Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Violence and violations of the value premise of non-violence

The failure to deal with any outburst of violence is in need of an explanation. Perhaps people cannot really grasp the full dimensions of what is going on there, right now in Yugoslavia, but also behind a schoolyard in Sweden when boys stone one of their pals to death. There is apparently a lack of straight forwardness when it comes to confront violent actions. It seems as if people have grown to be unable to halt simply such actions with a simple, but a definite 'no'. 1 That is needed with regards to Sarajevo. How is it possible that the world looked but just a few years ago to Sarajevo, when the winter Olympics took place there? Now there is nothing left but human pain and people trying to escape snipers. There is suffrage written all over the faces, and the persistence of fallacies between diplomatic and military moves becomes.

This deeper challenge of violence is in need of being fully understood. Altogether what has been happening since 1989, adds no longer up to an unconditional guarantee of a free and united Europe, at peace within and with its neighbours. There is rather the fear that the world has become hostile and that the very notion of peaceful co-existence is being jeopardised by uncontrollable local conflicts reinforced by religious and ethnical lines of thinking. While it seemed that Europe was striving to integrate itself into a larger unit, world trends and regionalism within Europe testify to the opposite. More and more political moves are trying to integrate their respective societies into smaller, more homogenous units having one clear 'cultural identity' (i.e. Catalonian, Flemish, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, etc.), in order to be capable of demanding more resources from the European Union. 2 At times it seems that these 'cultural' demands are really political attempts to gain financial support for the needed structural changes, in order to keep up a culturally defined region as an 'autonomous unit' with the competitive demands of the world economy. 3 Aside from this regionalism, there is also a strong tendency to fall back to peculiar concepts of pseudo-collectivist ideology, including the 'Flemish bloc' of Antwerp. 4 They are not authentic in terms of spirit, and of mind, but seem to alleviate present fears of a larger unit like the European Union.

Thus discussions about culture cannot continue to ignore the very reasons why so many people tend to become 'xenophobic' at crucial moments in history. Especially during economic recessions and yet rapid changes initiated apparently out of the need to stay competitive at international level, the question is not only where does this surge of activities throughout Europe lead to, but also whether or not too much is expected of people in general? There is confusion between continuing life and shaping it according to certain, that is technocratic principles conducive to do business without regard for all other costs. That is usually explained as the compulsiveness of the system, but the ideological justifications sum up only in 'noble lies' and hence adhere to the Machiavellian tradition of thought which ended in Nietzsche drawing a European figure equally called Zarathustra ready to talk down to the people who are too stupid to comprehend 'politics'. That was not the case of Shakespeare; his plays demonstrate respect for people being able to grasp political complexities and at the same time keep their 'minds' free from dangerous entanglements. As always, it is a question of information, but not only. Europe itself will have to face this in terms of openness, the kind of ombudsman ship wanted and real transparency of decisions taken. This alone would relieve European institutions of unjust expectations and negative reactions to the European integration process.

The crux of the matter is that the expectations set in Europe have become more and more purely financial interests, far removed from any cultural interest and stakes in 'cohesion'. Thus there is this discussion about the question should people be asked to shoulder all the costs, while having no access to the decision making process determining the system of distribution of the spoils or gains of such a system. Lately this is even a question many West Germans ask themselves with regards to German unification, never mind European integration, in view of the huge amounts of money being paid to both former East Germany and the European Union. One indication of that is the emergence of anti-Maastricht and anti-Europe politicians like Brunner of Bavaria. He seems bent to exploit the general popular suspicion of the bureaucracy in Brussels, as the efforts of the European Commission are usually stigmatised as such by even pro-European, but national oriented politicians. Altogether it seems that many politicians have given up any kind of positive self-constraint in terms of 'egoism's' by reinforcing forms of self-assertions leading to autonomous declarations: the will to be someone rather than being free. Where this loss of integration - the co-operation on the basis of vertical and horizontal integration processes within European networks 5 - can lead to, this can be seen right now in Yugoslavia. As a matter of fact the war there started after people of the North no longer complained about 'those in the South from being lazy, but yet they receive a lot of money', but started to impose the 'logic of partitioning'. 6 Whether fuelled by social jealousy or driven towards the arrogance of economic autonomy, many will become victims of that dangerous illusion about 'sovereign rights' and hence possibilities to achieve economic autonomy in a world depending not only upon 'competitiveness', but also the right connections. The latter is hidden by politicians stressing the need for international forms of co-operation and ever more so in response to the need to keep up at least some 'rational communication' linkages7. The assumption is that this will facilitate interaction with a growing world economy and promote the kinds of cultural adaptations needed to go along with these changes. In other words, the fall-back to extreme forms of ethnic nationalism or hypersensitive regionalisms, both extremely paranoid about what is at stake and vindictive at the same time if their 'vital' interests are not recognised, that entails a profound disturbance for all those thinking and working along principles and values linked to a strong sense for peace, economic stability and political freedom. Culture tends to be reduced in such cases to 'traditionalism', in a wish to return to the past before changes set in.

It needs to be recalled that the value premise of non-violence was upheld by many until 1989. It was almost a wonder, but nevertheless a consequence of this demand translated into a respect of democracy, those former Communistic regimes and hence the respective Eastern European countries made an attempt to find a peaceful transition to becoming modern states that is without any blood-shed. Since then, they are attempting to set up democracy under the most difficult circumstances. Corruption is but only one kind of problem. Most efforts appear in the light of being doomed even before trying to start making a new economic model work. There is not only the unresolved legal question, but also a hard school of surviving. This has led to a mentality akin to trading ruled by a kind of hard core, over simplistic approach to life and cultures of other societies. One sees these types of people trained to cheat at market places when they entice others either to play cards or bet. At that level, gambling in whatever form reflects how easy it is to exploit the wish by everyone to get rich as quickly as possible. That is enforced by hardships to stay really alive, that is not involved with the usual nonsense every person has to go through each day. This wish is reflected in the number of people playing 'lotto'. The French writer Balzac said rightly that for people much worse than alcohol is these nationally staged lotto games. For gambling means merely a repetition depriving everyone of any kind of knowledge linked to human experience, or, as Walter Benjamin puts it, the 'hazard player' and the poet become one in the unison of realising that everyone is deprived of any kind of human experience. Once things are only repeated, the system having become the 'Wiederholungszwang' (Sigmund Freud - 'the coercion to repeat oneself'), then elements like luck or fate become confused issues in times when much more is at stake, especially political decisions.

What appears to hinder the development of democracy in Eastern Europe is besides huge internal problems corroding the 'moral basis' of those societies (L. Baeck) also a false influence coming from the West. This cannot be reduced to mere dubious business ventures. Already in the past various opposition groups survived by means of dubious support systems. They were rewarded for both their anti-communistic lines of thought and their uncritical approach to what was coming from the West. In other words, they could never become political in the fullest sense of the word. Rather they aligned themselves with really fundamentalists (as is called the Right in America and which has no difficulty advocating daily prayers in schools while pushing towards an increase of the defence budget). That contradiction between the East and the West was overseen during the Cold War period. Former president Reagan was surely a key representative of that kind of mentality capable of doing away with this contradiction. Already in the fifties that took on forms like the witch hunts of the Middle Ages, McCarthy being here a key figure. It was directed against critical intellectuals and the voices of betrayal were just as vocal as many good ones were silenced. Brecht, Adorno, Bloch, Mann and many others in American exile during the Second World War reflected that already most clearly. It found its theoretical expression in Marcuse's 'One Dimensional Man' and is continued in the criticism by Noam Chomsky. That contradiction between true democratic aspirations and real set-backs are in need of being understood.

Too often in recent history American influence has been felt to be on the wrong side or both sides, the good and the bad one. Still, the philosopher Bertrand Russell named one of the mistakes Hitler made, namely to underestimate the American government. There is a deficit of understanding between Europeans and Americans to be bridged. The German writer Uwe Johnson, for instance, tried to do so by means of writing a sort of diary from August 1967 to August 1968. Since then the situation arose that not only Dubcek, but also Allende was toppled in Chile 1973; everyone spoke about the Communists suppressing the 'Prague Spring', but once within the Western Hemisphere criticisms of atrocities committed against 'human rights' were effectively silenced. This double moral standard has always weakened the position of Democrats in East and West. Once there is a coalition of negative interests in power, then it can be said that there is a conspiracy against truth, i.e. no real effort made to improve upon conditions of democracy. Hence the real problem to be faced in the aftermath of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe are the apolitical masses, anti-communism but being an effective educational method not to get involved in politics. This was a main contention of the Nobel Prize writer Heinrich Boell.

Today the question has to be equally asked why so many of the Western intellectuals know no longer where they stand politically, as if a kind of appeasement between critics and politicians has submerged everything under clouded skies in very murky waters. There is nothing to be seen, hence really to be challenged as a positive outcome of critique. Neither the lessons of the 'Critique of Pure Reason' nor that of ‘Practical Reason’ seems to have remained without any positive influence upon the minds seeking for explanations what to do next in terms of political options and decisions to be faced. It is not only the way of going about it, that seems to bother the common person, but the politics of exclusiveness is not a matter of being better educated and more experienced or not, but rather who has access to information, who does not. After all the core idea of democracy has to do with immediate participation without which any kind of information is useless since no one would then understand it.

Given that more intuitively comprehended political situation, it is a worrying fact, for instance, what support is given by many American representatives to the extreme 'nationalistic' groups in Eastern European countries, including Russia. These groups are compatible with the kind of right wing fundamentalists in the Islam that is equally fanatic in their belief on how to establish their 'value' premises that is, if without consensus, then by naked force. The recent election results in America with both the House of Representative and the Senate going for the first time after a long time into the hands and therefore control of the Republicans is indeed an extremely worrying sign. That was inconceivable even ten years ago when the principle of non-violence was not only claimed, but sincerely practised. Today the Gun lobby and those interested in increasing the defence budget have more of a say. It marks an irrational response to how crime is meant to be dealt with, namely with tougher laws, more police and an overall crack-down without ever so much touching upon issues like poverty, unemployment, social injustices, arbitrary forms or usage's of power in hierarchical situations leading to authoritarian rather than democratic solutions, etc.. Rather there is an increasing tendency to justify 'violence' as a means to survive by the extreme right. At the height of the decision pending on the Gulf war, it was the populist Perot who stated the condition of war: if American troops are going to fight Hussein, then only under the condition that the country stands a 100% behind its troops when preparing to off-set the invasion by Iraqi forces in Kuwait. As if this is the lesson to be drawn out of the Viet Nam war and the impact of the anti-Viet Nam protest: not plurality, that is differences of opinion are asked for as known to any democracy not claiming itself to know 'totally' what is right or wrong, but violence under the condition of total consensus.

This perversion of values goes to the point that, because everybody does something ugly or violently, then everybody finds it one day to be good and beautiful. 8 This only strengthens anti-humanistic positions. They are based on attitudes openly despising other people as being stupid, misled, lazy, etc. and thus they deserve to get the same treatment as the slaves two centuries ago when described by a similar terminology to justify inhuman behaviour towards them. Many employers practise that nowadays on their employees. The only real difference between then and nowadays is that this present intellectually enslaved world is not talking about slaves from another country and culture, but about its own people. Many join in that form of repression and inert racialism by talking off-handily of others and finally really about themselves. It is a subtle mechanism of perversion of human values. Once people can be reduced to that, what they deserve according to that labelling perception of them, i.e. 'they are lazy, thus they should live in misery', then those who can exploit such situations feel free to do what they like irrespective of human values, that is without any regards for human lives. Criticism they brush aside with the argument that they want to run the affairs of their country in their own way. They do not wish to be hindered by multiple, multi-cultural considerations really nowadays needed, if politics still means making sound decisions within international and European institutions upholding such a principle as non-violence. Politics becomes truly culture through an effort of mediation between these various, conflicting forms of interest. It is like an elongated process of education, or the knowledge of what kind of attitudes ought to be adopted, given the state of affairs. This means the 'rule of Europe' is not the rule of the land, a kind of perverse ownership, but rather an upkeep of cultural trusts in the future.

Economic solutions sought ought not to by-pass democratic institutions, including parliamentary decisions on how to solicit valid opinions about something prior to passing a law on that subject and material. Public opinion, or the informing of the public, must accompany such a passing of laws. 9 Democratic decision making involves consultations with the others prior to taking those decisions. It is a kind of deliberation free of any punitive character. The former Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, himself French Canadian said that the people of Quebec are not ready for democracy, because they pervert the human values of freedom and leave the rest to demagogues, including Charles de Gaulle who could cry out 'Quebec libre'. To face consequences is but one asset of human life. The other is to regain some optimism out of all apparent failures, so that the magnitude of opinions, languages but also problems remains no longer to be a maze of written materials too long for anyone still interested to read, but has its own effectiveness in bringing across the message. That plays after all on the need of the media to shorten times of deliberation, in order to let actions speak an effective language, even if that means killing other people or letting them die out of a principle or precaution not to get too much involved oneself in that other bitter struggle if not about truth, then about survival in this life.

For instance, the German newspaper 'Die Sueddeutsche' of Munich reported about an aristocrat who claimed in an interview with that paper, that he could clean up East Germany in no time at all, provided he did not have to deal with parliament: a clearly anti-democratic attitude masked by the claim to be more efficient, when really 'impatient' and thus in need to get things done immediately, even though some things take a much longer time to mature, especially culturally speaking.

This brings back the discussion to the beginning and to a positive understanding of the Flemish initiative: economic solutions insofar as they by-pass democratic institutions and thus 'culture' cannot be considered as every policy measure must reflect the political will to uphold and to sustain democratic life. Hence all changes must be accompanied by a process of democratic institutionalisation; it can be evaluated 10 in terms of the forms of decision making this institutionalisation allows for. 11 However, if the ongoing destruction and violation of the non-violence principle is not halted, then the need to develop a 'political culture' in favour of democracy will go unheeded. Violence, arbitrary ruling and unresolved power conflicts will then determine everything negatively, that is not decisions arrived at by rational communication processes and non-violent actions upholding the usage of language in which the other is respected as a human being. Indeed, culture is humanism having become practical and liveable.

1 Klaus Heinrich talks in his book 'Die Schwierigkeit Nein zu sagen' (the difficulty to say no) about two destructive forces reinforcing each other; while a country expands imperialistically, that is with violent means, at the same time these destructive tendencies are also driven further internally, against the individual, the subjective self. The difficulty to say 'no' lies precisely in how to halt such destructive tendencies. That is impossible by oneself; politics begins here already with seeking alliances, even with the 'potential' friend in the other ready to even kill oneself. That is like a woman facing a man ready to rape her; if she denies him 'totally', that would be fatal, for only by relocating the other in his humanness, can that person come to his senses and regain a conscious level of soberness, the real prerequisite of truth about one's own actions. Many people would be fully shocked if they could reflect in a fully conscious manner that what they are doing. Hence distractions and even alcohol can be explained by the wish to escape this honest self-reflection, a questioning of the self only possible once the 'imagination' is involved. An example for this is set by the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly in his epic poem 'Judas'. Through that the difficulties are really encountered to unlearn hatred by which one has been educated since a child in a society restricted by negative visions governing ordinary actions, if not difficult to comprehend, then simply absurd.
2 See here Bart Verschaffel's reflections about 'cultural identity' included in the evaluation reports given by all ten chairpersons of the workshops held during the Fifth Seminar in Athens, Greece.
3 Reference has been made already to the paper given by Thanos Contargyris for Workshop 1; here it needs to be said only that his analysis departs from the pressure of remaining competitive and how this shapes possible political responses.
4 See here the analysis of Joris Duytschaever in Workshop 8; he attributes this tendency to a fallacy in trying to establish 'cultural identity' over the usage of one language, i.e. Flemish, when in fact writers can be Flemish, but write in French, just as Irish writers will prefer to continue publishing in English rather than confine themselves to Gaelic; cultural and historical roots do not necessarily coincide, or as James Joyce would put it, the honesty in love is really of utmost importance to keep one's identity alive. Joyce's relationship to his life companion Nora is discussed by Brendan Kennelly in his essay "James Joyce's Humanism" in 'Journey into Joy', Bloodaxe, 1994, pp. 217-230.
5 This was the main concern of Workshop 1: 'Cross-Cultural Identities, Language and Values' at the Fifth Seminar.
6 Brendan Kennelly speaks about this 'logic of partitioning' as going along with a 'pseudo-knowledge of others'. It is clearly expressed in the desire to use 'labels', leading to a frenzy life the core of which is the readiness to explode in violence. This comes that half truths are hidden behind stereo-typical images and labels used to fortify the partition right down to the sexes and to the right whom to marry. He calls this a "life which demands that you over-simplify practically everything". See Preface in his epic poem 'The Book of Judas', Bloodaxe, Glasgow 1992, pp. 9-12.
7 This is a most important concept for Prof. R. Picht, chairperson of Workshop 7: 'Education for Cultural Diversity' at the Fifth Seminar.
8 "Sobald sich mein haessliches Verhalten in unser haessliches Verhalten verwandelt, wird das Haessliche schoen. Was sich jeder fuer sich nicht erlauben wuerde, das erlauben wir uns kollektiv. Sobald wir statt das Ich das Personalpronomen Wir benutzen, sobald wir kollektive Taeter werden, nehmen die Gruppeninteressen und Unvereinbarkeiten in der Rhetorik der Staaten den Charakter von patriotischem Interesse und Tugenden an." Gyoergy Konrad, 'Stroemung und Krampf', op. cit., p. 76.
9 See here the work by the German philosopher Juergen Habermas on 'structural changes of public opinion' ('Strukturwandel der Oeffentlichkeit').
10 In Workshop 1: 'Cross-Cultural Identities, Language and Values' this process was discussed at the Fifth Seminar in terms of evaluation stemming from the EU programme ARTICULATE and related to the institutional form of networking at European level.
11 At the Fifth Seminar in Athens three ideas emerged out of various workshops suggesting decisions within enterprises will be less hierarchically structured in future. Workshop 4 talks about business becoming really 'learning organisations' while Workshop 5 dealing with the linkage between business and culture talks not only about learning from artists, but also changing the style of management. Then, in Workshop 1 two aspects merge: 'culture of decision makers' with business enterprise becoming evaluation oriented.

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