘Initiative for Europe. A sovereign, united, democratic Europe’ and while going on with the personal attempt to figure out how old and how European one has to be to understand the challenges and options that are showing up ahead; and how old and how European one has to be to misunderstand them. And how much it personally helps me not to know exactly how old I am, how EUropean …call it uprooting, or call it a bit of transcending the ‘conventional wisdom’ J.K. Galbraith wrote about in this book on the ‘Affluent Society’.


[1]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Er hatte lange genug gelebt, um zu wissen, daß es töricht ist, die Wahrheit zu sagen. Er gönnte den Leuten den Irrtum, und er glaubte weniger als die Witzbolde, die in seinem weiten Reich Anekdoten über ihn erzählten, an den Bestand seiner Welt.

[2]            Own translation; an English version of the book is available …, somewhere
Original: Alt war er und müde, und der Tod wartete schon auf ihn, aber das Leben ließ ihn noch nicht frei. Wie ein grausamer Gastgeber hielt es ihn am Tische fest, weil er noch nicht alles Bittere gekostet hatte, das für ihn bereitet war.



… Perché …

Ti hanno uccisa e sepolta nei titoli dei loro giornali, madre. Come posso perdonare, madre? Come può Jenin perdonare? Come si può portare questo fardello? Come si può vivere in un mondo che volta le spalle a questa ingiustizia da così tanto tempo? E’ questo che significa essere palestinesi, madre?

(Susan Abulhawa, 2011: Ogni mattina a Jenin; Milano: Feltrinelli: 371 f.)

… non solo la Palestina – Qual è il significato di un mondo senza giustizia, un mondo che ha la competitività tra gli individui – stati nazionali, le persone, la personalità – come il valore massimo? E dove l’amore e la comprensione è di accettare e in attesa l’identità, non permettendo differenza? Questo che significa essere umano?


Franz had consciously sought out death. In his last days, when he was dying and had no need to lie, she was the only person he asked for. He couldn’t talk, but how he’d thanked her with his eyes! He’d fixed his eyes on her and begged to be forgiven. And she forgave him.

What remains of the dying population of Cambodia?
One large photograph of an American actress holding an Asian child in her arms.

What remains of Tomas?

What remains of Beethoven?
A frown, an improbable mane, and a somber voice intoning Es muss sein!

What remains of Franz?
An inscription reading A RETURN AFTER LONG WANDERINGS.

Before we are forgotten, we will be turned into kitsch. Kitsch is the stopover between being and oblivion.

(Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being)

Yes, there is also some academic dimension especially to the last lines, or a dimension to academic work and working in academia. In this perspective it can be seen as characterising academia’s current stage: characterised by self-referentiality and the apparent need to hand control over to administrations or suggested “paradigms excellence” that are caught in confirming what we know, notwithstanding that the reality that we are supposed to analyse is changing and needs changing approaches.