Feet of Clay

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

In the chapter

Very, le Pays und die »Tönernen Füße« Englands

it says:

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

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

Dove Slammed for Racist Ad Featuring Black Woman Turning White

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


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


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


Christianity – the Halloween-effect

So far we may consider us as lucky beings — as said: caught in a cage, but knowing by whom, clearly seeing the tamer, being able to find the addressee when considering resistance. Though extremely brutal at times, it is a somewhat simple mechanism, not to say: mechanics … . The cogwheels of the machines that are taking control of the body of the workers are working along the finely Taylored (yes, I know: some would like to see tailored … — I am speaking of Taylored though) lines, producing the car for the ‘Emporio Ford T’. And as much as this is a matter of production, it produces and reproduces itself in all fibres of life and living. As much as the wheels are turning the machines, they are also mechanisms that are securing what had been said before, quoting again Marx’s Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

For one thing, the object is not simply an object in general, but a particular object which must be consumed in a particular way, a way determined by production. Hunger is hunger; but the hunger that is satisfied by cooked meat eaten with knife and fork differs from hunger that devours raw meat with the help of hands, nails and teeth. Production thus produces not only the object of consumption but also the mode of consumption, not only objectively but also subjectively. Production therefore creates the consumer.

This is winding up the entire life then:

I wind up a clock, I wind up a chain at the chain of the web at the loom, I wind up the automatic toy: Everywhere it is about mechanical activities, dealing with things: unresisting and lifeless.[1]

This is a short passage from Victor Klemperer, written is his notebook of a philologist, dealing with the LTI, the Lingua Tertii Imperii — and he writes it with reference to the language of the “German Reich”. There the term Aufziehen, winding up had been frequently used to describe the way the fascists had been winding up people, human beings. — Frightening brutality, and still allowing naming the adversary.


words can be like tiny doses of arsenic: they are swallowed without that one is getting aware of it, seemingly they do not show any effect, but some time later the poisonous action is virulent.[2]

Is that the step that stands at the end of such a terror regime? Or is it just the foundation on which another regime is erected, seemingly a completely different one?

I watched a film — Yanis mentioned it once and I thought it could be worthwhile to learn about the Invasion of the body snatchers.

Frightening — especially as I switched directly after the end of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the other film, seeing (one may say) the opposite: The human bodies seemingly snatching the body of the machine, though actually being absorbed by it. This does not happen to the body snatchers: they are really “taking over” — a so-called thriller, but extremely weary when confronting it with the Chaplin film which I watched just after the Invasion

Right at the beginning of the Modern Times, at minute 1:13 ff., we see the shift from the sheep brought to the shambles to the workers now being tied into the e ‘Emporio Ford T‘  … .

As explained on the 12th of September 2015 in an article

Digital Taylorism. A modern version of “scientific management” threatens to dehumanise the workplace

in the Economist

Taylor’s appeal lay in his promise that management could be made into a science, and workers into cogs in an industrial machine. The best way to boost productivity, he argued, was to embrace three rules: break complex jobs down into simple ones; measure everything that workers do; and link pay to performance, giving bonuses to high-achievers and sacking sluggards.

Seen in this light, next the Emporio Armani comes to mind — and all the similar No Logo empires, tayloring in at least two new ways:

The one may be seen as simple form of “imagined inversion of body-snatching”: wearing the Armani skin, walking on the Nikely across the catwalk, following the time as it is set by Patek Philippe, looking at the Swarovski glamour through Gucci-eyes, the head, carried by the gym-athleticised body, the eyes produly peeping out of the makeup-made up face — who knows what is real what is fake, who can know it as we finally are all critical about GM-food and environmental protection and the logo-industries, now presented on the perfected catwalk that hides behind google-algorithms being against GM-food of course allow us to drive the GM-vehicle. The new show is about ourselves, the new “We”, digitally taylored and finally gaining its real form: the total fiction.

Indeed, the other form of tayloring goes beyond simple body snatching and is about Identity Theft. It can only be understood if we honestly consider our own readiness of giving identity away, in the extreme revealed by the Confessions of a Shopaholic (Just ignore the kitschy Happy End) — the extreme form that most of us can avoid, however, without avoiding the form itself: the fiction of the Pearly Gates replaced, taking the form of the shiny imagination of fictive money within the brute world of fictive capital.

It is reflected by Adorno, stating in his Minima Moralia

The trick consists of certifying and expressing the fact that private property no longer belongs to one person, in the sense that the abundance of consumer goods has become potentially so great, that no individual [Individuum] has the right to cling to the principle of their restriction; that nevertheless one must have property, if one does not wish to land in that dependence and privation, which perpetuates the blind continuation of the relations of ownership. But the thesis of this paradox leads to destruction, a loveless lack of attention for things, which necessarily turns against human beings too; and the antithesis is already, the moment one expresses it, an ideology for those who want to keep what is theirs with a bad conscience. There is no right life in the wrong one.

And indeed, the damaged life about which Adorno wrote was located in the damaged world of the after WWII, the world the post-fascist period — still exposing with Adenauer in Germany, McCarthy in the USNA, Kurt Waldheim in the UN, the world being nearly driven to war as the self-proclaimed world-gendarme felt threatened by the Sputnik, end even more so by the Cubans the womb from which it emerged —, this world was founded in the 80/20 rule, mentioned previously. But even this developed further, the 80/20 replaced, or should one say: refined by the 99/1 rule: the oligarchy of the 1 percent, ruling the 99 percent.

The paradox is that the ruling classes themselves obviously lost control – no sympathy, no pity; though perhaps hope? Wolfgang Streeck importantly asked the question

Has Capitalism Seen its Day?

He points out five aspects characterising a crisis of capitalism that mark the potential end: Core of his definition of capitalism is his reference to a “social order build on a promise of boundless collective progress xyz” And the following are the five aspects highlighted in the presentation.

  • The crisis of growth, giving way to stagnation
  • The increasing inequality of the distribution of the remaining growth
  • The reference of the money economy to a growing mountain of promises that are becoming less likely to become true
  • The at least three major crisis the capitalist centre has undergone since the 1970s, namely a matter of inflation, public finances and private debt
  • The inability of the regulatory system to provide satisfying answers.[3]

— Of course, the imaginary plastic world, the identity theft and body snatching can at least serve as metaphor of such “new world (order)”. Perhaps this is so scary real that we have to distract ourselves by going for something really scary these days.

Coming back to that “wrong life”, we see that it gets even further distracted by the fact that the bodies are snatched, now it is better to say: obsessed by the ideas of a certain omnipotence of the alienated existence: on the one hand it is about replacing real life, real experience, real learning by projection on a canvas. Well, you may learn to fly your DIY-aircraft with your DIY-pilot license and you face a heart-attack because after your DIY-economics course you miscalculated the energy consumption of the plane, now being afraid to crash … — don’t worry, you can solve the problem as you surely attended the course on advanced cardiac life support. It is the blackboard-leaning method par excellence.

Politically we are caught in the idea of globality, a state of immeasurableness — the problem is only that we are limited in our understanding of the actual meaning: “We” claim easily for us, and start screaming, shouting, erecting fences as soon as “they” claim the same right. We still lead the debate on ius sanguinis versus ius soli, mixed with a notion of ius culturae, having difficulties with accepting that the “we” has now a completely different meaning:

Et la voix prononce que l’Europe nous a pendant des siècles gavés de mensonges et gonflés de pestilences, car il n’est point vrai que l’œuvre de l’homme est finie que nous n’avons rien à faire au monde que nous parasitons le monde qu’il suffit que nous nous mettions au pas du monde mais l’œuvre de l’homme vient seulement de commencer et il reste à l’homme à conquérir toute interdiction immobilisée aux coins de sa ferveur et aucune race ne possède le monopole de la beauté, de l’intelligence, de la force et il est place pour tous au rendez-vous de la conquête et nous savons maintenant que le soleil tourne autour de notre terre éclairant la parcelle qu’à fixée notre volonté seule et que toute étoile chute de ciel en terre à notre commandement sans limite.

This so well said by Aime Cesaire in his book on the return to the country of birth. Indeed, such “we” has to have understood in a new way, as I ventilated in an interesting discussion with Nadia early this year after the Thinkshop of Laboratorio Expo “Perspectives on Agency and Participation“, which took place on the 15th and 16th of May at the Institute of Advanced Study (IUSS), in Pavia — as summary of the debates will soon be published under the title

You, me and the ‘WE’: Global Responsibility

on the Feltrinelli/EXPO-site.

There I concluded the considerations, surely very much stimulated and enlightened by Nadia, saying

What I kind of propose is a positive notion at the end. I think it happened on the 15th of May about 400 years ago that the Treaty of Westphalia had been signed, I remember the date, but not the year — 1648 was it? It has basically always been seen as the point of beginning of nation building, of the establishment of constitutions and of the modern nation state. Let’s consider this: before, we did not have a nation state. So the optimist part of this is: we did manage for a long time without the nation state, perhaps it is the time now to say that we can do without the nation state again today. It does not mean falling back in time to before 1600, but it may be that we have to look more at the levels of power and redefine the power of global, international organisations: the European Union, the World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations and their regional bodies, the recently declared new Global Goals: there has already been quite some development in this respect and I think through these bodies, taking up what you just said, we need to make aware of the importance, of the content, of the challenge there is. As I said, we cannot do without it, but we have to better define what we want to do with it. And I think this is the point now on which we should focus when talking about urban, environmental or economic sustainability, and of social responsibility.

And talking then about any ius culturae can only be valid when we are ready to think about a new culture, leaving behind, overcoming the arrogance of the centre-right, i.e. the right of the centre to act as standard for the rest of the world. The right has to be one that is not based on centre and periphery, but the right of overcoming those categories. And we may even say the right to overcome categorical thinking. The right of living Multiple Identities as the maestro does …

Do we still not know what Confucius stated as simple principle of learning?

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.

Actually, I think we do know and I saw it the other day in the eyes of 章熟艏. We talked about e-leaning, computer courses and …, then she asked me who would be teaching her next semester. I told her and I saw her joy when I said it would be a human being, not a computer.

It is still time to escape the body snatchers – if we manage to resist them.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death. (Leonardo da Vinci)



[1] A longer quote here from the German text


Ich ziehe eine Uhr auf, ich ziehe die Kette eines Gewebes am Webstuhl auf, ich ziehe ein automatisches Spielzeug auf: überall handelt es sich um mechanische Tätigkeit, die an einem widerstandslosen, leblosen Ding ausgeübt wird.

Vom automatischen Spielzeug, dem drehenden Brummkreisel, dem laufenden und nickenden Tier, führt der Weg zur metaphorischen Anwendung des Ausdrucks: ich ziehe einen Menschen auf. Das heißt: ich necke ihn, ich mache ihn zur komischen Person, zum Hampelmann; Bergsons Erklärung des Komischen, es bestehe in der Automatisierung des Lebendigen, findet sich hier durch den Sprachgebrauch bestätigt.

Gewiß ist „Aufziehen“ in diesem Sinn ein zwar harmloses, aber doch ein Pejorativ. (So nennt der Philologe jede „verschlechterte“ oder verringerte Wortbedeutung; der Kaisername Augustus, der Erhabene, ergibt als Pejorativ den dummen August, den Zirkusclown.) (Victor Klemperer, LTI – Notizbuch eines Philologen (1947) Oktober 2012 in Allgemein, eBooks, Exzerpte und Sprachen

[2]      Or in the original by Klemperer

Worte können sein wie winzige Arsendosen: sie werden unbemerkt verschluckt, sie scheinen keine Wirkung zu tun, und nach einiger Zeit ist die Giftwirkung doch da.

[3]            Sure, it still needs an agent — Streeck does not discuss this. And I will not discuss this shortcoming as it would end not least in a critical debate of social-democraticism.



The Murderer and the Victims

In particular in recent times remarks are concerning in particular the catholic church … . Though there is on the one hand the fear when it comes to religious fundamentalism, many initiatives taken by the current pope are celebrated – and indeed I joined a little bit in, asking in the title of a contribution for the Primavera vaticana?, i.e. Vatican Spring. Now there had been the one celebrated ‘Spring’ in the recent times which turned out to be the beginning of a hot autumn. And though there are the surely critical remarks and initiatives as not least in the Evangelli Gaudium and the Laudatio Sì and also the recent proposals in connection with abortion and divorce, one should not overlook that these can well be a threat: on the one hand a kind of Trojan horse; on the other hand a suicidal fuse, provoking fundamentalist catholics to start a palace coup. Well, in any case, much could be said and documented, also on the modern way inquisition – I found an article recently, and of course did not store it, post it …

With all this, I find another thing pretty interesting point: I received a hint on a BBC cast, specifically on China, even promising the unveiling of the Secrets of China. A young presenter. Indeed, she reveals some interesting stuff, gives some insight into real life of some people. I think she is much too positive in some way: on young people, the gambling addiction etc, youth issues – too positive and somewhat naïve. So I checked up on the presenter as I found it interesting to see such a young presenter being so …, well, in some instances ‘critical (which can be translated into conservative) about how young people live today’, the life of her own generation. The result – if this is her: she walked some … let’s say: ‘strange paths’, and if she would not have been as lucky as she has been, she would be at this stage in prison, undergo a drug detox treatment or already at the stage of addiction therapy – or worse: without it; in some way she is still behaving in the same way though she has now other ways with exactly the reputation these starlet producers provide and is now starting a career as ‘everything’: documentaries, fashion, activism …, as a veil and wrap of nothing else than the old habits, now ‘authorised’ by the Holy grail of BBC, fashion magazines and others ….

There is no reason to contest what is stated; and there are also some moments where one mentions the genuine approach and ‘empathy’ of the documentarist. The actually shocking about this is that it is not really about China: it is a ‘slow motion picture’ of many developments [including cosmetic surgeries, gaming and computer addiction, drugs, a lost youth, the pressure from careerism and (threat of) unemployment] which in western societies are now regretted, and faced with helpless despair, currently in part taken over in China, where inequality can easier be seen as ‘we’, the folks in the wild west are usually somewhat used to it, intoxicated by the Hello-press or to overlook it or are not able to see it easily as they happen in secret corners or where we cannot see them due to ‘commercial censorship’. We are somewhat used to it to such an extent that we often do not even hesitate when reading the paper like the Corriere della Sera: The edition of September 3rd showed on page 6 an article on Le tragedie in uno scatto, horrible photos, including the famous from the Vietnam war, showing the naked child, screaming and running away from the US-Napalm-bomb source of its pain and on page 7 we see an ad: Emporio Armani. – Yes, if reading the name it may sound a bit like the story about an armed empire, the arms being those of designer and finance capitalism – and we know that ‘this economy kills’ as Francis said. Sure, if you ‘join the wrong forces’ and are on the losers end, they will still gain, literally make profit after sending you to jail – saying all this in connection with a critique of the China-series is just saying this and has nothing to do with China, let alone the defence of any political past or presence. Still, it is worthwhile to read the ‘official critique‘ of the series … – there is surely some good reason for stating that


‘Professional media practice,’ the Xinhua commentary reads, ‘should be to interview sociologists… and education experts to give authoritative explanations; but the BBC has not done this.’ Instead, they say the programme ‘selectively uses non-mainstream phenomena to give subjective judgements the impression of objectivity.’

What we can learn from the series, though not necessarily outspoken, is that there is a China that is now kept out of the roundelay of the centre states in different ways. Andre Gunder Frank’s thesis, suggesting the Development of Underdevelopment has surely not completely lost its value also for analysing today’s (under)developments. And surely the series could have shown (it is stated in parenthesis) that it is exactly this fact leading to many of the problems: an over-stressed youth extreme inequality and so on: the attempt to build another armed empire or even to take over the existing one even if the arms are not the traditional ones but now those of brands and designs. But when it comes to talking about empires, it is still too often forgotten that the Most Violent Nation is indeed to be found in another corner of the world – and the violence there is really penetrating the entire society, coined by a high degree of feeling supremacy as ultimate characteristic of the state and the nation. This surely is somewhat different to what we read in the Diplomatic Words of Wisdom.

It may be far fetched, but interestingly: the UN-resolution on Debt Restructuring (I did not find it, only reports on it) had been adopted by a majority but against countries where the most important forces are referring to be servants of religious faith, in particular USNA and FRG. And it is a country where Christianity plays a major role, also in the reference of the relevant power holder (Hungary), now beginning to move military forces to the border to ‘solve’ the problem of migration. And …, well, it was also the Christians who did not allow critiques in West Germany of the 1970s entering state services, Christians who are again attempting to close Corvinus university in Budapest (or at least the relevant part of critical work there) while they are putting up barbed wire and engaging the army against migrants … and who make (with reference to god and the good will and hope) empty promises which let people end up on the street…