Jesters today

Again this one:

Dear Mr HerrrmannYou received new messages in the postbox of … [name of health insurance]. Do you want to have a look right now? Then click on the following link …With kind regards your [name of health insurance]

Is it appropriate to reply sth. like

(By William Merritt Chase – The Athenaeum: Home – info – pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2060164)

Dear [name of health insurance], thank you so much for your kind message which I could read after about 5 mouse-clicks and successfully digging out my insurance number, followed by another mouse-click … – I have to admit that i could have saved the energy (my personal and that of running the computer) as the message does not in any way engage with the message it supposedly answered …
Are you interested in my detailed reply right now? Please, come to my flat, I have written it down and may even help you to decipher my handwriting, assuming that you lost some part of your reading skills over the years – as said, the message you sent suggests something like it.
此致

I am serious, especially today, after having met the last group of my students for examination. Part of the discussion had been the question how it is possible that we are apparently all (forced to) moving around in a system that makes us to something worse than jesters? The jester at court had been asked to be critical and provocative, transporting the critique to the kings and lords, the modern jester is being asked to accept eighteenths fooled and to pass critique on to those below … to those below …

Annunci

Grades, Degrees and Principles

It surely is in some respect a no-go-area for reflection, relating the brutal banality of evil of a man facing

15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Jewish people.

… – and still it is a field of reflection that has to be entered, not aiming on mocking anybody or anything as it is suggested as part of the debate on “little Eichmanns”, supposedly denying the sincerity and the difference of war crimes, as argued by Henri Clemens (Clemens Heni, November 2, 2008: Secondary Anti-Semitism: From Hard-Core to Soft-Core Denial of the Shoah). Such position may easily be seen as denial of the banality of evil, waiting until it is too late  ….  

We have to remember Martin Niemoeller’s words:

  • First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.

****

It is the time of the year again, students worrying about their future, teachers eager to support them finding their way …, and going it. It is about writing academic references that are nowadays increasingly administratively defined ….. It is the time of the year again …  institutions – schools of different kind, employers, training centre, parties and NGOs …. well, and if needed hospitals for the burned-out, welfare offices for the drop-outs, prisons for the forced-outs and whoever else comes to mind being waiting …, opening their doors to help everybody finding a place in this democracy of which

it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time

T&C apply – and when it comes to terms & conditions, one of the decisive questions, easily forgotten, is: Who is, who is the actual actor? Or is it a What-Actor?

It had been frequently mentioned on these pages that in the academic world – as in so many other worlds – it is administrative systems, paralysing people who then paralyse people … – does the law of six degrees of separation also apply here? Will the fifth who has to be paralysed, end in a coma; the sixth immediately going down into the grave, even if physically still alive?

Preparing a presentation I gave some time ago in Ostrava, Neil Postman’s book on Amusing ourselves to Death came to my mind, shifting the at the time frequent attention from Orwell toward Huxley, his excelling grasp of the tantalising effect of totalising amusement, entertainment …

Part of this is the increasing fragmentation – each little act needing a rule, every two rules in need of another rule by which the two are linked, brought together, of course being in need of another rule that keeps them together …., an exponentially growing rule-you-machine, rolling out a net in which also responsibility gets lost, simply not felt …, but not felt because the brain is forced into the Procrustean bed of a surveillance state, lurking around every corner:

Torturing a prisoner on the rack, Middle Ages. A 19th-century representation of a medieval torture device in use, from World of Wonders, published by Cassell and Co, (London, 1894). (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

(https:// cotyreh.com/2018/02/28/tyranny-reason-academias-procrustean-bed/)

  • Every wee commodity not only claiming to be an entire world but loudly demanding – Thou shalt have no other commodities before me.
  • Every little rule not only claiming to be an entire world but loudly stating – Thou shalt have no other rules before me.
  • Every little act not only claiming to be an entire world but loudly enforcing – Thou shalt think about no other act before me.  …

… NO EXCUSE – NO EXCUSE – NO EXCUSE – NO EXCUSE …

The consequences you have to bear, equally singular as every single commodity, rule and act. No, the consequences ARE NOT singular, they are paralysing, comatising, engraving as bringing-into-the-grave …

This points on the underlying problem – the methodological segmentation of actor, referential space, action seen as relevant and time:

If the public is only me – not in terms of individualisation but in terms of relevance: an earthquake, fire as also the beauty of a sunrise, and the relevance of my action are equally only me, my maintenance and security, safety, comfort …., enjoyment, career, arousal or anything relevant as matter of satisfaction when facing the need of emergency management, protecting against drowning in the tsunami of threats from nature, including emotions.

Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil, following and analysing the process against Eichmann in Jerusalem. The massmurderer claimed that he did only what he had been asked, told to do … – rule is rule, act is act, outcome is outcome …. Eichmann’s argument: I had not been responsible, I knew, though only followed the rule … others …

Supposedly he accepted in hindsight 

I am guilty – that is the larger rule for those who accept responsibility beyond the tiny, singular rule 

another Big Bang, ending in another singularity.

It is worth to make a little side remark, looking at the work of Georg Jellinek, who studied form 1867 onwards jurisprudence, arts history, philosophy and history. He emphasised in his work not least that law – and one can thus say also administrative norms are only part of a wider setting. They cannot explain their acceptance and implementation which are a matter of society and people living in it. Or in the present context we may say: law and order is nothing that emerges simply from legally valid acts and individuals executing them orderly, i.e. within the order – the conflict Gustav Radbruch had been investigating in 1946, suggesting that in law it has to be considered that there are possible conflicts between the positive law and the requirement of material justice. Though Radbruch came to the conclusion of the superiority of positive law, he always faced the problematique of falling short where that law would stand in extreme conflict with being unbearable. It should be read as where the consequence in reality means they are not able to give an answer to the needs of reality. And as such they are not sufficient to deal with the contradictions of reality … – realities of bureaucratic and other machines:

On the other hand, when a person is called an “automaton” or a “robot” it is usually a derogatory comment denoting someone who is stiff and awkward in speech or movement; one who lacks imagination, emotion, spontaneity or a sense of humor; a fanatical follower of rules and regulations; a social or political conformist who is easily manipulated due to an inability to think critically and independently. In a recent issue of Perspectives, the news magazine of the American Historical Association, a history teacher objected to a Florida state education bill that asserted the view that Amer- ican history is “factual, not constructed,” by declaring that making students memorize information without teaching them analytic skills was tantamount to turning them into “little robots.”

(Kang, Minsoo, 2011: Sublime Dreams of Living Machines. The Automaton in the European Imagination; Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: harvard university press 4)

****

It is the time of the year again, students worrying about their future, teachers eager to support them finding their way …, and going it. It is about writing academic references that are nowadays increasingly administratively defined ….

…. paradoxically so many complaining, criticising …., and clicking the link, ticking the box ….. it is the rule – a rule I cannot change …., and isn’t clicking, ticking …. an act of banality …. a wee act, not doing any harm, and if it does do any harm it is actually done by others … Providing the garrote is not using it, is not even telling others to do so …., we may even warn them while handing it over to the tyrant:

Not cruelty is the attribute of tyranny, but the destruction of the public political realm, monopolised by the despot by claiming ‘wisdom’ … or based on thirst for power, i.e. insisting on citizens looking after their private concerns, leaving it to him, the ‘ruler, to take of the public matters’.

(Arendt, Hannah, 1958: Vita Activa oder Vom Tätigen Leben; München/Zuerich: Piper, 1981, new edition: 215; translated from the German edition; with reference to Aristotle: Athenische Verfassung; XV, 5)

****

on administrative issues, simple money issues …  Well the many other things: professional ones or …, well, what is called “private/personal” – and being in the middle of it .., and trying to resist: cosy links, giving in when certain requirements are put forward …, and permanently asking if there is a definitive frontier line where TREASON begins, if and where. Knowing well, that there had been and still is very interesting stuff going on. But the latter makes it somewhat more difficult. Recently I had been reading some “old stuff”, 60s, more 70s and even 80s. So many wise things said – then it had been dealing with other “items” as Postman’s look at TV which could be written today, with wee alterations, now on computers and the WWW.

Who listened and listens?

There are so many things going on about critique of using SSCI- or SCOPUS as standard …, and when it comes to the point … , bubbles not only in the economy. Or, of course I have to say this: it is part of the economy: the material basis, the way in which people price and reproduce their daily life, and that is a matter of the economy …

Of course, it my sound like being over the top, but how often do we have to ask questions that are at least in structural terms, in principle, like those we see dealt with in the theatre play Terror, in legal cases as the one Fuller had been writing about under the title Case of the Speluncean Explorers … where is the tipping point that marks the step into the middle of the banality of evil …, and the step where resistance turns into “integration on a higher level” – I could have used this expression as one line of the Ostrava-talk mentioned earlier: there it had been Bansky, apparently protesting, revolting … attempted subversion coming out at the other end as submerging: the stream of the banality: in that case “arts as object of speculation”, in other cases – and they bother me again: letting one student down, because I cannot accept what I think is “terror of administration” against studentship: Warwick (again) writing something as ‘We cannot accept reference letters sent as mail attachment, you have to create an account, log in, …. Well, I wrote, answering:

I am terribly sorry that you submitted yourself under the rule of technological dictatorship – and I am upset that you force other people to do the same – which is …

Read Hannah Arendt  on The Banality of Evil – that is where you will find yourself.

You may accept the letter attached or otherwise I feel sorry for the student for the fact that I cannot do the secretarial service for a university that did not learn from its own history, and is dealing with colleagues in a highly disrespectful and offending way, using outdated procedures.

Upset, sincerely upset

Peter Herrmann

And what happens: an automated reply

Sometimes it may be even better getting this kind of reply than getting another lie, directly and personally stated, with a smile. I wanted to write “credenced with a smile” – thinking there would be something in English like the German Kredenzen: “present, in a more or less celebratory way … “ – there is no such term, but in English we have the term “credence”, of which the dictionary says:

Well, at least for me it is difficult to live with such tension – being aware of it, assuming that people are actually not “bad”, not all people .. , and still: there is the ultimate need to overcome such banality …, before we really end up sliding into it again … – well, you see, I still try to make sense, even trying to gain energy from all this, against the odds, and against the temptation to give in into the ultimate urge of the ultimate paralysis.

It is in this way that the Christmas-hustle and bustle put me off, as every year, like so many celebrations. Bubble-happiness then, perhaps it is the complement of bubble economies that are living in the stream of … bubbles, a huge stream, being fed by a spring of foam.

****

As stated in the beginning

It surely is in some respect a no-go-area for reflection. Eichman and the little bailiffs … – and still it is a field of reflection that has to be entered, unmasking the authoritarian personality ….

And then we arrive at the strangulation of young people, eager to study, though pushed towards pressing a button …. call it gamification of applications, then of studying, then of work – you may get the gamification also without the detour …. – no studies needed, many of the new gods with their temples in Silicon Valley, are drop outs, many even (quasi-) criminals ….

strangulating everybody who … resists the need to go beyond the excitement of 

click 

for like

click 

for excitement – and do not allow any negative feeling, critique, discourse ….

****

Indeed,

Principiis obsta. Sero medicina parata, cum mala per longas convaluere moras.

Wehre den Anfängen! Zu spät wird die Medizin bereitet, wenn die Übel durch langes Zögern erstarkt sind

And indeed, Ovid’s words are relevant … – can’t we see some amorousness when looking at the pedantic errand boys and errand girls , proud and nescient …?

Finally again Martin Niemoeller’s words:

  • First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.

Or in the words of C. Wright Mills, written in 1956 in his book on The Power Elite

It is much safer to celebrate civil liberties than to defend them; it is much safer to defend them as a formal right than to use them in a politically effective way. Even those who would most willingly subvert these liberties usually do so in their very name. It is easier still to defend someone else’s right to have used them years ago than to have something yourself to say now and to say it now forcibly. The defense of civil liberties—even of their practice a decade ago—has become the major concern of many liberal and once leftward scholars. All of which is a safe way of diverting intel- lectual effort from the sphere of political reflection and demand.

How serious(ly stupid) they are

… or: the de-academisation of academia.
The other day I received a mail – one of many of this kind, though this time I have had a closer look as it had been addressed to
Dear Xiaoming,
with
Greetings from Journal of Accounting and Marketing!!
Bit strange – though I get admittedly occasionally mixed up with names of my Chinese colleagues, Xiaoming did not ring a bell at all. Also admittedly I (= Peter) published recently something on accounting, I was a bit surprised as my take on accounting is not necessarily that which suits the mainstream. Anyway, I was reading on. The usual rubbish and spam. Noting about three different URLs is surely not a matter suitable for establishing trust. The fact that the URL fur submissions is a hidden behind the term MARKETING is surely not suggesting that all this is about serious academic stuff. Also their reference to something that I supposedly wrote, read by them with great interest and appreciation …
Well, Mrs. Nancy Lisa, Managing Editor, Journal of Accounting & Marketing … E-mail: accounting@journalinsights.org – you surely deserve more and other than a personal reply, marking your stupidity. You would even deserve more than a blog-post …. (though you may read this also with great interest and appreciation … – One day you may even have to read your-journals …
******
… and still there is a big
As bad as such publishing spammers are, there is another dimension to all this: the de-academisation of academia. Another example, side by side with others mentioned  earlier, we may also look at
about whom The Economist reported a while back. There is an interesting detail that deserves attention:
… one study found that for every dollar spent to comply with government rules, voluntary spending on bureaucracy totalled $2 at public universities and $3 at private ones. Robert Martin of Centre College in Kentucky, a co-author of the study, says the real reason for the growth in spending is that administrators want to hire subordinates, thereby boosting their own authority and often pay, rather than faculty, over whom they have less power. Bureaucrats outnumber faculty 2:1 at public universities and 2.5:1 at private colleges, double the ratio in the 1970s.
Should we be surprised to see that
[o]ne result of all this is growing “resistance, anger, grumpiness, and eventually backlash” to the proliferation of diversity officials.
Well, in this light Nancy is probably just a poor person, not willing and not able to see that she is actually a cogwheel of a machinery that is not much else then a mafia of today’s time. – … scrupulous … stultification!

trying to open the box

 

Looking at how academic institutions deal with applications by students – and with lecturers who support their endeavour – when it comes to applications there seems to be little hope: one meets ignorance, lack of respect and unqualified ways of handling procedures – I referred to this issue earlier.. I suppose part of the problem is also that we usually accept such misbehavior and move on, allowing ‘them’ to move on their way. Hopeless …

“HOPE is what makes us strong. It is why we are here. It is what we fight with when all else is lost.”
– Pandora’s last words

With this attitude I wrote the letter/mail to some completely ignorant universities: if asking for a reference that supports students to follow their path of curiosity, has any meaning, there are some institutions that themselves delve in complete lack of meaning.

 

Dear colleague, I am writing to you after overcoming some hesitation and also after reflecting if there is any point in it.

Still, for the sake of students and due to my commitment to academia and academic standards I feel obliged to follow up on the way your university is dealing with applications. If there is any claim on hour side to be an academic institution of reputable rank and with an international standing, at least revisiting the following is highly advisable – to say the least.
Lecturers today are encouraged to move, and some actually manage to be engaged by different universities and research institutes – for my part I can humbly state that I had been in the lucky situation of being involved in teaching and research in different countries, linked to various institutions, amongst them those with high international standing. However, this also means that e-mail addresses change. Apparently, so I had been informed, your institution requires students to submit contact details of lectures whom they nominate for their recommendation, valid at the time of teaching. In other words, I had been teaching students who asked me for a reference after I left the respective university – and still the students are asked to provide contact details from an outdated position. In this light, what is really outdated is the requirement you set. It shows that your institution does not reflect standards of todays academia, and instead follows somewhat ‘provincial’, ‘parochial’ ideas. – I may add, that historically at least in Europe, the mobility of academics had been the norm, the settled, academic the exception – settled in terms of space usually also meant settled in thinking, lacking openness to exchange and innovation.
Now, moving on to the next point: In several cases it is [was] possible for me to keep the e-mail address from an earlier position. One option to deal with this is to check different mail accounts. Sometimes it is possible to forward mails; and another option is to set an automatic reply, informing and asking the sender to use a different e-mail-address. I had to chose with one of the accounts the latter option. So, the request for a reference, sent by our university to the one ‘official’ mail address, was answered by such automatic reply, providing an alternative address. Although the mail from your institution was not sent by a completely automated system and replies had been received, the responsible department or person did not consider to react in an appropriate way. On the contrary, later a reminder was sent to the same, inactive, address. This behaviour from your institution shows in my opinion cum gram salis the same attitude as that mentioned previously. It is highly disrespectful, ignoring the serious interests of students and showing no collegiality to academics. It is even topped by the fact that I once set a mail to the relevant department of your institution, using the ‘dormant address’. The rely I received gave apt evidence of the fact that the mail I sent was not properly read.
I may then add: the standardised ‘questionnaires’, used to ask to assess students, are substandard. In general I think it is questionable to use multiple choice questions and similar for such assessment – it is about young personalities and not machines or fat-stock. Still, if such approach is used, the design requires a bit more reflection. If a student of mine, would submit such questionnaire which I had been asked to complete, as part of exams, that student would end, on a generous day, with a very low grade.
Again, the way your institution is currently handling – at least – this part of the application process is simply appalling and lacks any respect towards students and those lecturers who are in a position to support their curiosity about learning. This part of their learning experience provided by you is apt to undermine such curiosity, and teach that studies you offer may not deliver what they promise.
Sincerely disappointed
Peter Herrmann

 

Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy/
Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik
[section social law]
– Research Fellow –
….
skype: …
QQ: …
__________
University of Eastern Finland (UEF)
Department of Social Sciences
PL 1627
70211 Kuopio
FINLAND
—-Corvinus University
Institute of World Economy
Faculty of Social Sciences and International Relations
Fővám tér 8
1093 Budapest
HUNGARY
_________
Active Member of the European Academy of Science and Arts

Just a reminder

Pensions do not exist to increase national savings or to provide jobs for actuaries, tax lawyers, accountants, fund managers and regulators. Their purpose is to allow the elderly and disabled to retire from work with dignity

Willmore, Larry: Three Pillars of Pensions: Is there a need for mandatory contributions? in: OECD, Private Pensions Series OECD 2000 Private Pensions Conference 2000. Insurance and Pensions; Paris 2001: 385-397; here 385

Kafka – or: The most reasonable person in town …

Well, one of the most reasonable I met occasionally in Rome – I mentioned this guy yesterday in a mail to a friend. Here the little story:

Had been to the post office today – guess there I meet (or just see) one of the most reasonable people …, every time I am going early to that place I see him – so I assume it is a “daily event”: He enters, bids good morning to everybody – mutters something that nobody understands – and after having reached the one end, he leaves again – same muttering, same smile on everybody’s face. And probably what he mutters and nobody understands is more meaningful than all this nonsense official stuff that is exchanged when it comes to transferring money, buying a stamp etc. (the good news: for buying a stamp you still do not need your fiscal code …)

What I did not mention …, well, the real post office experience:

Queuing at the post office: number A4.
It is showing up on the display: counter 5. You start going there, but some customer is still standing there.
You wait, near to counter 5, holding number A4 between your fingers.
The customer is still there.
The display changes: A5.
While the customer moves away, you approach the counter, but another person too, holding A5 in her hands.
“Sorry, it is A5, you see ….” – comment by the clerk

So you feel like a drowned rat – which is in German a “begossener Pudel” and as such you put the tail between the legs and say to yourself:

Yes, I came, I saw … and I lost.

(But in all fairness in the Italian system A5 is followed by A 4 …)

It is easy to forget – as before going to the post office, actually the day before, I received a mail: Please, contact customer service, the booking of your flight could not be completed. So I contacted customer service of the dot.com business immediately … – dot.coms are global and do not any time: open 24 hours. Well, I waited for a reply. As I din’t get any reply, and also as I understood immediately as being valid on both sides, I sent 16 hours or so later another mail …., and finally thought 24 hours after the first mail (the one I received) check the website and you will find at some stage a premium phone number (as I booked premium service … Actually the premium number on the booking form had been an alien one: Mars, Neptun or UK, some strange place that cannot be reached from Italy. Finally I found another phone number (probably on Jupiter – but it worked). “Yes, how can I help you.” – a friendly voice. I provided the booking number, she found my name in the computer – (I could have told her; actually I did tell her after she sled “How can I help you?” And she found the information: “Everything is fine, the booking is confirmed, There had been a technical problem on our side.” “So everything is OK then?” “Yes, you don’t have to worry. … Thank you and have a nice day.” Gosh, all this is so mind-boggling: a friendly word at the end – I had been near to tears, wanted to hug her …, but tuuut, tuuut, she had been off, probably to next customer, booking number [Ticket#2014030218470056]  8K6zKJ.
Why did I check yesterday evening the Internet for something nice – pure incidence? And why did I end up on the website of the AUDITORIUM CONCILLIAZIONE ……did google know already what happened during the day, now offering with the magic calculation. Perhaps they have an conciliation algorithm?
Probably not:

“No tickets available”….

Even algorithms fail … – or should it be: algorithms fail?

What today then,
yours Kafka the Second (I know, many can claim this)