Which means?

Which means?

— the standard question when working in several countries, across continents and a meeting has to be arranged: 12:00 o’clock — meaning nothing if it is not referring to a specific time-zone which, as context, makes it possible to answer the question ‘what time is it there?’

Which means!

— this time, after having returned to Europe — it is stated with an exclamation mark … : being [w]here again, means at the moment at least being in a place that causes exploding in the stir of feelings of extreme ‘alienation’, while not being sure about the cause[s]. It is about learning as ‘Foreigner in the own country – viewing from inside or asking: Are we serious at all?[1]

  • alienation …. , land- and city-scapes that are as distant from each other that it cannot be grasped as something real;
  • alienation, looking at the involvement in academic work of different levels, the distance between them going beyond the distance between the ground level of a cottage and the top level of Burj Khalifa as the world’s highest building;
  • alienation when it comes to different love stories: teatrale e tragico but also other fun stories … , divertente, sull’amore platonico, preguidica la vanità — as long as one sits solely in the audience it makes them simply enjoyable, while standing on the stage is at times difficult;
  • alienation, when standing in the shop, looking at the price tags, calculating: it may be ‘cheaper’[2] to buy a new shirt …, coffeemaker … not bringing the one already owned to the dry cleaner …, not going to the coffee shop for a cuppa …
  • alienation, when seeing someone taking keys out of the handbag, highlighting the ‘own’ as proper part of the proper life, though contradicting the reality of the loss of property, the accumulation by dispossession, characterising life in societies of which the social is defined by its dissolution
  • alienation when thinking about representatives, figures whose work consists of representing and presenting, flying first class while others do not find the mere resources to go to work or to study …
  • alienation when receiving e-mails, using addresses that actually do not exist, institutions and institutes pretensions: people mentioned although they left for other positions, large statutory bodies sending replies to inquiries after many weeks, with the surprising ‘signature’: sent from my blackberry …
  • alienation when looking at the stabilities: the same places hosting the same begging, pleading faces: ho fame …., the same churchy-type hypocritical nuns, surely loving — meaningfully loving by giving, though too often missing it by not taking, where taking is understood as

grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality

  • alienation when feeling obliged to ‘defend the other’ — too often simply as reply to ridiculous prejudices that would even in a mediocre cartoon simply stupid, and unfortunately also dangerously igno-arrogant
  • alienation when accessing the web: fast, unVPNdisturbed, free and uncensored and then getting aware of the very personalised notions, all defining the rhythm of the web-movement … — algorithms of another VeryPersonalisedNotions.

Isn’t this all about expectations of meaning where one wonders if there is any meaning that can be defined as matter of humanity, let alone in humane terms, all this and much more opening the way to alienation, meaninglessness and …

… and where the only meaning seems to be the ability to adapt, adopt, into the world of hypocrisy,

stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring

in the illusion that it may end as it did in the case of the frogs, the one surviving as he resisted to stop floundering after falling into the milk jar so that finally

the frantic moves of his companion had churned the milk into butter.

All he had to do was to jump out of the jar

What Brecht grasped as matter of the work and exploitation process

Dig away!

Major Chung owns a wood

See it’s cleared before tonight

That’s orders. Understood?[3]

In the original German version

Trabt schneller!

Herr Dschinn hat einen Wald

Der muß vor Nacht gerodet sein

Und Nacht ist jetzt schon bald!

is now body-soul-snatching the entire life, reflected in terms as care-work, relationship-work, love-work even where it should not be a matter of the supposed ‘oldest profession’ – life-work, where, as known from Goethe

to nonsense reason turns,

and benefit to worry.

… I saw this earlier, at Roma Termini, the central train station

It seems then there is nothing we ACTUALLY ARE and overcoming alienation may really be a matter of ‘being what you want’ … and the Kiko Milano, the shop, advertising this way, is surely only one of many shops, designers, political forces, think tanks … that will tell us.

Sure, the question that needs to be asked is the following:


What is new, what is different …?

Those olden days, so often presenting themselves as golden ways on which life trotted along, it had been the priests and the dignitaries of the villages, those power holders, hegemons who changed the labels, and with it the matter that enables …

Isn’t all this locating us in both cases — the traditional and the contemporary society, and also in the old world and the new world — in the middle of The Lonely Crowd,[4] allowing some variation, but not allowing escaping loneliness, leaving us in different ways alone with Man’s Search for Meaning.[5]

Locating us as alie-loners[6], though all of us akin to a similar underlying sentiment so that Frankl could indeed suggest that every era needs its own therapeutic paradigms.

The time where we are increasingly forced alie-loners in a world that provides the freedom of being what we want, as it makes it difficult to be what we are, ‘undesigned’, but loved and loving as reflected in Frankl’s words:

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.

Alienation as designer-life in designer-dresses with designer-bags, knowing the time from the designer-watches takes place in gated socio-spatial realms in which language is reduced on information about models and their functioning about which Erwin Chargaff wrote:

The more limited and circumscribed the question, the more likely a definite and comprehensible answer, i.e., one that adds to, and fits into, a previously conceived system or model. In limited sciences, such as physics or chemistry, which are surrounded by boundaries, as it were, the multiplicity of frequently overlapping answers, collected in the course of centuries, has produced a broad area of understanding, though even here much is still obscure.

But biology is limitless, and our experiments are only drops out of an ocean that changes its shape with every rolling wave. Because our questions must skirt our fundamental ignorance of the nature of life, the answers we receive can be no more than a travesty of truth; a truth, moreover, that may be so much of a plural that we can never comprehend it. The manner in which questions are asked, i.e., experiments designed, is either completely random or conditioned by our ideas of a preestablished harmony, a harmony that we seldom recognize as a contract with God that He has never signed.[7]

And it has as its very consequence either hyperactivity — the rat running in the wheel because it is running in the wheel because it is running in the wheel, and the only reason is …, running in the wheel, maintaining the movement, mistaking it for development.

Or it is the mentioned

stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring

Alienation as pain, pain that does not find a cure

Nicht alle schmerzen sind heilbar, denn manche schleichen sich tiefer und tiefer ins Herz hinein, während Tage und Jahre verstreichen werden Sie Stein.[8]

In my translation

Some are getting deeper and deeper under the skin, into the heart, and over the years they establish themselves as stone.


And the religion — aren’t Frankel and Chargaff, and so many others returning to it. Arriving in Rome the other day: there had been the churchy-type hypocritical nuns as a kind of welcome, at the airport a high concentration of these globalists, ranting against the fundamentalists of other origin, without considering the own religion possibly being fundamentalist … — Perhaps the attraction is a reflection of the commitment to integrity, the holistic character of the world which surely is needed. And still, I refrain from it. I once heard a friend, speaking about a book that was deeply coined by the Indian religious thinking, saying:

Yes, I don’t buy into it. I just read it as general reflection, stepping across the religious part.

And it means to face the paradox of reality, to accept the contradiction and tension that accepting the holistic character of the world does not mean to accept that there is one world only.


Pánta rheî


[1]            Ausländer im eigenen Land – ein Blick von innen Oder: Was machen wir denn bloß?; in: Nachrichtendienst des Deutschen Vereins für öffentliche und private Fürsorge, Frankfurt/M., Issue 11/2000: pp. 376 – 382 (based on a presentation on the 75th Deutsche Fuersorgetag, November 2000 in Hamburg)

[2]            in inverted commas as this is of course only a matter of the mney paid here and now, not considering externalisation, social ‘meaning of exploitation’ that defined such prices along the different levels …

[3]            Brecht: Good Person of Szechwan. Song of the eighth elephant.

[4]            David Riesman/Nathan Glazer/Reuel Denney, 1950: The lonely Crowd. A study of the Changing American Character

[5]            Viktor Frankl, 1946: Man’s Search for Meaning – original title: …trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager

[6]            as composite of alienation and loner

[7] Chargaff, Erwin, 1978: Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life Before Nature, New York: The Rockefeller University Press: 169

[8]            Poem by Ricarda Huch

To start with the end …

To start with the end … – The day I am talking about, around the time my little excursion comes to the end, I see a poster:

… Siamo tutte e tutti palestinesi …

one can surely read this in different ways – and the debates during the recent days, driving academics on one of the mailing lists, of which I am subscriber, to the highest levels of irrationality, clearly show the ambiguities.

Well, leaving the question of Palestine and the war in that part of the world aside, I may come to the beginning of the day, still dealing with Un sogno di liberta

More or less the very first part a bit strange for me – chatting, catching up with students – though it suggests it is about the question WhatsApp it is actually more about getting an answer …

Off to work then – the more or less regular Sunday morning meeting: about every second week we meet with a small group via internet-phone conference, connecting Australia, China, Ireland, Italy and South Africa. It is a small group, a small research, but at this stage a nice habit: catching up, on work related stuff and occasionally on other things (in this way the Monnet Method work for us: do business and become friends). I stay for a while in the bar – Internet, the nice atmosphere of Trastevere and …, well, still waiting for the answer – but that is another story.


A youngish woman approaches me, holding a map in her hand, trying to cover my phone and the fountain pen next to the computer … . I only say something, … expressing …, well: a kind of sympathy. But Cavallo, sitting at the next table, supposedly academic – economist and giving out against a narrow understanding, and at tenish already emptying at least the second bottle of beer … – Bufallo shouts immediately and loudly.

No, just go away …

And that is what she does, with her the other two …: another young woman, one child …

I am sitting there, feel somewhat paralysed – not because just having escaped the loss of some valuables, but because as I do not like the need to be protective, I do not feel the right which I have: owning something. – Rights, justice …, I wrote more or less a lot on the topic.

Isn’t that protection somewhat a war, imposed on us?


I recall one section of the article I just finalised:

Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen discuss part of this dynamic, stating that

(and I quote)

“Modes of production and consumption that become hegemonic in certain regions or countries can be generalized globally through a ‘capillary’ process, meaning in a broken manner and with considerable gaps in time and space. That process is associated with concrete corporate strategies and interests in capital valorization, trade, investment, and geopolitics; with purchasing power; and with concepts of an attractive mode of living that predominate in the societies into which these modes diffuse by way of the world market. ‘Generalization’ does not mean that all people live alike, but rather that certain, deeply rooted concepts of the ‘good life’ and of societal development are generated and are reflected in the everyday life of a growing number of people, not only symbolically but also materially. The symbolic dimension is important because what is at issue is not only the coherence of the regime of accumulation, but also the emergence and everyday practice of dynamics peculiar to this mode of living – which are of course not separate from the macroeconomic sphere.”[1]

(after the quote I continue)

However, this formulation gives the impression that such mode of living is solely or at least predominantly based on a hegemonic strategy, aiming on establishing a specific lifestyle. Such claim towards life determination is surely an important aspect. However, the present thesis is that we find again a two-layered pattern, the mode of living being based in a life regime which provides a foundation, inherently based in the accumulation regime. Of course, in some way this is also a political question, a question of hegemony – today a statement as “it is the rich who should be ashamed, not the poor”[2] may not even be made in serious terms, i.e. in terms that question the economic dimension of the problem. The mechanism is actually very simple: Those “rich” people are not simply rich in terms of affluence but also in terms of the determination of what is necessary, i.e. the inherent link established by what had been outlined earlier by quoting Erika K. Gubrium and Ivar Lødemel, namely “that having a job is not just a matter of economic security. In a social sense, it is a primary arena for attaining the dignity associated with social normalisation”. This is the firm mechanism, welding accumulation, regulation, life and living together.

This scene in Trastevere makes unmistakably clear what this means …. – the closure of the social: individualism …, but also the mutual protection of the haves against the have-nots.

No, don’t get me wrong: I am grateful in some way: Bufallo saved my property, “saved me”.

But I still would like even more to hear the same outcry against those who permanently steal the property of those who then themselves feel or are forced to steel.


Some more lines from the recent days come to my mind – this time from a mail exchange: Somebody expressed his hope that I would be OK, not effected by the Russian-Ukrainian air battle, conducted on the cost of civilians.

My reply:

Regarding the plane disaster: all fine so far, thank you. Having said this: in some way we are all effected, aren’t we?

And I receive a mail saying

You are absolutely! If one room leaks, the house is at risk. This Israel-Gaza conflict is worrisome!!!!

I continue briefly on this, writing

If it would be only one room, …

May be I am at times too pessimist; may be it is just a personal think (which, in a way, I hope): remaining in the metaphor of leaks …I have the impression we need to think about a new version of the large ship, saving the world. …

Well, not believer …, so failing here again.

Talking about ships ..: if you see how immigration is tackled by the EU, people stranding here, if they are lucky ending up on the shores of Italy …, lucky enough to be mistreated and abused here (in Europe) … – or is it that those who drown are more lucky?

Well, back to reality, it is early, a Sunday and I finally drive up the hill and do what I postponed for so many times: a visit in the park that hosts the Villa Doria Pamphilj.

A short message to Birgit, talking about this park:

It is some version of the Borghese park, though less crowded.

I sit down for a while, having to read …

… and I finally go for a small walk: the villa xyz is standing there as massive block: power of admirable beauty, of wealth and of still palpable political power.

Past …, history … and still

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.[3]

and this is what I feel just that moment, walking, seeing the people enjoying their promenade, their chatting, the kids playing well behaved … and crying when falling off the bike, immediately being rescued by the father (yes, it is Sunday and then fathers can join the rescue team) or mother.


A city of contrasts, indeed – and a city of some astonishing stability – not indicated by the amount of signs of ancient times but by the anxiety, widespread by the visibility of invisible power, the clear lines that divide the city – I have to check if and if so, for how long Antonio Gramsci lived here, in a climate that surely provoked theorising hegemony.

Anyway, though the park is large and had been somewhat underpopulated, the pressure remains … – possibly the work on finalizing the book on precarity, in connection with the heard and unheard cries and screams brings me into this mood. And I have to move, not just home but …

… I really know this place from 吕思xyz’s and 陈旭xyz’s visit – when they came to Rome we met in the park and stayed or a while. And actually I had been happy when Birgit said one day we could go there – the secret project of the comparative study on ice cream.

So again this day: after the Villa Doria Pamphilj, I go now to the palazzo del freddo, wait to be served and feel in some surprising way in one of the most Italian quarters of Rome,[4] an impression that is not changed by the fact that there are many, perhaps even mostly non-indigenous Romans. However, these people did not behave like “the Australians”, like “the Americans”, The KMT-Chinese when they arrived and genocided the indigenous Australians, Indians and for example the Bunun ….. – Just reminds me I have to get in touch with Rayen again, asking how the Mapuche are doing …


Prendo il gelato con me – join the people in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II – history here too, tradition: the young girls and boys from Bolivian, China … Venezuela proudly showing off: one dancing dress is more colorful than the other, they are dancing, laughing, fool around … and are crying … in order to get up again before papà (yes, it is Sunday and then fathers can join the rescue team) or mamma arrive.

– There may be a good reason to go more often to the little parks like the Torlonia, or the one in Testaccio – or also the other large parks as the Borghese, much more a people’s park …. Or there may a good reason to finally open the also doors of the Villa Doria Pamphilj …

Sure, in some way many of the small parks, the small places and even backyards lack some of the beauty, magnificence and surely the order of the gardens – be they Pamphiljic or papal. But they have another grandesse which is often overlooked, undervalued: I heard many times people saying that all these nobles: the Medici, the Pamphilj, the Borgehese … returned a good share from the profit they made back to society. And it would surely be foolish to deny the beauty of the works of Michelangelo, da Vinci, etc. . But the others, the unknown, the unnamed, the dwarfs and voles didn’t take anything, in first instance. And that is something that surely has its own grandesse, often remaining unknown, unnamed, existing as dwarfs and voles – finally

[m]en make their own history,

even if

they do not make it just as they please


The tradition of all dead generations …, it is there, but its character as a nightmare is perhaps more hidden, or it may even have given way to a certain jauntiness …

… Siamo tutte e tutti palestinesi … – we are all foreigners in occupied lands, working on soil we do not own, although we may possess it.[5]

– somebody covering it with a map, giving us mobile phones but taking our voices from us ….

 Un sogno di liberta


[1]            Brand, Ulrich/Wissen, Markus, 2012: Global Environmental Politics and the Imperial Mode of Living: Articulations of State-Capital Relations in the Multiple Crisis; in: Globalizations, 9, 4: 547-560; here: 549; http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14747731.2012.699928: 549

[2]            Choudhry, Sohail, 2014: Pakistan: A Journey of Poverty-Induced Shame; in: Gubrium, Erika K./Pellissery, Sony/Lødemel, Ivar (eds.): The Shame of It. Global Perspectives on Anti-Poverty Policies; Bristol/Chicago: Policy Press: 111-132: 126

[3]            Marx, Karl: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. 1852

[4]            sure, one of has to be underlined – I guess there is are many Rome’s in Rome

[5]            Actually the English language makes it difficult to express it: ownership is here understood as legal deed, commonly attested by a notary. Possession, on the other hand, is understood as (f)actual control over something. And of course, we see again, the tricks language plays as the English language, indeed, proposes both as synonyms; and indeed (sic!) jurisprudence frequently refers to “established law”, i.e. a right derived from custom … – To make things even more interesting, there is at first sight no clear distinction between common and customary law, something that is even carried over into positive law that always suggests that judgments are made “in the name of the people”.