forever …

One prime social function of a university is to inquire freely and to criticize freely And the more managed, the more planned, the more ‘efficient’ the rest of society grows, the more important this function becomes.

(from: E.P. Thompson (ed.), 1970: Warwick University Ltd. . Industry, Management and the Universities; Nottingham: Spokesman, 2014; 39)


Uncivilised people

Much had been, will be and can be said about tax evasion. One point is that there is an obvious link between paying taxes and civilisation, which, if turned around, demands to conclude that those who evade paying taxes, and of course especially those who do it on  a lagre scale for personal enrichment, are simply uncivilised people. A link that is also confirmed as being “legally relevant”, even the US-law considering in some way civilisation as legal(ly relevant) issue. the issue in question had been raised by judge Holmes, in the case

Compania General de Tabacos v. Collector, 275 U.S. 87 (1927) – Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue (U.S. Supreme Court, No. 42, Argued October 18, 19, 1927, Decided November 21, 1927, 275 U.S. 87)

Holmes stated there that

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure.

The Quote Investigator came up with several other occasions and perspectives on bringing up this link  between civilisation and  payment of taxes.

And it is surely worrying then to see how many uncivilised people are occupying positions not only in big business it also in governments and national and international governing and  governance bodies. However, mind ….

New Princedoms

I know that several people are afraid of drawing long and occasionally somewhat contorted lines, preferring more technical approaches as those suggested in modern text books. But I am a bit afraid that this only defers matters and the history books in 50, 100, 200, 500 years, opening the view on the wider perspectives, will evoke the same disbelieve as the books today when they teach us about the cruelties of ancient and medieval times.

Sure, Keynes said in the First Annual Report of the Arts Council [1945-1946]

The day is not far off when the economic problem will take back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the ear and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems — the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behaviour and religion.

Now, when we look around, we can see already some of these grandchildren amongst us … — well, not really amongst us but when peeping across the walls of the gated communities we gain some insight. We then read for instance about an artist that

she also insisted she worked less than 20 days a year in order to be with their family.

She said: “I have to make one movie a year because I have to invest in their future and I have to be able to pay their way through college and be able to provide for them. I’m looking for movies that will shoot in Los Angeles, for projects where I’m part of an ensemble so I can shoot in and out in 10-20 days. It’s all about trying to spend as little time away from my kids as possible.”

Sooooo caring — this had been the “news” from August the 20th. News of the same day inform us about Rome:

Il funerale si è svolto in pieno giorno con sei cavalli con pennacchio che trainano una antica carrozza funebre, una banda che intona prima le note composte da Nino Rota per il film “Il Padrino”, poi la colonna sonora di “2001 odissea nello spazio” e la canzone Paradise, altra colonna sonora, ma, questa volta, del film “Laguna Blu”. Una scenda degna de “Il Padrino”. Adesso esplode la polemica per capire chi abbia dato l’autorizzazione al funerale.

It is about a “festive funeral” for a Mafia boss in the middle of Rome, blocking the entire traffic, which is bad enough though we are used to it. But dead as he is, he still sends a clear political message about “governance today”. Of course, this is frightening. And reading further one wonders what is more frightening:

  • the fact that such funeral happened — and had been allowed
  • or the fact that there are now investigations called for, signalling a state that is substantially weak … — and can only deal with the technical side of what happened, but does not have anything to say on the “state of the nation” that actually makes such things happen.

From my side, no word on this occasion on the church — the relevant article in today’s Il Messaggero’s Cronaca is written by Mauro Evangelisti.

It is indeed a sign that politicians — be they state actors, “societal civilians” or corporate actors — are completely disempowered, let alone people being able to gain and maintain power — just these days I stated in an article on the “Death of Representative Democracy”:

Und paradoxer Weise ist gerade auf diese Weise der Demos von den Herrschenden gewählt: an technischen Entscheidungen darf es teilnehmen und auf dem Jahrmarkt der Eitelkeiten darf es sich tummeln, während die eigentliche Politik hinter der Bühne gemacht wird.

Nur auf der Erscheinungsebene hat sich das Politikfeld zu einer Bühne verwandelt, auf der sich die Eitlen tummeln: Konsumbürger, Aktivbürger, Staatsbürger, Vereinsbürger … — für jede(n) findet sich eine scheinbar einheitliche Bühne. Sachverstand wird gern gesehen — soweit er sich an Details zermürbt. Als großer Sachverstand aber stört er die Schau, denn die großen Rollen bleiben immer noch den Mächtigen vorbehalten.

In short, I highlight there the degeneration of democracy — it is now a playing field of vanity, providing a stage for “different kinds of citizens” as consumption citizens, active citizens, citizens of nation states, citizens of associations … . They can present their specific skills, get crunched by discussing technical details, thus hiding the fct that the real power is still just that: power by way of force.

The latter can be taken from the interview with Yanis Varoufakis:

HL: You’ve said creditors objected to you because “I try and talk economics in the Eurogroup, which nobody does.” What happened when you did?

YV: It’s not that it didn’t go down well — it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on — to make sure it’s logically coherent — and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.

(Varoufakis, Yanis, 2015: The full transcript of the former Greek Finance Minister’s first interview since resigning; Interview in the New Statesman: 13.7.2015; 17:37)

It remains a declaration of war — a scenery that is not much more than a translation of what Bert Brecht had in mind, talking about Freedom and Democracy.

So it makes much sense when the German PDS notes in a press release highlights

that Tsipras decision to step back and to call for bend elections shows how far the intervention of the creditors in the national sovereignty of Greece reaches: under the conditions imposed by the institutions Syriza can not fulfill its mandate to govern.

Now, it remains an open question if and to which extent politicians should be blamed — at least the intellectual elites have to bear their part. After recent allegations against Zygmunt Baumann, a new muddy wave had been launched. Just believe me, as I refuse to name the person who does not deserve an increase of his citation-index — as a commentator rightly states, it is an

appallingly crass piece of attention grabbing nonsense.

(sorry for omitting reference, Leslie — see the argument before)

In sum it is about this: a critique bringing forward that Bauman, on many occasions, is guilty of self-plagiarism. It is one of many similar debates: substance does not matter, is not even recognised and only form counts — as it is form that can be counted — see also the recent entry here.

If we want to look at figures, we should look at figures that are relevant: unemployment rates, orientation of economic policies on national performance instead of global responsibility, the privatisation of hospitals and the subsequent maltreatment of patients and staff, the Making of the Migration Crisis, going hand in hand with fears of extinction of nations, prices that make accommodation unaffordable, thus opening space for speculation and leaving places prone to alienation by different forms of   ghettoisation …

We can be somewhat cynical-optimists and turn Clausewitz’ statement around. Instead of

War is the continuation of politics by other means

it is nowadays still:

Politics is the continuation of politics by other means.

Indeed, a matter of establishing New Princedoms, while the old princes are finding their pompous chaperon to the last rest.

But how long will this last? the last rest, and the war by politics?

— Nomen est omen? A friend of mine said the other day that the danger of the Northern American trump …, ops Trump, with capital T of course, is that he says what many USNA-citizens want to hear. And also Mr., ops, sorry: Dr. Schäuble and his mates clearly showed this link between the two wars.

Even if history does not repeat itself, the question remains if we can see at the horizon a new Spartacus, a new Cicero or a new Cesar … .

There are thoughtful words coming from a possibly unexpected corner of the world, written in a letter by Fidel Castro Ruz on the 5th of July of this year, and published in the Granma

Cuba conoce el valor y la capacidad combativa de las tropas rusas, que unidas a las fuerzas de su poderoso aliado la República Popular China, y otras naciones del Medio Oriente y Asia, tratarán siempre de evitar la guerra, pero jamás permitirán agresión militar alguna sin respuesta contundente y devastadora.

En la actual situación política del planeta, cuando la paz y la supervivencia de nuestra especie penden de un hilo, cada decisión, más que nunca, debe ser cuidadosamente elaborada y aplicada, de modo que nadie pueda dudar de la honestidad y la seriedad con las que muchos de los dirigentes más responsables y serios luchan hoy por enfrentar las calamidades que amenazan al mundo.

Of course, there is more to be said.

Death of civilization….

I received a mail …

Il giorno 13/set/2014, alle ore 14:30, …

It is a death ,..

Actually I received the mail after arriving in Berlin for a planning meeting of a network on precarity …

I follow the article – thinking that it is a somewhat unusual death notice, though I know the person who sent it. The article is speaking about the library closures going on in the UK, it could and should speak bout the library closures in the global north-west …

… and the moral …?

Never allow dead people making politics or policies …:-(

I rely by adding another point – referring to something I read earlier in another mail:

Libraries ,,doors to knowledge and haven of peace ,,,what is there (in the libraries) not to like. For me ? To make a choice ,,,hate to do as I am greedy about certain things ( eg : books) Having to return them ,,

I personally would have a huge library, part of it destroyed by my parents: you could name it a “private book burning” though in that case they intentionally drowned them. Part of it actually drowned in my Irish estate – d e to frost damaging some pipes; others still existing somewhere I could not store them anymore. Just a side remark on the latter: I offered a huge store to the university library in Cork – for free: interesting unpublished stuff s well, from EU (or EC) times: documents, project documentation, project analysis …. They declined: No space, but not least “it is not in English” (just in alien languages as Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian, Swedish).

Today the same university library in Cork, as many others, stores the books somewhere, one has to order them and they will be available next day, perhaps even the afternoon of the same day.

Sure, there is a problem of space – but there is a problem of building cages, prisons … I have been very privileged at times: One of the universities where I studied provided all year round access (I think it had been closed just one day, they called Christmas). Overnight and holiday limitations applied: only one entrance open. It had been in a way just one huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge room, probably one entire floor of the University in Bielefeld. All departments; sure “we” have had “our” area: economics, law, sociology; but in some way we shared the “room” with physics, quantum mechanics, nuclear biology, impressionism, renaissance architecture, philosophy of Mencius – things we sometimes (many times) did not know how to spell, we did not know that they existed. But as much as there had been in the 1840s a spectre hunting Europe, there had been the spectre of universal knowledge hunting many of us in such a library. I encountered this spectre also when I worked (did I ever work? Didn’t I only study throughout my life?), so many books I didn’t understand, but being there and begging for respect, though I should have been the begging one: asking humbly to be part of this affluence of knowledge …

… there we come to the tricky point, the im-materialisation of the spectre, emerging as spirit.

Marx said once (something as) The idea turns into a material force if it gains the support of the masses (bad memory, bad translation – I remember only the German original:

Die Idee wird zur materiellen Gewalt wenn sie die Massen ergreift

Another, very special experience when I studied (or worked …, or played, or worked on the project of changing the world?) in Amsterdam. I remember once finding myself in part of the law library, asking one of the librarians a silly question. Actually, silly had been that I asked as he wanted to see my library card which I handed over. He looked at it and said

Hm…, actually you are not allowed to be in this area …. – but …, well for these documents you have to go to the third shelve …, actually I will come with you and give you the box with the commented drafts of the legislation ….

On another occasion I visited the library for anthropology, looking for a special book. I walked along the Prinzengracht (if I remember correctly, may be it had been the Herrengracht) and looked for house number (lets say) 378. Walked along, saw house number 374, 376, 380, 382 — strange, walked back, and the house number 378 had been a house without number, I entered: I saw “glimpses of a library”: a sign with opening hours, the name … . “Glimpses” because it had been just one of the beautiful “private houses” now being used as library. And the library had been only really coming to the fore after I left the corridor – indoors one could walk into house 376 – just the ordinary rooms but full of books. Sure, systematic, but at the same time due to the architecture not: one section ended …, and had been continued in another room, perhaps not the next because that had been used for another subject area.

In such places you CAN CHOOSE; and nothing has to be returned because it cannot be taken out – all remains OURS: written by us, inherited by us, read by us, carried on by us.

I won’t tell you about my stays in the library for theology, for philosophy (sitting under a beautiful “Rembrandt-like “ paining, a “reading cushion” and on it the second addition of Spinoza, in Latin, in front of me (and admittedly the Latin language added to the pleasure, though caused as ell some pain; and I will not expand on being more or less the only reader for several weeks in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam: arts …. history, techniques, epochs, great artists, exhibitions … (well, I could have gone to look at van Rijns “Night watch” as break – but going there before, being on my own just with security, had been more fun…) – sitting there in the reading room: computer, fountain pen, book from the library, note book … I remember a gentleman with two kids walking along (it is one of these “show libraries”, but usually people watched from the balcony). The guy, standing with the kids next to me, pointing at me, I could not hear, don’t know if he really said

… You see, this is what they did and how lived in those old times ….

I still buy books, and I get your point

what is there (in libraries) not to like – For me ? To make a choice .. hate to do as I am greedy about certain things ( eg : books). Having to return them …

But try to get my point: I do not know if I really want to buy more books, want to own them, instead of sitting in a good library, reading, browsing, possibly meeting people, talking with them about what they read, what I read, what we read.

It is a privilege – and it is THIS privilege that makes me coming back to Frances: his camminare insieme.

In a completely different context a Hungarian friend of mine wrote

But it is a big question whether spirituality (and genuine morality) ought to have a basis in faith (or religion).

And she did not mean spirituality in the strict sense, but something of empathy, solidarity, justice …

Her answer simply

I don’t think so

And my answer is the same. I replied to her

I think that being only based in this, it will fail – there must be the material force …

And one of the material forces is the provision of common spaces, common ways on which we can walk together. The church, and other orders, provide that; however, “the public” – after undermining its own basis – cannot do so anymore, lost its own ground. – Slowly but surely it pushed people out of the public realm, calling it enlightenment, but actually meaning reducing them on instruments of instrumental reason, torsos calculating utilities …

As I wrote earlier:

Sure, there is a problem of space – but there is a problem of building cages, prisons …

Books, being imprisoned in storerooms warehouses, libraries … closed because of lack of money … – the revenge lurking around the corner: prisons that have to accommodate those people who could not access education, who had been excluded from society, who lived in a society that actually did not exist anymore, that had been reduced by liberals, by the right. Reduced by the liberals? Well, that is exactly it when what Thatcher did when programmatically stating:

There is now such thing as society.

I guess analytically she had been right; but she did not mean it that way, she meant it as program ….


Berlin, I walk to the meeting point …, passing memories, memorials.

Walking along the Spree where the life of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht found its end, a memorial plaque saying

The defiance of life and the brutality against human beings show people’s ability to inhumanness. It can and should not be a means to conflict resolution of any kind.[1]

Passing presence and future ….

Paul Farmer, a medical anthropologist stating:

Their sickness is a result of structural violence: neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress.

Surely all this also being part of those things that have to be discussed when we talk about war, standing up against it


[1]            Original

Die Missachtung des Lebens und die Brutalität gegen den Menschen lassen die Fähigkeit der Menschen zur Unmenschlichkeit erkennen. Sie kann und darf kein Mittel irgendeiner Konfliktlösung sein und bleiben.