Between Worlds – Between Times

It is some time ago now, I made a trip which was a bit like time travel – France – Catalonia – France and going on from there …
Well, I can say I escaped those days that massacre of Barcelona, though having been very close to the crime scene. At stake is, however, not spatial closeness – what makes me still trembling, and at times near to crying, is something else – it is the same shock that followed me for some time, after having left the French embassy in Rome on the 7th of January 2015, the day of the ‘Charlie Hebdo shooting’. It is a bit like history condensing, being forced into a nutshell, feeling the need to discard the fetters that are lurking around the corners of uneven development.
Indeed, it is some time ago now,I made that trip which was a bit like time travel, leaving the massacre for a while aside …
Two days or so after what happened …  sitting in the TGV, the Train à Grande Vitesse, … everything went according to plan, and I am sitting on the prenotated seat, looking a bit out of the window, trying to accommodate myself in the passing life … – again and again startled by the rattling, caused by some parts of the train. I remember the first trip I made with a TGV, many years ago: fast, not mentioning the slightest movement – and those days not the noise of neighbours playing with or loudly speaking over their phone: pling .., announcing arriving — swoosh …, accompanying the sending of a message. Then it had been a brand new train, with all comfort, cleanness and newness [today’s TGVs had been inaugurated in 1981]. I remember a friend, while looking out of the window, asking:
And when will it be driving with this amazing speed?
I replied
Don’t look out of the window, look at the speed-announcement over the door.
Yes, it had been over 300 km/h.

A few days later: the Thalys from Brussels to Amsterdam, later again, the ICE bringing me to Munich …: all of them smooth trips, comfortable actually, as they had been launched later than the TGV, a bit cleaner, still a bit more comfortable … Still, using now the CRH in China – very clean, the train seems to ‘stand still’ while driving its constant 307 km; quiet – though one has to cope with phone …. announcements of food for sale, the latter standing a bit in the way of the claimed  和谐号 – harmony, as the name of these trains suggests. – The new generation, i heard, is now moving smoothly with 400 km/h …

Possibly I will remember at some stage, several years ahead, a train trip between Wuhu and Najning, everything going according to plan, while I will be sitting on the prenotated seat, looking out of the window, trying to accommodate myself in the passing life … – frequently startled by the rattling, caused by some parts of the train when it will then be a somewhat old train, old as in some parts of the world already completely other means of transport will be in place … – or it may be more likely that I do not remember it anymore, actually it may take long enough that I do not remember anything anymore and only some people remember me, while now sitting there, thinking about the old 和谐号 – harmony, perhaps then sitting relaxed in a train called 超验 – transcendence … – seemingly transcending time and space, rarely being aware of the fact that the time we live in is already past time as soon as we are getting are of this worldly dimension if transcendence.


Isn’t part of being between worlds also about being between times, experiencing the accords and discords that are at the centre of globalisation that depends on unevenness, of which contradictions are permanent and necessary part – where welcome is supposed to be a threat. Yes,

we in the West need to think about a whole new relation to the so-called “Third World” if we want to prevent hate, hostility and attacks. This can also effectively contribute to fighting the reasons for flight and escape.

But even more so, we, who are ready to take globalisation seriously on the agenda, have to think about a whole new relation between the real people of the real world if we want to prevent hate, hostility and attacks. It must be a world where fighting the reasons for flight and escape equals fighting for the freedom to explore the real variety that is emerging from unity and commonality. Not simply as matter of being together but by accepting being one in time – which then also means overcoming claims towards superiority of ‘some time’. Leaving the many facets aside that stand behind massacres, some calling their own massacres unconvincingly ‘war against terror’, there is one thing that strikes me: the difficulty of historising issues. One of the explicit arguments of the murderers of Barcelona was about reclaiming part of the old Islam empire – and indeed, the Islam plaid a major role in Spain – but can that serve as foundation of any claim today? A similar notion had been put forward in Paris, rejecting the touching of the untouchable – while Charlie Hebdo claimed the right to touch, even if only with the stroke of the pencil of a cartoonist; and the various wars against terror following very much the same idea of defending a world order that is historically obsolete and moreover: of which the underlying criteria of nationality, economic growth, private property, hegemonic rights, charity etc. definitely lost their foundation [if they ever have had a stable foundation]. The good old times did not exist anywhere and need to be confronted with a world that has open eyes and ears.
Il silenzio mi aiuterà a smettere di pensare a te che sei fatto di vento.- Silence will help me to stop thinking about yourself as being made of wind. – Something cultures have to accept when looking at their history …, something that is valid and where the new generation of TGV-trains changes only very little.
L’oscurità chiude gli occhi, non mi permette di vedere e di apprezzare che le lettere di oggi saranno presto le lettere dei tempi antichi. – Darkness closes the eyes, not allowing me seeing and appreciating that the lettering of today will soon be the lettering from ancient times.
… Come together, real and close – that is what time needs – everytime …, also in order to find a way that allows dealing with the fact that some of the perpetrators are simply victims themselves, requiring to overcome the terrible pain at least I carry with me again; and even being ready at least to ask if and to which extent we as victims may be perpetrators … – we, the good-doers, teachers, administrators, opinion leaders …, not least we, who easily hastily come to conclusions and easily forget …
having difficulties to act in a genuine way …
Reflections made just before leaving the PRC, while waiting to move on to Moscow, theФГБОУ ВПО “РЭУ им. Г.В. Плеханова”
The short presentation, I made on occasion of the
International Conference of Indigenous Sports Culture in Asia Wuhu, Anhui Province, China
under the heading
The Particular and the Universal – Indigenous Sports for the Integrity of the Global Village
will soon be announced on this blog as recording should be available.

New Year – Nuovo Anno

(scroll for English version below)

Ogni mattino, quando mi risveglio ancora sotto la cappa del cielo, sento che per me è capodanno. 

Perciò odio questi capodanni a scadenza fissa che fanno della vita e dello spirito umano un’azienda commerciale col suo bravo consuntivo, e il suo bilancio e il preventivo per la nuova gestione. Essi fanno perdere il senso della continuità della vita e dello spirito. Si finisce per credere sul serio che tra anno e anno ci sia una soluzione di continuità e che incominci una novella istoria, e si fanno propositi e ci si pente degli spropositi, ecc. ecc. È un torto in genere delle date.

Dicono che la cronologia è l’ossatura della storia; e si può ammettere. Ma bisogna anche ammettere che ci sono quattro o cinque date fondamentali, che ogni persona per bene conserva conficcate nel cervello, che hanno giocato dei brutti tiri alla storia. Sono anch’essi capodanni. Il capodanno della storia romana, o del Medioevo, o dell’età moderna.

E sono diventati così invadenti e così fossilizzanti che ci sorprendiamo noi stessi a pensare talvolta che la vita in Italia sia incominciata nel 752, e che il 1490 0 il 1492 siano come montagne che l’umanità ha valicato di colpo ritrovandosi in un nuovo mondo, entrando in una nuova vita. Così la data diventa un ingombro, un parapetto che impedisce di vedere che la storia continua a svolgersi con la stessa linea fondamentale immutata, senza bruschi arresti, come quando al cinematografo si strappa il film e si ha un intervallo di luce abbarbagliante.

Perciò odio il capodanno. Voglio che ogni mattino sia per me un capodanno. Ogni giorno voglio fare i conti con me stesso, e rinnovarmi ogni giorno. Nessun giorno preventivato per il riposo. Le soste me le scelgo da me, quando mi sento ubriaco di vita intensa e voglio fare un tuffo nell’animalità per ritrarne nuovo vigore.

Nessun travettismo spirituale. Ogni ora della mia vita vorrei fosse nuova, pur riallacciandosi a quelle trascorse. Nessun giorno di tripudio a rime obbligate collettive, da spartire con tutti gli estranei che non mi interessano. Perché hanno tripudiato i nonni dei nostri nonni ecc., dovremmo anche noi sentire il bisogno del tripudio. Tutto ciò stomaca.

Aspetto il socialismo anche per questa ragione. Perché scaraventerà nell’immondezzaio tutte queste date che ormai non hanno più nessuna risonanza nel nostro spirito e, se ne creerà delle altre, saranno almeno le nostre, e non quelle che dobbiamo accettare senza beneficio d’inventario dai nostri sciocchissimi antenati.

Antonio Gramsci, 1 gennaio 1916, Avanti!, edizione torinese, rubrica Sotto la Mole

(taken from here)

Every morning, when I wake again under the pall of the sky, I feel that for me it is New Year’s day.

That’s why I hate these New Year’s that fall like fixed maturities, which turn life and human spirit into a commercial concern with its neat final balance, its outstanding amounts, its budget for the new management. They make us lose the continuity of life and spirit. You end up seriously thinking that between one year and the next there is a break, that a new history is beginning; you make resolutions, and you regret your irresolution, and so on, and so forth. This is generally what’s wrong with dates.

They say that chronology is the backbone of history. Fine. But we also need to accept that there are four or five fundamental dates that every good person keeps lodged in their brain, which have played bad tricks on history. They too are New Years’. The New Year’s of Roman history, or of the Middle Ages, or of the modern age.

And they have become so invasive and fossilising that we sometimes catch ourselves thinking that life in Italy began in 752, and that 1490 or 1492 are like mountains that humanity vaulted over, suddenly finding itself in a new world, coming into a new life. So the date becomes an obstacle, a parapet that stops us from seeing that history continues to unfold along the same fundamental unchanging line, without abrupt stops, like when at the cinema the film rips and there is an interval of dazzling light.

That’s why I hate New Year’s. I want every morning to be a new year’s for me. Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. No day set aside for rest. I choose my pauses myself, when I feel drunk with the intensity of life and I want to plunge into animality to draw from it new vigour.

No spiritual time-serving. I would like every hour of my life to be new, though connected to the ones that have passed. No day of celebration with its mandatory collective rhythms, to share with all the strangers I don’t care about. Because our grandfathers’ grandfathers, and so on, celebrated, we too should feel the urge to celebrate. That is nauseating.

I await socialism for this reason too. Because it will hurl into the trash all of these dates which have no resonance in our spirit and, if it creates others, they will at least be our own, and not the ones we have to accept without reservations from our silly ancestors.

Antonio Gramsci, 1 January 1916, Avanti!, Turin Edition

Translated by Alberto Toscano

(Republished here)


History and Rights, and Justice

The nature of injustice is that we might not always see it in our own times,” Kennedy wrote in Friday’s opinion. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.

A conservative judge made on the occasion of the judgment on gay marriage in the US.

… because we have always done it that way …

It had been in 1648, that the Treaty of Westphalia had been signed (actually it had been a package on the Peace of Westphalia, comprising of different parts. This is also the explanation for ). Not 3,000 years ago, but surely a long time. And surely an occasion to maintain the insight into the importance of historical thinking, or should I say: thinking historically, in historical terms, considering the historical character of realities – taking change and changeability as serious matter?

Commonly it is understood that it is the most decisive date when it comes to the emergence and establishment of the modern nation state. And in so many cases we get still aware of the importance, the nation state being foundation for social insurance systems, for ongoing conflicts in international relationships and also the usually intergovernmental relationships, many of which we consider wrongly as being “global”.

In any case, being aware of the wider historical context, the “3,000 years” we may finally grasp that there is no reason to maintain the idea of nation states as indisputable foundation for politics and policies:

Let him who fails and to learn and mark

Three thousand years still stay,

Void of experience, in the dark,

And live from day to day[1]

(Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1814-1819: West-Eastern Divan; London/Toronto: J.M. Dent&Sons Ltd., 1914: 74 f.)

Sure, seemingly … we have always done it that way …; but actually it is not true. And we surely can change again.


[1] Original: Wer nicht von dreitausend Jahren // Sich weiß Rechenschaft zu geben, // Bleib im Dunkeln unerfahren, // Mag von Tag zu Tage leben. – West-östlicher Divan – Rendsch Nameh: Buch des Unmuts