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…

Annunci

New Princedoms II

— or: Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Present Itself as a Science

Of course, now I could state: what I wrote earlier on the New Princedoms had been just a prolegomena, and I could even be much bolder, claiming what follows is not less than a new “Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Present Itself as a Science”, the one that had been presented by Kant in 1783, surely in need of some update.

But in actual fact both, modesty, honesty and realism require that I admit that I only heard about it yesterday evening, having been asked

Hai sentito dell’ archeologo del sito di Palmira? … Era in pensione, ma era rimasto al suo posto dando la vita per la Bellezza e per il suo lavoro, a cui aveva dedicato tutto sé stesso.

Checking then a day later the WWW, I soon found a bit more about what happened, namely

The killing of Khaled Asaad

Siria: perché l’Isis ha ucciso l’archeologo di Palmira

I am not in a position to engage in depth — perhaps as I am a non-religious and non-fundamentalist person, not seeing myself in a position to comment on the details, not being able to clearly distinguish between the broad lines and the distracting details. Still, there is a bit that I can say.

The article mentions five reasons — and I am wondering if it is not just one reason that is relevant: the change of the foundation of the old world order: a world order in which difference had been defined and accepted, inequalities being taking for granted and clearly defined — some will remember the cartoon of the 1960 and early 70s, wasn’t it a Chinese one: showing the pulling of hair down the line, the cat being the last in the row that started from the accepted authority. Wondering means: not knowing, asking, or even more: going on in searching the question, namely the non-technical one. Just like Stephen Hawking who asked

In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?

and continuing:

I don’t know the answer. That is why I asked the question.

Coming back to the article on the murder of Khaled Asaad, it brings us at the end to part of the question that has to be asked, looking for all those who stated earlier

Je suis Charlie

and who are silent now.

One problem is obviously a matter of information, or to be precise: the two matters of information. The one is that the information overflow goes hand in hand with non-recognition; the other is the way of selection: you can’t have it all. It is our own limitation and it is …, well, that is the second part: the process of directing attention by algorithms, defined by the powerful.

When browsing the Panorama further on “L’Isis e la guerra al terrorismo islamico” — and I will not go into details; furthermore, picking the Panorama is due to laziness, due to accepting the guide of some http://www.engine.algorithm, which will bring you probably to something similar in the place that big brother determines as “your country” — something had been …, well I could say, surprising:

  • many/most of the news are about violence, are presenting sad and “unbelievable” stories
  • many/most of the news are presenting some form of “weighing” — cynically one may say: the life of a person does not count much, the life of a woman or child, and of course: even more the lives of women and children counts much more, if there are enough men it counts too, or if there are such exceptional people as Khaled Asaad — and from what I know by now, he really was exceptional
  • many/most of the stories are marked in some strange way, looking at the reporting, by a contradiction: the “colorful” way of writing about the horrors is accompanied by the black-and-white-presentation of the good and the bad. And indeed it remains difficult to say “Je suis Charlie” in a world of which the actual struggle seems to be very much the old one, fought not during the Risorgimento. Those times seemed to be clear — to quote Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard:

“Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com’è bisogna che tutto cambi.”

i.e.

“Things must change, in order that they can stay the same.”

A nice saying, though really important is the context. The words are spoken by Tancredi, following his statement

Unless we ourselves take a hand now, they’ll foist a republic on us.

And the entire story is about the disintegration.

But WHAT disintegrated? We may look at the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies — Il Regno delle Due Sicilie; and we may also look at the different types of government, royalty standing against republic ecc. .

It is easy to overlook that all this had been — here and (at least) in all the European countries at the time — an expression of fundamental changes of the economic system …. — but now I am hesitating, or I am afraid, coming too close to figures. As said previously

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 …

But the meaning of this can only be understood when we read it against what Engels stated:

According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of the immediate life. But this itself is again of a twofold character. On the one side, the production of the means of subsistence, of food and clothing and shelter and the implements required for this; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a particular country live are determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other.

(Engels, Frederick, 1884: Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Preface [to the First Edition]; in: Karl Marx Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 26. Frederick Engels. 1882-89; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1990: 131-133: 131 f.)

The figures — of course important, and of course important as indicating main problems — are at the same time (potentially) misleading as they fall short of grasping the really relevant aspect of

the production and reproduction of the immediate life

As especially the reference to the Making of the Migration Crisis shows, they are very much about the production and reproduction of the immediate life under very specific capitalist conditions. And these capitalist conditions. And with this, there is very little hope for a Vatican Spring, a remark that is not directed against setting up a broad movement of very different forces; but it is directed against the reliance on value systems, appeals and hopes that are not clearly addressing capitalism and reduced the critique on “this capitalism”.

Approaching “this capitalism” has to look fundamentally at the following, something I elaborated on a different occasion — it is very much a translation from a text originally written in German

1. The discussion of the current crisis remains trapped in the old tracks — and it is often just looking at the glass, asking if it is half-empty or half-full, at the end being oriented on re-establishing a status-quo ante. This is in many cases also true in cases where critique is brought forward with the claim of fundamentally rejecting of the existing system. However, when talking about a structural crisis, the question must be whether the glass is actually completely broken. …

2. The current challenge is then to look at the crisis of the hegemonic system. If this is seen as power of ideas, it should also be emphasised that the so-called neoliberalism reflects a one-sided interpretation of the objective conditions and not simply a voluntary statement of values of a self-proclaimed ruling-class. …). We need … a courageous utopia that is based in the objectively given conditions of the productive forces and the real potential, and partly implicitly realised in the existing forms of socialisation.

3. The “limits to growth” are not simply a matter of discussing the negative constellations; it is necessary to consider the wider context, allowing to understand the limits of growth in the context of the ongoing limits to limitations that are to a large extent directly and causally related. We are talking about increasing inequalities, which are much more extensive than shown by Piketty: It is still the question of the (lack of) access to basic resources such as water, nutrition, housing, etc., all this increasingly a problem in all societies.

4. Finally, politics are always made for an uncertain future – risks should not result in paralysis nor lead to excessive adjustments.

Looking from this angle, the war against evil is a kind of Hobbesian Bellum omnium contra Omnes. However, we have to observe fake and original — as we are now dealing with a new dimension, going far beyond the individualist stance proposed by Hobbes. Today’s war is taking place in the gabbia di matti, the place where confusion reigns: individuals against individuals are still fighting, as much as we are also facing wars of states against states. However, in addition we find the “war of citizens against citizens” — even if the citizens are split personalities, fighting against each other — well-known from role-theory: and it is the war of the consumption citizens, active citizens, citizens of nation states, citizens of associations against the consumption citizens, active citizens, citizens of nation states, citizens of associations — it least the war of everybody against him and herself … . And to make it easier to bear it, it may be and will be a war of the consumption citizens, active citizens, citizens of nation states, citizens of associations against the consumption citizens, active citizens, citizens of other nation states, citizens of associations of other countries.

Not so much that changed, one may say — and it is true although the change is fundamental insofar the borders actually do not work anymore. Of course, it is not entirely clear if and in which way they actually worked in previous ages and eras. But at least there had been some stability over time. In terms of regulation theory, we look at accumulation regimes as

[a] particular combination of production and consumption which can be reproduced over time despite conflictual tendencies (Jessop)

and modes of regulation as

[a]n institutional ensemble and complex of norms which can secure capitalist reproduction pro tempore despite the antagonistic character of capitalist social relations (Jessop)

When we look closely the possibility of “reproduction over time despite conflictual tendencies” is broken — not globalisation as such requires a new definition of borders and rule(r)s. Instead, the fact that globalisation becomes increasingly real, defends such requirement. The end of history — this has been stated for many times — is the beginning of a new era, rightly characterised by Antonio Gramsci, contending that

[t]he crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

Walls are erected, to maintain the old borders: States against states — interestingly nations defining themselves as ultimate external border as in the Hungarian case; different fundamentalists each claiming to be the better of the people of god, the one wanting to capture Istanbul, the Turks claiming that their fence is about keeping “them” out, joined by the big brother across the great ocean, but actually aiming against the Kurds and the “old fight”, now being combined with a seemingly new one.

And all the other walls (see also here for one that is often misunderstood) and fences as the many in Latin America and against Latin America … the main wall still waiting to be lifted: the embargo against Cuba. And. with all this we easily forget the one of utmost important, the wall that is much more than the namegiver to a street,  that a major, the real divide of the world, for so many the wall against which they stand while being executed, listening to the song that speaks about Killing me softly.

As Max Weber stated 1919 in “Politics as a Vocation”

Every state is founded on force,’ said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of ‘state’ would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as ‘anarchy,’ in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state — nobody says that — but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions — beginning with the sib — have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that ‘territory’ is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the ‘right’ to use violence. Hence, ‘politics’ for us means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.

Sure, it is easy to point on the walls of shame — many others could be added, including the “virtual walls” by European migration polices along the Mediterraneans. It is not so easy to acknowledge that there is another wall that actually establishes the foundation of shame: This is the wall of fame. Well, here the plural applies too

Universities, striving for excellence, expressed in ranking lists, causing a suicide of social science (irony that this article is only accessible for the academic insiders, those in the safe heaven of the ivory towers of academia); the mentioned celebration of little starlets that feel their marriage threatened by working time of 20 days per year; broken-up politicians establishing a Forced Choice Between ‘Suicide or Execution’. And other politicians cynically mocking

“You shouldn’t commit suicide because you’re afraid of dying,” the commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “You should say ‘yes’ regardless of what the question is.”

 

Well, how can we then try to understand what cannot be understood? Now, a renaissance has usually two sides, it consists of the character of dialectics as matter of maintaining and overturning.

Returning to the five reasons mentioned above, trying to put them into one nutshell (while remaining alert — such attempt is always as tempting as it is dangerous) we may take home what Hegel states in the Philosophy of Right, namely in § 258:

Rationality, taken generally and in the abstract, consists in the thorough-going unity of the universal and the single.

Such “universal and single” cannot consist in the dishonest erection of walls of fame that evoke equally dishonest walls of shame.

One does not have to live in Rome (though it may help) to appreciate una vita per la bellezza — the appreciation of beauty, not only as e(x)ternal phenomenon but even more as matter of a state of life.

 

Another quick turn to Hegel, who wrote in § 257

The state is the actuality of the ethical Idea. It is ethical mind qua the substantial will manifest and revealed to itself, knowing and thinking itself, accomplishing what it knows and in so far as it knows it. The state exists immediately in custom, mediately in individual self-consciousness, knowledge, and activity, while self-consciousness in virtue of its sentiment towards the state, finds in the state, as its essence and the end-product of its activity, its substantive freedom.

But if the actual state has nothing else to do than permanently driving wedges between people and peoples, if sovereignty is undermined by confronting the sovereign with the decision between suicide and execution, it will be difficult to find a solution. If a Coalition (of the Radical Left – Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς, ΣΥΡΙΖΑ (Syriza)) is forced to loose (even if they may win another election), the unity as Λαϊκή Ενότητα (Laiki Enotita), the Popular Unity may be forced to go its own way.

It surely is an important point that had been mentioned in a recent TeleSur-article

the one thing that we can continue to look for in Greece is that anti-austerity movement is coming from the streets and communities.

The challenge is to bring the various communities from across the globe going the same direction, not as they usually did: along the Rabbit-Proof Fence, erected against humans degraded to animals, themselves degrading

So, if we turn down the real fences, the fences that imprison the minds will fall — we only have to make sure that the minds have to set free, allowing to turn down the fences. And if we look around, if we look at people helping migrants, caring for others, and fighting for and with others we may manage to really turn them down and use the huge potentials that we do have.

norm and deviation

Or: is there really no such thing as society?

Just doing the final preparation on the presentation

Norms and Deviations of Modern Information-Environments for Young People

tomorrow in Moscow. It is a bit worrying, in particular as thinking about it I am getting so aware about the major flaw of most of the debates and research: naming the youth, shaming the technology and blaming the bad spirit of our times.

The other day I went to see “The Iron Lady” (surely too favourable for her) – and it became shockingly clear in which way part of the critic of her politics had been to some extent mislead, rejecting her favoured orientation on responsibility, taking the burden away from the state but not seeing that her actual point had been very much a different one: the refusal of taking the sociability of humans into account. With this she fell, of course, far behind even Aristotelean thinking. Aristotle, as well known, discussed  four core matters: chremastike, oikonomia, eudamonia and not least phronimoi – all relating to each other and all only in this interplay elements of what he considered as “good society”. With this he had to reject any fundamentally orientation on chremastike (as orientation on pure maximisation of profit) and also any “pure” private property.

What we surely could learn from Thatcher is just the opposite what she said: There is such thing as society – and we need to destroy it. This is what happened under rulership, this happens currently in Hungary, Greece, Germany and so many other countries – not only within the EU but also for instance with the revival of religious fundamentalism under the conservative Turkish AKP-government (closely going hand in hand with more severe breaches of human rights not least against the Kurds) …

Coming then back to tomorrows lecture, it is getting so clear to me that the core deviation is twofold:

  • the withholding of rights of (not only) young people to fundamentally and closely control the process of production (production in the economic sense and the production of the social) going hand in hand with
  • the withholding of knowledge.

Surely the latter is a matter where I may be in part guilty myself. Of course, teaching in academia is also about “making existing knowledge available”, i.e. providing information. But isn’t it much more about developing knowledge, allowing – and demanding – serious research?
Universities – but in general any kind of teaching, social development should accept the need of time as core ingredient of knowledge.
If I will actually say what I prepared, I will end with a reference to Schiller who stated in his Letters upon the Æsthetic Education of Man.

Moreover, as the sensuous impulsion controls us physically, and the formal impulsion morally, the former makes our formal constitution contingent, and the latter makes our material constitution contingent, that is to say, there is contingence in the agreement of our happiness with our perfection, and reciprocally. The instinct of play, in which both act in concert, will render both our formal and our material constitution contingent; accordingly, our perfection and our happiness in like manner.

So true, we have to return to this much shared reasoning,

  • the Marx/Hegelian view on freedom as insight into and understanding of necessity
  • Spinoza’s understanding of freedom as acting with reference to the necessity of the own nature
  • or to use then Schiller’s words of the famous conclusio:

Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

If we teach and allow such real play, computer games will surely not be a problem at all. – And there we are surely at the point of blaming ourselves for not taking enough initiative and following the rules of individualists rather then allowing phronesis to develop. And this is surely not least strictly against Thatcher’s and others attempt to destroy society as much as it is against the call for big society – doesn’t this speak volumes that both slogans come from the same father of thought (obviously a motherless child).